Redding City Council newcomers Adam McElvain and Julie Winter were sworn in, Brent Weaver was elected mayor, departing councilors Gary Cadd and Missy McArthur were thanked for their service—and then it was time to get back to the business of running a city.
The first significant order of business for the newly reorganized council was consideration of the Downtown Community Based Transportation Plan, an ambitious guide to make downtown “a place where people go to, not through.”
Prepared by Omni-Means, an engineering firm with an office in Redding, the plan suggests strategies to revitalize the downtown area by returning vehicular traffic to the Market Street Promenade, replacing the California Street parking structure, creating safe and inviting pedestrian and bike paths and linking downtown to the Diestelhorst Bridge and the Sacramento River Trail.
Russ Wenham, an engineer with Omni-Means who presented an overview of the plan, said its vision is to “provide a transportation system that honors all modes of travel and supports a sustainable, livable and economically vibrant downtown.”
One of the ways the plan proposes to improve the driving experience in downtown: set the traffic signal timing on California and Pine streets from 30 mph to 25. Traffic would additionally be “calmed” with changes to the environment, including the addition of benches, trees and new colors, “to give drivers a reason to change,” Wenham said.
Switching downtown’s maze of one-way streets back to two-way traffic will create a safer environment for motorists and pedestrians alike, Wenham said, and protected bike lanes and walkways will lead to a downtown where walking is the main mode of travel.
Parking in downtown “is a tough nut to crack,” Wenham said, and more study is required. The plan proposes a parking strategy that includes replacing the downtown parking structure, increasing on-street parking and installing parking meters.
Redding attorney Arch Pugh, a former council member, voiced the only opposition to the plan. He said his clients, who own businesses in the former Downtown Mall, will have trouble attracting tenants if downtown parking spaces are removed as part of the four-story, mixed-use project proposed for the former Dicker’s department store building.
Five others spoke in support of the plan. Michael Kuker, who lives and works downtown, said the plan “lays the groundwork for a walkable, bikeable city.” He cited a recent survey that indicated two-thirds of college-educated millennials look for walkable and bikeable cities to settle in and then look for jobs.
Anne Thomas, the executive director of Shasta Living Streets, said she was “super excited” about the transportation plan. Six years ago, when her organization was established, “I never would have imagined we’d be standing here with a plan this awesome.”
She recalled the words of Charlie Gandy, a national expert in the field of livable community design who spoke in Redding in 2012. “He said a city can lead, lag or follow and this plan puts us in a position to lead.”
Councilwoman Julie Winter, noting that she campaigned on a platform of economic development, thanked Wenham for his presentation and called the plan “very forward thinking. I’m thrilled with this plan; it’s beautiful.”
Weaver, whose downtown developments include the Gateway building at the corner of Shasta and Market streets, also expressed his support for the plan. “If you care about downtown, this is an exciting time to be on the council,” he said.
The council voted 5-0 to adopt the downtown transportation plan. Next up for the council will be the Downtown Specific Plan, which will incorporate several elements of the transportation plan.
Read the transportation plan here: www.downtownreddingtransportationplan.com