Sunday , June 25 2017

Say Yes To Pomona! How A Simple Parking Structure Can Pave Our Future by Pomona Resident Nathan Neighbour (Guest Commentary)

Say Yes To Pomona! How A Simple Parking Structure Can Pave Our Future. Nathan Neighbour / Community Leader (Guest Editorial)

During this last election cycle, the citizens of Pomona sent one clear message to City Hall: “No more business as usual.”  Part of business as usual in Pomona has been a short-sightedness when it comes to community-friendly business in our city limits that generate tax revenue for our citizens.

Think about this:   Where do you go to watch movies? For a nice sit down dinner? Go grocery shopping for organic produce? For your Christmas shopping? The answer is probably Chino Hills, Montclair, La Verne or Claremont.  Go to surrounding downtowns on a Tuesday afternoon, and they’re packed with people spending money.  Ever wonder why those cities seem to have money to pave roads, beautify their parks and fully staff their police force?  They use your sales tax dollars.

Right now, The Maya Cinemas are ready to break ground on a new 12 – 14 screen theater in our beautiful downtown.  The Maya Cinemas are committed to develop theaters in locations with a strong Latino presence, which perfectly fits into the cultural landscape of Pomona.  We’ve been here before with other major developments, and Pomona has lost many of them to surrounding cities.  Hindsight has been a painful 20/20.  However, right now we’re on the cusp of having a major tax-generating business that will be a daily anchor in the heart of Pomona.  If the city misses this opportunity to be a partner in attracting a “destination use” like a multiplex cinema, we don’t know when another opportunity like that may present itself again.

This all hinges on one thing – a parking structure.

Our downtown is required to have a specific number of parking spots for the businesses and residents.  This takes up quite a bit of land for parked cars that could be used for new construction.  By building a 1,000 spot garage, it frees up the existing lots for thriving businesses, like The Maya, to come in and create revenue-generating opportunities for our city.

The city has 10 million set aside for this structure, and need an additional 6 million to complete the project.  The council recently voted to redistribute that 6 million to other existing redevelopment projects.  That money cannot be used to pave residential roads, improve schools, solve the homeless crisis or hire new police.  This means that, unless you live on Holt or Garey, your street isn’t getting paved.  It must be spent on projects like fixing Holt and Mission, or a project like this parking structure that fits squarely into the money’s intended purpose:  redevelopment.

One may think, “Great!  I hate the roads in our city and the infrastructure is a mess!”  I agree.  So, let’s say we ditch the structure and repave the roads.  Guess what, in five years we will be stuck with aging roads and no money, since nothing has changed economically.  Also, those aging and cracking roads would lead to the same struggling businesses.  Wonder why we are where we are today?  We keep investing in roads to nowhere.

If the council has the foresight to build this parking structure, we would keep the Maya Cinemas and attract many more businesses to the area.  Our mayor, and several councilmembers, understand that those businesses will pay sales tax to the city.  Every popcorn purchased is money that can go into the “fix all the roads” piggy bank.  It is an 11 billion industry in the US, and growing.  As time passes, we will have a thriving downtown that is generating the type of income needed to improve the rest of the city.  Plus, this isn’t a “build it and they will come” scenario.  The theater has already come and is ready to break ground.  We just need to build it.

Take a look at revitalized downtowns in some of the cities around us – these theaters created a thriving business and community environment. An investment in Downtown is an investment in all of Pomona.  Plus, our theater project in Pomona hasn’t been frivolously thrown together, but has been in the making for years now, with plenty of planning, studies and vetting.  I’m not interested in rehashing Pomona’s past failures during a receding economy – who among us wasn’t affected by the downturn?  Let’s learn from them and press into a beautiful future, together.

Look, let’s not miss this game-changing opportunity.  We can fight about what comes first, the chicken or the egg: the businesses or the roads.  But I can guarantee you that if we fail to build this structure, business will gladly take their chicken and their egg to Chino Hills.

*This is a guest editorial, and represents the opinion of the author.

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