Residents provide input on revitalization of section of Cutting Boulevard

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Two dozen residents, representatives from community organizations and city employees met Tuesday night to discuss revitalization plans for future development of a section of Cutting Boulevard, which many consider a “gateway” to the city.

Although similar plans for the area have been discussed in the past, the meeting was a chance for the city to get an update on what changes and improvements residents would like to see, such as improved street lighting, more opportunities for businesses and increased access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The efforts are connected to the greater vision of the Nystrom United Revitalization Effort, or NURVE. The organization, which is a partnership between the East Bay Community Foundation and the Richmond Children’s Foundation, started in 2002, and is working on improving the area bounded by Ohio Avenue on the north, Cutting Boulevard on the south, and South 2nd Street to South 20th Street from west to east. The area includes the Coronado, Sante Fe and Iron Triangle neighborhoods.

LaShonda White, who works as a management analyst with the city, said that the area has great potential to connect people from outside of the community to what Richmond has to offer. She called the area “an entry way for people coming off of the freeway, people coming in from different neighborhoods, people going into downtown.”

In 2005, NURVE produced a plan that identified five specifics revitalization sites within this area. These included the Nystrom Elementary School, Martin Luther King Jr. park and community center, the Maritime Child Development Center and the Nystrom Village Housing.

This week’s meeting was seen as a first step in combining the ideas residents expressed in the 2005 NURVE plan with the city’s General Plan and biking and pedestrian plans to create suggestions for changes to the stretch of Cutting Boulevard between 9th Street and 15th Street.

The night began with an introduction by a representative of a consulting group working with the city on the project. John Miki, an associate for Berkeley-based Opticos Design, Inc., went through a history of Cutting Boulevard, suggestions from previous plans, and why the section is seen as an important area to improve.

“What we are trying to do today is take [the general plan], the pedestrian plan, and the NURVE plan and dig down into the details,” Miki said, after his presentation. “Now we are looking at the actual lots and saying, ‘OK, what does that really mean? Where might there be tweaks in the General Plan, or where is the General Plan saying exactly what we want, or what the community wants?’”

Better transit access, more pedestrian walkways, bicycle street access, and refurbishing nearby buildings were some of the areas that Miki addressed. Miki said that community response would be important in shaping the city’s vision for the future. “What is that character you want to see of Cutting Boulevard?” he asked the audience.

After his presentation, maps of the area were laid out on tables, and the audience members gathered in groups to identify what they like and what opportunities they see for growth and improvement. Each table was given different colored stickers and pens to identify these categories. Then representatives from each table then presented their maps to the entire group.

The participants consistently suggested increasing lighting on the street and the area surrounding the park to increase public safety. Some also mentioned a desire get rid of a county methadone clinic on Cutting Boulevard, saying that its location, so close to a school and across the street from a liquor store, made for a problematic situation.

Residents also asked for increased “greening” of the area by adding more trees, hoped to attract new restaurants and a grocery store in the area, and asked that the city recognize the Sea Horse Hotel as a valuable asset to the area.

Linda Whitmore, a Santa Fe resident since the 1990’s, said it was not the first time that she had been to a similar meeting about improving Cutting Boulevard. But she said that she and other residents are optimistic that things may be different this time around. “You keep coming back, because you don’t give up,” Whitmore said. “I am not going to say, ‘Well I’ve done that, nothing happened, so what about it.’ You still stay with it and try.”

Whitmore continued, “There are a lot of good people who live here, and people who care about their neighborhood, so they are not giving up, they are going to keep trying to get little improvements.”

The city will take the comments from the residents, work with Opticos, and come back with a concept plan or multiple plans for community feedback in the coming month.

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