Opportunity Is Knocking, Council Should Take It
Article Launched: 04/07/2008
A proposal with the potential to galvanize downtown Vacaville will be presented to the City Council on Tuesday night. City leaders would do well to adopt it.
The Opportunity Hill Master Plan and Design Guidelines is another step in the right direction toward making the downtown area a vibrant place to live, play and shop.
The journey started nearly two decades ago, when water and sewer lines were replaced and Main Street itself was rebuilt. Then came incentives for property owners to rehabilitate their buildings. Andrews Park was turned into a citywide destination, thanks to the addition of the Great Wonders Playground and the CreekWalk.
With more people finding their way downtown, restaurants and businesses began springing up to cater to their needs. The Town Square project, which included a new public library and two new commercial buildings, added to the synergy.
Most of these efforts have focused on bringing lots of people downtown for a few hours. The Opportunity Hill Master Plan would bring lots of people to live there.
The plan covers the eastern side of downtown Vacaville, an area bordered by Monte Vista Avenue and Mason, Davis and Depot streets. It gained its name because the city's homeless shelter, Opportunity House, is currently within those boundaries, although it will be relocated as the plan takes shape.
As envisioned by the consultants hired to develop the plan, EDAW, Inc., the area would become a bustling mix of shops, offices, restaurants with sidewalk dining areas, and high-density apartments and condominiums - as many as 65 dwellings per acre, about twice as many as city rules currently allowed.
The goal is to create a place where people could live, dine and shop and perhaps even get to work without needing a car, thanks to walkways and bike paths that would link residents to nearby park-and-ride lots and bus stops.
Of course, getting suburbanites to give up their vehicles will be no easy trick. The Vacaville Planning Commission was right to raise questions about parking before it agreed three weeks ago to recommend the master plan to the City Council. The plan that the council will review includes some ideas for mitigating that concern.
If the City Council adopts this master plan, as it should, it will have to make adjustments to the general plan and zoning laws. Then the city can begin working to bring private developers on board to turn the plan into a living entity.
Given the economic climate, it could be some time before any actual work begins to transform the area. But with guidelines in place, Vacaville will be ready to greet developers when they come calling again.