Jan 052016
 

The severely scaled-down units are neither a utopia nor a dystopia. In fact, they expand housing options across many demographics.

Image Monadnock Development
Monadnock Development

It’s like Yoda once said: “Size matters not.”

Put aside for the moment the size of the units in Carmel Place, a new multifamily housing development that just went up in New York City. Here are a few numbers that matter more than the square footage: Carmel Place is a nine-story development that includes 55 units. Of those, 33 units are designated market-rate; eight of the 22 units slotted for affordable housing are reserved for very-low-income renters.

Sounds good, right? Moreover, as Co.Design notes, the building’s designer, nArchitects, didn’t skimp on the details. These prefabricated units come with hardwood floors, storage lofts, Juliet balconies, the works—everything you’d expect from an upscale housing development in Manhattan.

So what’s all the fuss? That last detail—the average unit size—was hard fought. Under former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city waived a zoning rule that required apartments to be no less than 400 square feet in size. The building is the winning design for adAPT NYC, a program to build a pilot for prefabricated micro-housing in New York. Units in Carmel Place range from roughly 250 to 350 square feet, and the market-rate ones will rent for up to $3,000 per month.

Well-lit, handsomely appointed dystopian nightmare dwelling. (Monadnock Development)

Micro-apartments are finally starting to arrive. There are (at least) 11 different micro-apartment developments in the works, according to a report from Curbed, from the Ivy Lofts in Houston to the Patterson Mansion in Washington, D.C. Or put another way, there are a dozen new apartment buildings headed for markets where some buyers or renters appear to want to live in them.

The problem is that some other buyers or renters in those markets do not want people buying or renting units in these buildings. That’s why a story that otherwise overwhelmingly showers the Carmel Place project with praise takes such a grim headline (“Micro Apartments: Utopia or Dystopia?”). Taken broadly, residents who dread micro-housing fear that micro-units will displace family housing, that young renters will overwhelm available infrastructure, or even—as The Atlantic suggested in 2013—that micro-housing poses a health risk to inhabitants.

But the NIMBYs are wrong about micro-apartments. The people who fear micro-housing mistake the symptoms of the disease for the cure.

A multifamily development in Houston that includes micro-units lords over space. (Novel Creative Development)

When renters can’t find individual units, they take up family units

Families often complain that there isn’t enough housing to suit their needs, especially for large families. They’re right. In Seattle, for example, just two percent of market-rate apartment units have three or more bedrooms, according to a 2014 report by the Seattle Planning Commission. The last thing that these families need—especially low-income families and larger families of color—is to compete with single, young professionals for that limited housing stock.

Yet zoning for approximately 65 percent of Seattle’s land area is designated single-family, meaning that the options across much of the city are restricted to what’s already been built. That’s good news for incumbent homeowners, but bad news for people who want to move to Seattle. The city’s not an outlier in this regard, of course: Low-density zoning spurs young renters to rent group houses (or “stealth dorms” as the case may be) all over the nation. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but when single renters can’t find good options in a growing job market, chances are that renting families won’t find them, either.

What used to be the Washington, D.C., home of the editor of the Chicago Tribune will soon be a home for more than 90 renters. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

“As supply-and-demand skeptics are fond of pointing out, real estate is not an undifferentiated commodity, but in fact is a variety of products tailored to a wide range of tastes and requirements,” writes Martin H. Duke of the Seattle Transit Blog. “The housing shortage cuts across all parts of the market, but it’s hardest to see a simple solution for large households,” he adds.

And that’s right—except that single renters do not differentiate between housing that is “for” them and other housing that is “for” families. One way to ensure that the housing market meets the demands of both is to permit zoning that allows cities to meet more kinds of demands—and in the context of the ongoing affordable housing crisis, that means upzoning.

Banning micro-units doesn’t make them go away

Take a tour of San Francisco’s bunk-bed listings for a vivid illustration of the point. In a very extreme shortage of affordable housing, renters may (apparently) make the transition from group houses to group bedrooms.

Incidentally, making sure that housing is legal, affordable, regulated, and, well, available is one way to guarantee against any truly adverse health effects from shared living. The alleged increased health costs specifically associated with micro-housing … well, I don’t want to say that they’re not bad. But they can’t be any worse than the health costs of unaffordable housing. It’s arguable that the stress of unsafe, uncertain, or unsustainable living situations—housing insecurity, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it—outweighs the potential crowding-related stress of micro-apartment living.

And if it’s true that 30- and 40-year-olds respond poorly, psychologically, to sharing common spaces (I do), then one way to guarantee against such dire ends is to permit the kind of zoning that meets demand so that they aren’t competing with 20-year-olds for housing in the first place.

Micro-housing isn’t a trend in search of a problem

Mark Hogan, a San Francisco–based architect, made an invaluable contribution to the culture earlier this year when he posted the dispositive case against shipping-container housing. A brief gloss: Acquiring or proofing existing shipping containers isn’t as cheap as folks might guess, and it’s not cheaper than manufacturing prefabricated housing units. The work it takes to turn shipping containers into housing fit for humans makes this option cost prohibitive. And while they may look cool in renderings, they’re not sized for living spaces for people.

Hogan’s critical point is this one: “Housing is usually not a technology problem.” It’s not as if shipping-container homes improve upon normal homes or that normal homes have some fault that shipping containers don’t. The issue is that shipping containers are a trend that appears (quite mistakenly) to be a type of free housing that we are ignoring or a type of improved housing that we never had before. Neither of those things is true.

It’s certainly the case that micro-housing looks trendy, in part because it is presented in savvy renderings by smart architectural firms such as nArchitects. But micro-apartments are also not a type of new housing we’ve never seen before. They’re apartments. Advances in technology and interior design make micro-housing possible without requiring that micro-apartments be tenements, boarding houses, or single-room-occupancy hotels. But the concept of multifamily living is preserved (even if the division of amenities changes).

Further, shifts in demographics—and in justice, labor, technology—make multifamily housing more desirable than the detached homes once sought by nuclear families. Or, if not more desirable, then fairer and more sustainable. Micro-housing is neither a utopia nor a dystopia. It’s just creating smaller-scaled places for living that suit the times.

Original article.

What is a Charrette?

 

Origins of the term “charrette” (Wikipedia):
The word charrette is French for “cart” or “chariot”. In the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 19th century, it was not unusual for student architects to continue working furiously in teams at the end of the allotted term, up until a deadline, when a charrette would be wheeled among the students to pick up their scale models and other work for review while they, each working furiously to apply the finishing touches, were said to be working en charrette, in the cart. Émile Zoladepicted such a scene of feverish activity, a nuit de charrette or charrette night, in L’Œuvre (serialized 1885, published 1886), his fictionalized account of his friendship with Paul Cézanne. The term evolved into the current design-related usage in conjunction with working right up until a deadline.

The following description of the word ‘charrette’ pertaining to the urban planning processes is from Wikipedia:

The word charrette may refer to any collaborative session in which a group of designers (plus stakeholders and the public) drafts a solution to a design problem.

