City, Northside Neighbors Starting On Same Page With Land Use Resources

Tom Donahue of DANA, Downtown Area Neighborhood Alliance organized a community dialog at City Hall about land use plans for Northside Neighborhood resources. The resources of keen interest are the golf course and the Ab Brown Soccer Fields.

The meeting was necessitated after some confusion concerning the hiring of  Smart Code consultants and the idea of selling the Ab Brown Soccer Fields and the Riverside Golf Course to pay for the consultants.

The Springbrook Heritage Alliance was represented along with the Northside Neighborhood Group as well as representatives from the Riverside Neighborhood Partnership including the University Neighborhood, RRR,  LANA – La Sierra Hills Neighborhood Groups.

26 In 26 BrainstromingAs a result of Monday’s meeting, the soccer fields and the golf course are being de-coupled from the smart code designated study area for six months..

A series of community based  workshops will take place designed to capture the desires, needs and values the Northside has for their neighborhood treasures.

Coincidentally, this is precisely what the 26 In 26 initiative is designed for. The neighbors in all twenty six designated city neighborhood areas will develop their own, specific neighborhood plans. Some neighborhoods have been in action designating neighborhood assets and building neighbor networks to discuss what’s wanted and needed.

Change is ongoing and more change is coming. Creating the change we want is largely up to us. At the very least, it’s going to take some discussion. Some ideas are so compelling that collaboration and contribution spark actions leading to the next steps.

There is power in groups and associations coming together for a desired outcome. We’re seeing this throughout Riverside.The good news is that it all starts with you. Besides, If not you, then who?

Buy Fresh, Buy Local LabelIf we learned anything from the Grow Riverside Conference, it’s that there is huge interest in exploring potential beneficial outcomes by creating a sustainable, local food economy. There is movement toward.developing a local food policy, parcel mapping and utilities access, potential sources of capital and resources plus a growing collaborative of stakeholders who bring their time, networks and expertise.  Apparently having a citrus heritage does  have advantages.

 Multiple Reasons To Revitalize Our Agricultural Lands

Creative partnerships that put  social capital  in touch with local economies are signs of vital, healthy and thriving  communities. Slow Capital Southern California has added Riverside to their Southern California network. That  includes San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles Counties. This is one of the most densely populated market areas in the U.S and it’s all accessible in less than 100 miles from Riverside. .

The growing concerns over poor health outcomes and the prospect of paying more to manage the impacts of that poor health has State, County and Federal officials wondering what they can do to help. It tuns out some of the best help is already local. It’s in our neighborhoods.

Eastside Heal ZoneThe East Side Heal Zone has been developing Healthy Food Outlets. That includes CSA/Mobile Fresh Deliveries, and a Toolkit for retailers. These easy, engaging and effective ways are designed to reach everyone. Building in strategies for long term healthy outcomes starts with food education and it’s tied to locally grown and sourced fresh produce.

The Arlanza Community Garden is another example of a burgeoning, locally developed agriculture network. When it comes to good health outcomes, sometimes the lowest hanging fruit literally is fruit. Community gardens are but one aspect to a local food economy.

These activities generate economic and social dividends. Exploring ways to reach everyone with fresh, local produce is the name of the game. It’s also the size of the market. County health officials, regional health experts and cities are looking at taxpayer savings from better health over time. Our designated ag lands make it possible for us to think bigger about developing the local market. Right now, Riverside is on the cusp of developing vibrant and powerful local food economy.

According to the Nutrition Business Journal, in 2011 sales of natural products grew 8.4 percent to $126 billion. Specialty food sales are approaching $100 billion while natural food stores grew by 28 percent from 2010 to 2012.

  • Natural/organic food items totaled $43 billion, a 10.7 percent increase from 2010
  • Functional foods made up over one-third of the entire natural products market share, at $41 billion (up 7.6 percent)

The Salted PigThere are clear opportunities for Riverside to enjoy the unique benefits of a locally developed sustainable food economy.

I for one can’t wait for a budding gasto pub scene featuring my local favorites like Ronaldo Fierro’s The Salted Pig. .  Other communities are also engaged in building local food economies. There are numerous success stories to guide us. Temecula’s Slow Food Pioneer On Fast Track spurs community based economic development while serving local community needs..

If It tastesEugene Farmers Market better,.is more fun, you feel good about supporting a local business you care about, what’s not to like about that?

