SANTA MARIA, Calif. - As Santa Maria gets ready to set new priorities and enact major changes for the first time in decades, community organizers are proposing a series of improvements involving housing, public transportation, the downtown scene and higher education.
The city is currently taking steps to overhaul its General Plan.
“It hasn't been updated in over 20 years,” said Santa Maria Councilmember Gloria Soto.
The plan is a blueprint to future growth in Santa Maria. For city leaders, it's an opportunity to set new housing standards.
Soto proposes that 15 percent of residential developments offer low income rates.
“Right now the median income for a family is about $56,000 a year and a two bedroom apartment is going for about $1900,” Soto said.
On Thursday morning, CAUSE held a news conference at City Hall outlining their suggestions.
“We're proposing a farm worker housing overlay which would essentially be re-zoning industrial zones that are being under utilized such as a long strip along railroad,” said Hazel Davalos.
Davalos says CAUSE surveyed more than 100 Santa Marians whose priorities also included enhancing public transportation.
“Most of our bus routes are north to south and bus routes are not really designed to transfer people from west to east,” Davalos said.
According to the survey, increasing higher education options was a top request, too. The president at Allan Hancock College says about a third of their graduating seniors don't transfer to a 4-year university.
“We're up 48 percent year over year of high school seniors who are coming to the campus," said Kevin Walters. "The more likely way to serve our community would be to allow colleges like us and Cuesta College to offer limited four-year degrees.”
Creating a vibrant and diverse downtown scene is another priority for many community members.
“Though it may be difficult to look at downtown full of vacant storefronts and see anything other than challenges, those empty and unused areas can be untapped potential for invigorating communities and expanding opportunity,” one speaker said during the press conference.
The City of Santa Maria encourages residents to participate at future public forums to share their input on the General Plan.