Parks were top of mind at Hanford City Council's Tuesday meeting, with many residents commenting on the future of one park, while the City aimed to reduce crime in another.
The regular council meeting was preceded by a study session covering what to do with an 18-acre parcel of undeveloped land next to Hidden Valley Park. Most of the public comments made during the meeting were residents asking the council to use the land to expand the park.
The property is currently in surplus and has been earmarked for affordable housing development, though some residents have been against the plan for years. Resident Mark Pratter showed an article outlining conflict over the property dating back to the 1950s.
The Council’s study session also included suggestions to develop part of the land as a park expansion, and the rest as housing.
“I think it’s important you listen to the community, your constituents … and they have said so many times in so many ways to develop 18 acres (into a park),” said resident Lou Martinez. “I ask you as a council to put it to the vote of the people, let the people decide, let us decide what to do with those 18 acres.”
The Council also gave direction to staff on how the Parks and Facilities department and Hanford Police should work to decrease illegal or undesirable activities under the arbor at Lacey Park.
Park Resource Officer Domingo Bursiaga said the parks, particularly Lacey Park, often see individuals who loiter under the arbors and frequently participate in drug activities. Those individuals drive families and other residents away from using the park, he said.
Despite attempts to warn, ticket, arrest and suspend access to the park for those individuals, many of them return, Bursiaga said.
Parks and Facilities Director Brad Albert, upon recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Commission, brought a suggestion to the council to remove the arbor completely, particularly ahead of the installation of a new splash pad at the park.
“We have new and future amenities including a fairly new playground, an expanded basketball court and a splash pad,” Albert said. “In the past 12 months, we’ve had 275 calls for service to the Hanford Police Department to Lacey Park.”
Council members said they felt removing the arbor was too drastic and might result in either a costly rebuild at a later time or set a precedent for removing arbors at other parks. They made many other suggestions including putting a fence around the arbor, putting up a sign and painting the arbor.
They also asked if Parks and Facilities could move Lacey Park up on the schedule for restroom replacement, as Bursiaga said people do drugs and sleep in them and are able to hide out in an alcove.
Councilman Art Brieno asked why Lacey Park was being prioritized for removal or discouragement of such individuals when there are similar issues at other parks. Bursiaga said, in his observation, Lacey Park has a more pervasive problem and is near a school.
“Coe Park is not as bad as Lacey Park,” Bursiaga said. “Coe Park doesn’t have a school that close where there is meth coming out of the (park) bathrooms, straight to McCarthy School.”
Council directed staff to make incremental changes over the next six to eight weeks, including removing power outlets and benches to see how effective they are in discouraging illegal and unwanted behavior.
A newly-opened cannabis dispensary in Hanford, Deli By Caliva, was unanimously granted a permit to renovate the exterior of their building at 104 N. Douty St., which is included in historic building regulations.
The company wants to put graphics on the exterior windows, but were denied that request because the language in the proposal was not consistent with laws for cannabis retailers.
Councilwoman Amanda Saltray told the company’s representatives multiple times that she felt the “Deli by Caliva” name was false advertising and would attract underage people.
Company representative Rand Martin said they have not had an issue with attracting under-aged people at other locations with the same branding, that they would not be able to enter the store by law, and that the name could not be changed at this point.
A security guard who stands outside the door of the business to ensure no under-aged people enter the store was also a stumbling block for the council members.
Brieno said he was concerned about the security guard standing in the hot sun and wouldn’t want to be seen having his ID checked if he were to enter the store. Saltray also said she thought it looked like a bouncer was at the door.
Chief of Police Parker Sever said the security guard is required, but could be moved into the lobby. He added, though, that the guard should be left outside until construction on the sidewalk is completed in order to meet ADA compliance.