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Council wants action on Village Entrance

Mayor Kelly Boyd says that the stalled project is affecting other improvements in the area.

January 29, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

The City Council spent about half of its annual retreat talking about the Village Entrance project.

A top council priority in 2012, the project was the major topic of discussion again this year at the retreat, held Saturday at the South County Water District offices on West Street.

Council members are tired of talking about it: They want action.

"Over 18 years ago, a Village Entrance task force of community members, including representatives from our Planning Commission, Arts Commission, arts and business groups — as well as Village Laguna — created a concept for the Village Entrance," said Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson.

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The concept included rehabbing the historical digester building and putting it to use, creating a meandering pedestrian park, and constructing a parking garage that isn't a visual blight while adding parking spaces.

Pearson and Councilwoman Toni Iseman hammered out the compromise that moved the Corporation Yard to Act V and cleared the way for the Village Entrance in 2007, but the gateway to the city is still a parking lot.

"We need to follow through … and create a beautiful entryway into our city that includes additional parking," Pearson said.

Pearson and Iseman have been conferring this past year on how to get the concept off the drawing board.

"The Village Entrance is more than a park and a parking structure," Iseman said Tuesday. "We have to integrate the information from all the studies and reports to do things right.

"Parking, the Downtown Specific Plan, the Art District, shuttles and the transit system all have to be considered."

The project won't be cheap, but it is doable, provided the council reverts to using the city's parking fund for what it was intended — the creation of parking spaces, such as the Glenneyre Street Parking structure, according to Pearson.

Pearson has long been critical of the practice of transferring parking funds to the general fund to balance the city's budget, about $7 million in 10 years.

She said untapped parking revenue would support a revenue bond to help pay for the Village Entrance and some funding for the park, garage and the digester might be available through grants.

Mayor Kelly Boyd said Monday that it is time for the city to take action. He believes the stalled project also impacts other improvements in the area.

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