Friday, February 18, 2005

Civic Duty

It seems that I have become rather involved lately with City Council and Planning Commission meetings. There is a lot going on in this small city that will have a direct effect upon my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a City Planning Commission meeting regarding the building of a townhouse complex, and an affordable living apartment complex near the townhouses. They are both to be constructed in a not so desirable area; an industrial neighborhood near very busy railroad tracks that are used by freight trains and Amtrak. In fact, the railroad tracks run alongside the proposed building sites.

The architectural renderings for both complexes seem to be attractive, and the affordable living apartments may possibly be of a decent size – two or three bedrooms, with two baths. There are many drawbacks to these plans, not the least of which is the fact that “people” will be packed into an area that is unlike the areas they might be moving from.

The main reason for constructing the apartments is to provide a home for residents of two mobile home parks that will be purchased by the city. I am a resident of one of those parks. The city has planned on relocation to the apartments, or other places if residents so desire.

At the Planning Commission meeting, I asked a woman representing the management company for the proposed apartments what the rent would be for a three bedroom apartment. She told me that it would run from $500 to $675, depending on income. This is incredibly cheap for the Bay Area. I was not sure she was giving me the correct information, but she looked it up in her file.

The following week, I attended a City Council Meeting in which the main business of the evening would be to adopt the townhouse and apartment plans and proceed with the next part of the project. Another spokesman for the management company for the apartments presented the screening qualifications to keep riff-raff out of the complex, as this seems to be a concern of residents of houses nearby. The figure mentioned as a qualifying income was $45,000, half the median income for this city.

When the public was allowed to speak regarding all of the information provided so far, I chose to make myself known. I had become rather upset with the way things were proceeding regarding qualifications for renting an apartment, especially in light of the fact that the complex had been dangled like a carrot as a place to move everyone.

I reminded the City Council and Planning Commission that the main purpose of the apartments was to provide a place to relocate residents of Circle S and Alvarado Mobile Home Parks and I doubted that anyone living in the parks had an income of $45,000. After elaborating on that a bit longer, I used myself as an example, stating that I am on Social Security.

The Mayor, whom I have become acquainted with, acknowledged my statements, giving me the impression that I had made a good point.

I am really getting into going to these meetings. There is a lot of interesting business conducted, and I see some of the council members on a semi-regular basis at other functions.


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