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Downtown Specific Plan Needs Comment
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Santa Fe Street, which now ends at the railroad tracks bisecting Riverbank's downtown, may someday be extended through an underpass beneath the tracks to connect the existing downtown and the former cannery site being developed for residential, commercial and public land uses.

The proposed underpass is a central feature of a plan to further develop the downtown, especially the cannery site, and might replace Patterson Road's current grade level crossing of the tracks.

These and other topics for a downtown specific plan were discussed at an Oct. 27 meeting of city officials sitting as an environmental review committee to look at an initial study and propose a draft environmental impact report be prepared for the downtown specific plan.

The westward extension of Santa Fe Street, according to the plan, would connect to Callander Avenue at an intersection with full traffic lights. Access to the Catholic church further north would be rerouted and West Topeka Street opposite the church closed at Callander Avenue.

The specific plan area includes properties lying between Callander Avenue, Seventh Street, Atchison Street and Patterson Road including the parcels fronting Atchison Street to the north.

At build out of the plan, the city anticipates an additional 53 single family homes, 832 multi-family dwellings, 152,859 square feet of recreational and sports complex use, 292,579 square feet of retail and commercial use and 89,558 square feet of office use.

Having started Oct. 14, the period for public review extends for 30 days until Nov. 15. The document is available for review at the city's Community Development Department, located at City Hall South, 6617 Third St. Interested parties are encouraged to comment in writing to J.D. Hightower, Community Development Director, City of Riverbank, 6707 Third St., Riverbank, CA 95367; fax 209-869-7126; or e-mail

Reviewing potential environmental impacts, the initial study determines the project would have a potentially significant effect requiring attention in the EIR as it affects air quality, cultural resources, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, transportation and traffic and utilities and service systems (water supply).

Consultant Matthew Gerken of AECOM told those attending the Oct. 27 meeting the purpose was to give the public a chance to comment in person and to determine if there was any requirement for the EIR they had so far failed to discuss.

Concerning utilities, City Manager Rich Holmer noted the cannery site has one or more pipes where storm water flows into sewer lines, an arrangement that in recent years the state has ruled illegal. Public Works Director Dave Melilli confirmed there are several such situations on the cannery site that must be remedied before future development is allowed.

As for transportation and traffic, city officials have been holding talks with representatives of the California Public Utilities Commission, California Department of Transportation and the railroad authorities on the construction of a railroad underpass to connect the current downtown and the cannery site. Over the last 10 years there have been several fatal accidents at the Patterson Road railroad crossing. There is $7 to $10 million available in grants to build an underpass.

Excessive noise is also an environmental concern. The railcar marshalling yard just south of the crossing whose noise sometimes draws complaints from residents would have to be rearranged if the state's proposed high-speed rail project comes through town.