A large number of generalities are coming from candidates in the City Council election. Both new candidates and incumbents fail to talk about solutions to important specific issues that would give us a truer idea of how they would lead.
Open space and park land protection is one such issue. The City Council has voted to convert open space to housing at least three different times in recent years. And the draft of the new General Plan also includes converting open space to housing.
But that General Plan draft also states we need 29.5 acres of NEW park land to accommodate all the new housing. Added to that is the pressure on existing park land coming from both the expanding demand for existing uses, as well as new uses, like dog parks and pickle ball. And we have only one site left in Martinez that could accommodate a major new park – even the mayor confirmed that at the March 18 City Council meeting. How can we protect our existing open space and park land?
Another major issue left unaddressed is the continuing over-development in housing projects that affects both “south of 4” neighborhoods and the downtown. The council has approved several projects that are very out of character for the surrounding neighborhoods, and hurt those neighborhoods and the larger community.
Paseos (Parkway Drive/Old Orchard Road and Howe Avenue), a massive block of houses with virtually no greenspace in or around them and too high and dense, undermines the existing neighborhood. Cascara Canyon apartments (Shell Avenue a few blocks from the high school) went from a density of nine to 46 units packed together without greenspace and is on a dangerous curve students walk by every school day.
For the Seeno project (Laurel Knoll on Muir Station Road below Nob Hill and above Grace Episcopal Church), density went from seven to 76 units, again on a dangerous street. And two acres of open space were converted to housing to allow for that density. These are just a few examples. How can we keep over-development like this from occurring?
The draft General Plan offers an opportunity NOW for these candidates to show some leadership and tell us how they would change the plan to protect our existing open space and park land, and keep over-development from undermining our neighborhoods. The plan will control our land use for decades, and will be passed by this next City Council.
Leadership is a key ingredient missing in our government over the years. The Alhambra Hills issue is a prime example. No one is happier than I am to see the council get behind securing Alhambra Hills as open space, and I hope the council’s enthusiasm will continue well beyond the election period.
But leadership is getting ahead of the issues that are important to our community, not waiting until the public has led the way. The Alhambra Hills were under threat of development for over 25 years, and several of our politicians have been in office almost that long, with all but Councilmember McKillop in government for at least the last 10 years.
Yet no one stepped forward in all those years to lead the public in saving Alhambra Hills when saving them would have been much easier. “Leadership” had to wait until after the council approved the Hills for housing, and after pressure from Martinez citizens, including the Alhambra Hills Open Space Committee which was formed in 2011, made saving the Hills a major public issue.
Leadership includes forming answers to difficult issues before the public is in crisis. I encourage the candidates to show us leadership on these two important issues now, and let us know what we can expect from them before we cast our votes.
– Tim Platt