By Tim Hunt
A good plan for downtown, but can city officials get it approved?Uploaded: Oct 30, 2014
The city has grand plans to integrate the Firehouse Theater into the two downtown parks on First StreetLions Wayside and Delucchi to enhance the green spaces downtown.
The parks are used for the summer Fridays in the Park musical series and often are overflowing with spectators for popular acts.
The plan for the area would place the creek that divides the property into a large pipe so it can be covered and ground utilized. The creek already is in pipes under downtown streets (Neal, Abbie, Angela) as well as in a pipe when it runs under Kottinger Avenue, under the Pleasanton Gardens senior housing complex and adjoining homes on Second Street and then under First Street before re-emerging in the park.
The plan is logical, but will require approvals from state and federal wildlife agencies. That should be a no-brainer, but there is no guarantee, despite the amount of time the creek is encased in concrete currently. The Army Corps. of Engineers can be particularly challenging when it comes to waterways and there is no cakewalk with the wildlife agencies despite the reality that the only water source for the creek during summer and fall months is irrigation runoff (not so in this drought and water-restricted years).
Covering the creek to expand the land area and remove that barrier is critical to plans to build a new and larger band shell nearer Railroad that would allow a greater range of musical acts as well as create more space for spectators. It's the right approach and would knit together the city-owned facilities and open space.
Notably, this is the same creek that runs in the linear park along Kottinger Avenue. The city spent nearly $1 million during Jennifer Hosterman's term as mayor to remove non-native species and replant the creek bed because a neighbor liked to look at the reeds and willows. That decision did nothing to improve the situation should there be torrential rainfall (Pleasanton Gardens flooded 25 years ago in such a rain event when the culvert could not handle the heavy flows).
The City Council approved the park plan, estimated to cost about $4.5 million, so it will now be up to the staff to work with the appropriate agencies and win the approval for encasing the creek. The city's history with agencies at the Callipe Preserve Golf Course is pretty dismal, so here's hoping they have learned or can find the right consultants to get it done.