American Planning Association Recognizes Duarte for Town Center Specific Plan
The City of Duarte has received the “Best Comprehensive Plan for a Small Jurisdiction” award from the Los Angeles Section of the American Planning Association for its Duarte Town Center Specific Plan. The plan was recognized for its innovative and transformational planning techniques, model land use and economic development policy, and utilization of creative incentive-based zoning as its foundation. The specific plan area extends along Huntington Drive from Buena Vista Street to Highland Avenue to enhance connections to the recently opened Metro Gold Line station.
The City used a multi-faceted approach to community involvement and engagement that went far beyond the norm. Developing the Town Center Specific Plan was a truly a community effort. To guarantee full involvement by the community, the City Council appointed a 17-member Town Center Ad Hoc Committee (TCAHC) to provide input as the specific plan and EIR were prepared. The TCAHC was made up of the seven-member Economic Development Commission and two appointees from each of the five Councilmembers. This make up resulted in a group that included residents, business owners and area property owners. The TCAHC met monthly over a 14-month period and assisted in developing project vision and providing regular input through plan review. The Committee heard presentations on zoning; the area real estate market; new trends in parking and smart growth; and other topics related to plan preparation.
Also during the plan development period, the consultant and Staff conducted stakeholder meetings with property owners, business owners and other community partners. When the draft specific plan and EIR were completed, two community workshops and one open house specifically for property owners in the plan area were held. The TCAHC attended the meetings and assisted Staff and the consultant in hosting the meeting and explaining the new plan.
As a result of this comprehensive community involvement strategy, a forward-thinking specific plan focused on incentivizing new, quality development emerged. Highlights of the plan include zoning regulations that give development bonuses for property assembly of identified catalyst sites, encouraging development of high-quality and mixed-use projects, creation a new Community Benefit Fund for public art, construction of parklets and streetscape improvements, while providing for desired amenities, such as a restaurant row. Increased development intensity is only approved if a developer includes in the project certain components that serve the community’s core needs.
Another positive step in outreach for this plan was the development of a stand-alone project website that explained and presented the plan and provided another option for public input. The City funded duartetowncenter.com for five years after plan adoption to market the plan area and to provide development advice.
Funded by a Metro grant, the Duarte Town Center Specific Plan provides a long-term strategy for revitalizing this area of central Duarte. The City received a similar award for Economic Planning & Development for its Duarte Station Specific Plan in 2014.