Community Complaint: Letter from California Neighborhood to Office of Planning & Design Services
By Dr. Michael L. Brooks
February 17, 2021
Ms. Rachel Carey, Case Manager
Louisville Metro Department of Planning & Design Services
444 South Fifth Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
In Re: Case Number: 20-AREA-0002
Dear Ms. Carey:
I am reaching out to you as the founder and former president of the California Neighborhood Leadership Council (CNLC). Although Ms. Yolanda Walker currently serves as CNLC’s president, I remain the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. I was the primary California community leader who set this whole California Neighborhood Plan into motion some years ago. The late councilman, George Unseld, worked with me in the very beginning in instigating the comprehensive California Neighborhood Plan until his death. Afterwards, when councilman David James came into office, I met with him regarding this plan (2010) and requested that the plan be updated from its original version back in 1983. At that time, Councilman David James did not know the initial comprehensive California Neighborhood Plan was even in existence. Our California Neighborhood Plan was the written result of genuine community involvement. The old Louisville Board of Aldermen passed it in 1983. In 2015, this comprehensive California Neighborhood Plan helped us be successful in preventing the installment of a large methane gas plant in our neighborhood. The plan helped protect the neighborhood, as plans should do. In 2015, I repeated my request to update this plan which had protected us from methane being produced just steps away from California homes, churches and schools.
Per our request, the initial California Neighborhood Plan revision effort, as we were led to believe, was to be a modification of the old comprehensive California Neighborhood Plan; little did we know in 2015 how we would get the runaround from Councilman
James for 5+ years. The California community never dreamed that the Louisville Forward/ Develop Louisville would step in and not only fail to modify the old California
Neighborhood Plan; but, blatantly rename the California Neighborhood Plan as The California/Victory Park Neighborhood Plan. This was on top of leaving us out of the conversation during critical moments in the process. In addition to ignoring our concerns and need, they (Louisville Forward) tell us “that we are not going to change the name”. This is not only disrespectful of our historic neighborhood; it is nothing short of bullying. Louisville Forward/Develop Louisville’s tactics are atrocious! This is their rationale for insulting and dividing the community. We all know that Victory Park is NOT a neighborhood. It is one of two sizable parks within California. How Louisville Forward/Develop Louisville can just tack on the name of just one of our parks, without a data driven rationale or public process is ludicrous! Is the Old Louisville Neighborhood Plan being changed to Old Louisville/Central Park? Will Clifton’s become Clifton/Bingham Park?
Our several attempts with Louisville Forward to keep the California Neighborhood Plan as the official name fell on “deaf ears”. I even suggested that Louisville Forward /Develop Louisville legally declare Victory Park as a neighborhood with its own boundaries, through whatever means necessary, then Victory Park could have their own neighborhood plan. But there must be a process leading to this and there must be demonstrable public involvement.
Louisville Forward never listened to the California Community and the California Community was left out of the initial and subsequent planning stages to set the California Neighborhood Plan into motion. In the initial round, The California Neighborhood Leadership Council, after meeting with its officers, resident coordinators, and members, had decided that we would like the University of Louisville, Office of Urban & Public Affairs, led by Dr. John Gilderbloom, to be the entity to write our neighborhood plan. We chose the University. In response, Louisville Forward/Develop Louisville took it upon themselves to start the process over a couple times, each time we were told less and less, as they acted on our neighborhood’s behalf, without even considering our recommendations. Obviously, this is an attempt to say that the California residents do not have a mind of their own; or is too incompetent to make our own decisions about our own neighborhood. This is not “inclusive” and it is far from the racial equity they claim they are working towards.
In the latest planning round which led us to today, we were not informed of the RFP process that led to the selection of Gresham beforehand. We only learned of it AFTER Develop Louisville selected a contractor without our knowledge or vote. We only found out when one of the unsuccessful applicants sent us a note expressing regret that his proposal did not win. THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! But, it is not as outrageous as not notifying the California Neighborhood Leadership Council that the plan we expected to see revised with our recommendations is on its way for approval. We only found out several days ago because someone happened to read David James newsletter. Since then, we have had to scramble and rush to make sure our opposition even makes the record. I, like many in the community, have jobs, illness, etc. to contend with in this very difficult time and we have been railroaded in ways the Black community often is.
I urge the Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services to remand this California/Victory Park Neighborhood Plan (which is obviously NOT a comprehensive plan to begin with) back to Louisville Forward/Develop Louisville to:
Restore the California/Victory Park Neighborhood Plan to its original, legal name of the California Neighborhood Plan.
Make the changes to the California Neighborhood Plan that the community wants and have requested from the very beginning; and
To modify the original, legal, comprehensive California Neighborhood Plan, to fit the challenges that we have today to make our California Neighborhood, a Neighborhood of Choice, for our California residents to instill back the pride that our neighborhood once shared.
Michael L. Brooks
Michael L. Brooks, PhD
CEO & Chairman of the Board
California Neighborhood Leadership Council, Inc.
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