After two years of testing Nevada City’s Commercial Street Boardwalk, a deck-like creation of public space extending off a sidewalk along Commercial Street, the experiment faces its biggest hurdle yet — official review of its impact.
“It’s coming up on the (next) one-year review,” said City Councilman Duane Strawser. “If we keep it, which I’m hoping most of the council will want to do, it has to go through an environmental review.”
Constructed in August 2011 by the Nevada County Sustainability Team and volunteers, the Boardwalk is a 50-foot by 8-foot, wood-planked platform built over three street parking spaces, replete with benches, tables, umbrellas, planter boxes and bicycle parking stations.
After more than two years, visitors of the Boardwalk may not realize that it is officially considered a temporary structure subject to annual Nevada City Council approval. It was granted its second one-year extension in November of 2012.
As a temporary structure, the Boardwalk avoided scrutiny of an Environmental Review process, which state law dictates all structures must undergo to measure their impact. However, after two years, Strawser said the Boardwalk must finally be reviewed.
“Most people in the city (government) agree it has really not posed any significant problems and, in some ways, it has grown to reduce some blocking of sidewalks,” City Manager David Brennan told The Union. “Events are being held there that attract people to that part of town and into the businesses there.”
While City Planner Cindy Siegfried told The Union Thursday that she doesn’t foresee the Boardwalk having any trouble passing an environmental review, noting its minimal impact, Strawser said the hurdle isn’t the review itself, but the cost of the review.
“The cheapest study could be $5,000, and goes up from there,” Strawser said. “It could be $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 before you know it … Nothing is ever guaranteed.”
With city finances still very tight coming out of the recession, Strawser said a costly Environmental Review could be a tough hurdle for the Boardwalk.
“I had a chance to speak with Reinette (Senum) and warn her about what was coming,” said Strawser, in response to Brennan’s comments at Wednesday’s meeting.
“So the more time for her to get things ready, the better,” Strawser said.
Senum, a former city council member and proponent of the Boardwalk, helped garner its test-phase implementation more than two years ago. She confirmed via email Wednesday night that the Boardwalk does face some opposition, but noted a firm base of support as well.
Before Police Chief Jim Wickham leaves town on his last day Monday, he has written up a report to the city on his appraisal of the Boardwalk, where a drug deal was busted on Wednesday.
Wickham recommended that the Boardwalk have more lighting at night, that traffic by the structure be reduced to a one-way street, that the area be constantly maintained through private funding and that the police department’s foot patrol officer position be retained to ensure vigilance of the public space.
“You have to have that position,” Wickham told The Union. “You pull that position and that is the kind of area that will fall to undesirables.”
As for city staff, Brennan said that the report for the one-year review of the Boardwalk hasn’t even been written yet and noted that no plans are currently in discussion to remove it.
“It will be a decision of the council,” Brennan said.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
An earlier version of this article contained a typo of Strawser’s analysis of the cost of an environmental review. The article has been corrected to accurately reflect his quote.
“If we keep it, which I’m hoping most of the council will want to do, it has to go through an environmental review.”
Nevada City councilman