Jul 122015

In a city the street must be supreme. It is the first institution of the city. The street is a room by agreement, a community room, the walls of which belong to the donors, dedicated to the city for common use. Its ceiling is the sky. Today, streets are disinterested movements not at all belonging to the houses that front them. So you have no streets. You have roads, but you have no streets.
– Louis Kahn, The Street

Streets are our most fundamental shared public spaces, but they are also one of the most contested and overlooked. Today, and for most of the last century, we have taken for granted the idea that our streets are primarily zones for cars, parking, and the transporting of goods. This has not been the case, however, throughout most of history. Across many cultures and times – since the beginning of civilization, in fact – the street has held vast social, commercial, and political significance as a powerful symbol of the public realm.

The street was “the first institution of the city,” as architect Louis Kahn once wrote, and even if we don’t always recognize it, streets are still a powerful force in shaping our physical and mental landscapes. We name them after our idols and fallen heroes—in remembrance of presidents or literary figures, civil rights leaders or old Hollywood stars. In many of our own lives and experiences, they are sites for both celebration and rebellion: Stages for summer block parties and holiday parades, they are also the place we gather to express public dissent—as with recent demonstrations following the grand jury decisions in St. Louis and New York, where millions took to the street in protest of widespread police brutality and racial injustice. When streets function well on the level of everyday experience, they provide opportunities for people to connect in a way that no other public space can.

Despite the central role they continue to play in each of our lives and memories, today’s streets are failing us on multiple scales. Our streets once functioned as multiple-use town centers, as places where children could play and where neighbors and strangers would stop for conversation, today they have become the primary and near-exclusive domain of cars.

Beyond traffic and safety issues, many of our generation’s most pressing challenges are bound in some way to our relationship with streets and the built environment: Reduced physical activity is a leading culprit of our current epidemics of obesity and chronic disease; lack of access to good places has led to widespread social isolation and depression (particularly amongst older populations); increased vehicle emissions have degraded air quality and contributed to the greenhouse gases causing climate change; and a lack of transportation options for many communities has caused uneven access to jobs, social services,  healthy food options, and community interaction.

Clearly, we need to start thinking seriously about how we can reverse these trends and begin turning streets back into places—into destinations for culture, creativity, and community. If streets have “lost their importance in terms of their share of land,” and their “prominent role in shaping the culture and history of cities,” as indicated in a 2013 UNHabitat report, then how did we move so far away from this ideal?

Making Room for Cars: A Brief History of the Motor-Centric City

When we build our landscape around places to go, we lose places to be.
– Rick Cole

Traffic and road capacity are not just inevitable fallouts of progress and growth. Rather, they are the results of deliberate plans to design and organize communities around the private automobile. When modernist architect Le Corbusier envisioned the urban street as a “machine for producing traffic” in 1924, congestion had already begun to cause serious problems in major cities like Paris and New York. “The congestion is so complete,” he wrote, “that in New York businessmen leave their automobiles in the outskirts and take the subway to the office. An amazing paradox!” His solution? Design streets solely around the car—eliminate pedestrians, wide boulevards, and sidewalk cafés altogether. Not only would this alleviate unwanted congestion, so his theory went, but it would also reduce social ills such as crime and public revolt.

In the United States, similar concerns about increasing traffic congestion in cities, which reached a climax after World War II, led to a mass expansion of national road systems. Plans for a high-speed freeway system would culminate a decade later with the 1956 Interstate Highway Act, which would erect a 42,500-mile network of high-speed, limited-access highways that linked cities from coast to coast.

As history has shown, the “freeway rush” of the following two decades would leave lasting, sometimes devastating, marks on the physical and social landscapes of the nation. Not only would highway construction actually increase traffic in residential and commercial areas, but it would also drive development away from cities. In the process, established residential neighborhoods would be divided, often destroyed in the name of “slum clearing,” and the availability and value of urban housing would decline as much of the middle-class population migrated to the suburbs. These shifts, along with the de-concentration of economic activity as it moved to the suburban periphery, worked to further disenfranchise poor and largely nonwhite inner-city communities.

