Hemet City Council approved four items related to the Downtown Specific Plan Tuesday, April 11, that completed two years of intensive study and planning opening the door to implementing the plans for the long-sought revitalization of the Hemet downtown area.
The goals of the Downtown Specific Plan envisioned two years ago are: to revitalize the Historic Downtown core area and add development; foster economic development and job creations; promote public health and safety; increase housing opportunities in mixed use development; incorporate green building techniques and technologies; create a thriving community center for residents, visitors and workers; increase access to transit facilities, Metrolink and other modes of transportation and eliminate blighted conditions and enhance the attractiveness of public spaces.
The city initially received a Proposition 84-funded grant, administered by the Southern California Association of Governments for consultant services to develop the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan. Consultants were hired to create the specific plan including project manager of First Carbon Solutions, Frank Coyle and project manager Charles Holcombe. They both appeared at the Tuesday meeting to review the plan and amendments. In reviewing the amended plan, the consultants described the project area, which is a 360-acre area located in the city of Hemet’s historic downtown. The project area is bounded by Oakland Avenue on the north, Gilbert Street on the west, Acacia Avenue on the south and Santa Fe Street on the east.
The current predominant land uses in the area are single- and multi-family residential, which collectively compose 22 percent of the Specific Plan area and sum up to 719 residential units. Commercial development is centered along Florida Avenue and State Street corridors and within the downtown core and comprises 16 percent of the Specific Plan area. 5 percent of the Specific Plan area consists of government land uses, and 7 percent consists of educational land uses and the new Hemet Elementary School. The 36-acre Hemet Stock Farm located in the northwest corner of the Specific Plan area has one residential unit, while the remainder of the property is presently vacant. The city owns several properties in the central core area that are also vacant or underutilized, totaling 4.79 acres.
The proposed Specific Plan features a land use plan, circulation plan, urban design framework, utility infrastructure plan, development standards, design guidelines and sustainability plan for future development within the plan boundaries.
The council was asked by the city Community Economic Development Director Deanna Elliano to complete the plan by adopting a resolution adopting a Mitigated Negative Declaration and a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Plan for the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan. The declaration, No. 16-001 and ZOA 16-005, describes the project, presents findings related to the environmental conditions and supports the reasons to support the findings.
The council was also asked to amend a portion of the General Plan regarding the land use element for 13 sites to allow for a new bicycle circulation plan in the downtown area. The new plan calls for a circular bicycle path running around the downtown area, some partially following the abandoned railroad tracks and other city-owned property.
Next, the council was asked to approve and waive any future reading of the ordinance establishing the Hemet Downtown Specific Plan concluding the many public hearings on the plan. At the April 11 public hearing, there were no residents for or against the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan asking to speak before the council on the matter.
And finally, the council was asked to amend to the zoning ordinance related to the specific plan so it would be consistent to the single-family residential zoning in the downtown area.
The council approved all four items with their 5-0 vote and praised the Community Development Department and the consultants for their work on the project.
There were a few questions about the bicycle circulation, the Caltrans Florida Raised Center Median plan, traffic circulation and the plan’s noise implications by council. There was also a question about the proposed one-way street designations for Carmalita and Juanita streets crossing Florida Avenue. Elliano said studies showed it would actually be benefit for the overall traffic circulation in the area.
Elliano said there are differences in the Caltrans median design plans and the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan, but the city hopes to resolve them through future discussions. She said Caltrans also is concerned the plan includes consideration for street and sidewalk ramps for disabled persons along Florida Avenue.