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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER
DATE: JUNE 29, 2004
SUBJECT: NOTES ON THE CONCEPTUAL TRAILS PLAN
Direct staff to: 1) Redraft the Conceptual Trails Plan into a document that is more reader-friendly and usable by the City and the public; and 2) Prepare a status report describing the current status of trails acquisitions.
Although the Conceptual Trails Plan (CPT) is the document most often referred to whenever trails issues are discussed, the City Council has adopted a number of planning documents related to providing a safe and efficient system of public trails and paths since the City’s incorporation in 1973. In order to place the Conceptual Trails Plan in context with these other documents, staff has prepared the timeline presented below:
June 26, 1973 Adoption of the City’s General Plan, which identifies conceptual bikeway, pedestrian and equestrian networks in the Infrastructure section (page 100 and pages 124 to 138)
December 19, 1978 Adoption of the City’s Coastal Specific Plan, which identifies public trails and pathways in the Corridors Element (pages C-5 through C-7) and as part of the discussion of each Coastal Subregion
June 15, 1982 Adoption of the Trail Standards Study, which contains conceptual design criteria for equestrian and pedestrian trails, as well as bikeways
November 27, 1984 Adoption of the Trails Network Plan
January 22, 1990 Adoption of the Conceptual Trails Plan and Conceptual Bikeways Plan, as two separate documents.
November 6, 1991 Adoption of General Plan Amendment No. 22, which incorporated the trail and bikeway development policies, included in the two conceptual plans and the trails category definitions into the City’s General Plan.
September 7, 1993 Adoption of the most recent revisions to the Conceptual Trails Plan. The Plan was previously revised on May 21, 1991, September 16, 1991 and October 29, 1991.
October 15, 1996 Adoption of revisions to the Conceptual Bikeways Plan
In 1990, the Recreation & Parks Department was responsible for the preparation of both the Conceptual Trails Plan and the Conceptual Bikeways Plan. A specific five-member Trails Committee was formed to oversee the effort and the City hired a staff Trails Coordinator to facilitate the effort. Further, the adoption of the Conceptual Trails Plan and the Conceptual Bikeways Plan was intended to be the first step in revising the 1984 Trails Network Plan. However, this project was never completed. This situation is due in large part to the fact that the Trails Committee was disbanded shortly after the plans’ adoption in 1990 and the Recreation & Parks Department’s Trails Coordinator was laid off during the state budget crisis during the same time period. Instead, responsibility for the two plans was transferred to the Planning Department in 1992. In the intervening years, the Conceptual Trails Plan and the Conceptual Bikeways Plan have each been updated once, although it has been over 10 years and nearly 8 years, respectively, since this has been done.
The purpose of the Conceptual Trails Plan is to identify the trail opportunities within the community so that the acquisition and development of new public trails could take place as private development proposals and public works projects were constructed or as other opportunities presented themselves. The CPT specifically stated that the inclusion of a trail or trail segment in the plan did not legally authorize the use of these trails by the public or in any way guarantee their eventual implementation.
Although the City has done a good job applying the CPT to new development proposals, such as Ocean Trails, Seabreeze and Ocean Front Estates, the City has been inconsistent in consulting the CPT for small infill developments or when street projects were designed that should have included trail segments. Although a number of factors have contributed to the uneven implementation of the plan, staff has identified the following primary obstacles:
When the Open Space Planning and Recreation & Parks Task Form was initially formed in 2002, updating the Conceptual Trails Plan was identified as part of the Task Force’s scope of work. Shortly after its formation, the Task Force broke itself into a series of subcommittees and the assignment of reviewing the CPT was given to the four-member Open Space Subcommittee. The Open Space Subcommittee spent a considerable amount of time reviewing existing City documents, conducting site visits to study actual conditions in the field and preparing specific recommendations to update the CPT. In the course of this effort, the Subcommittee presented two specific actions to the Task Force. The first related to recommending that the canyon areas on the Grandview Park property be included in the NCCP preserve Area and the second related to the implementation of public trails in conjunction with the future development of the Crestridge property. Both of these recommendations are included in the draft Parks, Recreation and Open Space Strategic Plan presented to the Council this evening.
However, the Subcommittee was unable to complete a comprehensive update of the Conceptual Trails Plan, as it originally intended, prior to the scheduled joint workshop with the City Council. Instead, the Subcommittee submitted its draft recommendations to the Task Force on May 12, 2004. The Task Force continued the matter to tonight’s workshop and requested staff to review and comment on the Subcommittee’s recommendations.
The Open Space Subcommittee’s draft recommendations consist of the following items:
Staff has reviewed the work presented to the Task Force by its Open Space Subcommittee and feels that it contains several valuable suggestions. For example, staff agrees that it would be beneficial to combine the CPT and the Conceptual Bikeways Plan back into a single document; incorporate GPS mapping technology to identify the location of specific trails; and, develop a less complicated matrix to identify trail types and appropriate development standards. However, staff also feels that the existing CPT is difficult to use because the document breaks the City into five geographic sections, making overall comprehension of the trail systems and the interrelation between individual trial segments difficult to understand. At a minimum, staff recommends that the CPT include a comprehensive trails map that identifies all the trails included in the plan, similar to the City’s General Plan and Zoning Maps. Further, both the staff and the public have had difficultly in the past understanding the various trail categories (six are currently identified in the CPT). Although the Subcommittee recommends eliminating one of these categories and refining the definition of the remaining five, staff feels that a simpler and more practical system could be developed.
Staff recommends that the Subcommittee’s suggestions regarding General Plan Amendment No. 22 be forwarded to the General Plan Update Steering Committee for consideration as part of its efforts to update the City’s General Plan.
Staff agrees with the Open Space Subcommittee that the City’s Conceptual Trails Plan is in need of revision and updating. Staff also feels that many of the Subcommittee’s suggestions should be incorporated into the effort of updating the CPT. However, as a first step, staff recommends that the process begin with conducting a basic records search to identify all of the City’s existing trail assets and then mapping them based on a new system of categorization. Once these initial steps are completed, staff recommends that the CPT document be revised to make the format more user friendly, reflect current City Council policy preferences and changes in case law that have occurred since the plan was first adopted. These changes will ultimately make the plan more understandable and usable for decision-makers, City staff and the general public.
The Planning Department budget currently includes $32,000 that had been earmarked for updating the Conceptual Trails Plan. If the City Council directs staff to proceed with the update, the expenditure of these funds would have no additional impact on the City’s General fund balance. However, Council authorization and a budget adjustment would be required for any funds requested in excess of this amount.
Assistant City Manager
Open Space Subcommittee Report to Task Force on May 12, 2004