In short, because of single-minded assumptions that the car was and always would be king in America, for most of the past century cities and communities have been designed to meet mobility needs rather than human needs like social interaction, physical activity, or a connection to place. We still need highways, of course. Roads that facilitate efficient travel from point A to point B are essential for the national economy, for our mobility, and for modern life writ large. But some of our streets—especially those in our cities, neighborhoods, and downtowns—need to become more multifunctional to accommodate a greater variety of activities and users.

Even though our values and demographics have shifted dramatically over the past 70 years, the planning and engineering principles we are using to design and regulate our streets and cities, by and large, have not. Unless we make some significant changes, we will continue to get the same results: a few isolated great places linked by car-dominated streets, placeless sprawl, poor physical health, social isolation, and disinvested low-income communities.

That’s the bad news.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way! Streets can once again become thriving, livable environments for people, not just cars. Downtown streets can become cultural destinations, not just monotonous routes to and from the workplace. Neighborhood streets can become safe play zones for children, and commercial areas can become grand boulevards that welcome pedestrians, vendors, cyclists, and drivers alike. How? By focusing on creating great places, and centralizing this process in our policy and planning frameworks. This is where Streets as Places comes in.

The Placemaking Movement Starts With Streets

When the revolution starts, there should be no question of where to go.
– Charles Moore

Streets as Places—as both an organizing concept and a strategy—can help make way for these transformations. Taking an integrative approach to the planning, design, and management of our shared public spaces, the growing Streets as Places movement is helping people begin to see streets in their entirety: not just their function in transporting people and goods, but the vital role they play in animating the social and economic life of communities. It’s not a streetscape design, it’s a process – it’s about communities owning and reclaiming their streets, participating in civic life, and having a direct impact on how their public spaces look, function, and feel.

In the last two decades, with the mobilization of numerous alliances and coalitions, we have made great strides towards improving our streets. The Smart Growth, Complete Streets, and Active Transportation movements have been instrumental in moving transportation policy to better encourage multi-modal street designs that safely accommodate a range of users. Because of the efforts of these and other groups, nearly 700 communities in the U.S. have passed Complete Streets policies and the U.S. Department of Transportation has made it a major priority to create safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians.

This is a huge step in the right direction! Making streets safe for all modes of transport—automobile, public transit, bicycle, pedestrian—is the first step in turning streets into destinations in their own right. But for streets to truly function as public places, they have to do more than allowing people to safely walk or bike through them. When streets are great places, they encourage people to linger, to socialize, and to truly experience the unique culture and character of a particular street.

With a growing number of examples from around the globe, more and more people and institutions are realizing that access to good places is a right, not an option or privilege that only a fortunate few can enjoy. Whether it’s through the adoption of transportation initiatives (such as road diets and rightsizing, Vision Zero, or the Shared Space concept), through efforts to boost the local economy by revitalizing Main Streets and experimenting with block makeovers, or through creative Placemaking projects involving public art and community programming (like City Repair and “Paint the Pavement” projects), cities everywhere are beginning to move away from a narrow perception of streets as mere conduits for cars. On local and national levels, designers and planners, government agencies, nonprofits, community organizations, and ordinary citizens are thinking of the potential of streets to once again be livable and productive places—for bicycles, for markets, for businesses, for people.

Even in our own backyard, out the window of our Manhattan office, we at PPS watched in excitement over the past year as Lafayette Street underwent some significant transformations. A block away, one of our favorite lunch spots has just applied with the NYCDOT for a Street Seat—a 6’x25’ platform that replaces several parking spots to enable seasonal public open spaces where sidewalk seating isn’t available. We can’t wait for spring, when, if all goes according to plan, we can stroll down our street to share a meal with co-workers and neighbors, lingering together on our impromptu island as we watch the vibrant life of the street on either side of us.

As the energy surrounding Placemaking continues to gain momentum, the time is ideal for rallying around the Streets as Places movement! Together, we can turn our streets—our most vital public resources—into interactive, functional, and fulfilling places for everyone. Here are some ways you can get involved:

1. Make your own street a place. Think about ways you can improve the block where you live or work. Small measures, like planting a tree or flowers, putting out a Little Free Library in your front yard, or organizing a block party are great ways to start. Remember, if your house or building faces out onto the street, it’s part of the street and people’s experience as they pass by it.

