Council maintains status quo

Earlier this month the Chico Planning Commission declared Drake Homes’ proposed Brentwood housing subdivision inconsistent with the city’s General Plan. The commission said it failed to provide a mixed-use neighborhood core, called for a sound wall, would not provide enough street connections to surrounding areas, lacked design innovation, would not benefit the community and was premature, in that the general area for which it was slated—Esplanade and Eaton Road—needed more comprehensive planning before any project was allowed.

In other words, the proposal was typical of the type of development the 1994 General Plan sought to make defunct in its goal to keep Chico from sprawling out of control and creating traffic gridlock.

In the words of one city official, “It’s just another piece of crap.”

But that didn’t stop the Chico City Council from granting the developer’s appeal of the commission’s denial and approving the project, with a few cosmetic changes, at its May 21 meeting. On a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Steve Bertagna, Rick Keene and Larry Wahl and Mayor Dan Herbert in favor, the council gave the project—186 single-family lots on 49 acres, 250 to 400 apartment units on 16 acres, 5 acres for neighborhood commercial and 1.73 acres for storm water detention—the thumbs up.

The motion to approve called for a couple of the apartment buildings to be moved north on the property, the sound wall be landscaped and that somewhere on the property land be set aside for a park.

In other actions, the council also voted—this time unanimously—to adopt the Manzanita corridor project that will accommodate expected future traffic increases through the east side of town. The neighbors who fought a two- to four-lane expansion by providing their own proposal said they felt vindicated in the end. Manzanita will remain two-lane, except for where it crosses the Lindo Channel and the Big Chico Creek bridges, and the city will install traffic controlling roundabouts on Manzanita at Hooker Oak and Vallombrosa.

Only three trees—rather than as many as 100—will have to be removed, and sidewalks will be constructed along Manzanita, as will a pedestrian bridge over the channel.

Finally, there was one other item that almost defies logic. The council OK’d an agreement the city has with cable TV provider AT&T. The mighty corporation has violated the city’s municipal code by not providing an efficient means by which customers can call and complain, so AT&T has agreed to provide a $2 coupon to each Chico customer to be applied to his or her monthly cable bill, as well as provide the city with $15,000. Councilmember Dan Nguyen Tan wondered why AT&T didn’t simply knock $2 off the monthly bill rather than making customers redeem the coupon. City Manager Tom Lando said AT&T said it did not want to set a precedent, and that it would simply "walk away from the table" if the city didn’t like the offer. Now the question is how many of those coupons will actually get redeemed?