DANA POINT : City May Table Redevelopment Plan
Reacting to a public outcry against a controversial redevelopment plan, City Council members said Monday that they may consider temporarily shelving the plan at their meeting tonight.
A citizens’ advisory committee made that recommendation to the council last week, and several council members said Monday that a temporary halt to redevelopment planning could ease tensions that have resulted in neighbors threatening neighbors and angry citizens mobbing council meetings to suggest a recall.
“I think we need to slow things down,” said Mayor Bill Bamattre. “That would give everyone the opportunity to get up to speed on what redevelopment is all about.”
Most members of the council admit that plans drawn up last fall for a 35-year, $292-million redevelopment project may have been overly ambitious. At the same time the young city was writing its General Plan, which is often called the blueprint of a city. State law requires a city to complete its General Plan within 30 months after incorporation.
After the city set up a redevelopment agency with the council members as its directors, residents voiced concerns that the city was being reshaped and that this would result in people being driven from their homes.
While taking part of the blame for what they call misinformation about redevelopment, many council members contend that the uproar against redevelopment is the work of opponents who have played on the lingering fears and threatened their neighbors.
“You don’t think this kind of thing can happen in our small town, but I’ve had calls from some frightened people, people who have been threatened if they speak out for redevelopment,” said City Councilwoman Karen Lloreda. “This is heavy-handed stuff.”
Lloreda is one member of the five-person council who would welcome a slowdown in the proceedings.
“I think we’re definitely looking at trying to address some of the anxiety that’s out there,” Lloreda said. “If slowing things down is one of the ways, we’re willing to look at that as an option.”
Council members also noted that the public outcry may be premature, since every report and plan that has been presented thus far is only for study and not implementation, council members say.
“The key words here are preliminary and draft,” said Councilman Mike Eggers. “Nothing is ready to be voted on yet. Everything we have done are preliminary reports or draft reports. This is just the studying stage, but people don’t seem to understand that.”
“Basically, what has happened is the council stumbled when it came to educating the public,” Eggers said. “Redevelopment is just a financing mechanism, that’s all it is. But that’s difficult to explain to the public.”
One option for the council would be to ask its consultants to rewrite a draft environmental impact report on redevelopment, Eggers said.