By Johnny Flores, Jr.
Coachella, Calif. — The City of Coachella is in the midst of updating its General Plan, and city officials are encouraging residents to participate in the process.
On February 9, over 100 residents of Coachella and neighboring communities flocked to Bobby Duke Middle School for an opportunity to be heard. The second Fiesta de la Salud, as the city refers to this series of community meetings, provided a forum for residents to voice their opinions and engage in a voting exercise designed to allow citizens “write” the general plan.
Raimi and Associates, the city’s consulting firm, was scheduled to present the key findings from that community meeting February 15 at a special study session of the Coachella City Council. The presentation was cancelled because not enough council members were present.
“The City feels it is important for people to participate in the process, since residents and stakeholders will ultimately be impacted by the General Plan policies that are adopted,” said Gabriel Perez, a Coachella city planner. “The general plan and the community health and wellness element should reflect the priorities of the community.”
A general plan sets the policies for how the city uses and manages physical, social, and economic resources. Elements of a general plan include land use, public services and infrastructure, agriculture, economic development, and housing. Coachella’s general plan was completed in 1997 and is overdue for an update. According to Perez, a city usually updates its general plan every 10 years.
Attendees of last week’s Fiesta de la Salud were asked to rate 30 images of what Coachella could look like in the future. They also voted on health topics at six different stations: health care and community safety, active living and safe transportation, toxics and pollution, food and nutrition, economic prosperity and healthy housing, and parks and community facilities.
Residents were asked to write any comments, complaints, or concerns on a poster near each station. The feedback on the posters included:
- “Too expensive water rates, especially for our seniors on fixed income.”
- “A bus stop (is needed) on Avenue 52.”
- “A new and larger library (is needed) and a more accessible resource center.”
Some attendees took the opportunity to voice their opinions, such as Sylvia Montenegro, a former member of Coachella City Council.
“It’s almost as if it’s intentional to make (the city) unsafe to any pedestrians,” said Montenegro.
During the Fiesta de la Salud, Raimi and Associates shared the following information about Coachella:
- As of 2009, the median household income in Coachella is $39,186 and the homeownership rate is 63.3 percent.
- Twenty-two percent of people living in Coachella are living in poverty.
- People with lower incomes are more likely to be obese and have diabetes: 64.1 percent of Latinos are obese, as compared to 57.7 percent of white adults; Hispanic/Latino children are two times more likely as white children to be overweight and obese; 9.1% of Hispanic/Latinos in the Coachella Valley have been diagnosed with diabetes.
- Only 4.2 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Coachella has the least amount of people using public transit or bicycling/walking in Riverside County. Twenty percent of family income is spent on transportation.
- According to Poder Popular, an average of 5.8 people live in each mobile home.
- Latinos in the Coachella Valley are three times more likely to skip a meal or eat less.
- Fifty-five percent of Coachella residents live within half a mile of a healthy food retail source.
- The city has seven parks and one open space per development. When Rancho Las Flores Park is completed, the total number of parks/open space acreage will be 76.31. Coachella needs 122 additional acres to meet the standard for a city its size.
- Sixty-seven percent of residents live within a half-mile of a community/neighborhood park and a quarter-mile of a pocket park.
The third and final Fiesta de la Salud is scheduled for this summer. The city expects the plan to be finalized sometime this fall.
Coachella Unincorporated will report on the findings from these community meetings as soon as they are available.
Coachella Unincorporated reporters Alejandra Alarcon, Ray Bondad, Ivan Delgado, Rogelio Montaño, and Santos Reyes contributed to this report.