“Congratulations to this community,” announced Mayor Pat Anderson. “We have a Downtown Specific Plan.”
The plan is a blueprint for improvements to 80 acres of the downtown area to be achieved over the next few years. It calls for capital-improvement projects such as a realignment of Highway 4 that will move heavy traffic away from Main Street. The city is currently engaged in talks with Caltrans to regain control over Main Street once the bypass is finished.
When the work is completed, Oakley will have a pedestrian-friendly downtown area enhanced by benches and shade trees. The idea is to make downtown Oakley a destination not only for residents of far East County but the entire Bay Area. Oakley is hoping its refurbished downtown will attract new businesses while boosting foot traffic for existing businesses.
Councilman Kevin Romick said the Downtown Specific Plan is designed to lay the groundwork that will help the downtown area become what residents, business owners and city officials have dreamed since Oakley gained cityhood in 1999.
Once control of Main Street is gained, the city will be able to divert vehicular traffic in order to host special events and parades. Control of Main Street, said Romick, will allow Oakley to hold a downtown holiday parade like Brentwood’s and Antioch’s.
Councilman Bruce Connelley agreed that the key factor preventing the city from moving forward with the plan is control of Main Street, but expressed confidence that the city will regain control within the year. Gaining control by the holidays would allow the city to treat residents to a bright and colorfully lit downtown.
Mayor Anderson relished the prospect of decorating the downtown area with holiday lights to get everyone into the spirit, suggesting that local businesses might want to design holiday window displays, creating a quaint decorated holiday path along Main Street for pedestrians to enjoy as they shop.
The overall sentiment among those in attendance at the council meeting was support of the plan. One resident asked the council about how construction of the Main Street bypass would affect traffic west of the downtown area. City Engineer Jason Vogan said no plans are yet in place yet to deal with traffic that results from the downtown construction renovations, but that such plans are on the to-do list when the time comes. The Downtown Specific Plan is expected to take several years to implement, but Vogan said traffic concerns would be addressed as needed.
Resident Peter Connell, pastor of Cornerstone Pentecostal Church, which is located in downtown Oakley, said he approved of the Downtown Plan and looks forward to the much-needed changes to the area, which is “unacceptable” in its current state. He asked the city to take steps to let people know about the ongoing revitalization projects to encourage locals and visitors to go downtown to see what’s new. Such a campaign, he said, might motivate business owners to locate downtown.
Prior to the vote, the council thanked the dozens of residents, city staff members and consultants who have helped develop the plan over the past 10 years. To view the complete Downtown Specific Plan, visit the Oakley city Web site at www.ci.oakley.ca.us.