2. Organize an Open Streets Dozens of cities across the country now regularly close their streets to cars for special events, allowing people to take advantage of the whole right-of-way. It’s a great way to help people see streets in a new light, and to open a conversation about how our streets should be used.

3. Consider “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” strategies to improve and activate your streets. There are many relatively low-cost, quick ways to transform your streets, from layering in public art or benches, building street seats or parklets, rightsizing projects that prioritize pedestrians, holding special events or concerts on the street, to lighting displays. For more inspiration, check out the Better Block and Tactical Urbanism projects.

4. Support small businesses that activate streets. Local shops, like hardware stores, bakeries, and coffee shops are vital places in our communities. When they’re located along a Main Street, they help encourage people to walk, enhance the local economy, and encourage neighborly interaction. Shop local, and encourage these businesses to think about how they can help enhance the street to benefit their bottom line and the neighborhood through creative window or outdoor merchandise displays, a bench or seating on the sidewalk, attractive landscaping, hosting local events, or getting involved in the local Main Street or merchant’s association.

5. Advocate for safe streets. To make people feel comfortable walking and spending time on a street, it needs first and foremost to be a safe place. Too many Americans, particularly seniors and children, are killed and injured on our streets every year. Reducing vehicle speeds and safe infrastructure for those walking and biking – sidewalks, protected bike lanes, crosswalks, and medians – are critical to making a street a place for people. Learn about the role of local transportation agencies in street design and how you can effectively impact these processes by downloading PPS’s “Citizen’s Guide to Better Streets” here. It’s free!

6. Ask your local transportation departments and elected officials to support measures that recognize streets as places for people. Streets should be safe for people to walk and to bike; they can have places to gather together; they should highlight local talent and can close to vehicles during special celebrations or for market days. Check out PPS’s ‘What Makes a Great Place?’ to help diagnose how your community’s streets stack up.

7. Think Beyond the Station. Bring life to local transit stops! People waiting for the bus or metro deserve better than standing next to a pole without any seat or shelter. With some basic amenities and creative design, transit stops can be places where people actually want to spend time.

8. Get involved in local projects and groups. There are efforts in every community across the country already working to create better streets for people, including biking and walking organizations, smart growth groups, and Main Street associations. Join one and ask how you can help.

9. Celebrate success! Nominate a “Great Street” to our updated Great Public Spaces web resource. Is there a street in your community, or that you’ve encountered in your travels, that deserves recognition? Let us know! Help us in generating an ongoing conversation about the important role of Streets as Places in communities across the world. Submit your story and image(s) here!

10. Join PPS this spring for our Streets as Places training event. Learn more and register for the April session here!

The exciting Streets as Places movement is still a work-in-progress, and it is always being redefined and reimagined. Help keep the conversation going by sending us your feedback and ideas! What do streets mean to you, and what are the features that make a street truly great? By taking small steps to activate the streets in our own cities and neighborhoods, together we can affect real change in reclaiming our right to this dynamic public space.

To the streets, everyone!

Written by Annah MacKenzie.

Original article.

May 012015



Portland, OR

Myhre Group Architects propose to build a 5-story, 37,000 square-foot residential and commercial space near the historic Hollywood Theater in Portland, OR.



Seattle, WA

Construction on a six-story mixed-use residential and retail building at Broadway and Jefferson is scheduled to start in August. Portland-based Gerding Edlen purchased the property from Valencia Capital Management of Dallas for $5.6 million earlier this month, according to the Seattle Times. Valencia paid $3.14 million for the property in 2007.

Central District News reported in December that owners of the property at 412 Broadway had put the land up for sale months after the City Council authorized a rezone for up to 70 feet in height.

The building, designed by Ankron Moisan Associated Architects, will have 118 residential units and 6,500 ft of retail space. Twenty percent of the residential units will be “designated affordable,” according to Gerding Edlen’s press release. They anticipate a LEED Gold certification on the project.

The planned rail projects in the area seem to have played a part in the firm’s decision to purchase the property, according to the press release:

Municipal plans for an extended light rail system from downtown to the Capital [sic] Hill, as well as a streetcar line that will connect this light rail to Union Station in the International District/Pioneer Square will offer direct access to a multi-modal transportation system for the residents of 412 Broadway.

