Just under a dozen community members joined the Winters City Council and Planning Commission for a joint meeting to hear a presentation from consultants for a Downtown Visioning Workshop on March 2.
Present City Councilmembers included Mayor Bill Biasi, Mayor Pro Tempore Albert Vallecillo and Councilmember
Jesse Loren and Richard Casavecchia. Planning Commissioners included Vice Chair Lisa Baker, Ramon Altamirano, Judith Arce and Chris Rose.
Ben Weber and Chrissy Chrissy Mancini Nichols of Walker Consultants, the firm hired to conduct the research and community feedback sessions, presented an interactive session focusing on seven key points including the Weekend Main Street Closure program, outdoor gathering and dining, the collection of waste and organics from local businesses, downtown alley usage, downtown business destination signage, parking and the Winters Community Center.
For each topic, the consultants shared data from the community and business stakeholder surveys.
Weber clarified for attendees that “downtown” was in reference to six specific blocks of Main Street of the three blocks north and south (the Rotary Park/Winters Community Center area to Second Street).
He also shared the Vision and Policy Plan the City gave them to keep in mind of:
- Keep supporting downtown as an attractive, exciting place to live work and visit
- Improve community amenities and manage public assets
- Help businesses and properties improve operations
- Consider how circulation and parking influence downtown vibrancy and access
Of the Street Closure program, the opinions of the community, business stakeholders, and workshop participants were split and City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa said “It’s clear to us there’s a diversity of opinion.”
Comments shared from earlier engagement sessions with business and Property owners included a desire to consider outdoor dining options during closures and that the closures are inconvenient for businesses that aren’t restaurants. Some of those attendees requested the closures be considered for events and special programming only.
Weber recommended that city councilmembers should consider if the street closure should happen every week or fewer times during the months the closure occurs.
In terms of outdoor dining and gathering, Weber gave Councilmembers and Commissioners three overall program recommendations to:
Pergolas: Keep the current pergolas as a public gathering space program and not have them linked to a specific business (no table service).
Update and simplify the current Sidewalk Cafes program, and revisit the Permit system.
Add a new official program for Parklets, which are private in-street spaces tied to a specific business. Parklets are privately owned, built and operated.
Weber told Councilmembers the pergolas need to have safety upgrades including ADA access and protection from traffic, and they need to consider what they do for the downtown area year-round.
“Of the pergolas — it’s time to think about their future in a post-COVID world,” Weber said.
Of the Sidewalk Cafe program, Weber advised both groups to start with the current application and regulations and make adjustments from there. He also said the City should be more rigorous with fee collections on them and consider an appropriate fee collection amount.
Currently, the City of Winters only charges $1 per square-foot a year and they should consider bumping it up to $2–$6 per square foot a year like other cities. Weber said some cities charge a $12–$20 fee per linear foot a year.
Trepa said the issue with current Sidewalk Cafes (like those in front of Putah Creek Cafe, Preserve and the Turkovich Family Wines Tasting Room is “because they are permanent changes to the right-of-way, it’s hard to take it back if the business changes.” City staff does not recommend removing the current installations and does not recommend allowing that type of construction to happen for future Sidewalk Cafes.
“We can’t easily return that to parking because we’d have to remove the permanent asphalt that’s been installed,” Trepa said.
The Express will continue coverage of Downtown Vision workshop in a second article. The workshop’s presentation slides are available at https://tinyurl.com/msv2ahxb.