Nov 292017
 

It’s been my pleasure as founder, of the Oxnard Community Planning Group (OCPG), to participate in the good work of the OCPG and to build and maintain this website. The OCPG brought the Downtown Oxnard Vision Plan Charrette to Oxnard (thank you Dao Doan and the CNU-CA) and has produced events like the 5th Street Tactical Urbanism (Aurelio Ocampo and the OCPG) and Jane Jacobs movie (produced by myself with assistance from Heritage Square and the Oxnard Historical Society).

I now wish to further the work by continuing to support the good work of the OCPG – while starting a new website and blog: www.OxnardRenaissance.org – and the Oxnard Renaissance newsletter.

I want a bit more freedom to call the Oxnard planning scene as I see it. In addition to the new OxnardRenaissance.org website & blog, I have long wanted to create a newsletter relating to Oxnard planning issues and thus far OxnardRenaissance has sent out 15 such newsletters which you can view here and here.

For some time now I have wanted to create regularly scheduled small by-invitation forums for Oxnard based planning issues and the OxnardRenaissance website/blog and newsletter will now focus on these events.

Here is a list of some of the specific issues Oxnard Renaissance will focus on and explore in 2018:

  • Revitalizing Oxnard Boulevard (The City has no current plans to revitalize Oxnard Boulevard)
  • Infill and small-scale mixed-use development housing and development in the Central Business District (CBD) and other appropriate Oxnard locations (City Zoning and Development Standards incentivizes sprawl and make infill housing [small-scale mixed-use] impossible) (Large developers are currently being incentivized at the expense of small-scale mixed-use development in Oxnard today) and (City needs to incentivize and encourage mixed-use development downtown and in other appropriate locations)
  • Oxnard Development Standards are out of date and prevent small-scale mixed-use development in the Central Business District (CBD) and other Oxnard locations
  • Architectural Review in Oxnard to encourage quality building design throughout the City and in the Central Business District (CBD). Currently, in the Central Business District (CBD) the Downtown Design Review Committee (DDRC) will not deny a project from local architects, regardless of the quality of the architecture. This is how it is today in Oxnard, and I know because I was appointed to the DDRC early in 2017. Also, one set of drawings, the design, is submitted to the DDRC and then another set of drawings are submitted for a building permit that may or may not include the DDRC findings, because there is no process to be sure that what is submitted for a building permit – has been reviewed by DDRC staff to assure compliance with DDRC findings. OxnardRenaissance is working to bring better design and better architecture to Oxnard.
  • Oxnard Development Standards and Design Guidelines (Oxnard is not working on updating Development Standards or Design Guidelines as of Nov 2017 – there may be movement no real work being done.) (Currently there are very minimal design and consistent theme guidelines to make Oxnard a unique and attractive place. And what limited guidelines there are the DDRC ignores as a matter of course.)
  • Economic Development issues in Oxnard
  • Oxnard as a truly walkable and bikeable place for people to enjoy our city
  • Planning department is understaffed (Currently Oxnard has ⅓rd the number of planners per capita than other Ventura County cities)
  • Oxnard Downtown Manager announced by the City Manager at the Nov 28, 2017 City Council meeting (I hope to work with the downtown manager to strengthen all aspects of making Oxnard’s downtown into a place where people want to walk and shop and where well designed small-scale mixed-use buildings will be supported and incentivized in downtown Oxnard)

Thank you and hope to see you at OxnardRenaissance.org where the above work will be continued,
Roy Prince

Jan 252017
 

Why we code

Code workshop at CNU 23 sponsored by DPZ and Placemakers

Andres Duany offers more than 20 reasons why urban design coding is necessary—and he hopes that someday it will no longer be needed.

Within the last half-century, some 30 million buildings have degraded cities and reduced landscapes. Must we tolerate this comprehensive disaster in exchange for the, perhaps, three thousand great buildings that great architects have produced? Such a win-loss ratio is as unacceptable in architecture as it would be in any other field. We are compelled to intervene and have found that codes are the most effective instruments of reform.

We must code because the default setting in contemporary design is mediocrity and worse. Those who object to codes imagine that they constrain architectural masterpieces (their own, usually). But great buildings are few and the more likely outcome is kitsch. Codes can assure a minimum level of urban and architectural competence, even if in so doing they constrain certain possibilities.

We use codes because those who are charged with designing, supervising and building communities tend to ignore education and avoid exhortation, but they are accustomed to following codes. It was the achievement to the mid-century generation of planners to have embedded codes in the political and legal process. We must take advantage of this.

We code because ours is a nation founded on law. We prefer to work within known rules rather than be subject to the opinion of boards, politicians and bureaucrats.

We code because bureaucracies cannot be (have never been) dismantled.  They will however, willingly administer whatever codes are in hand. This has a potential for reform more efficient than education.

