So what's the reason for this occasion?
The City of Sierra Madre and its residents are updating their General Plan. What is a General Plan, you might ask? It is the document that defines what our city will look like and how it will be financially managed and developed over a very long period of time. This General Plan guides the policy making of a city government. Plus it brings a city into sync with all those other government confabulations out there. As an example, in 1990 the California Supreme Court informed cities everywhere that property zoning in conflict with a General Plan has no legal validity, which upset quite a few apple carts. Obviously this is an important little document dealing with some serious matters.
There are six areas within a General Plan:
1) Public Safety;
2) Economic Development, Parking, Traffic and Transit;
3) Resources and Public Services
4) Treasure / Seniors, Hillsides, Historic Preservation, Trees;
5) Recreation, Parks, Library, Special Events; and
6) Land Use, City Council Approved Housing Element
Item # 6 being potentially the most contentious as it is where our City either decides to preserve what it currently has, or sells itself out to developers in order to either enrich key - and not necessarily local - players. Of course, there are those who claim a city can (supposedly) relieve itself of a difficult tax burden by increasing its taxable housing stock. Though the relationship between the two hasn't always worked out as planned. Just ask Pasadena, home of the empty condo.
Better just not putting the city into debt in the first place.
Other cities throughout California are also updating their General Plans. No two General Plans will be exactly alike because no two cities and their residents are exactly alike. As an example, Sierra Madre takes great pride in its Volunteer Fire department; the float that is hand built by volunteers and often win prestigious prizes in the annual Rose Parade; its Emergency radio Station; and the world class Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team.
It turns out that the same independent spirit extends to Sierra Madre's General Plan. In 1996 the City of Sierra Madre adopted a General Plan that was written by the people with only the interests of its people in mind. While other California cities hire consultants to write their General Plans, the people of Sierra Madre writes their own. Oh sure, some parts (such as the EIR - Environmental Impact Report) are informed by the wisdom of hired experts, but the will of the people is clearly evident in all of the six General Plan areas.
While some cities focus on high density, residential and commercial development, shopping malls, highway access and sporting venues, here things are seen a little differently. In 1996 is was the vision of the community that Sierra Madre retain its village atmosphere, stay safe and friendly, and provide services that people want and need. That plan has served our town faithfully and well.
Now it is time for a legally mandated update of our plan, one that will serve our City for the next 20 years.
So you might be asking yourself: "Am I qualified to participate and give input on the future of our city?" The answer is yes - who better? Will everyone who participates in General Plan Update meetings agree? Absolutely not. Positions will be staked out and compromises will have to be made. Will "the City" ignore the people and just use the spirit of community involvement as justifications for its own agendas? Not if the General Plan is done correctly, because if it is this becomes a living embodiment of what it is the people living here really want for their community.
Public participation plays an important role in formulating the General Plan. As an example, the law requires local governments to "make a diligent effort to achieve the public participation of all economic segment of the community." So in order to make sure that lofty goal is reached, the General Plan Update Steering Committee is hosting its first Town Hall Forum at the Youth Activity Center (YAC) at 611 E. Sierra Madre Boulevard (2nd floor of the Community Recreation Center). Residents and community members - often the same thing - are encouraged to drop in between 2:00 and 4:00 pm to give your opinions on the future of our great little city.
Members of the General Plan Update Steering Committee will be hosting conversations at tables, each one focusing on one of the six areas of the General Plan. An opportunity will be available to participate in a survey that may be completed and returned to the "GPUSC" anonymously.
And, most importantly, refreshments will be served. Plus local businesses and individuals have donated highly desirable door prizes to be awarded at the end of the event. So you will be able to both contribute your vision to the future of this community, plus win valuable prizes. Only in Sierra Madre.
The meeting agenda is attached here.