Mayor Pro Tem Miguel Canales has big ideas to support small town life in Artesia, CA

Artesia, CA residents at the 2013 Diwali Street Festival. Photo by The City of Artesia, CA via Facebook.

Mayor Pro Tem Miguel Canales, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, hopes employing smart growth strategies now will help protect and shape Artesia, CA for the next generation. For Canales, serving on the city council is a natural extension of a career spent educating students about the political process in his job teaching high school social science, economics and government courses.

Located in a former dairy valley, Artesia is a small but dense city with a very diverse population. And despite being within the greater Los Angeles area, the city still manages to maintain its small town feel. It’s the kind of place where families have roots and people come back to raise their kids. Canales sees smart growth as the clear choice for how to maintain this sense of community, while shaping the future of Artesia.

Although the population is relatively stable at 16,000 residents, some growth is occurring. Since the city is essentially built out, it is now looking to build up and make the best use of the space it has. Canales is working in Artesia to implement a couple of large smart growth projects that are designed to improve the quality of life in the city.

The first is a major downtown road conversion. Artesia is in the final planning stages of a project to convert a wide four-lane road into a two-lane road with a broad median or plaza and diagonal parking. As Canales explains, “We’re moving and shifting to change our general code to have more mixed-use in our downtown, so that people have the ability to live and shop in the community.”

So far there has been widespread support for the plan. “Our merchants are on board because they know that by slowing down traffic in the downtown area and encouraging residents to get out of their cars and walk around we are making Artesia more livable and more easily accessible for shoppers.” By increasing the walkability of downtown, the city hopes it will also be more attractive to future businesses.

Artesia is also looking to reimagine some of its underused assets. There is a project underway to turn abandoned railroad tracks that have been gathering trash, rocks and small shrubs into a new walkway/parkway for the community. The park will connect to Artesia’s small historic district and provide an amenity for the community. As Canales envisions it, the area will be a place for all residents with grass, trees and even stationary workout equipment.

Canales is looking forward to seeing the plans realized. “We are moving towards a walkable area with alternative transportation and investment in parkways for our youth.” And he understands the importance of getting the community onboard and educating stakeholders in order to accomplish this. “The key is getting someone to see the bigger picture and bigger vision and understand what a smart growth plan could look like, because sometimes it’s very untraditional and it’s very different from what we’ve done in the past,” he says.

Perhaps due in part to his work as a high school teacher, Canales has a vision for the Artesia that his students will inherit. “Ultimately it’s not about me,” he says. “I’m here for now, but politics are always shifting and our job really needs to be about what we can shape for a future generation.”

Local Leaders Council