Faced with many utilitarian and aesthetic choices, a volunteer citizens group continues to help shape the Warren Street Improvement project.
It is hoped that a community-collaborative design effort to renovate the Warren Street corridor will enhance the area visually and economically.
The Jan. 12 Warren Street Improvement Project workshop was designed to gather opinion on the Warren Street project from the focus group and public at large “to help shape” the project and “to shape your community,” a Jan. 9 Public Works press release explained. The meeting was facilitated by City of Bishop Public Works Director David Grah and Los Angeles-based engineer Elaine Kabala, a Bishop Union High School graduate who said she is lending her architectural and planning services as a “volunteer effort.”
Grah told the City Council at its Jan. 14 meeting, “We got good feedback as we move into the design phase.” According to Public Works, the project is designed to improve Warren Street with new pavement, curbs and sidewalks, as well as street lights, landscaping and other aesthetic touches. If funding permits, side streets along that corridor – South, Lagoon, Church, Academy, Pine and Elm – will also be improved. The project is funded by state and federal gas taxes.
Public Works Superintendent Destin Dishion said that the meeting “reaffirmed that we’re on the right track, a direction people are happy with. It was good to see people come out and have their say.”
The focus group is described by Public Works as “a group of dedicated volunteers who have put the project concept together with an eye to making the street pleasant for pedestrians and shoppers.” Focus group member and Community Printing owner Peter Korngiebel said, “We are a small group but we come to the table with a pretty balanced set of skills. We run the gambit” from the “tidy, neat, utilitarian-oriented” to the more aesthetically-oriented.
Regular focus group members include Grah, Dishion, Korngiebel, Debi Yerkes, Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Tawni Thomson, Julie Faber, Sherry Wilkinson, Janice Kabala, Cindy Meinke, Matt Schober, Jerry Gabriel, Ray Finch, Skandar Reid and others.
“We have no control over Main Street,” Korngiebel said, “Caltrans does, but we would like to make (Warren Street) more pedestrian friendly,” more of a commerical center that would be appealing to people, to come sit in the little parks” and so on. Although there are businesses along Warren Street, it is also the back of many Main Street businesses and “we would like to make it more inviting to the public.”
Dishion said that the “single, biggest favorite” change the group would like to have made to Warren Street is placing utility poles underground, which would include putting business’ access to utilities underground, as well. Grah agreed, saying “overhead utilities are an (extremely costly) issue … but people have said they want the utilities underground.”
Korngiebel said the focus group would like to “find another $4 million to put the utilities underground,” however, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the various utility companies who lease the poles “aren’t going to come up with it. It’s a huge, huge project” which would require that Warren Street literally become an open trench, doubling the cost of the project.
At the Jan. 12 workshop, people were greeted with a “big map of where pocket parks and trees and other features will be,” said Thomson. The meeting was open to the public and Dave Stottlemyre is one member of the public who attended. Stottlemyre said he was there in his capacity as both a City Council member and a business owner. He said that as attendees entered the City auditorium at Line and Fowler streets, they also found a cornucopia of design images. “They were taped to the wall, different images from different cities … landscaping, fountains, street lights, benches, outdoor bathrooms. We were given dots to use to vote on the images we liked.”
“People voted on styles they liked the best and styles they thought would best suit the community,” Thomson added. Kabala, who works for Kosmont Companies, then queried the group about why they chose the features they did. “It’s going to take some doing to narrow this down (and choose a theme) but it’s going to be fun and exciting,” Stottlemyre said. Based on the group’s input, Kabala said she will compile and analyze the data and present her findings in a report within the next two months.
Kabala said it was “an excellent turnout.” She added that this project represents the first opportunity for the city to get engaged, to strenthen the economy and to shape its own future.
In addition to the aforementioned, the project may include pocket parks, colored concrete with designs, a banner, improved utility poles, bike racks, restrooms and shade trees, brick designs embedded in the roads, mosaics, planters and curb bulb outs by the time it breaks ground in 2014.
The public is invited to future Warren Street project focus group meetings, usually held on at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month in the Executive Conference Room at City Hall, explained Dishion.
“A formal public review is under way on the envrionmental document” for the project, Public Works said. Comments are due Jan. 28 and a public hearing is tentatively planned for the Feb. 11 City Council meeting. Environmental documents and project drawings are available at City Hall and on www.ca-bishop.us  – click the Environmental Documents tab on the left side of the page. All comments are welcome. In Public Works’ ongoing effort to include public opinion at every turn, Grah said, “139 letters have been sent out to interested parties.”
For more information, contact Public Works at firstname.lastname@example.org  or (760) 873-8458.