A Failure to Communicate?

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One of the things I like best about writing for the Indy is that it is a community newspaper and as a writer I am able to inform residents of things that will be directly affecting them. This week I am looking at the plans now shaping up for the revitalization of Lido Village, which also include Via Lido Plaza and the soon-to-be-empty old City Hall site.

These plans directly affect three areas: West Newport, Lido Island and the Peninsula.

Lido Village was once the place to go to have lunch or dinner and walk around to unique shops and stores.  It was like Balboa Island in that if you were entertaining company from out of town these are the two places you would take them.

But not anymore.

The Village sits on prime bayfront, but is dilapidated and largely empty.  It is also going to get worse if the city makes a decision to build proposed workforce housing on the City Hall site and a community center that may not be needed in this area. Also in the proposed plan is changing the traffic pattern from Lido Island to Newport Boulevard.  This would alter how people who live on Lido enter and exit their homes from the island.  One-way off and on is being proposed rather than the two-way traffic flow that now exists.

Many citizens are aware of the changes being proposed by the city, but certainly not all.  There are more questions to be asked than answers being provided by the city.  The key questions looming are how much thought has gone into this proposed plan, how well has it been communicated to citizens, who was involved in the proposed plans, and what is the vision for the revitalization?

Has there been proper planning and time for citizens to give meaningful input on the project?  How do the primary stakeholders – residents, business owners, and the city – see this serving their needs now and into the future?

How much of the input given by local citizens is actually utilized by citizens’ committees and the council? Is the city really interested in what the public has to say?

What processes have been used to come to the proposed plans prior to being conveyed to the local citizens?

When presentations are being conducted on major projects such as this, the process should be thoroughly outlined – beginning with defining the problem, along with the background, demographics and vision, following with the proposed project,  and its impact and cost.

The city should have a plan to communicate the process to all residents and involve a wide spectrum of people.  This decision is going to impact property values, and the use and enjoyment of neighborhoods for a lifetime, and it will either be a project that serves both the residents and local businesses, or it will not.

Many local citizens do not believe that the city has made it clear what the revitalization plan is all about, and a large majority does not embrace what has been suggested. Citizens have some very good ideas about how Lido Village could be developed to provide not only revenue for the city but also to meet the needs of local residents and visitors for a high-quality experience.

Denise Oberman, a community leader, reports that the residents from Lido, the Balboa Peninsula and West Newport want a unified vision for revitalization of the area that is not only a destination for visitors but also a place the citizens can use and enjoy.

People living in the area want to be able to walk to restaurants, coffee shops, and retail stores and so do people vacationing.  What will more housing do for an area that has few if any services to walk to, unless you like to frequent bars?  A hotel, new restaurants and shops, and a place for boats to dock and dine would be a way to enhance and utilize this incredible view property while providing more dining options for residents and for the many boats that are in the harbor as well as visiting watercraft.

Many citizens understand that with multiple owners of property in the Lido Village area, much planning, discussion, and consensus building has to be done in order to move forward with a plan that provides a healthy stream of revenue for all the participants and property enhancements that draw people into the village area. Lido Village is without doubt a complex issue for the city and its residents.

One has to wonder if the proposals being made today involving a community center, workforce housing, fand ew retail stores and restaurants would be put forward if Lide were in Corona del Mar or Newport Coast. The west side has endured the proliferation of group homes, the forthcoming Banning Ranch development, the expansion of Hoag Hospital and the plans for Sunset Ridge Park, which will also attract more cars because of its designation as an active park with soccer and baseball fields.  Meanwhile, Superior Avenue is continuing to be impacted by increased traffic and air pollution.

The city needs to study this further, as once it is done there is no going back.  When a decision this important affects so many people – as well as economic development – it needs to have the key issues and plans summarized, communicated in writing, and sent in the mail to every citizen.

This is clearly a decision that needs much more thought, public input and information.

That is my take.



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