If that’s not enough, we all get to enjoy a rising community health standard.

It’s easy to see why this kind of land use and economic development discussion is sparking lots of interest and excitement. These are long term, low impact high social dividend business activities. How we value and measure them is up to us. We all get a say about this. We can vote.

Climate Change and Economic Justice

The City’s Latest Climate Action Plan acknowledges our RC Green Belt and La Sierra Lands as unique agricultural community assets. They’re factored into our climate change plan. We get lots of points because our existing open space lands which have low to no impact on air quality.

The citizens of Riverside have always understood the value of open space and the fabulously fertile ag lands we posses. That’s why they Passed Prop. R and Measure C. They wanted to protect those lands for future generations. That’s why we still have protected zoning for these lands. These lands are part of Riverside’s legacy to it’s residents.

The Climate Action Plan score is no joke. Some of the metrics are mandated by state and federal law. The misleading qualifying language for the ballot initiative designed to fool voters into thinking the La Sierra Hills project is saving open space is having a contrary effect.

Residents are coming together and asking hard questions. They’re talking about the pros and cons of giving up prime, protected, agricultural land for more high density development.  They’re imagining all the car trips, new traffic and air quality impacts. They’re committed to reducing our climate impact.

They’re talking about this with their neighbors.

We all know air quality is especially important for Riverside with its beloved freeways that bisect our neighborhoods. The data showing more pollution near freeways is a duh moment for most of us. The question to ask is do we want to add to the problem or do we want to solve it?.

Rivrside Air QualityThat’s something to keep in mind as we consider the health impacts to communities with freeways and rail corridors.

It’s also something to consider before green lighting high density development within 500 feet of freeways or rail corridors.

The data regarding higher incidences of cancer clusters and asthma in these neighborhoods is well established.

It’s clear Riverside neighbors have a lot at stake. Our utility rates continue to rise and some residents are paying way more for water than others. There’s a lot being talked about.

We have a tremendous opportunity to re creating the city of our dreams. Coming together over those dreams is the surest, fastest and most reliable way to bring those dreams to life..

26 In 26 Think OutsideOur policy makers and city staff are tasked with figuring out how to best deliver city services and to be in compliance with agreed upon or mandated standards for air, water, land use. Plus maintain the general health and well being of all residents..

Our economic development has not always delivered on expectations. The lack of a large, engaged. and participating public has often been absent.  In some cases that was by design.With what’s at stake now, none of us can really afford to have city policy implemented with limited feedback or agreement from the residents.

That’s one more reason why our city agendas, meeting notices and staff reports should be published 10 business days or two weeks before the meeting. The Council meets bi-weekly during the Summer. I see no reason why this change in notice couldn’t be implemented by the first Fall, Weekly council meeting. If there’s a will, we’ll find the way.

If we’re being asked to engage about 26 In 26 and Smart Code, then we want to make very sure we have time to review and get our questions addressed before a council vote. That’s just common sense if you’re looking for engagement.

As residents and citizens, It’s up to us to weigh in, ask questions and contribute ideas that would never come from policy makers. Without feedback, their job is much more difficult.

We have committed professionals on city staff who are not only skilled and passionate, but many also live in the city. That means they have as much of a stake in how the City Of Our Dreams looks like as we do.

Smart Code

You’ll be hearing a lot about Smart Code in the near future. Riverside is moving in this direction for planning approval for designated commercial properties.

Smart Code is one  possibility for streamlining the process and re-imagining our commercial corridors throughout the city. It’s also a way to sync up the City’s General Plan with the Zoning code. The impact on these commercial corridors directly impacts neighborhoods.

You may be surprised to find there are ways of thinking about City Planning that don’t produce the same old results we’re used to getting from past good ideas..

The Ahwanee Principles is one body of thought designed to consider environmental, social and economic development in a somewhat holistic way. 

Smart Code will only be as good as the participation we as neighbors put into it. Neighbors are in the best position to tell their neighborhood stories, declare what is valuable, and what the assets are and how we want our neighborhoods to be known. There’s never been a better time to talk about what makes a thriving neighborhood. .

Don’t miss out on a chance to participate. At the very least, you’ll know you played full out in perhaps the most important conversation we’ll ever have as residents.

Let’s find out just how good we can stand it here in Riverside.



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