Up On Downtown

A revitalization program for Salinas’ downtown neighborhood has already begun, with changes to the streetscape and a newly installed arch. Proposed changes would allow more development.

Imagine Main Street in Salinas bustling with restaurants, coffee shops, downtown residents and passersby; imagine multi-story, multi-use buildings where residents can go downstairs to grab a drink or buy groceries. A more lively and urban environment at the heart of the largest city in Monterey County is envisioned where there are currently largely empty parking lots.

This scenery would become part of downtown Salinas if City Council approves the Downtown Parking Lot and Intermodal Transportation Center Rezone Project and developers proceed to build it out.

The plan involves the development of up to 500 housing units (studios and one – or two-bedroom apartments) that would be built over a five-year period, providing 125,000 square feet of commercial use on the first floors. It also aims to increase walkability, use of bikes and public transportation.

In order to implement this vision, the council first has to approve zoning changes to six properties. They are four city-owned parking lots (1, 5, 8 and 12), the permit center and parking garage and part of the Intermodal Transportation Center. The concept would also require a general plan amendment for three of the parcels.

The changes would align with the city’s 2015 Vibrancy Plan and would be designed to attract developers with proposals to build high-density housing.

One concern that came up during an Oct. 20 Salinas Planning Commission meeting is the reduction of available parking. Currently, the six properties affected provide 1,433 parking spaces; if the plan is approved and built, those spaces will no longer exist.

City Planning Manager Lisa Brinton said they are exploring options such as building a parking structure; city officials are in discussions with the county to develop a joint structure on Gabilan and Church streets behind City Hall. Other options include offering daytime – or nighttime-only parking passes.

City Councilmember Steve McShane says the city has been working on this concept for a decade. “Nearly 40 percent of our downtown city center district is parking lots, and most of them are owned by the city. So why not incentivize housing, commercial and retail that’s near mass transit and fosters walkability?” McShane says.

The rezoning proposal has received letters of support from Monterey-Salinas Transit and nonprofit LandWatch Monterey County. Sloan Thomas Campi, planning manager at MST, wrote it would increase public transportation usage and create opportunities to develop new routes.

Michael DeLapa, executive director of LandWatch, said the project’s density would support affordable housing – in contrast to the sprawling low-density developments that are most prevalent in California. “We think that that’s bad for communities and bad for the cost of housing,” DeLapa says. This model represents the flipside.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend adopting the general plan amendment and approving the zoning change. Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Tuesday, Nov. 16.

(3) comments

jana youngblood

As someone who has a space in old town, our biggest obstacle to growing our businesses is a major lack of parking! Customers routinely comment on lack of parking! As vendors I personally park in the parking garage and it costs $8-$10 a day! Old town is not a walkable neighborhood! No grocery, convience store etc.! Making parking harder is going to hurt old town!

Trish Sullivan

This is a horrible idea without the 20% Inlusionary Housing requirement in place. The City of Salinas waived the 20% Inclusionary Housing requirement for all of Downtown, which means Market Rate for all housing in Downtown Salinas and zero workforce housing. Zero housing issues solved with the current scenario. Salinas Cioty Council - please vote NO!

James Tarhalla

Perhaps Monterey County and the developer of the River View at Las Palmas Assisted Senior Living Facility should consider relocating the proposed facility to downtown Salinas as an in-fill project. Downtown Salinas is a much better location for the project for all of the reasons cited by the residents of Las Palmas I and Landwatch in opposition to the proposed placement on River Road.

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