Last night (10/02/23) the County held a public meeting at Howe Park about its "Neighborhood Improvement Initiative", a one-time, $3M allocation in the County's FY2022-2023 budget. About 25 people were present and there was lively discussion. An inescapable conclusion was that something new is afoot with the County - this kind of public consultation is commendable, as it has been absent from past County deliberations.
At the meeting, County staff explained that the program was intended to eliminate blight and improve public spaces in unincorporated areas (not just Arden Arcade). The purpose of the meeting was to collect public input that can help inform the Board of Supervisors about specific projects.
Staff said those projects would concentrate on Environmental Justice communities, commercial corridors and areas adjacent to vacant and blighted properties. They also said the Initiative would focus on investments in:
- Street Lighting
- Neighborhood Signage
- Landscaping (trees, flowers, shrubs, etc
- Fencing or Boulders
- Pedestrian-Oriented Facilities
- Utility Poles
- Art installations (murals and public art)
Having said that, County staff admitted the funds were minimal compared with the need. They handed out copies of PowerPoint slides for the public to review (see below). The audience, agreeing that the need was enormous and long overdue, was reluctant to pick one project over another. Recommendations were made to reserve a modest fund for low-cost/high-impact projects, to prefer using the Initiative for projects like landscaped roadway medians that do not already have funding mechanisms (like Safe Routes to School or pedestrian/bicycle safety grants do), and to prioritize the funds for officially-designated Environmental Justice Areas like West Arden Arcade.
The public was asked to provide their own project suggestions. Though the program's schedule was not made clear, staff urged people to email ideas to email@example.com. More details are available from the County's Economic Development office at (916) 874-5220.