EL CERRITO -- The City Council on Tuesday adopted a strategic plan that has been in the making since last summer and will provide a blueprint for governing over the next four to five years.

The plan is meant to ensure the city's long-term financial health, provide a plan to develop new public buildings, help it cope with potential disasters and meet other key city needs.

It was developed through focus group meetings, staff workshops, interviews with City Council members and other actions.

The next step will be to flesh out the plan with concrete proposals for carrying it out and financing it, City Manager Scott Hanin told the council.

"The goals in the plan will be a framework for our priorities in the budget," he said.

The council made a few last-minute changes, revising the wording of its goals for transportation as it moves away from an emphasis on the automobile toward walking, bicycling and use of public transportation.

Encouraged by three speakers at the meeting, the council also made a change in language to put more emphasis on identifying and preserving historic buildings.

In other action, the council agreed to spend $422,000 to complete a plan for the continuing development of San Pablo Avenue.

Under the San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan, El Cerrito has built a new City Hall on San Pablo, developed and carried out improvements to sidewalks and landscaping, and helped restore the Cerrito Theater.

"San Pablo Avenue has arrived," said Melanie Mintz, the city's Environmental Services Division manager.

Among the new priorities in the specific plan are development of pedestrian friendly retail stores around the city's two BART stations and a "complete streets" program that in part narrows automobile lanes in major transportation corridors in favor of wider sidewalks and landscaped medians.

"There will be a concentration on accessibility and mobility for all," said Makul Malhotra of Berkeley-based MIG Inc., the consulting firm preparing the plan.

The final specific plan will be completed at the end of this year or early next, Malhotra said.

In a third action, the Council recommended acceptance of a term sheet for waste disposal from Republic Services Inc. The current contract with Republic for so-called post-collection services expires at the end of this year.

El Cerrito contracts with hometown firm East Bay Sanitary Co. to collect garbage and recycling within the city and Republic hauls the garbage for disposal to the Keller Canyon Landfill in Bay Point. Other cities that are part of the Recyclemore joint powers agreement contract with Republic for collection service.

El Cerrito has different service needs from four other West Contra Costa cities that will vote on the term sheet and will negotiate a separate agreement with Republic if the sheet is approved, said Garth Schultz, an environmental analyst with the city.

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