EDITOR'S DESK: Bancroft Park and the city's 'vision thing'By Kenyon Jordan
When fire damaged part of the Bancroft Park bandshell in January, the only people thinking logically were Westsiders.
They were asking, well, what's it going to take to fix it? Maybe make it more secure? And, is there a way we can use it while it's being fixed?
Meanwhile, as we've seen, the rest of the city had its thoughts elsewhere.
What he wrote was that, “unfortunately the Parks Department does not have funding identified in the 2017 budget for Bancroft Park” - though he did go on to say there were “potential 2018 budget monies” and staff would be “looking into other opportunities.”
So with that obvious low priority in mind, it's not hard to understand why the first reaction of City Parks, upon news of the fire, was to contact event promoters and tell them to forget using the stage this summer.
Prompted by Westside business and residential leaders, City Council finally woke up to the issue six weeks later. To his credit, then-District 3 Councilmember Keith King made up for lost time by reaming out Parks staff for dawdling and incompetence, and he was joined by Don Knight and Tom Strand in calling for action.
Stung by the criticism, City Parks moved from granny gear to overdrive… advertising for a contractor, setting up public meetings and producing charts, graphics, alternatives and options. It could be argued that since mid-March, when council came on board, the Parks Department has accomplished quite a bit. As its maintenance boss, Kurt Schroeder, outlined for City Council, there's now a “full vision” for a major re-do of Bancroft Park, including a restroom in front, the pavilion gone, restricted access to Colbrunn Court and a plaza of some kind - including one that would relegate any farmers market to a uniformly arranged edge of the park.
But another argument - a stronger one, I would submit - could be made that the Parks Department has lost its freaking mind.
Viewing the discussion at the April 24 council meeting was like watching one of those science fiction movies where people are out of phase with each other.
Council people didn't even seem to notice. They didn't comment on the slide. They didn't even ask what all of it would cost.
I think it might have been because no one on council - and certainly no one on the Westside - had ever asked for a park “vision” in the wake of the fire.
But here's the real problem, at least as I see it. Because Parks staffers feel under the gun to produce results and they want this “vision,” they have shortcutted what should have been a long-term master-plan process for the park.
Yes, there have been two public meetings in April, but as we have reported, citizens were given scarcely a half-hour at the second meeting to analyze and respond to a deeply detailed rendering of alternatives and options for major future changes. And now Schroeder and company are using what feedback they did get from that truncated process and calling it a “consensus.”
Caveat: A door in front of the stage to help with bandshell security is one part of the “vision.” Nice work, City Parks. You might pass the class if we were grading on a curve.
But the main point is that while our heads are still spinning, Parks staffers will be going to the City Parks Advisory Board May 11 and seeking approval for ideas that hardly anybody over here has truly had time to think about.
Remember, this is our park, the city had ignored OCCF's fundraising efforts for four years and was going to do it again, and now the staffers' sweet little “vision” is too important for us to think about a little longer? Or are we supposed to be overwhelmed by our good fortune that thanks to some vagrant setting fire to the stage last winter, the city is now dumping wheelbarrows of money our way?
Phase 1: Fix the bandshell. Phase 2: Work on the other stuff. Seek ideas from local leaders, what might work best for businesses and residents. Schedule a few more public meetings, try to gain a real consensus. Be sensible with how the money's spent. Is all that so hard?
Maybe we're just too logical on the Westside. Whoever thought anyone would say that?
(Posted 4/25/17; Opinion: Editor's Desk)
Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.