While the structure of a charrette varies, depending on the design problem and the individuals in the group, charrettes often take place in multiple sessions in which the group divides into sub-groups. Each sub-group then presents its work to the full group as material for further dialogue. Such charrettes serve as a way of quickly generating a design solution while integrating the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people.

Charrettes take place in many disciplines, including land use planning, or urban planning. In planning, the charrette has become a technique for consulting with all stakeholders. This type of charrette typically involves intense and possibly multi-day meetings, involving municipal officials, developers, and residents.

A successful charrette promotes joint ownership of solutions and attempts to defuse typical confrontational attitudes between residents and developers. Charrettes tend to involve small groups, however the residents participating may not represent all the residents nor have the moral authority to represent them. Residents who do participate get early input into the planning process. For developers and municipal officials charrettes achieve community involvement, may satisfy consultation criteria, with the objective of avoiding costly legal battles. Other uses of the term “charrette” occur within an academic or professional setting, whereas urban planners invite the general public to their planning charrettes. Thus most people encounter the term “charrette” in an urban-planning context.


The following description of a charrette event and process is from the National Charrette Institute, with edits and additions by the Oxnard Community Planning Group, and describes in general the process and goals of the CNU-CA charrette for Downtown Oxnard:

(More on the CNU-CA CNU-By-Design Annual Charrette can be found below.)

“A charrette is a multiple-day, collaborative design workshop. It harnesses the talents and energies of stakeholders and all interested parties to create and support a feasible plan that represents transformative community change.

  • A five consecutive days, with three design feedback loops
  • An open process that includes stakeholders and all interested parties
  • Focused on producing a feasible plan with minimal rework

A charrette is a holistic, collaborative planning process during which a multiple-day charrette is held as the central transformative event.

Compared to conventional planning processes that take years of endless meetings, a charrette can:

Save time and money through

  • Reduced rework via short design feedback loops
  • Time-compressed work sessions
  • Creation of broad support from community members, professionals, and staff

Increases probability for implementation through

  • An integrated team design process
  • Early focus on engineering and finance
  • Bringing all decision makers together for a compressed period of time

Promotes trust between citizens and government through

  • Meaningful public involvement and education in which input may effect the outcome
  • The building of long-term community goodwill
  • Broad stakeholder involvement – no one takes over

Results in the best sustainable design through

  • Integrating all viewpoints throughout design
  • Uninterrupted, focused team design sessions
  • Design based on shared guiding principles

The CNU charrette is a collaborative design event spanning 5-days. The goal of the charrette is to produce a feasible plan with minimal rework that benefits from the support of all stakeholders through its implementation. This support is facilitated by the ability of the charrette to transform the mindsets of the stakeholders.

A multidisciplinary charrette team, consisting of CNU consultants and sponsor (City of Oxnard) staff, produces the plan. Stakeholders – those being anyone who can approve, promote or block the project as well as anyone directly affected by the outcomes – are involved through a series of short feedback loops or meetings. Most stakeholders attend two or three feedback meetings at critical decision-making points during the charrette. Note that stakeholders are not at the charrette all the time. These feedback loops provide the charrette team with the information necessary to create a feasible plan. Just as importantly, they allow the stakeholders to become co-authors of the plan so that they are more likely to support and implement it.

A major reason the charrette needs to last at least 5-days is to accommodate 3 feedback loops, the optimal number for gaining stakeholder understanding and support.

Charrettes take place in a charrette studio situated on or near the project site. While the event may vary the CNU charrette generally follows the following format. The charrette team first conducts an open public meeting to solicit the values, vision, and needs of the stakeholders. The team then breaks off to create alternative plans or scenarios, which are presented in a second public meeting usually a day or two later. The team then synthesizes the best aspects of the alternatives into a preferred plan that is developed in detail and tested for economic, design and political feasibility. The charrette concludes with a comprehensive presentation at a final public meeting.

After the charrette, the project enters into the document creation phase. During this phase the charrette team tests and refines the charrette plan. Communication with stakeholders also continues through e-mail, websites, blogs, and possibly social media. During a follow-up public meeting, held about 6-weeks after the charrette, the refined plan is presented for another feedback session. The results and process of all 3 charrette system phases are summarized in a final project report ready for agency approvals.

Work collaboratively

All interested parties must be involved from the beginning. Having contributed to the planning, participants are in a position both to understand and support a project’s rationale.

Design cross-functionally

A multi-disciplinary team method results in decisions that are realistic every step of the way. The cross-functional process eliminates the need for rework because the design work continually reflects the wisdom of each specialty.

Compress work sessions

The charrette itself, lasting five days, is a series of meetings and design sessions that would traditionally take months to complete. This time compression facilitates creative problem solving by accelerating decision making and reducing unconstructive negotiation tactics. It also encourages people to abandon their usual working patterns and “think outside of the box.”

Communicate in short feedback loops

During the charrette, design ideas are created based upon a public vision, and presented within hours for further review, critique, and refinement. Regular stakeholder input and reviews quickly build trust in the process and foster true understanding and support of the product. A feedback loop occurs when a design is proposed, reviewed, changed, and re-presented for further review.

Study the details and the whole

Lasting agreement is based on a fully informed dialogue, which can only be accomplished by looking at the details and the big picture concurrently. Studies at these two scales also inform each other and reduce the likelihood that a fatal flaw will be overlooked in the plan.

Produce a feasible plan

To create a feasible plan, every decision point must be fully informed, especially by the legal, financial, and engineering disciplines. The focus on feasibility brings a level of seriousness and rigor to the process for everyone involved.

Use design to achieve a shared vision and create holistic solutions

Design is a powerful tool for establishing a shared vision. Drawings illustrate the complexity of the problem and can be used to resolve conflict by proposing previously unexplored solutions that represent win/win outcomes.

Hold the charrette on or near the site

Working on site fosters the design team’s understanding of local values and traditions, and provides the necessary easy access to stakeholders and information. Therefore, the studio should be located in a place where it is easily accessible to all stakeholders and where the designers have quick access to the project site.”


More about the CNU Charrette (with edits and additions by the Oxnard Community Planning Group):

“Beginning in 2013, the CNU-CA started a program to host a CNU-By-Design Annual Charrette (“the Charrette”) as a Board led program that provides educational and membership outreach opportunities statewide.”

“The CNU-CA Charrette is designed to advise a city, with the benefit of the CNU-By-Design Annual Charrette, to envision mixed-use, walkable places for a city with CNU’s principles and processes, such as public Charrettes. Our board’s selection of an Annual Charrette project is based upon the request (Oxnard) relevance to CNU initiatives and expertise, such as Transit-Oriented Developments, Form-Based Codes, Sprawl Retrofits, and Tactical Urbanism.”

