Planning for the future of an entire town can seem like a daunting, monumental task. Should you focus on the brick-and-mortar elements like new buildings and infrastructure? Or is it more important to consolidate efforts toward cultivating a central, unified vision? And how do you involve community members and stakeholders without anyone feeling left behind?
These lofty questions are all under consideration for the Pescadero Town Planning Initiative, a visioning process to document and set priorities for Pescadero for the coming decades. Residents representing Pescadero’s families, organizations and businesses have come together to shepherd that process.
“Our community is a great place, but we have greater needs,” said Rita Mancera, executive director of Puente de la Costa Sur and a member of the initiative’s steering committee. “I think there’s a benefit of the community organizing itself to identify, with one voice, the priorities that we want to work on.
“Even though it’s a lot of work and resources, it’s worth it to provide one voice for the community,” she added.
Recently, the effort was given a significant boost — the Silicon Valley Community Foundation donated $75,000 to help the town planning initiative gather community feedback. Through bilingual focus groups, stakeholder meetings, directed outreach, and, finally, a large community workshop, the committee hopes to engage more than 200 diverse South Coast residents, business owners and policymakers.
The group has already held several focus groups to allow Pescaderans to share their own ideas and intentions for the community. Mancera said the focus groups have also served to inform residents about the town’s growth since 2004, when the community embarked on a similar planning project.
“The project in 2004 was focused on infrastructure,” she said. “The project this year includes infrastructure and services. So people are writing (ideas) about making college affordable, (but) they’re also focusing on infrastructure. We still need more spaces for childcare.”
Mancera said that conducting both English- and Spanish-speaking focus groups has been instrumental in engaging the entire community.
“Our Anglo and Latino residents have different needs,” said Mancera. “A lot of the Anglo folks are homeowners, so, in my experience, they focus on what the town is going to look like (and) the style of architecture. And a lot of the Latino families that I work with just think about housing, regardless of what it looks like.
“It’s been really hard to get some people to the focus groups,” she added.
Mancera said that the initiative will coalesce with a final bilingual workshop early next year, at which South Coast attendees will have the opportunity to “vote” on proposed ideas. All Pescadero and Loma Mar residents are invited to the Feb. 10 event.