The Morning Report
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The City Council on Monday adopted a new community plan for Midway-Pacific Highway, allowing developers to build nearly 11,000 new homes and setting the stage for a redevelopment of the Sports Arena.
The city has in recent years updated a handful of community plans in hopes that streamlined regulations would let developers build more homes to satisfy population growth. The new Midway-Pacific Highway plan more than doubles the homes that can be built in the coming decades.
The city has repeatedly committed to building new housing in already-developed areas, so people live closer to transit and jobs, lowering the region’s carbon footprint by allowing peopleto drive less. The city’s Climate Action Plan envisions halving greenhouse emissions by 2035, in part by getting half of residents living near transit to bike, walk or take transit to work.
But almost all Midway residents will keep driving to work even under the new plan, according to city staff’s analysis.
Staff says 89 percent of area residents will drive to work, with transit use increasing from 6 percent today to 8 percent in 2035. But people will also drive less, with the average person driving 56 percent fewer miles in 2035 than they do today.
“We’re far short of our Climate Action Plan goals for this area,” said Councilman Chris Ward. “I’m really nervous for how we’re going to be able to reach even close to our goals citywide.”
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents the area, put the brakes on the plan in the spring over congestion concerns. The plan now calls for the city to work with state and local agencies to build new connector ramps between I-8 and I-5, and to pursue creation of a special district that could generate tax revenue for infrastructure projects.
“After working with staff we have come up with I think a much better plan,” Zapf said.
In the spring, Councilman Scott Sherman joked that the plan wouldn’t be delayed if it wasn’t an election year, but there was no sizable opposition to the plan in the end and it didn’t develop into any sort of political headache for Zapf.
Now that the plan is in place, the city can start pursuing a redevelopment of the land it owns underneath and surrounding the aging Sports Arena. The city owns 43 acres there, and is letting leases expire so it has a blank slate for redevelopment after May 2020. A public poll earlier this year tested the waters on redevelopment that would include a new arena. Some of the businesses in the area aren’t feeling the city’s ambitions.