Council adopts downtown plan designed to help jumpstart business
with mix of retail, housing
During a lengthy meeting Wednesday, the City Council approved an updated plan for a more dynamic downtown, dashed the hopes of one developer and encouraged another, made serious progress in ways to slow down traffic through downtown and allowed plans to renovate the Granada Theater and the old Gunter Brothers feed store to move forward.

It was a busy evening that ended well after midnight.

Council adopted the downtown plan, designed to help jumpstart downtown business. They hope the plan will result in more sales taxes for critical city services, a nicer mix of shops and restaurants for all residents plus more market and moderate income rate housing close to businesses and transportation hubs.

The plan increases housing density in the area bounded by Dunne, Del Monte and Central avenues and Butterfield Boulevard. The new density rule determines how many dwelling units can be built per acre, now increased to a range of 18 to 40.

Council delayed adopting the parking section of the plan until a new study of the real parking situation can be delivered in June. There is a gap between what a previous parking study said – that there was enough parking – and what residents find when they try to park during peak hours.

Planning Commissioner Ralph Lyle said, during the meeting, that parking is one of the two things he hears about the most.

“The study makes assumptions that people are willing to walk distances,” Lyle said. “The community center lot is more than one-quarter mile from most downtown businesses and some people find that too far to walk.”

Other lots are arranged throughout downtown but are not connected well, he said.

Council delayed changing the zoning on the Sunsweet property, a lot on East Third Street important to developing a corridor between Monterey, a soon-to-be revived Depot Street (from a $2.6 million grant) and the new courthouse, to be finished east of the railroad tracks in spring of 2006.

Moving ahead on spending the remaining $3 million in RDA funds destined to beef up downtown projects, council gave city staff the nod to begin negotiations over two request for financial help. Mike Wilkinson asked for $1,060,000 in loans and grants to renovate the Granada movie theater – considered by many to be the keystone of a downtown rebirth, including Councilman Greg Sellers.

“This is a work in progress,” Sellers said. “Nothing is more important than the Granada.”

Staff will also begin negotiations with Ben Fuller and Scott and Craig van Keulen for $363,000 to renovate the old Gunter Brothers feed store into commercial/retail and, eventually, more housing. The building is on Monterey across from the former police station.

Two other projects are still under consideration for the RDA funds but need more work, council determined. A mixed-use, retail/condominium project that Rocke Garcia wants to build between East Third and Fourth and Depot streets was sent back to the drawing board.

A proposal by Brad Jones and Cinda Meister, owners of BookSmart, Thinker Toys and two other downtown businesses was also sent back for more information.

Anthony Goularte, a second generation owner of Associated Concrete, located next to the Flea Market (East Main and Butterfield) and part of a site the city wants to see turned into housing sometime in the future, asked council to remember he was there.

“There is a viable business operating on that site and I don’t consider it to be blighted,” Goularte said.

He had identified other sites around town and would be willing to move when it became necessary but he would need some help from the city.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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