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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hayward Council Balks At Cost, Time Frame Of Update To General Plan

Mar. 26, 2012 | A semi-prerequisite and onerous update of Hayward’s general plan could cost up to $2.8 million to create and take nearly four years to complete, but city leaders say the costs is too high and while take too long to complete.

Although there are no law against how long a city can proceed without updating its general plan, it can affect the city’s ability to procure and maximize state and federal grants. As the defining document for any cities blueprint, it includes a bevy of areas including land-use, transportation, development and social issues. Hayward’s general plan was last updated in 2002.

Erik Pearson, a senior planner for the city said most municipalities update their general plans every 10-15 years. Based upon the projected timetable, the comprehensive general plan would be completed in 2016—14 years after its last update.

There is also urgency for updating the plan, said Pearson, since numerous environmental laws have come to the forefront in the decade since, including the city’s own climate action plan. The entire city council, though, objected to the price tag and the length of the process.

Of the $2.8 million fee, $1.2 million is derived from staff time, said David Rizk, Hayward's development services director. Inflating the figure with the expenditure, he said, excludes the need for the council to pay for the update using precious general fund dollars, but would ultimately take 11 years to pay off.

Mayor Michael Sweeney said the three-and-ahalf year process could suffer from fits and starts as well-meaning residents “burn out” during the laborious and stretched time frame. “Hopefully you believe us when we say this is a difficult task, but let’s see if we can find some other ways of doing this,” he told Pearson.

Pearson said the city’s general plan could also be web-based. Other California cities have used this method, but Sweeney, flying in the face of conventional wisdom when it comes to the positives of social media, told Pearson, he also wanted more residents who are not “connected” to the Internet to participate in the process.

Councilman Marvin Peixoto agreed that costs need to be cut. “I think in a post-redevelopment era we’re going to really have to get outside the box to find it out what having a guiding document really means,” he said. “We’re going to have to reevaluate the approach to this and I’m not sure the old way is going to work.”

Some of the potential changes to the general plan include policy updates on the city’s air quality, successes with historic preservation and sustainability, said Pearson. According to a staff report, one possibility would include lessening a reliance on delineating neighborhoods and changing city boundaries. One potential change would be to detach property east of the Pleasanton ridge from the city’s sphere of influence, said Pearson. Exploring Hayward’s northern boundary for long-range annexation is also a possibility.

As the discussion deepened last week with some council members already adding to their wish lists for the general plan, Councilman Bill Quirk said they should be wary of created an unwieldy process. “I think we have to be careful about adding too much to this,” he said. “What we should have in the general plan are things that will really change city policy. In terms of economic health, the city and its budget is something that ought to fit in there because we do want businesses to grow, stay here, come here. I think a lot of it is determined by our permit process and our housing process,” said Quirk, whose response sounded vaguely similar to his campaign platform for the 20th Assembly District, which also include streamlining business regulations.

The city council may hear a revised payment fee for the general plan update next month. If approved, work on the project may not start until early 2013.

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