Gerding Edlen will start holding public meetings this summer to engage the community to better fit into the neighborhood, said Ann Hudner, spokesperson for the firm.

“Gerding Edlen has a really wonderful approach to wanting to integrate and engage the community in their projects,” she said. Other projects have included site-specific art by local artists.

Permits have not yet been issued for construction of the project described by the previous developers as a 6-story building containing 100 market-rate apartments targeted towards employees in the nearby medical facilities, and the first-floor retail with room for five to eight new businesses.

This project will be the first Seattle-area development for the company since their 43/42-story Bellevue Towers highrise condo project was completed in 2009. After selling just 118 of the 539 units, the firm handed the buildings over to lenders earlier this year to avoid foreclosure, according to the Seattle Times.

The lot previously held a 4-unit house that has since been demolished. You can still view the old home (for now, at least) in Google Street View.

Summer 2011 is shaping up to be a busy time for construction on Capitol Hill – especially at its southern edge along Madison — and now down Broadway.



Seattle, WA

A 7-story residential/retail/commercial building at 4502 42nd SW (map).



Chicago, IL

Way back in April 2007, we caught wind of a proposed development in Grand Boulevard called the Shops and Lofts at 47. The mixed-use project at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue was to have 167 condos, 45,000 square feet of retail space, and 15,000 square feet of office space. It never moved forward, but apparently its developer, Mahogany Ventures, and the Quad Communities Development Corporation never gave up on the idea.

LISC/Chicago’s New Communities Program reports that the project should break ground later this year or in 2011 with one significant change in place — instead of condos, it will feature apartments. According to LISC’s article, the project’s first phase will have 70 residential units and about 28,000 square feet of retail, while a second phase will have another 70 units and 20,000 square feet of retail. A parking level on the second floor of each building will buffer the ground-level retail from the upper-level residences.


Berlin, Germany

5-story Residential – and office building – Kurfürstenstraße, Berlin / Germany




Denver, CO

Infill 5 story retail and residential in Denver, CO.



Merrifield – OCR – Fairfax County, Virginia

Merrifield Revitalization Area

Santa Monica
Santa Monica, CA
Rendering of proposed apartment building at 401 Broadway. Image from City of Santa Monica Staff Report.

Decatur, Georgia
Decatur, Georgia
 Construction has started on Trinity Triangle, a 5-story mixed-use project located in the downtown district of Decatur, Georgia.  The development will have 210 residential units including 6 Live/Work units, as well as 6,000+ SF of street-level retail.  Construction completion is scheduled for June 2016 adding to an active and vibrant urban atmosphere.  ColeJenest & Stone is providing civil engineering and landscape architecture; the developer is Centro Development.

Denver, CO

A large residential developer will be bringing 336 apartment units in a five-story building into the West Highland neighborhood at 38th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard.

The Alexan West Highlands development will likely break ground early next year after Trammell Crow Residential closes on the property. Full buildout is expected to take about two years and the project will also include 33,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.

Eugene Lucero of the Lucero Financial Group owns the property and is under contract with Trammell Crow. Lucero will buy back the retail portion of the site and said he might move his business office back to the property after the construction is finished.

“I’m excited about the proposed development. It’s the type that is envisioned in a corridor such as 38th,” Lucero said.

Lucero’s current office is on the site, as is a Bank of the West building and 21,000 square-foot parking lot. He said a grocery store is a possibility for one of the new retail sites.

The $80-million project is one of two large projects Trammell Crow is working on in west Denver. The group is also involved with the Sloan’s development at the old St. Anthony’s site.

Matt Schildt, managing director of the mountain states division of Trammell Crow, said the appeal of building in West Highland is obvious with the good views, proximity to downtown and other amenities close by.

Both Lucero and Trammell Crow met with the West Highland Neighborhood Association and got mixed comments from residents. Some people along West Clyde Place mentioned their view would be obstructed by the structure that will be five stories in some areas and four in others.

Also the density in the area will greatly increase with this development along with another a few blocks away that will have about 150 units.

“That seems like a heavy burden at that intersection,” said Steve Kite, zoning chair for the West Highland Neighborhood Association.

