PRMCC moves forward on 2019-20 work plan

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Seeing the Municipal Code as the foundation for the Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission’s function, the panel’s members indicated Tuesday that updating and consolidating the code regarding the Commission’s roles and responsibilities could be a top priority on its 2019-20 work plan.

Developing the work plan has been an ongoing project since June and was one of the topics undertaken during a summer retreat, said Michael Chandler, deputy director of Administrative Services. He sought additional comments from the Commission he’ll use to draft the plan he’ll then submit for the panel’s editing and approval.

Not only should the city’s code be modified to clarify the Commission’s duties, it also should address the administration of special events, the panel said earlier. That may be another work plan high priority item for the Commission.

Others may be revising outdated provisions of the Park and Recreation Area Regulations, clarifying the Commission’s relationship with the Planning Commission and starting the process of updating the Park System Master Plan.

Chandler said the park master plan revisions had been done in-house in 2007 and 2012, but that it would be more beneficial to have the next update done by an expert outside consultant.

Another item mentioned in earlier discussions likely won’t make the final cut. While the Commission wants the city to finish Susana Park’s interpretive panels, members agreed with Commissioner Richard Patchin, who said, “It’s a Measure H Project.”

The city should complete the park, he said, but as a Measure H project, “it’s already been addressed.”

One item on the list would allow the Commission to work with Christina Ratcliffe, director of Community and Economic Development on a common goal.

That would be the marketing of Martinez as a destination, part of the city’s Economic Development Action Plan that’s being drafted. How much the Commission would participate in the project hasn’t been determined.

But as the Community and Economic Development Department began building up, Ratcliffe said its staff has learned that “wayfinding” signs are inadequate.

The branding of Martinez needs to consider its historic nature and the ways art could be used, such as in decorating utility boxes, to enhance a visitor’s impression of the city.

But branding and marketing the city isn’t just to impress visitors, she said. It also creates a sense of community among resident, she said.

Commissioner Rob Parolek, noting that the Community and Economic Development Department has been producing reports on the city’s economic health, said he is a member of Strong Towns.

That nonprofit organization, which said its mission is to strengthen cities and towns to make them more financially resilient, recommends looking at downtowns not as individual businesses but as aggregate commercial districts, like “malls before there were malls,” he said.

He said the revenues produced by the square footage of a downtown often is better than a big box store of similar size, and he urged Ratcliffe and her staff to measure Martinez’s downtown worth in similar ways.

She agreed, saying her staff is looking at a variety of economic drivers in the city, and that includes the downtown area.

Another item that may appear on the Commission’s work plan is resuming the cultural component of the Commission as well as develop the General Plan’s Cultural Arts element, with goals, policies and strategies for putting those in place.

Ratcliffe said updating of the General Plan included multiple meetings and public hearings from 2015 to 2017, and the environmental documents are expected to be wrapped up soon. The updated General Plan was circulated starting in late 2016, she said.

She described it as a general vision for the city that acknowledges that things change in five to 10 years

For instance, if it addresses street art in the downtown area, that intent lets those associated with planning as well as the Commission to decide whether a project fits the vision and goals of the General Plan.

Vice Chairperson Karen Bell-Patten said she wants various segments of the city to work together, saying, “This is one of our challenges,” she said.

As an example, she said the Joltin Joe, the boat once owned by New York Yankees legend and Martinez native son Joe DiMaggio has been spoken of as helping the city become a destination.

“I don’t know how the tactics, strategies and vision will align,” she said. “this document shows a misalignment of how we participate.”

However, she said later she had thought the revised General Plan was a wholly new document, not one the city has been working on for years.

Chandler said once the revised General Plan is adopted, then the Commission can work on cultural goals, policies and strategies as well as composing a policy for public art projects.

He said he would take the Commission’s comments and draft a new work plan item list. The panel then will arrange those items in order of priority.

The Commission also reviewed the city’s use of Waterfront Park’s Field 3, which has been remodeled into a professional-quality baseball field.

Chandler said that since the ending of the Martinez Clippers ball club’s season, the field has been leveled and resodded, and now is being rested.

That rest period likely will extend into the late winter rains, when none of the city ball fields are used.

However, before the Clippers, Martinez’s professional ball club, start spring training, Field 3 may be available for men’s leagues play, Alhambra High School tournaments and other uses.

Chandler also outlined provisions of the city’s five-year contract with the ball club that will begin its second year in 2019.

Additional use of the field by the club is permitted with hourly rate payments using the fee schedule the Commission recommended for approval, Chandler said. As for concerns about the ball field’s lights, Ratcliffe said she heard only one comment, that they weren’t as bad as expected.

Chandler assured the panel that the lights automatically extinguish at 10:30 p.m., which led to a few games having to be resumed at another time or called that night.

The panel also heard that Waterfront Park’s ribbon cutting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, near the entrance to the park’s ballfield.

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