“A typical charrette week is organized as follows:

Day 1: Arrival, Orientation, Sponsor Briefing, Opening Public Event (Educational)
Day 2: Stakeholder Interviews, Design Interventions/Alternatives Produced
Day 3: Alternatives Vetting, Stakeholder Interviews, Public Workshop (Dialog)
Day 4: Preferred Design Interventions; Report Design/Illustration Production
Day 5: Draft Report Production, Final Public Presentation (Dialog/Education)”

Ahwahnee Principles

 

The Ahwahnee Principles for Resource-Efficient Communities, written in 1991 by the Local Government Commission, paved the way for the Smart Growth movement and New Urbanism. These principles provide a blueprint for elected officials to create compact, mixed-use, walkable, transit-oriented developments in their local communities. Cities and counties across the nation have adopted them to break the cycle of sprawl. If you like the newly emerging downtowns across the nation – full of people, activities and great public spaces – that’s the Ahwahnee Principles in action.


Ahwahnee Principles:

Existing patterns of urban and suburban development seriously impair our quality of life. The symptoms are: more congestion and air pollution resulting from our increased dependence on automobiles, the loss of precious open space, the need for costly improvements to roads and public services, the inequitable distribution of economic resources, and the loss of a sense of community. By drawing upon the best from the past and the present, we can plan communities that will more successfully serve the needs of those who live and work within them. Such planning should adhere to certain fundamental principles.

Community Principles

  1. All planning should be in the form of complete and integrated communities containing housing, shops, work places, schools, parks and civic facilities essential to the daily life of the residents.
  2. Community size should be designed so that housing, jobs, daily needs and other activities are within easy walking distance of each other.
  3. As many activities as possible should be located within easy walking distance of transit stops.
  4. A community should contain a diversity of housing types to enable citizens from a wide range of economic levels and age groups to live within its boundaries.
  5. Businesses within the community should provide a range of job types for the community’s residents.
  6. The location and character of the community should be consistent with a larger transit network.
  7. The community should have a center focus that combines commercial, civic, cultural and recreational uses.
  8. The community should contain an ample supply of specialized open space in the form of squares, greens and parks whose frequent use is encouraged through placement and design.
  9. Public spaces should be designed to encourage the attention and presence of people at all hours of the day and night.
  10. Each community or cluster of communities should have a well-defined edge, such as agricultural greenbelts or wildlife corridors, permanently protected from development.
  11. Streets, pedestrian paths and bike paths should contribute to a system of fully-connected and interesting routes to all destinations. Their design should encourage pedestrian and bicycle use by being small and spatially defined by buildings, trees and lighting; and by discouraging high speed traffic.
  12. Wherever possible, the natural terrain, drainage and vegetation of the community should be preserved with superior examples contained within parks or greenbelts.
  13. The community design should help conserve resources and minimize waste.
  14. Communities should provide for the efficient use of water through the use of natural drainage, drought tolerant landscaping and recycling.
  15. The street orientation, the placement of buildings and the use of shading should contribute to the energy efficiency of the community.

Regional Principles

  1. The regional land-use planning structure should be integrated within a larger transportation network built around transit rather than freeways.
  2. Regions should be bounded by and provide a continuous system of greenbelt/wildlife corridors to be determined by natural conditions.
  3. Regional institutions and services (government, stadiums, museums, etc.) should be located in the urban core.
  4. Materials and methods of construction should be specific to the region, exhibiting a continuity of history and culture and compatibility with the climate to encourage the development of local character and community identity.

Implementation Principles

  1. The general plan should be updated to incorporate the above principles.
  2. Rather than allowing developer-initiated, piecemeal development, local governments should take charge of the planning process. General plans should designate where new growth, infill or redevelopment will be allowed to occur.
  3. Prior to any development, a specific plan should be prepared based on these planning principles.
  4. Plans should be developed through an open process and participants in the process should be provided visual models of all planning proposals.

Authors: Peter Calthorpe, Michael Corbett, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Moule, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Stefanos Polyzoides
Editor: Peter Katz, Judy Corbett, and Steve Weissman

(Adopted in 1991)

Original article.

Dec 062015
 

Mission 

The Oxnard Community Planning Group advocates for visionary practices in planning, design, and development that will lead to a more livable and prosperous city.

Vision 

The Oxnard Community Planning Group envisions a city that grows wisely, preserves farmland and open space, drives smart economic development, welcomes vertical density, cherishes our past, and boldly anticipates our future.

Core Values 

The Oxnard Community Planning Group believes in a city that works to meet the needs of all our residents: young, old, people with disabilities, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists; even people who don’t go anywhere. We strive to be open-minded, welcome thoughtful discussion, and are willing to invest our time and efforts towards bringing these beliefs into being.

Nov 252015
 

The OCPG has come to realize that the difficulty with density and parking and other issues relating to a walkable Oxnard Boulevard in our downtown and corridor areas is that our current zoning does not allow true urban placemaking.

For instance, current Oxnard zoning in the downtown allows 39 units per acre…which means that the living units must be 3 and 4 bedrooms. We need higher density to accommodate the empty-nesters, Millennials and others who are interested in living an urban lifestyle and want singles or 1 bedroom units. Form Based codes allow a broader range of options in specific overlay areas.

Zoning in Oxnard’s residential areas will not change. Form based codes are generally applied in very specific overlay areas do not replace existing zoning.

Below is a copy of the Form Based Code section of our Resources page – click the Resources tab above to view all our great place-making and urban design links.

Form Based Codes

“Why form-based codes? Because our current laws tend to separate where we live from where we work, learn, and shop, and insist on big, fast roads to connect them all. Roads that are unfriendly to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit. As a result, North Americans spend more hours in their cars than anyone on earth, and a growing number of communities are working to do something about it.” [ PlaceMakers.com ]

More on Form Based Codes from the Form-Based SmartCode website:

The SmartCode is a model, form-based unified land development ordinance designed to create walkable neighborhoods, towns and cities across the full spectrum of human settlement, from the most rural to the most urban, and incorporating a transect of character and intensity within each. The SmartCode was originally developed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company. It now exists as shareware and typically serves as a foundation from which it is then customized to address specific municipal goals. It can be leveraged as a tool towards both aspirational and preservationist ambitions.

[The long version:]

The SmartCode is a unified land development ordinance for planning and urban design. It folds zoning, subdivision regulations, urban design, and optional architectural standards into one compact document.

Because the SmartCode enables community vision by coding specific outcomes that are desired in particular places, it is meant to be locally customized (also known as “calibrated”) by professional planners, architects, and attorneys.

The SmartCode is not a building code. Building codes address life/safety issues such as fire and storm protection. Examples of building codes include the IBC, IRC, and ICC documents.

The SmartCode supports these outcomes: community vision, local character, conservation of open lands, transit options, and walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods. It prevents these outcomes: wasteful sprawl development, automobile-dominated streets, empty downtowns, and a hostile public realm. It allows different approaches in different areas within the community, unlike a one-size-fits-all conventional zoning code. This gives the SmartCode unusual political power, as it permits buy-in from stakeholders of diverse interests and concerns.

The SmartCode is considered a “form-based code” because it strongly addresses the physical form of building and development. Conventional zoning codes are based primarily on use and density. They have caused systemic problems over the past sixty years by separating uses, making mixed-use and walkable neighborhoods essentially illegal.