No rezoning request is needed for the site as it was modified to allow for this type of development when the city updated its zoning guidelines in 2010.

The intersection of 38th and Lowell is also viewed as more of a commercial area compared to 32nd and Lowell, which has seen controversy over builders wanting to build taller structures in that location.

“The city wanted to see — and everyone agreed — increased density. This is the realization of that plan,” Kite added.

Lucero said he welcomes any comments from the community about the project and is excited to see it come to fruition.

“The time is right for it, the location is good and it does not contain the characteristics that other proposed developments (in the area) have contained,” he said.

Apr 132015

In many areas, trees are under siege. But our cities need them, for all sorts of reasons.

Image LeahI00/Flickr

I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with many large, mature trees. Our bit of urban forest is one of our community’s greatest assets, if you ask me. But, loved though they are, trees are getting to be a little controversial in and around D.C., and that worries me. I’ll get to that a bit later in the post, but first I want to share some of things I have learned about city trees in the last few days.

In particular, last week I spoke at a forum hosted by the California Center for Sustainable Energy, and after the program I was approached by someone from an initiative called San Diego County Trees. The initiative is the urban forestry project of the Energy Center, and they have all sorts of information extolling the benefits of urban trees along with a crowd-sourced inventory of street trees in San Diego.

I just spent time on the website, where the coolest feature is an interactive map of the whole county showing very specific tree locations and information, including quantified benefits to the region stemming (pun unintended but acknowledged) from its trees. As you can see in the image, these include carbon sequestration, water retention, energy saved, and air pollutants reduced.

You can even click on a specific tree and get detailed information on its species, size, and annual economic benefit to the community. San Diego County Trees invites its readers to add to the inventory with information on additional trees not presently counted.

If you’re interested in the subject of the community benefits of trees, you can get additional information from the websites of the National Arbor Day Foundation and the US Forest Service. Among the tidbits I learned on one or the other of those two sites are these:

  • The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  • If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3 percent less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12 percent.
  • One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen.
  • A number of studies have shown that real estate agents and home buyers assign between 10 and 23 percent of the value of a residence to the trees on the property.
  • Surgery patients who could see a grove of deciduous trees recuperated faster and required less pain-killing medicine than matched patients who viewed only brick walls.
  • In one study, stands of trees reduced particulates by 9 to 13 percent, and the amount of dust reaching the ground was 27 to 42 percent less under a stand of trees than in an open area.
Photo by Kaid Benfield

Several years ago, walkability guru Dan Burden wrote a detailed monograph titled 22 Benefits of Urban Street Trees. Among other things, he calculated that “for a planting cost of $250-600 (includes first 3 years of maintenance) a single street tree returns over $90,000 of direct benefits (not including aesthetic, social and natural) in the lifetime of the tree.” Burden cites data finding that street trees create slower and more appropriate urban traffic speeds, increase customer traffic to businesses, and obviate increments of costly drainage infrastructure. In at least one recent study (reported after Burden’s analysis), trees were even found to be associated with reduced crime.

I think some of the most important benefits, though, are felt emotionally. Burden puts it this way:

Urban street trees provide a canopy, root structure and setting for important insect and bacterial life below the surface; at grade for pets and romantic people to pause for what pets and romantic people pause for; they act as essential lofty environments for song birds, seeds, nuts, squirrels and other urban life. Indeed, street trees so well establish natural and comfortable urban life it is unlikely we will ever see any advertisement for any marketed urban product, including cars, to be featured without street trees making the ultimate dominant, bold visual statement about place.

That is extremely well said.

The DC area also has an extensive tree inventory hosted by the nonprofit Casey Trees, which has done much praiseworthy work to increase both plantings and awareness in our area. Among the several informative maps on the organization’s website is one marking trees recently planted in the city directly by the foundation. There’s also a map showing trees recently planted by the city. As with the San Diego maps, you can zoom in and click on a particular tree and bring up a popup window (see below) of tree characteristics.

Casey also publishes an annual Tree Report Card evaluating how the area is doing with respect to such performance measures as tree coverage, health, planting and protection. For 2011, for example, the organization found that tree planting has been robust and that the health of the city’s forest is strong. But the organization expressed concern about weak enforcement of the city’s tree protection law and urged both legislative and administrative changes to strengthen the city’s aggregate tree canopy, which has remained constant for several years at 35 percent coverage of the city, short of the goal of 40 percent.

