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Ramona Tries To Make A Better Downtown

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Aired 8/8/11

Civic leaders in Ramona will attend a workshop this week to look for ways to make their town center more walkable, attractive and profitable.

— San Diego County curtailed development rights in many rural areas last week, when it updated its general land-use plan, to prevent urban sprawl. But Ramona was one of the places that was “up-zoned” to encourage development.

The town is responding this week by holding a workshop to find ways to improve its business district, making it more attractive and walkable. Rob Luwallen, with the Ramona Village Design Group, said plans are beginning to take shape.

“One example is we'll have some mixed use with the possibility of residential (units) over commercial, much like you see in Little Italy,” he said. “The Santa Maria creek, which runs just north of our main business district… there are plans to make that a greenway, a walkable greenway.”

San Diego County is allowing Ramona to draft its own zoning regulations, even though it is an unincorporated town.

The workshop is being run by PlaceMakers, an urban design consulting firm in San Diego. Howard Blackson is the director of planning for PlaceMakers.

“I’m trying to help the people of Ramona to create their own development regulations so it enhances their community character, while enhancing their economic development,” he said.

Blackson describes Ramona as “rural and equestrian.” Horse trails are a part of the town’s landscape. But he adds that Ramona is trying to determine whether it will follow the path of urban sprawl, that is seen in Poway, or become a place that harkens back to its history, as seen in Julian.

“And Ramona sits physically and characteristically between those two places,” said Blackson. “So we just have to gauge how much they want to be like Poway and how much do they want to be like Julian.”

CALTRANS is another player in the development of Ramona’s downtown. The town’s main street is comprised of two state highways, routes 67 and 78. Luwallen said a CALTRANS grant has helped pay for the workshop. He hopes improvements will begin to be seen, in Ramona, within a couple of years.

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