With the first phase of community outreach complete, city officials are using the input provided to help develop a plan for downtown revitalization.
About 125 people attended at least one of six community conversations held in five weeks at different locations throughout the city on varying days and at a variety of times to accommodate as many residents as possible.
“We’ve also been working behind the scenes in addressing a number of concerns that have come out in the conversations as well as some of the options that have come forward,” Planning Director Kathy Garcia said during a presentation to council members at the June 6 meeting.
Eight key conversation topics were discussed. The community response to some was nearly unanimous.
“We did hear loud and clear that the pedestrians should be prioritized,” Garcia said. “That’s in our general plan and was very much a request of the community.”
She said there was a lot of input on creating a contiguous and continuous sidewalk. “The wider the better,” she said. “There was a concern that we need to manage our sidewalk cafes and their location better but people really recognize the benefit.
“And in all cases, safety, pedestrian amenities and a pleasant environment should prevail,” Garcia said.
There were mixed opinions on how best to use the 100-foot right of way, including whether Camino del Mar should be narrowed to one lane in each direction, the type of parking and whether medians should be narrowed or eliminated.
Mayor Don Mosier said there was “a pretty negative response” to shared bicycle lanes. In fact an emergency room physician said he might be busier if they were added. “But that’s not what the data says,” Mosier said.
According to a recent study, bicycle accidents decrease because motorists tend to pay more attention when bikes are present in shared lanes.
“It was commonly felt that a parking structure at City Hall would have a great benefit to all of the downtown area,” Garcia said, adding that alternatives are still needed to manage employee parking and protect the neighborhoods from spillover.
There were also mixed opinions on the amount of parking — whether the city had enough or not — and appropriate parking ratios, she said.
“There was strong feeling to maintain the eclectic village characteristics and that charm is really felt from the diversity of building types,” Garcia said. “There were very mixed opinions on the appropriate building height (and) definite concerns for blocking views from the residential areas.”
Garcia said residents generally support adding mixed-use residential units and businesses that serve residents’ needs. Many people also had “strong feelings” that the Design Review Board should weigh in on any development.
As plans are developed, they will be presented to the Planning Commission and DRB for review and recommendations this summer. Alternatives are expected to be presented to council members in September.
There will be workshops after that to allow for additional public input. Residents can also e-mail comments to [email protected]
“This won’t be the last you hear of village revitalization,” Garcia said.
“I think there’s a fundamental problem here,” former Councilman Dave Druker said. He attended the June 5 workshop but was the only resident to address council at the June 6 meeting.
“We’ve never defined what this problem is,” he said. “Most importantly, we’ve never defined what the objectives are for the solution. And until those are defined I don’t believe the citizens have a good idea of what we are trying to do.
“Once those are determined the alternatives will fall out pretty quickly and pretty easily but you have not done that,” Druker said. “It’s not just (that) we need to have a more vital downtown. That is not a problem.”
Druker said defining the specific problems is difficult, but until that is done, “you’re just kind of poking in the dark.”
Mosier said the primary objective is to have a pedestrian-friendly, economically viable downtown. “This is not an exercise without some objective,” he said. “But maybe we need to make that clearer to everyone in the community.”
“We found out more what the public wanted,” Councilwoman Lee Haydu said. “The public was very vocal. I think that’s very important to let the public in.”
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