Which brings me to the controversy. The Washington region, like many others in the U.S., has many neighborhoods (including my own) with above-ground utility lines strung overhead along our streets. We also have a lot of thunderstorms, which in some years cause significant treefall and power interruptions, most recently for the better part of a week during a severe heat wave. Utility workers strive heroically to restore service, but there are not-entirely-unfounded complaints that some of the local utilities lack sufficient preparation and have cut budgets in the wrong divisions of the company. This became a major news story, as some electricity providers performed significantly better than others in restoring electricity.

To try to shorten what could become a long story, some defensive utility executives have pointed to the trees when customers complain (“At the hearing, Pepco officials blamed trees for much of the damage to about 2,400 Pepco power lines, 200 transformers and 240 utility poles that fell during the storm”). This has been refuted by analysis, however (“By far, Pepco equipment failures, not trees, caused the most sustained power interruptions last year, records show”).

But it’s not just utilities, unfortunately. As reported by Justin Jouvenal in The Washington Post, a “massive and iconic oak that stood in the heart” of a northern Virginia suburb fell two weeks ago and crushed a car and driver underneath, killing the driver. This has prompted at least one local businessman to ask the authorities to immediately take down two nearby large, mature trees and to “deal more aggressively with aging trees” in the community. Some community members are now claiming that tree lovers “have blood on their hands,” while others believe that some of the area’s grandest trees could be casualties of an emotional rush to judgment in the wake of a tragic accident.

Photo courtesy of Junichi Ishito/Flickr

Personally, I am unqualified to evaluate risks and benefits in these situations. But one resident quoted in the article appears to be a voice of reason, asserting that it is important that trees be evaluated but that weight should be given to professional arborists as to their health and safety. If a tree is healthy and not posing a hazard, it should stay. I would add that, if some should indeed come down, the affected property should be replanted as soon as possible. And, as for the power lines, let’s put them underground where they belong.

Original Article

editor: Urban Street Trees – 22 Benefits




Oxnard’s Core Downtown Corridor will become vibrant and alive places when there are more people to frequent the areas. Oxnard must increase the density of nearby residential areas to get more people Downtown. Zoning changes, to mandate moderate density, is what is needed and is the only thing that will change the current poorly frequented Downtown areas.

To get more people Downtown, Oxnard needs to change its zoning ordinances to incentivize infill housing and multi-story mixed use building in its Downtown Corridor areas.

Current Oxnard zoning incentivizes sprawl. Zoning changes along the Oxnard Blvd/ Saviers Rd Corridor will reverse this negative trend and bring building, investment and vitality back to our Downtown areas.

The major benefit and result of zoning changes will be to bring more People into core Downtown areas which will encourage small businesses like restaurants and galleries, clothing and book stores, local foods and produce, and other like small businesses catering to people that live in the area and beyond. For example nearby communities have stores that sell specialty olive oils, kitchen supplies and local produce. This will happen because zoning changes will increase property values and stimulate investment in Downtown Oxnard.

Zoning changes, in addition to benefitting Oxnard as a whole, will benefit local property owners, contractors, builders and crafts people as the money earned and spent on smaller infill projects is recycled in the local community many times over. With large-scale developers (developments), there is little incentive to do the right thing for Oxnard and where the money mostly goes out of the area, the community is saddled with long-term costs. Large scale developers, all too often – hit and run – shunting long-term costs onto the Oxnard community for many years to come.

Anyone who thinks that promoting and developing Downtown Oxnard specifically to attract tourists is seriously misguided. Tourists, pure and simple, are attracted to vibrant culturally alive places, which unfortunately Downtown Oxnard currently is not. However, once Downtown Oxnard is a thriving place that locals are attracted to and frequent – then and only then – does Downtown Oxnard have a chance of attracting tourists.


