Occidental Community Center
Advisory Council Facility Design Comments
The Community Center renewal process should focus on what is unequivocally needed and only consider changes that will not detrimentally impact other facilities or businesses in Occidental. To that end, I make the following suggestions:
a - There has been a demonstrated need for a better location for the farmers market and public restrooms. The farmers market is well attended, but its location negatively impacts existing businesses (removes available parking, redirects restaurant business, taxes business restrooms, etc.). Therefore, the new facility design should include a public accessible restroom and a public square to be used as a location for the farmers market and other community events.
b - The facilities of the Occidental Center for the Arts are currently under used. Changes to the Community Center should not include any substantial increase in meeting or classroom space. There is a lot of discussion of additional programs, but if there was truly a demand for the programs and available resources, the Arts Center would be more fully utilized. Although a new and larger library space would be nice, it is not clear that there is a demand for increased library facilities (e.g., what level of usage occurs at the current library?) and there are currently vacant spaces in other existing commercial buildings that could accommodate an expanded library facility.
A few additional comments:
a - architecture designs: Generally the designs are inconsistent with surrounding buildings in the community. Several of the designs resemble forest lodges or casino facades. Please reconsider the architecture of the nearby fire station and post office. Option C is the closest to the existing designs in the community.
b - below market rate housing: There is little doubt that there is insufficient low cost housing in much of Sonoma County, but lower cost housing or senior housing will only be successful if it is located near complimentary facilities. However, Occidental doesn't have the public transit, medical, and community services that would make below market rate or senior housing successful.
The following are our comments and suggestions for the Occidental Community Center and adjacent areas:
Definite “Yes:”, Public rest rooms.
Incorporate a new town library complete with something akin to an “Internet Café.” The current library is underutilized because it is largely hidden from view, small, and rather uninviting. There would be a synergistic effect having the town library in proximity to the community center. One venue would draw attention to the other. This is an excellent aspect of Scheme C.
Move the parking area to the area proposed in Scheme D. The land is available, it’s sizable, it’s currently not utilized, it would be very close to the community center, and it would be largely hidden from public view. It also frees up space for the community center and allows for attractive landscaping around it-rather than vehicles. There are really no downsides to this idea. It is our favorite aspect of all the schemes.
Incorporate a decent sized town square. Our town lacks and needs a “commons” area. Our town has no dedicated public gathering space. With a new library adjacent to it, this area would even allow for exterior Wi-Fi Internet access. Also, make the “Town Square” larger than that shown in Scheme C by incorporating the current tennis court area.
Tennis court area. This area is larger than that proposed for the entire community center in Schemes C and D. These courts are very underutilized. At the least, eliminate one of the courts so that the remaining area can be added to the proposed “commons” area.
“Tot Lot” idea. There are far too few children in our community for such an area to be well utilized. The demographics of our area have changed dramatically over the past 20+ years. We are increasingly becoming an area of older residents. For example, off the 780 registered voters in the greater Joy Road area, 410 are over the age of 60. We know hundreds of people who live in this community, but only one family has a young child.
“Community Garden” idea. Who will maintain it? Who will reap the benefits? How will it be protected from poaching or vandalism? Too many concerns and not that attractive. Opt for trees and tasteful landscaping instead.
Flaws in Scheme D:
Meeting Room too small.
Not having the restrooms attached to the Meeting Room building.
Having a “Children’s Playground” instead of a much needed commons area.
Underutilized tennis court area.
Greetings OCC council: I could not figure out whether it was possible to post this on the website directly. My comment is very brief. Thank you for the excellent presentation describing the existing group activity programs at the existing site. I am a member of the Zumba group and attend regularly on tuesdays. I hope that any future site restorations will only increase and improve the site for group exercize such as Zumba. I was not sure whether the Open Air configuration of option F would do so.
I tend to favor Scheme C, Town Square, especially the library and public restrooms. The library could be a depository for a NPC Railroad history collection and display. Public restrooms that can be accessed during all daylight hours seven days a week are important for cyclist, tourists and local citizens. I would prefer less parking along Bohemian Highway and more greenery.
The feature that I like most about Scheme D is that parking is moved across Graton Road freeing up space and connecting the Occidental Camp Meeker Road by path to the Community Center. This should be a bike route channeling bicycle traffic away from Bohemian Highway to the Occidental Camp Meeker Road which should be officially designated as a bike route and away. The parking could also be utilized by those wishing to cycle on the Occidental Camp Meeker Road.
All Schemes should include solar panels.
Hello Community Center council. I live/own a residence in Occidental (for 5years). I love this special village/town. I plan to attend your 1/10/16 meeting.
I have just been online & browsed your information for planned uses etc.
What I don't see -- is any suggestion of converting & upgrading this building into low-income housing, Senior Living space or an Assisted Living Facility. (Nor does it look like that kind of option was included in the early surveys?)
From all I read, and see, Sonoma County has a huge problem with inadequate low income housing, especially for Seniors. That is the serious need.
(And given the Center's close proximity to the Occidental Area Health Center and an occasional Sonoma County Transit bus nearby -- a senior housing accommodation could be decently served.)
Has there been thought outside the box to address this serious housing need with repurposing this underutilized YMCA building?
It seems to me Occidental already has plenty of park space- benches etc along/between Main St & Bohemian Hwy & all the nearby surrounding forests, etc.
And because of the lovely, new & Large Occidental Center for the Arts (OCA) -there is already plenty of auditorium & rental spaces - that can handle all the community class/gym & even light kitchen needs - which clearly from the Community Center's "availability vs use" chart -- could be easily & efficiently accommodated at OCA. (From my brief interactions with OCA & their events, classes -- their spaces are also underutilized in general.)
The only potentially serious need I saw on the Community Center options -- was to accommodate a relocation of the Library - but how important/realistic is that given their Budget constraints and modern web technology? And surely there are other buildings available for the Library if needed -- e.g. the recently vacated space from community radio station KOWS?(KOWS now based in Sebastopol out of unused space at the Methodist church!)
I guess the 2 churches in Occidental also have plenty of underutilized space.
Isn't it time to discuss accommodating low-income people's real housing needs, rather than facilitating tourism? Or other redundant and uncritical uses.
Thank you for considering my thoughts, and I hope to hear back from you.
The Community Center is in a great location and it is for the Occidental Community, not the greater West County, so we must keep that in mind. Most of the users are basketball players, craft fair, after-school programs and recreational classes.
One thing the community center is missing currently is the charm for someone, locally, to want to rent the facility for a small party or event.
Taking classes. Currently I am enrolled in the Stretch and strength class which has grown from 2 people to sometimes 8-10 people (using the entire gym). This class is AFFORDABLE and close.
]Lastly, the idea of a tot park or playground is intriguing but the location near Graton Road is not a good one. As a parent of a 5 year old I would not find it comfortable to have a playground so near the street even if it was fenced it. The most important part and I cannot stress this enough is with the stop sign on Graton Road more exhaust would be in the air which is not good for children or adults to be breathing in. The playground is better situated in the upper parking lot space or current parking lot.
In my option, the Schematic Plan D and A are the best use of the space. I believe if a combination of the two designs you would have a winner. Let the users continue using while adding more local use. The outdoor basketball hoops are so important for the kids during the summer months. Please keep the community posted of the meeting especially those of us that can’t make the meeting times.
Thank you, Mia Champion