Story and photos by Claudia Meléndez Salinas
The Alisal Vibrancy Plan, described by a supporter as an “act of love by the residents,” was approved unanimously by the Salinas City Council late Tuesday.
The 348-page plan is the result of hundreds of hours of work by planners, activists and volunteers who met with an estimated 2,000 residents to request their input. Divided into 10 sections, the plan includes an overview and goals for housing, transportation, land use, and recreation, among others.
The Alisal, a 2.73 square miles portion annexed to Salinas in 1963, has suffered from decades of neglect in spite of generating $5 million a year in revenue for the city. Developing a blueprint that tackles this neglect is at the core of the Alisal Vibrancy plan.
Dozens of East Salinas residents, many of whom took part in endless planning meetings for the last three years, packed the Salinas Rotunda to voice their support for the plan. Notable among them was the presence of young students, many of them members of Ciclovia, the annual outdoor event organized primarily by high-school students. Ciclovia members also participated in many Alisal Vibrancy Plan meetings and voiced their support of the plan.
“Our voices matter as much of other voices of adults,” Ciclovia member Juana Alvarez told the council.
There were also several Spanish-speaking community members who expressed gratitude for being part of an inclusive process.
“It’s good to have a process that acknowledges that we belong in this country,” a woman said in Spanish. “Thanks for this opportunity to be included.”
The wish-list of the plan includes a community garden, more spaces to gather and connect with nature, and encourage mixed-type construction for walkable neighborhoods.
Desired improvements outlined in the plan will be funded through grants, partnerships with philanthropic organizations and other different ways, city planners said. Councilman Steve McShane wanted to know if this plan could lead to the establishment of an improvement district, like the one in Oldtown Salinas.
Alejandro Chavez, executive director of the Salinas United Business Association, said participation by business owners was limited because they’ve seen many plans come and go and nothing has come of them. They’re “waiting to see what’s next,” he said.
Alisal resident and activist Luis Juarez said the plan reflects the community’s desire to see a more comprehensive definition of safety.
“In the Alisal community, the concept of public safety needs to be expanded beyond law, fire and code enforcement,” he said. “Throughout this process, we got to understand and see our residents involved in what that is and be able to define … health and safety as a concept that as something beyond police presence.”
Monica Gurmilan, land use organizer for Building Healthy Communities, said the organization was proud of its advocacy efforts and the results. She also praised the document as a “first plan of its kind.
“Alisal residents have made this process unlike any other. It’s our responsibility to continue to uplift their voices… This is not just a document but a plan to overcome decades of neglect,” she said.
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