Camille Garcia / Rivard Report
The Neighborhood Improvements Bond Committee Thursday removed several areas from the list of those that may receive affordable housing bond dollars in 2017.
The citizen group, tasked with determining geographic areas for spending the $20 million housing bond funds, has been working with a list of 15 locations suggested by City staff in early October.
The Neighborhood Improvements section of the bond is new this year and represents less than 3% of the total $850 million 2017 Municipal Bond, the bulk of which will go towards streets, bridges, and sidewalks and other infrastructure needs like drainage, parks, and facilities.
City staff added a 16th location at Callaghan and Culebra roads based on citizen and committee feedback during previous meetings. Assistant Director of Planning and Community Development Richard Keith said that location – which has a lot of open land, is near a VIA bus route, and has several City-owned properties – “represents an opportunity for investment in an area that could benefit from that investment.”
The committee took four areas off the working list, each of which were some of the lowest ranked locations on an online survey the group completed over the past two weeks: the Blanco Road and West Avenue location; the former site of the Malibu Castle at Northwest IH-10 at Loop 410; an area near Naco Perrin Boulevard and Perrin Beitel Road; and the location of the old fire academy off Zarzamora Street on the far Westside. The fire academy site concerned committee members because it would require about $3 million in clean-up costs.
“This area is a (very) hazardous place to put children,” said committee member Bill McDonough. “… I’m familiar with communities that still have problems with long-term environmental clean up.”
Areas that made the top of the list, those that the group finds viable for redevelopment or rehabilitation, included the Near West-Five Points area, the Lincoln Park-Arena District, the Near Eastside, and the Westside.
For a presentation containing each of the staff-recommended areas, click here.
As the process of organizing the City’s first-ever affordable housing bond continues, the committee can choose to delete more locations from their list or add some, ultimately informing the Urban Renewal Plan that will dictate which areas can receive a portion of the funds.
They’ll continue to discuss the remaining 12 areas at their next meeting, which is on Dec. 8 at the Central Library Auditorium at 6 p.m. See a calendar of coming dates in the housing bond process below.
Committee member Lauro DeLeon suggested divvying up the $20 million evenly to each City Council district, but the motion was rejected. Most committee members didn’t think $2 million would be able to make enough of an impact in their respective districts.
If at least one significant project can be completed by 2022, committee members said, it can help gain voter support for a larger housing bond in the next cycle.
Once the group identifies the areas it believes should be considered for bond funds, it will make a recommendation to City Council, which could make final adjustments. If the 2017 bond is approved by voters in May 2017, Neighborhood Improvement funds can be distributed toward the completion of various projects related to affordable housing. City staff reiterated Thursday that they do not plan on using eminent domain or displacing any residents in the process.
One of the main concerns citizens brought up throughout the housing bond process was that the City didn’t actively engage the community in the proposed areas.
The City will host two meetings specifically for neighborhood association leadership to voice their concerns and feedback on the areas targeted for redevelopment.
The first meeting will be on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at Pre-K 4 SA East, 5230 Eisenhauer Rd. The second will be on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at Pre-K 4 SA West, 1235 Enrique M. Barrera Memorial Parkway. Both meetings will take place from 6-7:30 p.m.
From the start, the committee has expressed interest in identifying some sort of oversight group or task force to ensure that the projects completed with the housing bond dollars are in line with existing neighborhood plans and include affordable housing.
“We’ve all been stewards of the project,” said committee Co-Chair Jim Leonard, “and will hopefully have some oversight to see it through.”