Village Entrance group reestablished

Councilwoman Verna Rollinger disagreed with the notion of reestablishing the City Council's Village Entrance subcommittee to review the history of the project and recommend some options, but she was outvoted 4 to 1.

The council on Tuesday reappointed Mayor Toni Iseman and Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson to work with staff to sort out the myriad proposals and counter-proposals made in the long saga of the Village Entrance project. They will present a summary and alternatives at a public workshop.

The Village Entrance site is the strip of land from City Hall to the Art-A-Fair grounds.

"I object to having two, any two, council members come up with suggestions for the Village Entrance," Rollinger said. "I want to be sure that no options are foreclosed."

Rollinger opined that the public should be presented with the facts and allowed to make the decision on a project that has been on and off the drawing board for more than 25 years.

"The public has not weighed in on this since I was on the council," Rollinger said.

Pearson agreed that time had faded memories of what had transpired and agreed on in the past.

"People need to be reeducated," said Pearson, who sponsored the proposal to reestablish the subcommittee.

Pearson said she and Iseman represent people with different points of view, and their recommendations would provide a starting point for a public workshop.

"We will be starting with the premise of a park, a walking path, increased parking, and we will make it prettier," Iseman said.

Pearson has been working on the Village Entrance for 14 years, starting when she was a planning commissioner. She and Iseman began working together in 2004 when they were appointed to the original subcommittee by then-Mayor Cheryl Kinsman.

Kinsman basically told them to lock heads until they reached an agreement.

Folks who knew the political and philosophical differences between the subcommittee members held little hope they could reach a compromise. The chasm seemed unbridgeable between environmentalists' opposition to moving the city corporation yard into the undeveloped side of Laguna Canyon to make way for a parking structure downtown that the business and the civic arts district communities wanted.

However, the two councilwomen hammered out a compromise, which was presented at a well-attended workshop on Jan. 15, 2005.

"We broke the logjam that had been causing the problems for years," said Iseman.

Among the compromise proposals approved then by the council:

•255 public parking spaces at Act V;

•Eliminate one building proposed for the maintenance yard relocation at Act V;

•Trim the footprint of the remaining building, with a second story to be added for offices, an employee lunchroom and similar uses, which required the approval of the California Coastal Commission that was granted;

•Park all large city vehicles, including buses, at Act V. Locate vehicle washing equipment and racks at the rear of the parcel;

•Locate the tram stop at Act V at the top of the hill adjacent to Highway 133 so that it is visible from the road;

•Design the parking garage at the Village Entrance to mask any city functions on the first level;

Modifications to the original proposals were made.

A contest was held for the design of the Village Entrance, which was won by Studio One Eleven. The design featured a parking structure and a park with a meandering pathway to connect to downtown. The old sewer digester was to remain intact, with possible use as an information center.

Costs have since escalated dramatically and a funding source has never been determined.

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