AMERICAN CANYON — “Sometimes, you just have to ask people what they want.”
That statement by City Councilman Mark Joseph sums up the idea behind the community-wide visioning project of the city of American Canyon.
The project culminated in an open house at City Hall on Saturday.
“We’re trying to come up with a shared vision for the future of American Canyon,” said Management Analyst Deanna Parness.
The city wants as much input as possible, Parness said.
“We’re trying to get people to tell us what future they want,” she said. “We want them to tell us, explain to us and ultimately, as the process moves through, try to figure out how to achieve that.”
The open house had nearly as many city employees as it did public attendees.
However, more than 200 people have taken an online survey associated with the effort, according to the city website. The survey is still available at cityofamericancanyon.org.
The open house featured several stations with easel-mounted sketch pads where residents could list the city’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. There were also two aerial photographs of the city on which residents could put stickers to indicate places they liked.
“We get to voice our opinion on what we want for a city,” said attendee Leng Cruz. “We want to see results in the future.”
Resident Michelle Margolati was pleased her voice was being heard. “We want to be involved in the community,” she said. “I feel I think they are very receptive to everyone’s ideas.”
Margolati said the city must “do something about the shopping around here. We need more services. We need to do upgrades to buildings to look better.”
Residents expressed their opinions on the easels. Listed under weaknesses were traffic, lack of money to build roads, Highway 29, limited space to grow, needs versus wants, too much studying and not enough implementing.
Strengths cited were cultural diversity, commercial potential of traffic, location, and the proximity to the airport, ocean, and San Francisco.
Opportunities included, parks and community services master plan, the Town Center project, proactive economic development and open access to the Newell Open Space.
Parness said the information will be used to set goals.
“The council will look at it to create a vision for what we hope the community will go for the next five to ten years,” she said. “The visioning itself has been talked about for many years by the council and city manager. Every year the city (officials) will get together to set goals for the city and the staff.”
This time, the idea is to get residents involved in the process.
“It came together that the city council can’t set goals if they don’t know what the community wants,” Parness pointed out. “They have their own ways of finding out what the community wants through their own methods. This has been seen as a broad spectrum, the broadest spectrum possible.”
The city staff wants to demystify the process.
“This is also called the strategic plan,” Parness explained. “But that comes with a boring connotation.”
The city sent out 5,000 flyers, mostly in utility bills, to invite people to become involved in the project.
The entire city council was present at the open house.