Sunday, March 2, 2014

What Happens When The Citizens and The Government Pull Together To Solve A Problem?

Good things happen.  Recently I wrote about the issue presented when a proposed building met the opposition of nearby residents.  Normally, this would be a bloody fight leaving both sides weakened and nobody happy.  But sometimes, it works the right way and that's noteworthy.  

In this case, the Planning & Zoning Board did exactly what they are supposed to do - evaluate the requests for compliance, understand the reasoning behind variance requests and consider the impact on the community.  In January, the only thing that was clear was that the impact would be big on the residents of the Lexi if the proposed condo hotel was granted all the variances the developer requested.  

And instead of assuming the government knows best, Rey Trujillo, the chair of P&Z requested that the developer and the Lexi work together to come up with a plan that would work for each.  And remarkably, they did.  

There were several components to this working right.  

P&Z had to recognize that they don't have all the answers.  P&Z Chair Trujillo did that.   

The residents had to be clear and informed about the impact and willing to do the work.  The Lexi Board, in particular Tony Eng and Sam Zamacona, did exactly that and were able to present their concerns eloquently and with data.  

The developer needed to understand that he is part of the community and approach the concerns intelligently and flexibly.   

In the end, that's what happened.  The proposal is far from perfect and I understand the reasoning of the two P&Z members who voted against the plan.  But the process worked when leadership (P&Z) and community interests worked together with good intentions.  It's encouraging.  

The Harbor Island Parking issue has reached a tipping point.  Everyone agrees the fundamental problem is more cars than available parking.   The people at the Harbor Island meeting last Wednesday night showed that they have the right stuff.  They were prepared with data and ideas worth considering.  

The city administration needs to take a lesson from how the condo hotel issue was resolved.  Understand that there is no perfect solution and actively engage the local residents in finding a good solution.  Let the residents lead on the parking problem and see what solutions emerge.  I'm pretty sure the result will be a darn sight better than what we've seen so far.  

Kevin Vericker
March 2, 2014

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