The City Council could have approved major changes at its meeting on Monday,. Nov. 20, that could have possibly revitalize Downtown San Fernando.
But council members, unsatisfied with the community’s input, decided to postpone any decision until the next meeting in two weeks.
In a 3-0 vote, Mayor Silvia Ballin and council members Robert Gonzales and Antonio Lopez decided more time is needed to meticulously review the updated City plan, and invite the community to provide feedback on the proposed redesign of major corridors. (Councilmember Jaime Soto abstained and Councilmember Joel Fajardo recused himself from the discussion claiming a conflict of interest as his home may be impacted by plan.)
The project, known as the San Fernando Corridors Specific Plan SP-5, would redesign San Fernando Road, Truman Street, and the San Fernando Mall as mixed-use corridors and redesign First Street for live/work development. The proposed plan would adjust roadways to make them more pedestrian friendly, in hopes it would encourage developers to build mixed-use buildings with shops and market-rate housing.
At Monday’s meeting, the council postponed the approval vote for SP-5 after Soto raised concerns of gentrification and traffic. Ballin also requested more time for the community to provide input and for council members to review the updates in detail since they had only received the latest version on Nov. 17.
“I’ve had many meetings with the city manager, with (interim community development director) Jack [Wong] and I appreciate it. But I still need to read it and do want to hear from the community,” Ballin said.
Since the project’s start in 2014, there have been two stakeholder interviews, three development advisory committee meetings, one environmental impact report scoping meeting, four community workshops, and three planning and preservation commission meetings. But the council still wants more feedback.
A few community members did have the chance to express their concerns at the meeting.
Proprietors who own businesses on First Street were worried that if the street is re-zoned, they might lose value on their property or might not be able to continue their businesses there.
City Attorney Richard Padilla addressed those concerns, saying, “nothing that is allowed in that zone currently is being taken away; those businesses are allowed to stay.”
Ron Hernandez, who owns a muffler shop on First Street and multiple properties on Second Street, said this was the first time he heard of workshops or public meetings regarding the issue. He urged the council to take its time and really think about the effects the revitalization might bring.
“I think the City of San Fernando should really consider more on what is more important than this kind of growth,” Hernandez said.
“They talked about doing this in Palmdale. Palmdale is a bunch of vacant land; go do it, have fun. We like our little town, I like our little town. I don’t want to be on Second Street and see a third story building.”
Under the proposed plan, buildings can reach three stories or 40 feet on both sides of First Street.
The goal is to revitalize downtown San Fernando businesses — especially in the mall — by making “blank canvas streets” more enticing for investment and good quality investments, said David Sargent, principal architect and urban designer for Sargent Town Planning, who the city hired to design the plan.
“You have a lot of lots, you have a lot of empty parking lots, you’ve got a lot of empty land. The only way you are going to make that a center for your town is if someone builds nice buildings for it,” he said.
The plan also calls for street designs to be made safer and more comfortable for pedestrians because, Sargent said, “if you have a downtown with people walking around in it, you don’t have a downtown.”
The City of San Fernando started this project after receiving Metro’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Planning Grant. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is a type of community development that includes a mixture of housing, office, retail and/or other commercial development and amenities integrated into a walkable neighborhood and located within a half-mile of quality public transportation, according to the Center For Transit Oriented Development.
The next public hearing will be held during the council’s Dec. 4 meeting.