Saratoga Village’s Phase 1 plan launches
Last week, Saratoga City Council confirmed phase I of the Village Policy Update Process with one modification regarding semantics and a request to revisit one of the policies.
The update outlines methods to preserve the integrity of the Village’s character, while broadening the marketplace to ensure the success and sustainability of the downtown area as a viable commercial center. It also offers recommendations to improve parking in the village.
“Saratoga is looking to be the best Saratoga it can be,” Kirk Heinrichs, special projects manager said. “It’s not looking to model any other downtown.”
While neither the city of Saratoga nor the planning commission have identified specific retailers they’re hoping would bring more vitality into the Village, there are plenty of ways they plan to ensure the village’s uniqueness.
Phase I consists of two aspects: The Village Vision and Parking Circulation. Some goals of the Village Vision are to value and protect the human scale and historic context of downtown Saratoga, to encourage and support the tenets of a vibrant and commercially successful downtown and to have the Village serve as a center of community and civic activity.
Community outreach efforts to residents, Village businesses and property owners about their views helped shaped the Village Vision. The planning commission relied on these surveys and their knowledge of the community to develop policy statements that best reflect the community’s vision.
The goals and policies that the commissioners put forth would serve both as the community’s stated vision and as guiding principles for a more detailed policy that will emerge with the update of the Village Design Guidelines. The commission continues to meet for study sessions to officiate those guidelines; the most recent session was April 11.
To implement the goals, the city will ensure that the integrity and character of the Village continues to reflect its rural origin, capturing the charm of its 19th-century roots, while supporting a diverse mix of ground-floor retail and restaurant uses that appeal to the community’s desires.
The city will also explore expanding the Village boundaries to include certain adjacent properties that relate to the area’s historical presence. Incorporating public art is intended to enhance the Village experience and emphasize it as a primary focal point in the community.
Once the council finalizes the Phase I language, “the text will either be adopted into the General Plan sometime at the end of the year, or folded into the General Plan update process scheduled in 2018,” Heinrichs said.
The parking recommendations, however, are not General Plan amendments. “Most of those changes will require amendments to the parking ordinance in the city code,” Heinrichs explained.
There are a total of 461 off-street public parking spaces in the village, divided into four parking districts—each with its own requirements on how many parking spaces are needed per square foot of building, determined at the time the district was created.
The commission recommended restaurants, bars and wine tasting rooms have one parking space for each 75 square feet, and retail, office and personal services have one parking space for each 350 square feet. These revisions would establish one set of parking standards for the entire village.
The parking and circulation goals and policies include improving the effective and efficient use of public and private parking and implementing available circulation alternatives.
Photograph by George Sakkestad<br />The intersection of Big Basin Way and 3rd St in downtown Saratoga is covered in colorful succulents and flowers.
Currently, when an application is filed with the Community Development Department to operate a business in the Village, no review of parking occurs.
“The new policy, when adopted, will require projects that create an increase in parking to mitigate the impact,” Heinrichs said. “If the parking impact cannot be mitigated, the commission must make specific findings of benefit before it can approve the project.”
The commission determined that if the city can achieve even a 10 percent improvement in efficiency through strategic management of its parking resources, it could improve conditions equivalent to adding 55 to 60 parking spaces (there are a total of 576 public parking spaces in the Village).
“The key to any parking management plan is enforcement,” the Phase I document reads. “If there is an unwillingness or inability to enforce the policies and programs in a parking management plan, the plan will not succeed.”
Though no date has been scheduled to develop the Parking Management Plan, the commission recommended that the plan should include parking enforcement of time limits, including loading zones; establishing a designated employee parking area; efficient use of valet parking; review of the current valet program; effective parking directional and time restriction signage; and installation of the planned Big Basin Way turn-around.
Phase II of the Village Policy Update Plan is tentatively scheduled for the Aug. 16 city council meeting.