A new sign has appeared between East Broadway and Main Street on South Santa Fe, and for Tuesday night the Mayor of Vista placed on the official agenda a discussion item so that those in the public who have been critical of it might gain some understanding of what is called the “Paseo Santa Fe Gateway Arch.”
What seemed clear is that there are residents who expected the new sign would just say “Vista.” So while they were excitedly looking forward to having something more like the sign Carlsbad just installed, the revelation caught them off guard. Mayor Ritter, after dealing with the normal business, called for a brief recap of the issue from staff.
Roots of the re-brand
“The roots of the revitalization effort go back to the adoption of the original downtown Vista specific plan,” said John Mayer Director of Redevelopment and Housing. “Over the next decade there was constant discussion on how to improve South Santa Fe Avenue.” He went on, and those interested in all commentary can view video over at the CityofVista. In 2007 the formal revitalization strategy and re-brand was accomplished according to Mayer. “A depiction of the gateway arch was included in the December 2015 ‘Our Vista’ residential newsletter,” Mayer said. The circulation of this newsletter is approximately 37, 000 per the Director and is delivered to all residences and businesses here in Vista.
City Manager Patrick Johnson said that as the result of the criticism, Mayer also had brought along a few mock ups for modifications as well. The Mayor stated she would be happy to see those, but before they were shown, Councilmember Cody Campbell stated this has been “a long process” which he was aware of “for many years.” He described the progress accomplished in improving the blighted area as “very exciting” and “a very positive, overall outcome.”
Two possible iterations proposed
The two iterations which Director Mayer proposed were 1) to replace the city’s historically designated hummingbird and flower with a simple “Vista, CA” sign and this was simplest per Mayer or 2) to maintain the city’s historically designated bird and flower on top but to add “Vista” on the bottom of the sign.
City Manager Johnson highlighted the fact that these were concepts and the first slide was “representative “of the entry signs already placed in Vista. Councilmember Campbell also added that “we do have several monument signs at the entry points to the city that say ‘Vista” on them.
To be clear, the project was named after the corridor, said Mayor Ritter, not after the buildings. Cliff Kaiser came to say he “loved the gateway arch” and wanted to use his time to address the “process” of how the city engages the community. “So my point is not whether the sign is good or bad, my point is that the city needs to re-evaluate how it engages the community when there are some significant events going on.” He suggested “the city needs to stay engaged” and use all the new means of engaging as well.
Tom Fleming also addressed the council. He had worked since 1984 at the shoe repair shop near S. Santa Fe and described it as being “the area where you did not want to walk. There was drugs, prostitution, homeless … it was a mess,” he said. As a member of the Vista Village Business Association, and he stated they discussed the issue. “I personally like the sign.” He did appreciate that perhaps a modification should be made, and referenced Mayer’s second iteration with the addition of the “Vista” at the bottom of the arch.
Mary Gann came to speak then, saying that she was “upset.” A resident for many years, she said she had no problem with the improvements but rather with the sign itself and she does not want it to say “Paseo Santa Fe.” She had questions as well, which she gave during her three-minutes. City Manager Johnson stated that all of her questions were received yesterday and they would be responded to officially.
*Katherine Kurner said she bought her home here in Vista when she was in her twenties. “Vista is finally coming into her own,” she stated, and she likes the “wonderful” improvements. No one calls it “Paseo Santa Fe” as far as she knows. While she understands the concept of re-branding a blighted area, she also said she did not understand how anyone could think that “a 187,000 dollar gateway” arch was necessary. She was baffled by the fact there was another sign for Civic Center Drive planned as well.
She said she didn’t know about the issue because “… I have to work for a living and I trust the people I elect to make good decisions on behalf of myself and my family and my friends, fellow residents of Vista.” She added that adopting one of the other proposed modifications would also be acceptable to her.
Heritage: ‘It’s a bridge’
Terri Collins identified herself as the person who began the Paseo Santa Fe Facebook page. She described herself as a proud Vistan, for fifteen years. She stated that she was also representing the almost three thousand people who signed her petition, and she hoped that the problem would be “resolved tonight” but if not, she was prepared to continue her petition efforts. She described herself as “excited” when the city broke ground on the project. She said she didn’t understand the “Paseo Santa Fe” branding idea. She said she was at work and was “shocked” to see the video on it.
Later on, resident Jeannie Lavoy stated she had lived here since the 1970s, and also stated that she saw this sign as “a bridge.” She could only afford to “live in the barrio” and decided to move out of Vista to finish college and lived in Long Beach area for a time. She returned to Vista and was at first “appalled” that she didn’t know about the sign, but she also thought “how wonderful to honor our heritage.” To combine two communities – the old and the new- together, she said, was important. “It’s not a gateway, it’s a bridge.”
“It’s a new beginning,” Lavoy said. Vista is a large community and she thought it would be admirable to add “Vista” at the top of the sign. In the end, the city council seemed willing to modify the new sign but will investigate the costs and the possible iterations for the next sixty days.
Deputy Mayor thanked the public for coming out to voice their opinions. “I have to say … long before I was ever involved with the city council or as a commissioner, I had heard about Paseo Santa Fe redevelopment many, many years ago. Whether it was in conversation at the local library or at church or at a community meeting, it is something that has been on the books. It has been out there for a long time for the community to look at. And we do have quite an active social media here in Vista. We have Facebook, we have got Twitter…”
Rigby also added there is email that goes out consistently as well. (To sign up for CityEmailNews, click link.) “So I am not sure how exactly else we can get more information out to every single citizen in the city, and I’m not even sure that that is possible.” She asked the public to let her know if they had other ideas for how the City of Vista can best contact them to relay information.
Anna’s hummingbird and the California lilac
“There wasn’t a lot going on down there,” she said, twenty years ago. People want their own areas to be re-developed now also, so she says that proves they have done a good job. It is possible to add “Vista” on there as well, she said she is proud of the work accomplished.
“And I like the hummingbird and the lilac,” Rigby added in her remarks. Somebody asked where those images come from, and Rigby said they were Anna’s hummingbird and the California lilac are the official bird and flower of the City of Vista, and “it adds to the charm, the character and the history of our community” to include that on our sign. She would keep the official bird and flower but add “Vista” underneath she stated.
The council did discuss other possible modifications. Please view the link for the entire evening’s meeting: VistaCityVideo for more information on this.
For more information on this particular subject, please click on this CityofVistaWebLink which will take you to the city of Vista website, where you may discover other phases of the proposed Paseo Santa Fe improvements. The vision as expressed is to “fill the area with retail/shops/restaurants topped with living spaces to revitalize the downtown area.”
Update, May 22, 2016:
*Edited to reflect the correct spelling of speaker’s name, Katherine Kurner. The statement heard by the council from Kurner was “[p]lease adopt one of the ideas that many of us have had to make a change.”
In an email received today, Kurner clarified she actually meant she was not speaking about the changes proposed by the City before the public addressed the council, but rather she meant suggestions she had in her hand at the time she spoke. She does not like the changes proposed by the city, for the record. She states they are “terrible” in her email.