Public ponders huge Chico growth area
The biggest swatch of developable land in Chico’s recent history was on the table last weekend, as ordinary folks got a chance to give their two cents’ worth on what should be done in the 632-acre Northwest Chico Development Area (see map).
There are numerous property owners in the area, and several have submitted development proposals, but the City Council decided some months ago to do a comprehensive plan for the area. Saturday’s charrette, or all-day participatory workshop, at the City Council chambers was held to involve members of the community in the process.
“This area is going to be a significant part of the community’s future,” city Planning Director Kim Seidler told the 35 or so people gathered. “This is a rare opportunity to get in on the front end of the planning process.”
The city has hired a Berkeley firm, Design, Community & Environment (DC&E), to prepare a plan for the area. The firm will gather suggestions from community members, as it did at the workshop, and then develop three or four alternative proposals for the city to consider.
It won’t be easy. The area already has two mobile-home parks and a major subdivision, Brentwood, as well as several industrial and commercial uses (a cement plant, for example), numerous orchards, a proposed community park (DeGarmo) and Shasta School. It will need a drainage system, Eaton Road will need to be extended, and a site must be found for five more acres of neighborhood parks.
Participants in the charrette broke into small groups to come up with goals for the area (though, interestingly, most of those from the development industry left at this point). Jon Luvaas, a city planning commissioner who participated, said the groups agreed on several things: One, The Esplanade should be a well-designed, attractive street, not turn into a commercial strip. Two, traffic should be dispersed by having lots of pass-through streets, rather than channeling cars into arterials. Three, creekside areas should be preserved as open and recreation space. And, four, Eaton Road when extended should be an accessible and attractive residential street, not a thoroughfare.
DC&E is expected to present its alternative plans for public comment at a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and City Council in February 2004.