By Jim Tortolano
Apartments and condos at the mall. A downtown that stretches from the freeway to the city’s busiest street. More parks and improved landscaping of streets. That’s the vision of the future that was sketched for Westminster at Tuesday’s meeting of the city council.
At a public hearing on the 2016 update to the city general plan, the council heard the results of collaboration among residents and property owners, city staff and Placeworks planning firm. Among the key elements of the blueprint for the city for the next 20 years are:
- creating a sense of place
- community culture
- preserving and creating quality neighborhoods
- a vibrant economy
- easy access and mobility
- sufficient parks and recreational opportunities.
“This is not just a report that’s going to get stuck on the shelf,” said Councilman Sergio Contreras. “We’re going to build a great future for our city.”
The general plan, which will be the subject of another public hearing on Sept. 28, calls for some major changes in the community. Since Westminster is in the midst of a financial crisis, economic development issues loom large in the document.
Possibilities for boosting the fortunes of the Westminster Mall include transforming the area to mixed use by allowing the construction of housing such as apartments and condominiums in the center’s parking lots, similar to what’s been done at the Bella Terra mall in Huntington Beach.
According to the report, residents spoke up strongly in favor of a downtown area. A target area would be Westminster Boulevard from the San Diego (405) Freeway east all the way to Beach Boulevard, at the western edge of the civic center.
As envisioned, the new downtown would not be high-density such as Long Beach. Two- and three-story buildings fronting the street, a roadway that might be more heavily landscaped and designed describe the concept.
The general plan also calls for improved opportunities to residents to walk or ride bicycles in the city and utilizing the 25 percent of the city devoted to roads to create “high quality streetscapes.”
Although Westminster is a “mature” suburb, the plan envisions room for another 4300 residential units to be built in the city.