As expected, Matters From The Audience was dominated by folks addressing Council about the downtown parking structure. Opinions varied. All but one speaker contributed civil, thoughtful, meaningful comments. Everyone seemed to agree a structure was needed, however opinions were divided on which design made the most sense to them.
The solo speaker who ignored the real subject, ranted to Council about his disdain for one Brea businessman citing an email exchange that he either misread completely or manufactured the most bitter inaccurate interpretation possible. Read about my take on this misguided antagonist here: He’s No Friend Of Brea.
What did the real Brean’s have to say?
Comments and email received by Council predominantly favored building a parking structure but were equally divided about how to best fund the project. Some had no problem using general fund money, others strongly objected. There were even a couple of compassionate comments pointing out other projects or services they felt were more important than parking.
Also, several comments expressed excitement about the proposed new Improv entertainment and dining complex, recognizing how it would greatly contribute to revitalizing downtown.
Frankly, between the presentation of the Mayor’s Student Achievement Awards and the overall quality and tone of those commenting last night, I came away with a renewed appreciation for the people of Brea.
I was additionally pleased to see several genuinely new, younger faces. Brea needs to recruit strong, youthful leadership, to fill future elected, appointed and voluntary positions within Brea’s municipal government. This New Guard is an essential component of tomorrow’s leadership and our best guarantee of a bright future for Brea.
Rather than trying to summarize the he said and she said of the lengthy Council debate, I asked one of the new young speakers to give us his take on the meeting. Thanks to Jason Kraft for the following…
“At the June 16th Brea City Council meeting, the council agreed that a parking structure with at least 300 new spaces is needed behind the Tower building to provide critical infrastructure for the expansion and redevelopment of businesses on that block. The open questions are how to fund it and whether to include housing and office space in the parking structure.
The council did not make any final decisions at the meeting, but they are proceeding with a request for bids to build a parking-only structure. The council also requested more detailed information from the developer of the “Parking Plus” plan, which includes office space on the top floor and 40 affordable housing apartments within the parking structure.”
The clock is ticking.
Staff indicated that the RFP process might take as much as 90 days, mostly driven by the complexity of the process for the “Parking Plus” option. Likely, figures could be available sooner than 90 days for the “Parking Only” option.
The Improv did say that synchronous opening of their complex and the structure isn’t necessary, but we all can guess that it needs to be reasonably close.
The “Parking Plus” option, it was pointed out, wouldn’t be able to apply for tax benefits until next March with a one year processing period being typical. Add another 2+ years to complete the project and the ribbon cutting wouldn’t likely happen until mid-2019.
I would be more than a little concerned that the total time required to complete any “Parking Plus” option would sufficiently conflict with the Improv’s timetable and cost Brea the project.
I trust staff and Council will weigh these and the soft cost issues carefully, that the immediacy of Brea’s ROI will be clearly understood and that we’ll finally reach closure on this prolonged matter.
Another resident speaks.
I’ll let these few words from Brea resident Tom Dunlap, whose position reflects the majority of communications reaching me, to provide the closing thoughts.
“As long as Brea is prudent with the spending and it does not dip too heavily into the General Fund reserves I am in full support of this project going through. We have a golden opportunity to create something very special downtown and I would hate to see this slip through the city’s fingers and end up with a deteriorating downtown.”