The SmartCode is also a transect-based code. A “transect” is usually seen as a continuous cross-section of natural habitats for plants and animals, ranging from shorelines to wetlands to uplands. The specific transect that the SmartCode uses is based on the human habitat, ranging from the most rural environments to the most urban environments. This transect is divided into a range of “Transect Zones,” each with its own complex character. It ensures that a community offers a full diversity of building types, thoroughfare types, and civic space types, and that each has appropriate characteristics for its location.

The six T-Zones are: T-1 Natural, T-2 Rural, T-3 Sub-Urban, T-4 General Urban, T-5 Urban Center, and T-6 Urban Core.

The Transect is a powerful tool because its standards can be coordinated across many other disciplines and documents, including ITE (transportation), and LEED (environmental performance). Thus the SmartCode integrates the design protocols of a variety of specialties, including traffic engineering, public works, town planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and ecology.

The SmartCode addresses development patterns at three scales of planning (thus it may replace a number of other documents):
> The Sector (Regional) Scale
> The Community Scale
> The Block and Building Scale

If stronger architectural guidelines are desired, a community may further adopt supplemental regulations or a pattern book.

Nov 202015
 

Urbanism is an old idea with new recognition about how cities worked before the auto became the dominant planning idea for the way cities have been designed since about 1945.

Here are a few links to help us understand what this new Urbanism is and how to achieve a people and place oriented city instead of car dominated cities:

A General Theory of Urbanism
by Duany et all. PDF

Urbanism Making Places for People
An urbanism oriented presentation for Ventura County  at a recent VCOG meeting by Sargent Town Planning out of LA. PDF

Oct 202015
 
“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic.
If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”

– Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces

OK, now get up, go out, and walk Oxnard Boulevard from 4th Street to Wooley Road – cross the street – and walk back to 4th. It’s just 12 blocks and you know you need the exercize.

Just do it – get up and walk your main street.

How does it feel? This is your main street – do you like it? Maybe a little spiffing up that allows for more traffic – is that what you want your main street to be like – a highway through our downtown?

Once you get back watch the video once again – then read the next post – A Livable Oxnard, just below.

Oct 132015
 
Robert Steuteville, Better! Cities & Towns – post by Robert Steuteville on 13 Oct 2015

A major barrier to human-scale, complete streets appears ready to fall. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is proposing to drop 11 of 13 mandatory standards for streets under 50 miles per hour, which will help in the design of federally owned urban streets.

“It is definitely a step in the right direction that FHWA is finally responding to the overwhelming amount of research showing little safety benefit to most of their controlling criteria,” says Wes Marshall, associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado.

Wider lane width is one of the crucial criteria for urban streets that has been shown to have no safety benefit. A series of studies (link, link) have shown that in urban places 12-foot lanes—which have been used on arterial streets since the middle of the 20th century, are less safe than narrower lanes because they encourage speeding. For comparison, Interstate lanes are 12 feet wide.

“We have made great strides in recognizing that urban conditions require more flexibility in design guidance, and the ITE/CNU manual as well as the NACTO guides have certainly given engineers the ability to design for context and walkability,” says Wade Walker, an engineer with Alta Planning + Design. “This proposal by FHWA can make the process much simpler by eliminating the need for design exceptions on many design proposals for these type streets.”

New urbanist engineers have long argued for “decision-making that encourages engineered solutions rather than relying on minimum, maximum, or limiting values found in design criteria,” notes Peter Swift, an engineer in Gold Hill, Colorado. “This, in itself, is a remarkable admission that competent engineers are finally taken seriously!”

But dropping these standards is no panacea. “It is also worth pointing out that they still expect design speed to be a controlling criterion for streets under 50 mph,” says Marshall. “Given that the selection of a design speed is often left to the discretion of an engineer, you could still theoretically end up with streets signed for 25 mph being designed for 45 mph design speeds.”

State DOTs, which determine design on key arterials, and local DOTs and engineers, will not be directly affected by this proposal. “Until the direction is embraced by not only the state DOT’s and local staffs we will continue to run into resistance for creating truly walkable urban streets,” Walker says. Yet state and local engineers may take their cues for the federal authorities. “I can definitely envision these benefits eventually extending to state DOT and local guidelines,” says Marshall.

This proposal is part of a culture shift that is taking place at FHWA, which long supported highway standards applied to urban places. A little over a year ago, the administration gave the seal of approval for engineers to use the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Urban Street Design Guide, which shows dimensions and standards for tighter urban streets with bike lanes and pedestrian facilities. The proposed changes can be thought of as another domino that is falling.

As of yet, the changes are just a proposal. They must go through a comment period that ends December 7. Supporters of complete streets can read the details of the changes here and support them with a comment here.

Robert Steuteville is editor of Better Cities & Towns and senior communications advisor for the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Original article.

Oct 082015
 

Oxnard has a railroad problem. Oxnard Boulevard north of the downtown has a railroad track on the east side of the street thus ruining any sense of place for this part of our main street. Also 5th Street just east of downtown suffers from the same malady.

Oxnard Boulevard also has a public transportation problem. The OCPG learned from a Gold Coast Transit (GCT) planner (Oct 27, 2015) that people are crossing the railroad tracks, at random locations, from the new multi-use path to access Oxnard Boulevard. The planner stated that a barrier must be created that would prevent people from crossing the tracks before they (GCT) would place bus stops on this section of Oxnard Boulevard because it is a liability issue for them.

Liner buildings may be the solution.

Because we propose that Oxnard Boulevard in the downtown be one lane each way – then Oxnard Boulevard between Gonzales and downtown will begin to funnel down to meet the slower downtown traffic this allows for area to build along the east side of the boulevard between the railroad ROW and the new ROW created for Oxnard Boulevard. This is found property which the city can sell or develop according to it’s needs and vision.

Liner buildings along Oxnard Boulevard north of downtown would completely change the way the boulevard works and looks – for the betterment of Oxnard in general and the boulevard specifically. This is one of those win-win situations for Oxnard.


 

morning sun streams across the face of shops lining the sides of the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England

Liner buildings on either side of the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England are only 10’ deep

There’s nothing that jump-starts a place people will love to walk like liner buildings. It doesn’t matter whether you’re helping a place recover from sprawl or building a new neighborhood center; liner buildings get far more bang for the buck and make things possible today that would be completely impossible until years in the future using conventional mixed-use building types.

Liner buildings are very thin buildings that line the edge of a street, plaza, square, or other public space. They can be as little as 8-10 feet deep for retail uses and 12-14 feet deep if they include residential uses. They may be a single story high, or they may be several stories tall. Liner buildings have several key advantages over other building types:

Florence's Ponte Vecchio bridge glows in the warm Tuscan sun as the green river slips by below

Shops lining the Ponte Vecchio in Florence are likely the world’s most famous liner buildings

Spatial enclosure

One of the top requirements of a great place is “spatial enclosure,” which is design-speak for “feels more like a room than a highway.” No building type encloses more space for less dollars than a liner building. Yes, you can enclose a space with a freestanding wall, but walls are usually much less interesting than buildings because buildings have people, windows, and other interesting things.

