Livingston folks get preview of city's changes

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comJuly 8, 2013 

— Plans for growth in Livingston are beginning to take shape, officials said.

Meetings last week gave residents a peek at what roundabouts, bike lanes and reconfigured parking, among other changes, would look like downtown.

"We definitely heard what people did not want," said Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra, adding that unpopular ideas were shucked.

The California Chapter of New Urbanists and the Local Government Commission set up mock crosswalks, parking stalls and outdoor furniture along the main drag so residents could respond with their opinions.

Samra said locals voiced support for bike paths and the widening of sidewalks. Residents were not receptive to back-in parking or some of the roundabouts, he said.

The six days of brainstorming was a way to get public input for the direction Livingston is headed.

long-term goals included moving City Hall away from Main Street, and expanding agrarian development. Samra said the plans are dependent on funding.

"It's not a difficult thing to do, but when you write a check you got to be able to clear it," he said.

Final report soon

Architects, urban designers, planners and economic development professionals continue to mold the ideas. A final report is due in about two weeks.

City Manager Jose Ramirez said the city has saved about $1.5 million in anticipation of the meetings. He expects to act soon on road striping, bike lanes and other street improvements.

The input and turnout to the planning sessions were successful in finding a consensus, Ramirez said. He said he expects that civic input and a clear plan also will help when looking for grant funding.

"In short order, this community can really benefit and start enhancing its quality of life," Ramirez said.

Another planning meeting is scheduled for late August with the American Institute of Architects, which will focus on cultural and arts events in town.

Diann Benafield, a 65-year-old retiree, said she attended the last meeting to see what suggestions came about.

Benafield said she was happy with most of the ideas to improve downtown. Many of the plans, she said, would restore the area to the way it was about two decades ago.

Roundabouts would be a new and welcome change to Livingston, she said, despite the grumbling she expects from some residents. Any kind of upgrades are welcome.

"I really look forward to something happening downtown," she said.

Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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