Portola City Council met last week between passing storms in a never-ending parade of weather to complete business on a short agenda. But members also found time to discuss ways to increase public participation in and discussion of current city issues.
Mayor Dan Wilson and Mayor Pro Tem Juliana Mark advanced the idea of Saturday morning Coffee Klatches held in rotating locations once per month and found their fellow council members in agreement with their aims.
“The closeness of our community is the perfect venue to reach out and talk to the citizens individually. One big challenge has been how to get interest from the community in order to get their issues on the agenda,” said Mark.
Wilson and Mark are interested in receiving input from citizens and in discussing local concerns. Residents already are encouraged to provide their opinions during the public comment portion of the agenda during regular meetings, but standing in front of a podium while being taped for television makes the process more formal and more formidable for some.
Last Saturday, the first meeting was held at Coffee Tree Express and the next will be April 30 at Dee’s Station Café from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Meetings thereafter will be rotated around all the local coffee shops in alphabetical order on the last Saturday of each month.
“It’s all about listening. We want to know what they want us to do,” said Mark.
It is hoped that informal meetings with the public might provide local representatives with more insight into the communal mind of Portola.
The council also unanimously approved an amendment to the loan agreement between the county and the city in regard to the Lake Davis Water Treatment Plant. The original loan agreement, made in 2007, outlined the proportion of cost each was to bear in the completion of the plant and provided for a loan of $165,000 to the Plumas County Flood Control District. The loan was to be repaid by December 2012 or upon receipt of funds under the Monterey Settlement.
As the last repairs and construction details were being completed at the plant, which is still not online, it was discovered that the 250,000-gallon water storage tank needed to be re-coated. Since this item was not included in itemized cost estimates, the two parties agreed to a two-year extension of the loan by the city and agreement to split the cost of the re-coating 50-50. The council agreed to the proposition unanimously.
They also unanimously approved the Housing Element Annual Progress Report submitted by City Planner Karen Downs, who will forward the report to the state. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) requires that each city and county prepare an annual report due April 1 on the status and progress in implementing its housing element, using forms and definitions adopted by HCD.
HCD’s interest is directed at assessing the need for affordable housing in an area and tracking the progress made in constructing homes to meet this need. Since no certificates of completion of new construction were issued in 2010, no progress toward meeting the “assessed need” was made.
The city looks to the Woodbridge development to supply most, if not all, of the low-cost housing needs of the future, and while Woodbridge remains stalled by the economy, no progress will be made toward meeting HCD’s assessed goals.
Other HCD expectations are addressed in the report, such as developing a Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, identifying low-income housing assistance sources and tracking available land within the city.
Since the housing element report only addresses new or rehabilitated construction, recent vacancies within the city, including lower cost homes, are not counted or applied to the “need” assessment.
The state-required report also does not take the recent reduction in population figures in the latest census into account. Portola’s census figures were down by nearly 200 people. Prior to the downturn in the economy, Portola, like Plumas County in general, experienced a slow 3 percent growth pattern. According to Downs, the state determines the Regional Housing Needs Assessment countywide and it will not be adjusted until 2014.
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