Storefront-floor area ratio

A liner building with retail on the street level displays the shop’s wares more effectively than any other shop. The reason is simple: if two shops each have storefront windows across their entire street frontage and one (the liner building) is ten feet deep and the other one (the conventional Main Street shop) is a hundred feet deep, then the liner building has ten times as much storefront per square foot of floor space as the conventional shop. Simply put, there is no other configuration of store that displays more of the store’s goods to people walking by.

Single-crew workplaces

The Single-Crew Workplace is a place of business small enough to be run by a single crew. For a retail shop, that’s one shopkeeper. For a restaurant, it’s a cook and a server. For a barber or hairstylist, that’s a single person. For a B&B, that could either be one inkeeper/cook and one housekeeper for an 8-room B&B, or a single person that does everything for a 4-room B&B. For a bar, that’s one bartender. For a grocery store, that’s a single grocer.

Beaufort, South Carolina grocery sits clad in white clapboard and green shutters, with American flag flying from a porch column

Here’s that grocery so small it can be run by one grocer – more on it in an upcoming post

Mixed-use buildings have a problem today: the retail experts who set impossibly high thresholds for supporting them. For example, the accepted wisdom is that you need 500 “rooftops” (that’s retail-speak for homes) to support a single corner store. If a neighborhood is building 50 homes per year, it would be a decade before that neighborhood could support just that first corner store. And that grocery store? Not too long ago, a 10,000 square foot neighborhood grocery store was common, but today 40,000 is considered the minimum size, and that requires a catchment area much bigger than a neighborhood. But I’ll blog soon about something quite the opposite: that single-grocer store which is considered completely impossible today. Here’s the bottom line: single-crew workplaces make all sorts of neighborhood businesses possible today that would be completely impossible using bigger-box standards, and no building type is so perfectly suited to single-crew workplaces as the liner building.

Front, Back, and Side

Liner buildings are used most commonly today to enclose a public space, shielding it from something less desirable behind such as a parking deck or parking lot. I would even go so far as to say that every parking deck built from this point forward should be buffered from streets or squares by liner buildings. Why build any buildings that degrade the public realm? And the fact that the part that makes them palatable from the street also earns rent is a bonus. This building looks like a 5-story office building from the street, but it’s really a 7-story parking deck with an 18 foot office liner and 12 foot gallery on the street. But lining a parking deck is only one of the uses of a liner building. What’s behind the liner building doesn’t have to be something undesirable… enclosing the public space is worthwhile even if there’s nature behind.

The reverse can also be true. The liner building can be used to protect a quiet courtyard area from the noise of a busy street. A cloister is a classic ancient liner building type used for this purpose for centuries. Here’s a three-story classical stone liner building that’s nearly a block long which shields a courtyard inside the block from a mundane street.

There’s a third type of liner building that’s less common: the “end cap liner.” An end cap liner building is a thin building built on the end of a block of attached mixed-use buildings.

Main Street buildings typically have blank side walls because they are attached to their neighbors on either side. Far too often, Main Street designers and builders forgot that the end buildings on Main Street blocks can have storefronts and windows above, and built them with blank walls like their neighbors. These blank walls fronting onto the side streets have a terrible effect on Walk Appeal, significantly reducing the number of customers who will walk down those side streets to get to the shops. This little modern metal end cap liner building transforms (with the help of the billboard above) a really boring blank side of its brick neighbor into a corner everyone wants to turn, increasing the prospects for success of every merchant on that street.

Fitting into parking lots

One of the first steps in sprawl recovery is reclaiming the frontages, and liner buildings are a key tool, especially in or near neighborhood centers. In many cases, they’ll be reclaiming space from parking lots because surface parking is one of the greatest blights of sprawl. Interestingly, a bay of parking is typically 18 feet deep, which is perfect for a liner building. Build a sidewalk on the inner 3 feet of the parking space (toward the rest of the parking lot) and build the liner building on the remaining 15 feet. This is wide enough for apartments or condominium units above, even if the parking lot ran right to the property line. If not, then you have even more space to work with. And yes, once the place has reached enough intensity that not everyone needs to drive, those parking lots can be cannibalized for building expansion.

Daylight & ventilation

Because liner buildings are unusually thin, they are almost always one room deep. They are therefore no-brainers to daylight and cross-ventilate, meaning that they’re much easier to condition naturally for most of the year than conventional Main Street buildings. It is widely known that the most beautiful light in a room is achieved with daylight on two or three sides of the room, yet designers and builders struggle to achieve this on most buildings. Not so with liner buildings… there, it’s the easiest thing to do.

What else should we be discussing on liner buildings? Have you noticed any in your neighborhood, or nearby? What other uses and types of liner buildings should we be talking about? I have a few in mind, but am curious what you think?

Steve Mouzon is principal of Mouzon Design, an architecture and urban design firm, based in Miami Beach, Florida, and author of The Original Green, book and blog.

Original article.

Oct 082015
 

A fascinating Internet discussion makes the case for solving congestion problems using economic, rather than engineering, strategies. But urban design should also be considered.

Two blogs (traffic engineer Simon Vallee and City Observatory) describe how traffic engineers exclude human decision-making from their road construction decisions. Roads are simply pipes and drivers are fixed inputs. This view generally leads to road widenings in response to predictions of possible overload. Those decision leads to more driving, less walking, and the cycle continues. Recognizing that most trips are economic decisions and that people have choices puts a whole new spin on roads and traffic. As Hertz of City Observatory says:

“The economic, or behavioral, approach brings back humans—and with them, the idea that given amount of vehicle trips isn’t just a feature of the natural world, but the result of decisions by actual people who want to get somewhere in order to do something. The question then changes in a subtle but profound way: not how to speed vehicles through a road most efficiently, but how to best connect people with the places they want to go.”

“Bringing humans back into the question also allows you to acknowledge that people have desires that aren’t directly related to transportation. Safety, for example. Reducing the number and length of vehicle trips translates straight to fewer car crashes, and fewer avoidable serious injuries and deaths. Making streets a pleasant place to walk and gather—something that’s difficult when sidewalks have been narrowed to make room for speeding cars just feet away—can pay serious economic dividends and help establish a sense of community. In the economic or behavioral approach to transportation policy, all of these goals suddenly become fair game.”

Viewing congestion as an economic problem may also get transportation engineers to recognize that congestion is often good. The bad kind of congestion is when people are just sitting in traffic and little economic activity is taking place. But in a mixed-use downtown, congestion is a sign of life. A downtown without congestion is dead. Similarly, now that we know there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, how would we feel if our doctor tried to eliminate all cholesterol? We’d get a new doctor.

Bringing human beings into the thinking of traffic engineering is a big step forward, but engineers need to bring real places into the equation as well. Traffic congestion decisions determine the shape of public places, so they are an urban design problem. The engineering approach belies tens of thousands of miles of urban streets that function exceptionally well with vastly different design than what engineers recommend. This study showed that spatial characteristics of streets—factors not considered by either the engineering or the economic approach—have a dramatic impact on safety and livability.

