EL CERRITO -- As it grapples with tight budgets, the city is inviting residents to help write a plan for El Cerrito's future and get a clearer picture of the community's priorities for services and how to deliver them.
The strategic plan will consider key issues such as transportation, height limits on residential-retail developments on San Pablo Avenue and priorities for renovation and remodeling of city facilities, including the library, the senior center and police and fire stations, said Mayor Bill Jones.
The plan also will address how to pay for city-sponsored development, Jones said.
In addition, the city is seeking input about increasing entertainment offerings, reducing traffic congestion, improving disaster preparation and developing and maintaining parks and open space.
El Cerrito is holding a pair of open house sessions Aug. 29 to gather ideas from residents and business owners on what should go into the strategic plan. Separate sessions will be from 4 to 6 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m.
The city is encouraging residents and business owners to complete a survey at elcerritostrategicplan.org.
"There will be some discussion on which services are most important, how many services to offer and the mechanisms we want to use to pay for them," Jones said. "The (strategic) plan will deal with them on an issue-by-issue basis."
The City Council will hold a workshop in September
A contractor hired by the city will produce a draft strategic plan toward the end of this year and a final plan in early 2013, she said.
The city budgeted $45,000 when it voted in May to undertake the project.
"What (the council) felt is that things are changing and government's changing," Jones said. "Now is the time to start planning how we are going to deliver services and programs."
The council will consider changing El Cerrito to become a charter city, instead of a general law city that is governed by rules set down by the state, as part of the process, Jones said.
A charter city can make its own decisions about whether it wants to elect its police chief, what level to set its property transfer tax rate and other issues.
"Cities have the talent on their staffs to make these decisions," Jones said. "The state doesn't have to tell us everything."
El Cerrito is re-evaluating its relationship with the state in other areas, too. The city is suing California over the amount of tax receipts the state is demanding following the dissolution of local redevelopment agencies last year.