Embrace and encourage Oxnard’s cultural diversity (one successful example is Vallarta Market)

Recognize and develop Downtown Oxnard for the People of Oxnard (when we are successful the tourists will come)

Change the zoning to INCENTIVIZE building and development to create Moderate density infill housing and multi-story mixed-use in Oxnard’s Downtown Corridor areas

Make Oxnard a pedestrian and bicycle friendly Complete Streets community – People first – cars only after people (listen up traffic engineers)

Redesign/recreate the Oxnard Blvd/Saviers Rd Corridor (The Collection-101 to the Sea) into a tree lined road with wide sidewalks, separated bicycle lanes with lots of bicycle parking (because of the vibrancy created by increases in density, People will flock to pedestrian/bicycle oriented vibrancy)


Establish an Oxnard Blvd/Saviers Rd (The Collection-101 to the Sea) Design and Development District. Staff it with visionary and creative City planners and arborists – and include, from the public, artists, restauranteurs, Master Gardeners and stakeholders interested in a vibrant Oxnard.


Anyone who says “it can’t be done” or that “there is not enough money” – or whatever the negative conversation…


This is a long-term endeavor…keep the faith, stay the course.

A Facebook conversation about this can be found here:



Braving the New World of Performance-Based Zoning


“Conventional zoning is downright sinister in the ways that it forms a barrier against good urbanism.”
“The critical thing is to zone for what will create great places, rather than to zone simply for sprawl, as has been mindlessly done for decades,”

“The problem isn’t zoning per se — it’s zoning that requires all the wrong things, few of the right things, and well-intentioned, piecemeal amendments that have made an incomprehensible mess.”

Conventional zoning is an outdated barrier against good urbanism, but there’s disagreement on the best way forward.

Most people might think of zoning as the province of white-haired volunteer boards, but in an increasingly developed world, it has a larger importance. Codes that guide development are the DNA of human settlement.

The problem is that most zoning hasn’t changed with the times, for nearly a century now. It’s like having traffic rules and manufacturer regulations based on the Model T.

A short history: The landmark 1926 Supreme Court case Euclid v. Ambler Realty confirmed the authority of local governments to lay down the law on building—literally. Zoning, in legal terms, is considered part of police powers, enforcing health and safety. A hundred years ago, cities were increasingly congested and dirty places, and planners sought to spread things out and separate noxious uses; a tannery shouldn’t be next to a townhouse, and so on.

The principle of separation of uses led to the color-coded zoning maps pinned up in most town halls: residential here, commercial over there, and industrial over by the other town’s border. But the approach is pretty much entirely inappropriate for urban development—and especially infill, downtown, and transit-oriented development.

Conventional zoning is downright sinister in the ways that it forms a barrier against good urbanism.
Conventional zoning is downright sinister in the ways that it forms a barrier against good urbanism. It prohibits live-work arrangements, residential over retail, and all other manner of the mixed-use environments that are proven formulas for vitality, walkability, and convenience. Outdated and NIMBY-driven codes ban accessory dwelling units and the occupation of carriage houses and in-law apartments, as well as infill cottages—building smaller dwellings on empty portions of already-developed residential land—which would instantly increase the supply of affordable housing.

And zoning has another attribute, typical of a system long overdue for an overhaul: all kinds of loopholes and amendments, layered on like barnacles. For instance, the “approval not required” clause in Massachusetts doesn’t give the local planning board any say on development, as long as it fronts on an existing street. A coalition has tried to get reform legislation passed for years, but the homebuilders lobby has blocked a full vote (and the subject is so obscure, it’s hard to get anyone to care).

What to do, then? The 1960s and 1970s saw a fresh take with conditional zoning, special permits, and planned-unit developments. Credit New Urbanism for drawing attention to the need for new codes around the beginning of the 1990s: When neo-traditional planners went to build the equivalent of a New England town square, they found it was illegal.

In the 21st century, the most notable innovation has been the form-based code. It is less concerned with the use that goes on inside buildings and more with their appearance and the way they relate to each other and shape the streetscape in the context of a vision for a  neighborhood. The most high-profile adoption is Miami 21, but a surprising number of cities have taken the plunge, including Denver, Cincinnati, El Paso, Nashville, Fort Worth, and nearly two dozen others.

Joel Russell, executive director of the Form-Based Codes Institute—yes, there is such a thing—has said he hopes to take things to the next level by emphasizing the benefits of a code overhaul to a broader public. He is taking the campaign on the road in the coming days, to the Future of Places conference in Buenos Aires.

