The fate of Cooper Avenue will be decided by the Turlock City Council in a special meeting on Tuesday. Sacred Heart Church is hoping the City will abandon the street to allow the church to consolidate its two private school campuses. A group of Cooper Avenue residents, however, see the abandonment request as a loss of public street use that could cause both traffic and emergency vehicle access problems.
When the issue came before the Turlock Planning Commission in January, commissioners were split 3-3 on recommending the abandonment proposal.
This will not be the first time that Sacred Heart Church has requested to abandon this portion of Cooper Avenue as a similar petition was denied by the City Council in 1983, after council members received a significant amount of opposition from the neighbors in the area at the time.
Although Sacred Heart Church was previously unsuccessful in abandoning the street that separates their two campuses, the City of Turlock approved a Minor Discretionary Permit in 2001 to allow the church to install a seven foot cyclone fence and gates to enclose Cooper Avenue between Oak and Rose streets. As a result, the gated area is closed to through traffic during school hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The gates limit pedestrian access, parking and vehicular through traffic during the balance of the day and on weekends.
"Because we are looking at a church within an old neighborhood, it seems that the City really played a balancing act in 2001 by granting that Minor Discretionary Permit to accommodate as much to the safety factor as possible for students and to minimize traffic and so forth," said Commission Chair Soraya Fregosi in January.
"If this street were to be abandoned then the scale would tip 100 percent to the school and to the sacrifice of the immediate neighborhood. In my mind that is not what the General Plan really calls us to do," continued Fregosi.
The abandonment process is managed by the Turlock Engineering Division and requires approval by the Turlock City Council. If passed, the abandonment will allow the church to unify Sacred Heart Elementary School and Sacred Heart Catholic Pre-School to improve student safety and reduce foot traffic through the area that lies between the two campuses.
The City Engineer has determined that the potential impact on traffic, circulation and emergency vehicle response is minimal. The proposed abandonment appears to create a superblock that is more typical in newer parts of town and is not encouraged in downtown Turlock which serves as a neighborhood center.
On Tuesday, the Council is also expected to:
• Consider adopting a collision reduction strategy for public safety that includes both infrastructure elements (like ensuring new developments adhere to the standards in the Active Transportation Plan) and non-infrastructure elements (like safety education for pedestrians and bicyclists and increased traffic safety enforcement measures).
• Accept a report on accessibility compliance within the City of Turlock, specifically dealing with recently adopted revisions to the City's Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan.
• Consider approving the sale of the East Avenue Youth Center to the Knights of Columbus for $245,000.
• Affirm the City Manager submitting an application to serve as the administrative entity for the State of California Emergency Solutions Grant Program, a funding program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The City of Turlock has previously applied for ESG funds in the past with no success. If granted the allocation, the City would be able to administer funds for the benefit of the City, local nonprofits and the local Continuum of Care.
• Consider approving an agreement between the City of Turlock and the Turlock Gospel Mission for the sale of property at 432 S. Broadway St. in the amount of $123,000 to provide a permanent home for the Homeless Assistance Ministry.
• Consider approving a reimbursement agreement between the Turlock Chamber of Commerce and the City of Turlock regarding the Convention and Visitors' Bureau in the amount of $202,500.
The Turlock City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.