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City "Strategic Plan," Safeway Windfall Budgeted

The El Cerrito City Council Tuesday approved $45,000 for a city "Strategic Plan." The council's nonprofit alter ego, the Municipal Services Corporation, voted $1.4 million for development programs, thanks to a Safeway property fee.

Strategic Plan for El Cerrito

The City of El Cerrito will soon be inviting public views on what they'd like El Cerrito to look like in 2020 and beyond.

The City Council Tuesday night voted 4-0 to spend up to $45,000 to develop a "Strategic Plan" that would gather and organize community input into a blueprint for the city's future. Councilwoman Ann Cheng was absent.

The bulk of the funds – at least $39,000 – would go to a consulting firm, Management Partners, to work with the city in holding public meetings and designing other ways to gather resident feedback. The firm would use the input to draft the plan, whose final form and adoption would be up the City Council.

Though the document will be used to help lay the foundation for the city's upcoming revision of the General Plan, it will not address specific zoning or land-use specifications, city staff said. "The General Plan is much more technical and much more focused on development, land use, all the various elements that are included in the General Plan," Assistant City Manager Karen Pinkos said.

"The Strategic Plan is a foundation for the community in general," she said, adding that it will seek "what people want to see in their community, want to see in El Cerrito 20 years from how. How do they envision what that looks like completely, not just San Pablo Avenue, not just development-wise, but what do they see as their community? How do they see their neighborhood? How do they see their city providing services?"

"This is really supposed to be relatively high level," said City Manager Scott Hanin, "easy for the public to understand, easy for the staff to grasp. The best way may be to describe it is you're standing here in 2020, what do you see and what do you want to see? So it's not how tall is the building, what the traffic impact is. It's making places, making more pedestrian friendly, being more sustainable. So it's high level and then chopping that up into smaller pieces to what are the things we need to do to make that possible."

Mayor Bill Jones said, "We need a blueprint, so to speak, to go forward as we plan. I think it's just another way of taking charge of our own community, rather than have the state or some other outside agency come in and try to legislate what we're going to do in town."

Councilwoman Rebecca Benassini urged that the project pay special attention to gathering public feedback on city services, including delivery of current services and wishes for increased or new services.

Discussion of developing a Strategic Plan arose early last year when the City Council was hammering out its , according to a city staff report. (The report is attached to this article.)

$1.4 million for Municipal Services Corporation budget

After the City Council adjourned Tuesday night, the four council members, joined by Hanin and Pinkos, immediately reconvened as the board of the Municipal Services Corporation, a nonprofit corporation whose chief mission is to promote El Cerrito development.

The board voted unanimously to revise its current budget and approve a $1.4 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The city has transferred to the corporation much of the assets that formerly belonged to the city's now . 

The city's development director, Lori Treviño, said the $1.4 million spending plan was fiscally conservative in light of the continuing uncertainty over whether the state Department of Finance will approve El Cerrito's plan to retain former Redevelopment Agency resources.

The budget includes giving the city $1,007,000 as "a pre-funded program grant for economic development programs and expenses related to administering the Corporation," according to the board resolution.

The corporation received an unexpected revenue boost of about $1.85 million in January from Safeway. When the former El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency agreed to let on San Pablo Avenue at the old Target site, Safeway agreed to let the agency have rights to a parcel about an acre in size on the northwest corner of the property, Treviño told Patch. Later Safeway said it would like to retain the parcel and agreed to pay $1.85 million for it.

A copy of the staff report on the budget is attached to this article.

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