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Calexico RDA talks downtown

February 13, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — At the start of Tuesday's city Redevelopment Agency meeting, planning consultant Brian Mooney of San Diego stood in front of an easel and asked the five city councilmen to tell him about the "exciting aspects of your community."

The council, sitting as the RDA board, told him, all right, but he didn't write much down on the paper on his easel.

Mooney's plan was to have the councilmen tell him about all the ideas and visions they have for the downtown area. He told the council that he would incorporate their suggestions into a proposal for services he would bring back in about a month for the board to vote on.

Speaking about the unique assets of Calexico, Mayor Victor Carrillo started the discussion.

He said, "It's a microcosm of the border Southwest culture. It's the only city across from Mexicali, the capital of Baja California. It is composed of Mexican-Americans, Chinese. It is a border culture. We entertain businessmen from all different cultures and the common language of business is Spanish."

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Mooney took note of the city's "diversity."

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva then said, "Before we go on with this — exam — I want to know who is paying for this … I thought this was supposed to be a presentation. I didn't think it would be quizzing the board."

He asked, "Is Mooney under contract? I know we paid him $100,000 already."

Mooney explained the board was not being specifically charged for his Tuesday night appearance and he is under contract to provide Calexico with a new 20-year development plan.

He said the questioning was just a process that would allow him and his partners to come up with a specific proposal for the downtown area, a detailed scope of work and a price estimate for planning services.

Grijalva said, "Aren't we the board that sets the policy on what we think needs to be done? Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think we should decide on what we're going to do before the dog and pony show."

Mooney said he already knows a plan for the downtown will have to address "parking — circulation is a real issue — and housing."

Grijalva said, "I don't mean to be a pain in the neck but I guess that's my job tonight. Are we advertising for bids? I don't think (a contract for a downtown revitalization plan) should be a slam dunk for so-and-so."

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison said he thought the questioning would allow Mooney to get an idea of the council's wishes so "he could go away with some kind of vision."

As for his vision, Renison told Mooney he wants to see a pedestrian mall, a fountain and shade trees.

"In my years the downtown has not changed. We need to figure out what are we going to do?"

Grijalva said Mooney is under contract to work on a 20-year plan that will guide the city as far as annexations go. As for a downtown revitalization plan, "We need to follow a process in awarding a bid."

City Attorney Michael Rood said the council could go out to bid for professional services but doesn't have to.

Councilman Javier Alatorre said there was an assumption by the council that there would be some sort of "presentation."

Carrillo told Mooney to set up a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and the downtown merchants.

Councilman Frank Montoya told Mooney, "I'm all for revitalization but we've got an agenda here. Maybe you could set up a meeting with City Manager Richard Inman of something so we don't delay the agenda."

Renison asked the board if it wanted Mooney to come back with something.

"If we don't like what they bring back, then you bid it," he said.

Carrillo told Mooney the board did not expect a Q&A workshop.

Mooney said he would meet with Inman and representatives of the chamber and the merchants and bring back something for the RDA board to look at in around 30 days.

Members of the public then took to the podium to talk about their visions for the downtown.

Calexico school teacher Bill Hodge and city Arts Commissioner Carmen Durazo both told the board about the importance of a cultural arts center.

Downtown merchant Joe Moreno, manager of Apple Market-Super Shopping, told the board, "Don't put this on the back burner again."

Local architect Kent Hems told the council to get "ready to make some enemies" if it is serious about revitalizing downtown. He said it would require strict enforcement of rules and regulations that might chafe landowners with a frontier attitude.

In other business during Tuesday's Calexico Redevelopment Agency meeting:

· The board authorized board members, city commissioners and staff to attend conferences in Anaheim, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.

The board gave direction to City Manager Richard Inman to determine which members, commissioners or staffers will go to which conferences.

· The board will enter into an agreement with the Calexico Chamber of Commerce to revitalize the historic Hotel De Anza, creating office spaces for the chamber and a small cultural arts center in the hotel's north courtyard.

· The board gave direction to Inman and City Attorney Michael Rood to put together a list of requirements for developers to meet before requesting financial assistance from the RDA. The bulk of the list will be taken from a 1990 inter-office memo composed by Planning Director Ricardo Hinojosa sent to then-City Manager Wally Baird.

· The board awarded a $700,000 bid to DEZ Construction of El Cajon for the old City Hall renovation.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com.

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