Some Nevada City residents see the Commercial Street Boardwalk’s one-year extension as a crisis averted — others see it as a crisis continued.
“I don’t know why we did it in the first place, and we had a problem on that street, and all we did was give them more room to dance with their dogs and deal their drugs,” said Greg Cook, owner of Friar Tuck’s Restaurant and Bar, located on the corner of Commercial and Pine streets.
A Nevada City Council 3-2 majority vote narrowly extended the boardwalk’s pilot project for a second year Wednesday night.
The boardwalk is a 50-foot by 8-foot wooden deck-like extension on the south side of Commercial Street’s sidewalk that occupies three parking spaces.
It features benches, planter boxes and a railing to keep people out of traffic.
The decision came against a recommendation from Nevada City Police Chief Jim Wickham to dismantle the temporary public space during the winter months and re-install and re-evaluate it in the spring, citing it as a challenge to keep free of disturbances.
Most of the opposition to the boardwalk seems focused on some of the behavior of people who occupy it, often described as vagrants, who participate in drug dealing and use, as well as excessive smoking in defiance of the city’s no-smoking ordinance, said Cook and several council members.
“My biggest concern is that this was supposed to help the businesses. That was one of the goals initially and one of the reasons why I supported it,” said Councilwoman Sally Harris. “It doesn’t seem that that has been the case. I really haven’t heard that from anyone … No (merchant) has said that their sales are higher.”
Mayor Duane Strawser, however, countered that perception with his own observations. Of the 32 email, phone and personal contacts from both residents and merchants, Strawser said that only three were adamantly opposed to the boardwalk. Additionally, seven of the 12 Nevada City Chamber of Commerce board members expressed their support to Strawser, who is a former chamber president, he said.
“Mathematically, what I see, is the community is in favor of this by far,” Strawser said.
Councilman Robert Bergman added some perspective, noting that the same kinds of crowds credited with disparaging the boardwalk were plaguing the area before it was constructed in August 2011 by the Nevada County Sustainability Team.
“The problems of the boardwalk predate the boardwalk, and they will certainly exist if the boardwalk is removed,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Ray. “I don’t really think it is the boardwalk that is the issue.”
If the boardwalk is removed, Strawser said those people would simply move up the street or over to Calanan Park.
“We need to deal with these people,” he said.
Council members also requested the boardwalk be subjected to an environmental review as to whether it meets the California Air Quality Act (CEQA) standards, from which it was initially exempted as a temporary project.
Harris and Councilwoman Terri Andersen voted against the one-year extension, with Strawser siding with Bergman and Ray in favor.
“I thought the negative impacts people mentioned to
their business has so much more serious consequences to the
businesses and patrons than the positive comments,” Andersen said.
In an email to The Union following the meeting, Strawser said if the Sustainability Team can’t prove in a quantifiable way that the boardwalk is a benefit to the community by the end of next year, he would be the first person to volunteer to dismantle it.
“It’s up to all of the people that support it to step forward to make it work,” Strawser said. “Talking about how great it is won’t keep it alive again; only direct action by those who promote it as a ‘great community asset’ over the next year will allow it to stay in place past 2013.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.
“The problems of the boardwalk predate the boardwalk and they will certainly exist if the boardwalk is removed.”
— Nevada City Councilwoman Jennifer Ray