Streetscape raising questions

By: Brad Smith, Telegraph Correspondent
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STREETSCAPE MEETING 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 7 Folsom Public Library meeting room, 411 Stafford St. --- Dozens of people filled the Folsom Public Library’s meeting area Wednesday night to air concerns over the historic district’s “Streetscape” redevelopment project. City Manager Kerry Miller, Redevelopment Agency director Amy Feagans and others associated with the project spent more than 90 minutes updating the audience about the project’s status, as well as addressing concerns. Miller and Feagans told those gathered that the project was on track. The city, they said, plans to receive “competitive bids” from contractors by the fall. “Work is slated to start in January,” Miller stated. The plan is to have “usable streetscape” by the 2010 holiday season. The project, he said, would be carried out in different phases, moving from block to block. Due to the state’s budget crisis, some aspects of the project might be impacted by the cash shortfall. In some areas, sections of the project will be scaled back. Feagans said the project is necessary. “A lot of the infrastructure – water and sewer lines, power and cable – needs to be replaced. The water system is antiquated,” she said, “most of it being more than 50 years old.” Digging up those sewer and water lines raised some concerns. Some Sutter Street merchants are worried about the mess left behind by the trench digging process. “What about trenchless technology?” one audience member asked. “Couldn’t the city do something like that?” Miller and other city officials assured the audience that contracts will be asked to do “their best not to cause messes or other disruptions” as the project goes on. One of the project’s plans includes the removal of the Sutter Street median and the larger, shed-like structures that cover a number of the Old Town buildings. “Those were put in place in the 1960s,” Feagans explained. She acknowledged that, back then, those things might have been a good idea. “Now, those things are outmoded and unsightly. Some buildings,” she said, “will have facades replacing the shed structures.” Those facades, she asserted, will be designed to go alone with the individual building’s architectural design. The sidewalks, Miller said, have to be brought up to the Americans with Disabilities Act codes. “Ramps and handrails need to installed along parts of Sutter,” he said. He added that the new sidewalk additions would be treated to look aged and used. Jeff Ferreira-Pro, a long-time Old Town resident, said e understands the needs and concerns regarding the Streetscape project. “We do need the infrastructure upgrades and the ADA compliance. And,” he said, “we need to address things like parking, traffic flows and maintaining the district’s historical values.” All of which, he said, comes down to change. “Change and progress are necessary and are needed in the district,” Ferreira-Pro said. “But, people do get nervous when those things are mentioned. I can understand why. People don’t want the (historic district) to lose its charm and appeal.” Feagans said that streetscape project, which started four years ago, has been an “educational” experience. “And, a good one, too,” she said. The city has been working closely with the Historic District Commission and the Historical Preservation League. She describes those relationships as “good.” “Everyone wants what’s best for the district and Folsom,” Feagans said. “We’re all working towards that goal. … Many people are very impassioned by this.” Ferreira-Pro feels that the Streetscape project will be a success if all sides have patience. “Give it time,” he said, “and people will be OK with it.”