LocationAlhambra , CA United States
The City of Alhambra has started sending out summaries of the draft general plan in utility bills to address concerns, voiced by residents, planning commissioners and City Council members, over the current lack of outreach.
Provided in Chinese, English and Spanish, the insert describes the general plan as a “long-range vision for the future of the community” and summarizes each chapter of the document. It also invites residents to view the full plan on the city’s website and invites them to Planning Commission meetings on May 6 and May 20, where discussion of the general plan will resume.
The new meetings were scheduled to coincide with the end of the two-month utility billing cycle in late April, said Marc Castagnola, Alhambra’s director of community development. The inserts mailed starting at the end of February were being sent to the 18,000 of households that use paper billing for their utilities, reaching an estimated 75,000 people.
In the previous outreach effort for the draft general plan, the City of Alhambra reached 760 people, according to a staff report for the Feb. 11 Council meeting. This outreach was conducted through the city’s website and in email blasts and social media. The outreach was also conducted at special events, the Farmers Market and 10 community meetings. Information notices were also put up at City Hall and the Alhambra Civic Center Library.
During Monday’s City Council meeting, Alhambra resident Gregory Miller told the City Council and staff that he had not received an insert, because he uses online billing to pay for his utilities. “I don’t know if that’s the best way to inform people, especially when you’re talking about the general plan and other things you want the community to be informed about,” he said about mailing the inserts.
Miller later found a download link to the insert under the “bill notices” tab on the City of Alhambra’s online bill pay portal, a process that he said was “pretty clunky.”
Castagnola acknowledged that paper inserts would not physically reach around 2,000 households who use online billing, or to those whose landlords receive the utility bill. He added that the city would be making additional announcements in local newspapers and in “Around Alhambra,” the Chamber of Commerce newsletter that is mailed out to every household in the city.
“We’re going to do as much as we can to make sure that people see [the general plan],” he said.
Castagnola also said that the May Planning Commission hearings would address questions that commissioners and participants had during a hearing on Jan. 22, including concerns about the completeness of the city’s bike plan and missing implementation actions involving historic preservation.
City Councilmember Katherine Lee, who has been vocal about seeking more outreach at recent Council meetings, told the Alhambra Source that she found the multilingual insert helpful, but said that she wanted residents, especially seniors, to have the option to hand write their thoughts about the plan, in addition to responding online or attending the Planning Commission hearings.
“We still have time to do more outreach,” she said. “How do we reach people who are not computer savvy?”
She added that she planned to talk to the Alhambra Unified School District, local businesses and other stakeholders to help distribute easy-to-read summaries of the entire plan in English, Chinese and Spanish to get as much participation in the response process as possible. She felt that this was especially important for residents who are not proficient in English, since the general plan is currently only available in that language.
Read a PDF version of the general plan insert below. To see the complete general plan draft and timeline, visit the city’s website.