Initial discussion for the plaza improvements began in 2004, but the current concept design includes reducing parking, widening sidewalks, making the U-road flush with the lawn, upgrading utilities and improving landscaping.
The staff is recommending that the proposal be approved by the City Council so the environmental review process can begin. The Redevelopment Agency has funds available for the project, which is estimated to cost about $1.5 million.
The Downtown Organization, which met with staff during project development, supports most of the elements but is opposed to the closure of De la Guerra Street and the loop for any new events.
An alternative giving program also is up for discussion, and the staff recommends that the council approve funding of up to $75,000.
The Downtown Organization and Casa Esperanza will manage the program, which plans to educate people and accept donations to the program instead of giving cash directly to the homeless. Countertop donation boxes will be placed in local stores, and the goal is to fund street outreach to help low-income residents.
The program would launch in 2010.
In August, the council adopted an ordinance prohibiting abusive panhandling, which includes the use of threats and offensive language, touching a person without consent or following a person who has declined to give a donation.
Active panhandling, which is a verbal request for money or another item of value, is regulated under the ordinance and prohibited in certain areas of the city.
At noon Tuesday, the Ordinance Committee will revisit the medical marijuana ordinance.
The City Council ordered the committee to continue its work and restrict distribution to nonprofit collectives and cooperatives that comply with state laws.
A moratorium — which could put a hold on all applications in the pipeline and prevent future applications until a new ordinance is adopted — will be on a future City Council agenda.
— Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.