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City Master Plan: Last Chance to Weigh In (Opinion)


By Jay Kolbet-Clausell

The City of Reno Master Plan is up for feedback for the last time by Aug. 25, 2017. Please share how you feel. Compassionate perspectives are often underrepresented on these surveys. As a result, expensive, ineffective strategies are used to address our city’s problems. While many components are commendable, the omissions prevent this master plan from being an effective way forward.

Please encourage your connections to take the survey (even if they only have time to tackle the first three questions), so we have a solid public record to work with as we address the individual ordinances that will come from this document over the next 20 years. What follows is an expanded version of my answers to the survey:

1. Is there anything unclear about how the updated Master Plan is currently written? Yes, please create a housing section. A Housing Plan is mandated by state law. The housing content is dispersed throughout all 230 pages and GP 4.1 on page 204 is not as detailed as the 2008 plan that this document replaces. Develop inclusive rules for accessory units and other infill development to create more homes in all areas of the city. Please make these rules as broad as possible to allow developers flexibility while protecting city and citizen interests. In addition, the Table of Performance Measures and baseline information is missing from page 10. Without defining goals, it is unclear what developers and nonprofits are allowed to do. This lack of clarity breeds inaction and inefficient use of resources.

2. Are there any topics not covered by the updated Master Plan that you would like to see addressed? Very little addresses children and families. Mental health and substance abuse are only addressed in the context of homelessness even though they are community-wide challenges. On page 14, “the community expressed their desire for Reno to become: 1. A base for outdoor activities 2. An arts and culture center 3. A technology center and university town” – – – what about adding “a place to raise a family?” Arts are mentioned over 70 times; family is mentioned twice. Children three times; once in the context of art. I am not opposed to art, but family issues deserve at least equal time. Stronger families mean fewer people on the streets, lower burden on social services, and more resilience in our region. Along that line, please re-purpose current city facilities rather than rely on new construction to increase services. For example, stronger leadership and staffing could create 24-hour libraries. Add some meat to your nonprofit partnerships to empower motivated volunteers.

3. Other comments about the draft Master Plan? Thank you for including so many issues important to seniors. For example, the city’s commitment to help seniors stay in their homes longer and live in neighborhoods with strong community and public access. Thank you for all the transportation components of this plan, and may it translate into sidewalks on both sides of every busy street with homes and businesses. (Looking at Oddie — don’t replicate the Southeast McCarran mistakes that put the multi-use path on the opposite side of the highway as the businesses and homes.)

A boarded off slide from Idlewild park shows the need for more focus on family infrastructure.

The plan is organized under eight Guiding Principles. GP 6, Safe, Healthy, and Inclusive Community should be the guiding principle for the remaining seven: GP 1: Resilient Local & Regional Economy is meaningless without empowering every member of each of our families. GP 2: Responsible & Well-Managed Growth is inclusive by leveraging current city capacity with increased density and mixed-use neighborhoods. City officials should coach developers with clear guidelines and an affordable housing brochure, so that diverse socioeconomic groups can live near and support one another.

GP 3: Thriving Downtown & University District must be achieved with healthy options for all citizens. No one should be made to hide and police should be empowered to protect every community regardless of income. GP 4: Vibrant Neighborhoods & Centers bring value to all who visit and take pride in their diversity. GP 5: Well-Connected City & Region has a viable public transit system and pedestrian infrastructure without overvaluing travel by personal car. It also does not cost as much to value safety over traffic flow. Proper design keeps traffic moving without compromising safety but our newest roads have highway width lanes.

GP 7: Quality Places & Outdoor Recreation Opportunities must not pick and choose who is deemed a quality person. Health must be available to everyone regardless of status. Quality places include people from all walks of life to increase pride and self sufficiency within every neighborhood. GP 8: Effective Governance means vibrant neighborhoods have inclusive decision making with diverse leadership and safe interactions with all our institutions.

On page 33, “perception of high drug use and mental health issues in the homeless population have resulted in general dissatisfaction among residents about the current state of Downtown.” Person-first-language needs to be used to value our citizens while at the same time addressing the issues that our community faces. This line does does not add to the conversation.

On page 213 IMP-7.2g, land trusts are mentioned to “support the conservation of private lands for open space, agricultural, or resource protection purposes,” but not housing. The 2008 plan included land trusts for housing. I expect the yearly progress reports and will support Master Plan updates to seize opportunities.

On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do these initiatives align with your priorities for the City? I gave it a 3. We have to solve these problems even if funding is not available. Please add a social impact initiative. This growth does not benefit all people, and we must meet those left out with adequate resources. The Downtown Action Plan is not a public body and overvalued in these plans. Make the Downtown Action meetings public and inclusive.

Where is the social and family component in GP 3? Seems like unfunded mandates in GP 4, but there are good ideas here. GP 5 should include bike paths and mixed use neighborhoods too. If we can increase diversity in every neighborhood, we will be well-connected more naturally.

The map on 161 does not make sense and leaves out most of our innovative job producing neighborhoods. We are all innovating and hard-working and more control should be given to citizens.

Guiding Principle number six is the key to the entire plan. Add family supports to beef up the implementation strategies. More city engagement in active neighborhood associations and the NABs. More outreach to increase diversity in decision making. The map on page 163 is excessively modest with seas of single-family residences that would benefit from closer proximity to higher density housing and accessory units.

The 2008 Housing Plan was not followed even though it assembled many good ideas. The housing bubble and a short attention span can be blamed. For this 2018 housing plan to work, we have to come in with a new perspective that is not against developers, homeless, or any group perceived to be different from ourselves. We have to get on a granular level to find opportunities to increase housing diversity, to increase personal choice, and to increase the value our systems place on every family.

Note: Fill out the demographic questions and don’t forget to hit both submit buttons!

Master Plan Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/draftrenomasterplan
Master plan draft PDF: reno.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=69070

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