Some of the most out-of-the-box thinking is coming from (where else?) the Bay Area, with the adoption of “performance-based zoning.” In the city of Fremont, the city council chose a new path for a nearly 900-acre parcel anchored by a future BART station, set for massive redevelopment. Planners started with a set of goals—a certain number of jobs, a certain number of homes including affordable homes, and critically, strict standards for a low carbon footprint. However developers achieve all that is their business.

“We wanted to get away from the usual laundry list—You can do this, this is a conditional use—and instead say that, if you can achieve this, you decide about the uses,” said Noah Friedman, senior urban designer at Perkins + Will and force majeur behind the Warms Springs South Fremont Community Plan. The zoning, approved by the city council, “doesn’t tell you how to achieve the standard, just that you need to achieve that standard.”

The former Toyota plant site, a regional hub soon to be strategically accessible, is envisioned as a “workplace TOD,” including 9.6 million square feet of light industrial, research and development, office, convention, retail, entertainment, hotel and residential development. The targeted 19,390 jobs and 4,000 homes can be phased in over time.

Bring it on. Explore the frontier. Anything’s better than the mainframes we have now.
The performance-based approach is also being tested in the Atlanta region, where planners are rethinking the framework for light industrial development in a world where there just aren’t a lot of tanneries anymore. It’s a zen approach to setting down the rules: zoning without being zoning. Or call it Zoning 2.0, though like a lot of garage startups, the concept can be traced back many years. The notion of  judging development by its impact rather than its use categories can be found in the 1980 book Performance Zoning—and who doesn’t have that on their shelf?—by Lane Kendig. The concept never took off quite the way its initial backers hoped, however, with several local governments giving it a try and then abandoning it. The Fremont experiment represents a new hope as performance-based zoning gets fined-tuned and draws from the framework established by LEED, the green building standard.

Devotees of form-based codes suggest there are good things about performance-based zoning, but that it’s not the answer unto itself.

“The critical thing is to zone for what will create great places, rather than to zone simply for sprawl, as has been mindlessly done for decades,” says Russell. “The problem isn’t zoning per se—it’s zoning that requires all the wrong things, few of the right things, and well-intentioned, piecemeal amendments that have made an incomprehensible mess.”

Different views of the best way forward sure sounds like foment to me. And that may be the best sign yet that zoning is entering a new phase of disruption: a little Apple vs. Microsoft-style rivalry.

Bring it on. Explore the frontier. Anything’s better than the mainframes we have now.





Must View

“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


What’s the Big Idea?

  1. The current path cities are pursuing is not financially stable.
  2. The future for most cities will not resemble the recent past.
  3. The main determinant of future prosperity for cities will be local leaders’ ability to transform their communities.
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 ]

Tactical Urbanism

City Planning

City Planning & Urban Design

These firms and consultants seem to get it right

Economic Development

  • Safer Streets – Stronger Economies
  • Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns
  • A candid talk about the future of America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods
  • Competitive Cities for jobs and growth
    “While the report takes pains to note that there is no silver bullet for urban competitiveness, it identifies some key factors and strategies that bear on itThe most competitive cities focus on higher-skill tradable industries, attracting foreign investment, creating new businesses, and growing their existing, already competitive firms (which usually has the biggest impact on job creation). They also have strong growth coalitions of elected leaders, civic officials, and the private sector. Most importantly, they have a clear strategy to exploit their competitive advantages. In Bucaramanga, Colombia, for instance, the city has used its oil revenues to invest in universities known for their research on the oil industry—in turn generating technical skills and boosting human capital. It’s this kind of creative and independent thinking that allows cities to do a lot with a limited amount of resources.”
You Think You Know About Parking?
Design Review

Human Scale Design

Transportation Engineering
  • Context Based Design and the Fate of the Arterial
    A brief and urban look at the way a street engineer can make our streets walkable. The street engineer that pulls out the code book and tells you, with various official sounding citations, that making streets only for cars is the only thing that can be done – is regressive and does not understand where cities are going. We need street engineers that understand walkability, urbanism and placemaking. The code based street engineer is a dinosaur.
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers
    Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach