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City of St. Helena

Two weeks after adopting St. Helena’s General Plan, the City Council started talking about how to perfect it.

Housing-related matters should be a top priority in the first batch of amendments to the plan, the council agreed on Tuesday.

Those changes could involve new policies and land designations for specific sites like the former St. Helena Catholic School, land on College Avenue owned by the St. Helena Montessori School, city-owned properties like the Railroad Avenue parcel, and Monte Vista Avenue, which could be rezoned from Medium-Density Residential to High-Density Residential.

The zoning of McCorkle Avenue could also change. The north side of the street is zoned High-Density Residential, which neighbors say has resulted in housing projects that are too dense for the neighborhood.

In addition to housing, the city will incorporate the Active Transportation & Sustainability Committee’s latest Climate Action Directives, which call for the city to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The city will also re-examine policies involving bicycle and pedestrian paths and analyze potential street extensions and evacuation routes.

Every year the council can make up to four changes per element (or chapter) of the General Plan.

Copies of the adopted General Plan are now available at City Hall and the library.

Budget

The council adopted a 2019-2020 budget with a General Fund that tops $15 million for the first time in the city’s history.

The city made only a few minor adjustments after the council reviewed the draft budget in detail back in May. General fund reserves are still projected at 41 percent, with another $100,000 set aside in case of economic uncertainty.

Legal services

The council authorized staff to issue a Request For Proposals to solicit legal services for the city.

Instead of having a city attorney on staff, the council has contracted with the law firm Burke, Williams & Sorensen since 2011. Tom Brown, a partner in that firm, has served as city attorney.

The council, concerned with St. Helena’s high legal expenses compared with neighboring cities like Calistoga, told staff in May to investigate alternatives.

The Request For Proposals, which will be issued on Friday, “seeks the services of a full-service law firm that will assign a lead attorney to work directly with the City or an individual attorney that works part-time for the City to provide services.”

Councilmembers Anna Chouteau and Paul Dohring will vet the proposals and make recommendations to the full council, which will interview finalists.

Downtown Streetscape Plan

Councilmembers highly praised an early draft of the Downtown Streetscape Plan, which seeks to expand pedestrian spaces, create a sense of place through art, historic and agrarian references, and expand the downtown core onto side streets like Adams, Spring, Hunt and Oak.

The plan, developed with extensive public input, includes improved sidewalks, new bulb-outs, curb extensions, a mid-block crossing in front of the Cameo Cinema, an art walk in front of the Wells Fargo parking lot, and upgrades to Telegraph Alley.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.