Work on the update of Weed’s general plan got moving Saturday with a public meeting at city hall attended by about 25 community members who offered opinions and ideas about the city’s strengths, the barriers it faces, and what could make it better.

The meeting was organized and presented by the second year graduate students and their instructor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s City and Regional Planning Department. The class comprises the team now working on behalf of Cal Poly in contractual partnership with the city to update and improve Weed’s general plan, last updated in 1982.

Students Sara Steinberger and Marissa Garcia described the effort as “a City of Weed project with a strong emphasis on public involvement.”

The meeting was the first of several planned over the next six months to gather public input and keep the community informed as the general plan update takes shape. The next meeting is planned tentatively for Nov. 7.

The students explained that the purpose of Saturday’s meeting was “to gather preliminary thoughts and ideas” people had about the City of Weed, step one in the update process.

“You are all valuable sources of information and any thoughts and opinions will help influence the final plan,” Sara explained.

Sara said a website has been created to receive comments, ideas, and suggestions from community members unable to attend Saturday’s meeting at http://plancityofweed.wix.com/plancityofweed. She said additional ideas from those attending the meeting would be welcome online as well.

A general comment box is available on the site’s home page, and more detailed questions to generate public input are planned for inclusion soon, Sara said.

She and Marissa gave a PowerPoint presentation intended to provide an overview of the elements in a general plan and to provide a context for the community member discussions that followed.

General plan

According to the students’ presentation, a general plan outlines guidelines for planning decisions made by a city. The inclusion of seven elements is required by state law: land use, circulation, housing, safety, open space, noise and conservation.

However, in order to add more depth to the plan, the additional elements of demographics, economic development, community design, health, public facilities are also being considered during the process, Sara and Marissa explained.

The presentation offered brief descriptions of the general plan elements being examined, as follows:

• Land use – provides a framework for land use and development decisions and considers “where things are and where you want them to go.”

• Circulation – looks at all aspects of transportation from walking to public transit within the city and considers how easy it is to travel between Weed and other regional destinations.

• Housing – has to do with the amount of housing available in the city as well as the affordability, accessibility and quality of the housing.

• Open space – focuses on resource management of parks and open spaces, accessibility to parks, and amenities offered.

• Noise – identifies noise sources in the city and provides policies to help manage or eliminate intrusive noise.

• Safety – assesses and addresses not only the natural hazards such as flood and fire that could affect citizen safety but also human-created hazards such as crime and accidents.

• Conservation – looks at the natural resources such as water, soil, air and wildlife in the city and addresses their quality and protection.

• Economic development – considers what factors drive the city’s economy, including such things as what local businesses are operating and what employment opportunities are present.

• Health – examines issues concerning the physical and mental health and well-being of the community, including such aspects as recreation availability, the health of the environment, citizen access to healthy foods, and general quality of life.

• Public facilities – focuses in part on access to and satisfaction with facilities such as libraries, community centers, police stations, and public utilities (water and sewer).

Community discussion

Using the general plan elements as a guide, community members share their ideas in small groups about what they like about Weed now, what barriers they believe face the city, and what might be done to make the city better.

Responses to each of the three questions were numerous and varied.

Among the strengths of Weed discussed by participants were the presence of the College of the Siskiyous; the city’s strong heritage and small size; its location in the middle of Siskiyou County on the Interstate 5 corridor at the entrance to Highway 97; the accessibility of city leaders and officials to the public; the city’s natural beauty and natural resources; and the business hub in South Weed.

Low employment opportunities; poor financial resources; vacant downtown buildings owned by absentee property owners; some reluctance for residents to think “outside the box” when considering new ideas; a lack of participation and engagement with community members in other areas of Weed not located within the incorporated area; and the lack of a robust relationship/partnership between COS and the city as its “college town” were identified as just a few of the barriers to Weed’s potential to thrive.

Among the ideas about how to “make Weed better” were technology infrastructure for broadband to attract tech industry businesses and individuals whose businesses operate online, in part as a way to preserve natural resources; affordable housing for “middle income” families and individuals; more available transportation within the city (such as taxis, bike trails and walking paths); better transportation between the city and surrounding areas; and the creation of a vibrant downtown area

“This information will contribute to the second stage, where together we will decide which path the city should take,” Marissa said, thanking the community members for their participation.

During that second stage, the comments, ideas, and suggestions generated by community members attending the meeting and contributing online will be examined and ranked according to frequency to determine if and how each might be reflected in the updated general plan, according to student team member Jeremy Loh.

Marissa explained that the third and final stage of the process will involve helping the city determine “the best course of action to achieve your vision for Weed.”