Newark residents gathered Saturday to voice their opinions and preferences about housing, open space and traffic.
It was the second of a series of meetings held as part of the Newark General Plan Enhancement Project, a task headed by a team of graduate students and one professor from the California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.
The project's objective is to update the 20-year-old Newark General Plan, a policy document that acts as a guideline for county and city leaders when it comes to decision-making for future development.
Residents voted Saturday on their preferences of different planning options including high-density versus low-density housing zones; open space versus having parks and golf courses; and traffic issues.
All of the issues were discussed with the goal of getting community members to tell them what Newark’s “sense of place” means to them.
And this time, the crowd was larger; the room was nearly filled to capacity with a more diverse crowd in age and ethnic background.
During a public discussion, residents noted their desires to see more mixed-use development in Old Town and how to allocate space for low-income, high-density housing areas.
Meaghan Mroz-Barrett, group facilitator and Cal Poly student said the last time the team met with Newark residents, they noted the community’s concerns and perspectives of their strengths and weaknesses.
"When we returned to San Luis Obispo, we did some research, prepared more detailed questions and came back to do a more in depth General Enhancement meeting,” Mroz-Barrett said.
Vice Mayor Ana Apodaca was among city dignitaries who was present at the event. She said she attended to observe and listen to the community’s wants.
“We want to hear what everyone thinks. I’m glad that the team has a great energy and is able to engage the community into participating in the discussion,” Apodaca said.
But not every resident was optimistic about future development plans for Newark.
Jana Sokale, a 21-year resident of Newark said she was concerned about land development in areas in sea level rise danger zones.
“Development in areas of Newark in danger of being submerged in case of sea level rise was not addressed here today,” Sokale said. “I like how the community is getting a chance to voice their concerns about the future of Newark, but I’m afraid this might be nothing more than window dressing.”
“Ultimately it is up to the city government to accept the enhancement plan or not and I’m really hoping that they listen,” Sokale added.
The Enhancement Project team plans to return to Cal Poly research alternative growth strategies based on their findings from Saturday’s meeting.
The next meeting will be on Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the , 5501 Cedar Blvd.
For more information about the General Enhancement Project, visit http://mynewarkplan.weebly.com.