The Main Street/Freeway Corridor Specific Plan process is reminiscent of Hesperia's general plan hearings in 1991. It's a painful but necessary experience, kind of like getting a dental crown on a tooth.


For those of us who were around when a fledgling Hesperia held its general plan hearings, we remember many tense moments as the city presented its plan, and residents shared their views. Zoning issues, especially when they can add or subtract from a landowner's property value, often cause emotions to rise.


Perhaps the most common phrase heard at the recent meetings is "down zoning," which most commonly refers to a property, let's say one zoned commercial, rezoned to residential. Such an occurrence, which is being proposed in several areas of Hesperia, could significantly reduce the value of a parcel. It's no surprise some property owners are angry at the city and the project consultant for proposing the changes.


Herman Feinstein, an 85-year-old Hesperia property owner, was livid during last Thursday's public comment period at the Hesperia Planning Commission meeting.


"Why should C-2 [general commercial] property owners have to give up their investments?" Feinstein asked.


Feinstein's brother, Sam, also had some thoughts on the topic: "You're demanding so much from the little guy. You're squeezing us out."


Some with even larger financial stakes in Hesperia expressed concern.


Longtime area real estate broker Michael Gallagher questioned the proposal to rezone 300 acres at I-15 and Ranchero Road into auto mall property. And Dino DiFazio said the down zoning of commercial property at Highway 395 and Main Street would mean parcels there would be devalued by millions of dollars. "Now you're taking their value away with one zone change," DiFazio said. "I'm against any down zoning."


Forty-five year Hesperia residents Bill and Aileen Alves are among several Walnut Street business owners who are against the down zoning of the street's south side from commercial to residential.


"Let's keep the commercial zoning in place," Bill Alves said. "Let's be sensible," Aileen Alves added, "Let's retain the current commercial zoning on the south side of Walnut."


Attorney Diana Carloni, a former mayor of Hesperia, said she is representing several Walnut property owners.


Bill Jensen, a longtime real estate professional and also a former mayor, suggested one solution might be adding "transitional" to some zoning designations. That could give more flexibility, he said.


Tom Steeno of Steeno Designs believed the city's proposed zoning changes were too rigid. "I like to see options."


Russ Blewett, a member of the county's planning commission who has expressed intentions to run for Hesperia City Council, questioned how the Specific Plan process has been handled by the city. Specifically, he said, he is concerned that not all affected property owners received adequate notice of the issue and the public hearings.


"I don't think this has been handled right at all," Blewett said. "I think the process is flawed. I think you need to start over."


After public comments were given last Thursday, Senior Planning Dave Reno, who has been with the city almost since it was first incorporated, explained that the public input is helping refine the Specific Plan. Following each public meeting, city staff has used the suggestions to make it more palatable for all. However, "The point is this is a longterm plan."


Unfortunately, longterm planning, by its very nature, can be a painful process.


The Hesperia Planning Commission will continue its public meeting on Specific Plan at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 31. After the Commission makes its recommendation, the City Council will hold meetings in August and September.