Codes are currently pervasive. Replacing them with a void is legally unsustainable. It is for us to re-conceive the codes so that they result in better places to live.

We must code so that the various professions that affect urbanism will act with unity of purpose. Without integrated codes, architects, civil engineers and landscape architects can undermine each others intentions. Without integrated codes, the result of development is never more than the unassembled collection of urban potential.

When architects do not control the codes, buildings are shaped by fire marshals, civil engineers, poverty advocates, market experts, accessibility standards, materials suppliers and liability attorneys. Codes written by architects clear a field of action for typological and syntactic concerns.

We code because unguided towns and cities tend, not to vitality, but to socioeconomic monocultures. The wealthy gather in their enclaves, the middle-class in their neighborhoods, and the poor in the residue. Shops and restaurants cluster around certain price-points, offices find their prestige addresses and sweatshops their squalid ones. Some areas uniformly gentrify, while viable neighborhoods self-segregate and decay. This process occurs in historical cities no less than in new suburbs. Codes can secure that measure of diversity without which urbanism withers.

We make use of codes as the means to redistribute building design to others. Authentic urbanism requires the intervention of many. Those who would design all the buildings themselves produce architectural projects – monocultures of design – but they are not involved in the practice of urbanism.

We must code so that buildings cooperate towards a spatially defined public realm. This no longer occurs as a matter of course unless coded to be otherwise. The demands of parking and the arbitrary singularity of architects tend to create vague, sociofugal places that undermine the possibility of community.

We must code so that private buildings achieve the modicum of visual silence which is a requisite of an urban fabric. Conversely, codes must also protect the prerogative of civic buildings to express the aspirations of the institutions they accommodate and also the inspiration of their architects. This is the dialectic or urbanism.

We code to protect the character of specific locales from the universalizing tendencies of modern real estate development.

We code because the location of the urban and the rural is of a fundamental importance that cannot be left to the vicissitudes of ownership. Codes and their associated maps address the where as well as the what.

We must code to assure that urban places can be truly urban and that rural places remain truly rural. Otherwise, misconceived environmentalism tends to the partial greening of all places; the result being neither one nor the other, but the ambiguous garden city of sprawl.

We must code so that buildings incorporate a higher degree of environmental response than is otherwise warranted by conventional economic analysis.

We must code so that buildings are durable, and also mutable, in proper measure. This is crucial at the long-range time-scale of urbanism.

Without codes, older urban areas tend to suffer from disinvestment, as the market seeks stable environments. The competing private codes of the homeowners associations, the guidelines of office parks, and the rules of shopping centers create predictable outcomes that lure investment away from existing cities and towns. Codes level the playing field for the inevitable competition.

We must prepare the new private association codes of developers because it is they who have built our cities and continue to do so. The profit motive was once capable of building the best places that we still have. Codes can assist in the restoration of this standard.

We code in defiance of an avant-garde culture that prizes the alternating extremes of unfettered genius and servility to the zeitgeist. There are positions between. Urbanism intrinsically transcends the limits set by our time. We know that it is possible to affect the current reality and we accept the responsibility.

We code because we are not relativists. We observe certain urbanisms that support the self-defined pursuit of happiness (the stated right of Americans). We also observe other urbanisms that tend to undermine that pursuit. Through codes we attempt to make the first a reality.

We prepare codes because it is the most abstract, rigorous and intellectually refined practice available to a designer. And because it is also verifiable: by being projected into the world, codes engage a reality that can lead to resounding failure. In comparison, theoretical writing is a delicacy that survives only under the protection of the academy.

We code because codes can compensate for deficient professional training. We will continue to code, so long as the schools continue to educate architects towards self-expression rather than towards context, to theory rather than practice, to individual building rather than to the whole.

We look forward to the day when we will no longer need to code.

Andrés Duany is an architect, urban designer, planner, and author, has dedicated more than three decades to pioneering a vision for sustainable urban development and its implementation. He is a founder of CNU.

Original article.

Oct 102016
 

Last week, the City of Oxnard received the Helen Putman award from the League of Calif Cities at their 2016 Expo. (Read about it here: https://www.oxnard.org/city-of-oxnard-wins-2016-helen-putnam-award-for-excellence-for-city-corps-youth-partnership/)

The City Manager and his leadership team were there and received the award. Apparently, they were all very taken with the keynote speaker, Jason Roberts of the Better Block Foundation. This is a group that is a leading practitioner of guerrilla Tactical Urbanism in Dallas, TX. They’ve got a wild story.  Click here to explore: http://betterblock.org/

Here are some YouTube vids of Jason rapping about Better Blocks:

From Feb 21, 2012:

From Jun 29, 2016:

You will find more like the above here.

Let’s do a Better Block project here in Oxnard – If you want to participate contact the OCPG by clicking here Contact and join the effort!