Engineers typically don’t study streets with strong spatial definition to see why and how they work.

An economic approach to solving traffic problems would vastly improve the traffic engineering profession. An understanding of urban design would be even better.

Robert Steuteville is editor of Better Cities & Towns and senior communications advisor for the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Original article.

Oct 062015
 

A new–and very old–approach to designing a city.

Complete Streets, Walkable Community, Mixed-Use Urban Corridor

As you may know, Oxnard now has the opportunity to transform Oxnard Boulevard with new life as an attractive, customer-friendly downtown business destination as Caltrans has reassigned Highway 1, with its heavy truck traffic, to Rice Ave.

A group of concerned community members wants to contribute to this transformation process. Our goal is to promote more active civic life along Oxnard Boulevard, to be more than just a traffic conduit based on conventional traffic engineering.

We believe the City should remake its main street and downtown according to a Complete Streets model— directing the future of Oxnard’s development. The Complete Streets model incentivizes investment, economic development, and housing…three major planning issues facing Oxnard today. Cities are recognizing the many benefits of the Complete Streets concept as it brings new vitality to an area, providing a boon to business. To do so, we must consider how people lived in cities before cars took over.

Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.

Walkable communities are desirable places to live, work, learn, worship, and play; they are a key component of smart growth. Their desirability comes from two factors. First, goods (such as housing, offices, and retail) and services (such as transportation, schools, libraries) are located within an easy and safe walk. Second, walkable communities make pedestrian activity possible, thus expanding transportation options, and creating a streetscape for a range of users—pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers. To foster walkability, communities must support mixed-use development and build compactly, with safe, inviting pedestrian spaces.

Mixed-use urban corridor development is a combination of low-income and market- rate housing above a row of commercial enterprises along the street edge at specifically chosen locations along the Oxnard Boulevard corridor to make a more populated street that has an urban look and functions as an urban street.

We envision Oxnard Blvd as a Mixed-Use urban corridor with a strong emphasis on the residential infill element. There remains considerable pressure for more housing, especially affordable housing, in Oxnard, which historically has led to sprawl. Increasing evidence reveals that sprawl bankrupts cities; kills city centers, and requires infrastructure improvements that are better applied to a city’s center.

Great public spaces don’t happen by accident—they have been and are created by communities with visionary leaders who understand city planning and work hard to bring the vision of a beautiful thriving small city into reality.

If Oxnard is going to have a great downtown and no sprawl, Oxnard has to change, and that change can only come from the City Council. The City Council must adopt a Complete Streets and mixed-use urban corridor policy—to assure the change Oxnard needs. The beauty, or lack thereof, of a city lies within a city’s governing body’s ability to connect and work together with residents. As stewards, the governing council sets the policy and tone—so that a city may flourish.

It will not happen overnight. But with proper vision, guidance, and fortitude, Oxnard will thrive block-by-block and neighborhood-by-neighborhood.

Remaking Oxnard Boulevard into a Complete Street and walkable Mixed-Use Urban Corridor will require support from, and policy changes by, the Oxnard City Council. We invite you to step up and make it so!

Sep 272015
 

We have many NEW resources on our Resources Page.

For instance we recently added four links about infill housing, with several great Myths vs Facts articles plus a Infill Design Tool Kit.

There are several new articles about Economic Development and City Planning and Urban Design.

This website is becoming the go-to venue for planning issues and education in Oxnard, CA.

Sep 022015
 
Brilliant – Just brilliant.
If you are interested in making Oxnard a better place you MUST watch this:

 

Published on May 23, 2014

Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who, through writing, public service, and built work, advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. The Christian Science Monitor called his recent book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, “timely and important, a delightful, insightful, irreverent work.”

More Jeff Speck:

How do we solve the problem of the suburbs? Urbanist Jeff Speck shows how we can free ourselves from dependence on the car — which he calls “a gas-belching, time-wasting, life-threatening prosthetic device” — by making our cities more walkable and more pleasant for more people.

Aug 252015
 

“We had to create a new kind of Place” 1:30

“No local tax dollars” 1:50

“We knew the City did not have the money, and that if we had to wait for the City to come up with the money – this project would never happen” 2:10

“We were able to raise money because we did not talk about this as an infrastructure project, we talked about it as a Quality of Life and Economic Development project” 2:20

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: The Next-Gen in U.S. Protected Bike Lanes from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

In May (2013), the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a protected bike & pedestrian trail connecting some of Indy’s most popular cultural institutions, had it’s long-awaited public coming out with a ribbon cutting and celebration. It could be the biggest bicycling infrastructure achievement in North America and yet it’s still practically a secret. Hopefully after experiencing our Streetfilm, that will change.

As you’ll see it runs eight fantastic miles through the heart of the downtown and features beautiful stone work, green landscaping and bioswales for containing stormwater runoff. There is great signage and design with an eye for maximum safety. In many places along the trail, parking and/or a car travel lane was converted to fit the lanes in. But most importantly, the trail features ample room for both cyclists and pedestrians (most of the time in separate environments) to move about in a major city whether they are commuting, exercising, running errands or just going for a afternoon jaunt.
It’s fun and very safe and people of all ages using it. It’s the kind of thing Gil Penalosa’s 8-80 Cities organization preaches to the world.

Across the U.S. we have cities such as NYC, Chicago and San Francisco doing tremendous work installing many innovative miles of protected lanes with inexpensive materials. Although the Cultural Trail cost quite a bit, it’s nice to imagine that in the near future we’ll want to make these lanes more permanent and rideable. And for that we need not look to Europe, we can go check out Indianapolis.

Note: Please don’t miss our associated Streetfilm on Indy Mayor Greg Ballard AND a short looking more in-depth at the bioswales and storm water management system along the Cultural Trail.

Original article.

Jul 222015
 

In Los Angeles, MOCA is modeling how institutions with huge collections should be thinking: Move artworks into underserved communities.

Image Georges Méliès
Georges Méliès, “Le Voyage dans la Lune”: Not exactly the sort of satellite museums should launch, but related. (Georges Méliès)

Everyone should be thrilled that the Underground Museum in Los Angeles is screening 7 Fragments for George Méliès. It’s an animation installation by William Kentridge, a fantastic artist, but that’s not the reason people should be pumped—or not the only one. No, what’s so great about 7 Fragments is that it’s a Museum of Contemporary Art show—featuring an artwork from the Museum of Contemporary Art collection—that’s not on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Let Carolina A. Miranda explain. In the Los Angeles Times, she details the unlikely collaboration between the Underground Museum and MOCA that has made 7 Fragments possible. MOCA is one of the most visible visual-art institutions in L.A., if not the nation. The Underground Museum, by comparison, is invisible.

“For the next three years, the Underground will feature a series of exhibitions, curated by [founder and painter, Noah] Davis, that will be drawn from MOCA’s permanent collection—placing important works of art in a largely working-class black and Latino neighborhood at the heart of Los Angeles,” Miranda writes.

There isn’t a city in the country that wouldn’t benefit from such a program: a non-museum space for showcasing museum-collection works. There isn’t a museum anywhere that couldn’t use to expand its reach and viewer base. A farm league for museum exhibitions and curators would do the entire art world some good. Experimental satellites are an idea whose time has come.

Around this time last year, Miranda was writing about the effort by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and other leaders to lure a museum to the city that would house the art collection of George Lucas. Several cities—namely Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A.—were locked into a downward spiral to see who would give away the most to secure Lucas’ support. Miranda wasn’t on board, namely because Lucas’ art collection sucks. Against the prevailing sentiment (or at least the mayor’s), she launched the #WhyLucasNOTinLA campaign.

Arguably, L.A. has enough museums as it is—as do many cities. Over the past two decades, the nation as a whole has undergone an extraordinary cultural building boom. As Joanna Woronkowicz, D. Carroll Joynes, and Norman Bradburn explain in Building Better Arts Facilities, most large metropolitan statistical areas have erected new facilities within recent years. During one narrow window (2000–2002), 87 percent of MSAs with a population of 2 million or more launched new cultural buildings. About one-third of small MSAs (population 500,000 or fewer) did the same, per a report by authors for the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago.

The expansion of culture’s footprint from 1994 to 2008.

Not all of these projects have served cities well. For one thing, the costs for building museums, theaters, and performing-arts centers increased during the boom leading up to the collapse of the dot-com bubble. While those costs have since relaxed (more recent data aren’t available), the costs for building museums outstrips almost any other kind of building project. And in the wake of the recent recession, the construction industry as a whole is smaller, meaning construction costs in the U.S. are rising.

A jump in the costs for cultural construction projects in the U.S. (University of Chicago)

But there’s an argument to be made for launching satellites instead of adding expansions no matter what the cost of construction is, especially with regard to contemporary art. Any museum you care to name has more artworks than it can ever show and a challenge in reaching various communities—any museum.

The answer is right there: Take the artworks out of storage and put them into those communities.

While it might sound obvious in an era that has seen restaurants have to seriously compete with food trucks (and even launch their own), museums haven’t quite learned to see past the brick and mortar. The Museum of Modern Art boasts some 200,000 works of art in its collection, but instead of reaching further into New York City—the way it did when it absorbed MoMA P.S.1 in Queens in 2000—the museum is betting hard on its tourist-trap mall location in Midtown.

For most museums, the situation is even bleaker, since most of them can’t claim a P.S.1 of their own. Fortunately, the Underground Museum and MOCA in L.A. have shown the way: Hungry curator, disused space, underserved community, untapped artwork. There is no major city where this won’t work. There is no museum that can’t make bread with this recipe.

Original Article.

Jul 182015
 

Cities are greatly in need of slimming down their roads, says architect Michael Bohn. A recent project in Long Beach, California shows how curb extensions and street furniture can have a huge impact on the economics of downtowns.

Humans are not the only ones needing a diet these days. More and more cities are putting their streets on a diet – reducing vehicle lanes to add pedestrian space and calm traffic. New York City’s recent success in closing an entire section of Times Square to traffic is the most famous example. But the real news is how quickly and effectively it can happen even on a fairly small scale in any city or town.

The other news is that, besides the benefits road diets give to pedestrians and business that thrive on foot traffic, in some cases even traffic congestion is – surprise – improved as well.
Photo: People seated at cafe tables on the new bulbouts.

Long Beach, California is implementing a series of road diets that prove just how well they can work. Among these is a project unveiled in late 2009 at First Street and Linden Avenue in the East Village Arts District. Studio One Eleven, my firm, worked with the city to design curb extensions at this intersection. These “bulb-out” extensions of the sidewalk reduce the curb-to-curb distance – originally over 50 feet – between 40 and 60 percent, significantly lowering the exposure pedestrians face with vehicles, bringing them out past the obstructions of parked cars, street trees and street furniture. The narrower right of way on First Street has also calmed traffic, adding to pedestrian and bicycle safety and giving businesses better visibility.

Today, these bulb-outs are fully integrated into the street infrastructure, but a prototype plan was able to test the idea temporarily, turning the experiment into a community event. The city placed large, potted plants in the street to define the pedestrian zone. An adjacent restaurant expanded its outdoor seating into this new area of the “sidewalk” (at this point it was actually still part of the street). And an information kiosk was installed to explain the concept of the curb extensions.

Illustration: the curb cut designs.

It is taken for granted among some planners that enhancing pedestrian mobility can also enhance business activity, but the results in this case were dramatic: The restaurant achieved the highest receipt sales in its 10-year history.

The new, permanent curb extensions at First Street and Linden Avenue expand the pedestrian realm over 3,000 square feet, the size of two average coffee shops or a medium-sized restaurant. Besides outdoor dining, there is now room for landscaping (using drought-tolerant plants), street furniture such as benches, sidewalk paving patterns, and trash receptacles. Businesses use the expanded sidewalk for additional bike racks and outdoor sales displays. The extra space has cleared existing sidewalk area for thorough movement while expanding and making prominent the outdoor activity at these businesses.

This human-scaled design is perhaps the most important advantage of a well-planned road diet: The First and Linden curb extensions have contributed to the increased vitality of Long Beach’s East Village Arts District, with business owners, customers and local residents enjoying a sense of place that harmonizes with the energetic vibe of retail and community destinations. More than ever, the neighborhood is a civilized place where pedestrians and bicyclists are easy to spot, coffee drinkers can people watch, and shoppers are inclined to linger.

But what about the ability of curb extensions to actually facilitate traffic flow? It seems counter-intuitive, as bulb-outs purposefully slow down cars and often eliminate right-turn lanes. Those who advocate traffic diets believe it is more important for pedestrians to cross safely than for cars to get through an intersection. However, the shorter distance that results from curb extensions on each side of a street means the average pedestrian spends at least four seconds less time when crossing the street (based on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices average walking speed of 4 feet per second). The irony is that the reduced time necessary for walkers to cross the street can provide more time for cars to pass, partially compensating for the loss of a right-turn lane. In other words, everybody wins: Cars get maintained traffic flow and pedestrians get safer crossings.

Other road diet plans also carry this double benefit. For example, car lanes can be reduced without necessarily reducing the number of cars they move. To maximize traffic capacity, engineers typically fit as many automobile lanes as possible, leaving a relatively narrow border on each side for sidewalks and (in some cases) on-street parking. This sometimes results in an even number of lanes, eliminating a dedicated left-turn lane. This means there must be restrictions placed on left-turn movement, as the left-most lane must do double duty as a left-turn lane and a throughway lane. Because the shared lane is obstructed whenever a left-turning car is waiting for an opening to cross traffic, left turns are often limited to non-peak hours.

When a road diet is applied to a road with at least four lanes overall, it often removes one lane in each direction. The space made available by eliminating these two lanes can be used for creating a dedicated left-turn lane, as well as sidewalks, parkways, bike lanes, or a dedicated right-turn lane. Surprisingly, eliminating one through-lane in each direction does not result in a proportional loss of car-carrying capacity, and the addition of a dedicated left-turn lane (and sometimes a dedicated right-turn lane as well) helps reduce congestion. Adding turn lanes in this manner can also decrease accidents, because it results in fewer lane changes and better visibility for on-coming traffic. All of these benefits are useful in explaining road diets to skeptical traffic engineers, or reluctant business or community members.

My firm is working with Long Beach to add curb extensions and other road diets throughout the city. These include narrowing streets adding curbside parking and bike lanes, and creating protected bike roadways between car parking and the sidewalk.

The addition of curbside parking is important particularly in parking-impacted areas. At a cost of $8-12k per stall when a new surface parking lot is built, curbside parking is almost a freebie. For example, another Long Beach road-diet project (on Livingston Drive) will add 32 parking stalls in a mid-density residential neighborhood, with the only cost for these stalls being paint to restripe the street. From a retail perspective having curbside parking in front of a shop can increase retail sales by thousands of dollars while at the same time serve as a buffer to pedestrians using the sidewalk from moving vehicles.

Many of these changes are the result of Long Beach’s Livable Community agenda, which enjoys broad support from Long Beach’s City Council and is a top priority for its city manager. In 2009 the city hired Mobility Coordinator Charlie Gandy – a nationally prominent bicycling proponent – to implement many of these plans.

According to Streetsblog Los Angeles, which closely follows pedestrian, public transit, bicycle and related issues, the city is concerned about the health of its residents, and for the environment. “But this is also an economic-development strategy,” says writer Joe Linton. “If Long Beach is to attract and retain companies and workers, then it needs to be able to compete. The city has decided that livability will make it competitive.”

In the instance of the First Street and Linden Avenue curb-extensions and the other road diets underway, that strategy is successful.

Original article.

Images of the Future of Oxnard Boulevard and Downtown

 

The following images are of a potential future Oxnard Boulevard – a future with infill, multi-story, mixed-use buildings with housing and retail at the street level along designated parts of our main street. The Oxnard Community Planning Group strongly believes that with a Complete Streets and moderate, appropriate density policy our main street and downtown will thrive. These ideas are shared by many in our community.

These images are pre-charrette and thus show a street configuration that has changed in view but not in intent. The post charrette configuration is curb-side parking on both sides and both a slow and fast lane in each direction with a median for left turns. The current tank barrier medians and other raised medians are suggested to be removed.

We are interested in your thoughts, ideas and suggestions regarding what you see below. Send us an email using the contact button above – or complete the questionnaire by clicking the Community Input tab.

The image above is looking south-east at the intersection of Oxnard Blvd and 5th. Notice that our proposals respect our landmark buildings and businesses by keeping them in our vision. There are curb extensions at each corner making it a shorter walk across the street, and the curb extensions allow for public transportation to be out of the traffic lane. The curb extensions support on street parking. Look for the left arrow/right arrow with the vertical bar and click and drag the vertical bar to see the before and after versions.

You are now looking north along Oxnard Boulevard. With wider sidewalks and canopy trees adding to the ambiance. On street activities will generate more business for local stores. The protected bike lanes are also good for business. Look for the left arrow/right arrow with the vertical bar and click and drag the vertical bar to see the before and after versions.

Here you are looking north along Oxnard Boulevard at 7th Street towards the Asahi Market. Wider sidewalks, canopy trees and curb extensions slow and calm traffic allowing the ambiance and street activities that will generate more business for local stores. Look for the left arrow/right arrow with the vertical bar and click and drag the vertical bar to see the before and after versions.

Oxnard Boulevard showing the protected bike lanes and the center divider creating a left turn lane to be used during non heavy use times. Look for the left arrow/right arrow with the vertical bar and click and drag the vertical bar to see the before and after versions.

Travel Times to/from South Oxnard and Points North [2]

 

The chart below shows approximate travel times from Ventura, Camarillo and Saticoy to various South Oxnard locations.

The times and distances are from Google Maps and are thus approximations. However, they are representative of real times from point A to point B.

Note that in almost all simulations the travel times to South Oxnard from nearby locations using Oxnard Boulevard are longer than when other routes are taken. It’s clear that in almost all cases there are other faster routes into and out of South Oxnard than Oxnard Boulevard.

When the Oxnard Boulevard time is bold red there are other routes that will get one to the destination faster than Oxnard Boulevard.

(Because the data indicated below is from a dynamic source, Google Maps, which indicates different travel times depending on time of day and actual traffic conditions, the times you get may be different from those noted below. However, it is all relative and travel times will be consistent across different routes compared to different times of the day.)

Collection to Elm Park

Time-to-Oxnard5

There is a post with the same content.

 

Jul 082015
 

The Ventura County Civic Alliance has created a guiding principals document for livable communities and place making in our communities:

“It is said if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.  And for much of the last century, southern California’s growth was scattershot with too little thought given to the big picture.

Even in our beautiful Ventura County, we live daily with results of this short-sighted approach: traffic congestion; a disjointed regional transportation system; a dearth of affordable homes for working families; and excessive wear and tear on our environment.

The Ventura County Civic Alliance and its Livable Communities Working Group believe we can do better and, in fact, already are building communities that enhance – instead of degrade – the quality of our environment and our quality of life.

Founded in 2001, the Alliance advocates for a more sustainable approach to development in Ventura County.  It adopted a nationally respected set of principles. These include promoting a range of housing choices; walkable, close-knit neighborhoods; repurposing of historic buildings; preservation of open space, farmland and critical environmental areas and a variety of transportation options.

Called the 10 Tenets of Livable Communities, these are not lofty, academic theories but sound practical strategies to serve as planning guidelines.

How do we know that?  This booklet will show you projects that follow these tenets – already built or approved – in every city of Ventura County.”

Download the booklet.

Ventura County Civic Alliance Livable Communities page.

Jul 022015
 

The chart below shows approximate travel times from Ventura, Camarillo and Saticoy to various South Oxnard locations.

The times and distances are from Google Maps and are thus approximations. However, they are representative of real times from point A to point B.

Note that in almost all simulations the travel times to South Oxnard from nearby locations using Oxnard Boulevard are longer than when other routes are taken. It’s clear that in almost all cases there are other faster routes into and out of South Oxnard than Oxnard Boulevard.

When the Oxnard Boulevard time is bold red there are other routes that will get one to the destination faster than Oxnard Boulevard.

(Because the data indicated below is from a dynamic source, Google Maps, which indicates different travel times depending on time of day and actual traffic conditions, the times you get may be different from those noted below. However, it is all relative and travel times will be consistent across different routes compared to different times of the day.)

Time-to-Oxnard5

Even when there is a direct route from The Collection to Elm Park via Oxnard Boulevard, the travel time, using Ventura Rd or Rose Ave, is not more than 3 minutes longer.

Collection to Elm Park