Letter to the Editor: Downtown Density Workshop

“Discussions, day trips offer visions for downtown Martinez” (East Bay Times Aug. 2011)

“City Officials Pleased With Results Of ‘Downtown Matters’ Workshops” (Patch Nov. 2011)

These are just two headlines during the Downtown Matters workshops; a series of workshops spearheaded by former Redwood City’s Redevelopment Manager, Susan Moeller. These workshops were part of the overall work myself and several Martinez residents participated in as members of the General Plan Update Task Force. Fast forward eight years and I’ve come to appreciate the reality that in Martinez, timing truly is everything.

Working in Berkeley the commute home can be a crap shoot, so while leaving early enough to arrive ahead of the regular city council meeting I arrived just in time for Mr. Turnbaugh’s comments. Thankfully the meeting was recorded and is available on the city’s website for community members to watch, which I just did. There were a few speakers but two in particular, Mike Telfer and his guest Steve Riley, reminded me of some of what our group heard from the Redwood City Planners.

Now that it appears the city is (finally) on its way to finalizing the General Plan, I agree, it is time to reconsider the methodologies we use in our zoning ordinances. What Mr. Riley described in his comments, what Mr. Telfer has been butting up against, is the rigidity of working within the constraints of Traditional (Euclidean) zoning codes vs Form Based Zoning. I know this sounds like gobblygook to non-policy wonks, it kinda did to me too at the time so I had to google. Then I fell down a rabbit hole, lost hours of my life and questioned whether I’d ever be able to put to that information to practical use (hint hint looks like it was a good investment of time). But the best way to describe it is using the concept provided by the folks from Redwood City, a wedding cake.

As discussions revolving around density and the vision for downtown pick back up, I’d like to suggest keeping this idea of a wedding cake top of mind. What is too tall in the downtown, and why? If we have a concentration of heights in a core location that then scale down, like a wedding cake, and blend in with existing neighborhood norms, what might happen? I look forward to the discussions.

– Linda Meza

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