Nov 112016
 

LYNN RICHARDS NOV. 11, 2016
Lynn Richards is President and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Our principles—and our Charter—are timeless, and the work of our members is as relevant and populist as it has ever been.

Like a lot of people, I was shocked by the results of Tuesday’s election. Donald Trump’s unprecedented victory has far-reaching implications for our social programs, foreign affairs, and civil rights. On top of that, Trump has made it impossible to predict exactly what policy priorities he’ll tackle first. We will have to watch and wait.

But as President and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, my primary focus is on the future of our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Here, the major issues are clearer: we have specific federal programs at stake, looming questions about reframing our work, and an uncertain path ahead.

This is what we can expect.

Under President Obama, federal agencies like HUD, DOT, and EPA expanded their work on sustainable communities, especially through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. These programs have long been a target for congressional Republicans—from 2009 to 2012, I had to defend the EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities against elimination-minded officials arguing that its “core goals had been sufficiently incorporated.”

Unfortunately, these programs are likely to be eliminated. If they are, CNU and its partners must continue their legacy of supplying essential urbanist resources and information to the American public. Their considerable body of publications and best practices on community design and development represent decades of hard work and innovation. We cannot let that knowledge be lost.

One silver lining in their elimination may be how other federal agencies absorb the staff talent from these excellent programs. Already, Republican leadership has discussed a federal hiring freeze and 10 percent workforce reduction—meaning that dozens of leading experts on community design and development will move to new positions within their agencies. This presents an opportunity: how can we take advantage of these urbanist connections in new federal program areas?

Finally, keep in mind that Trump will likely draw federal appointees from previous Republican administrations. This could be good for our work. Under George W. Bush, the budget for the EPA’s smart growth programs more than doubled—and by sticking to a bipartisan framing, we saw our federal work thrive.

In fact, I’ve seen a great deal of discussion in recent days about reframing New Urbanism or attempting to pander to a new political agenda. CNU’s message has been consistently bipartisan for over two decades. Our strength is in our apolitical principles: to build places where people and businesses can thrive and prosper.

These principles—and our Charter—are timeless, and the work of our members is as relevant and populist as it has ever been. Dan Solomon’s transit-oriented affordable housing projects are the very opposite of elitist, and Erik Kronberg’s work rebuilding New Orleans with affordable homes that support the character of the existing neighborhood would be a welcome addition to any city, town, or county in America.

We cannot lose the bipartisan appeal of these core values because of one political moment. I’ve had great urbanist conversations with Tea Party activists and radical environmentalists, and I’ve worked alongside struggling communities and residents of every color, creed, and class. Open community engagement is a fundamental principle of New Urbanism—and while we can absolutely improve on this process, it is not something to be abandoned or “reframed.”

Finally, as I’ve said before, cities and towns are emerging as America’s leading innovators in placemaking and government. From innovation districts and development financing to climate change and equitable neighborhoods, our cities are the new urbanist laboratories, creating and embracing new strategies and practices faster than any other level of government. Regardless of what the federal government does, this is a trend that will continue to gain strength—and we should focus much of our energy there.

This is not to say we have an easy road ahead. Once, in 2004, the then-EPA Administrator Michael O. Leavitt gave a keynote for the smart growth awards. I was thinking the former three-term Governor of Utah might speak on their success with Envision Utah. Instead of engaging on the issue, or reading the speech we prepared, the newly appointed Administrator spoke fondly of his favorite tree in his backyard and his adventures golfing. That man is now a key figure in Trump’s transition team.

But the New Urbanist movement wasn’t built in a day and it isn’t going away. It speaks to all kinds of places and people, from thriving urban neighborhoods to rural Main Streets, and it has weathered storms before. What we’ve been doing for decades has worked, and will continue to work, and our regions, cities, and towns will continue to thrive.

Hold steady friends, we’ve got this.

Original article.

Oct 132016
 

OCPG member, and videographer Aurelio Ocampo (Red Sky Productions – www.RedSkyPro.com), recently released this brilliant short video on the Downtown Oxnard Vision Plan Charrette process. Aurelio clearly and beautifully documents the Charrette event that took place over a 5 day period in January of 2016. Enjoy!

Oct 012016
 

oxnard_performing_artsBy Steven Nash

The Oxnard Performing Arts & Convention Center (PACC) is a wonderful community asset. However, it could be much better. Its new executive director, Chelsea Reynolds, previously worked as a performing arts specialist with the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission. Under Ms. Reynolds’ direction, the PACC increased its social media presence, launched a new website and connected to print and broadcast media. Ms. Reynolds is reaching out to promoters, which is putting the Oxnard PACC on the radar for a variety of touring acts. But it may not be enough.

The PACC opened in 1968. In addition to the main auditorium, it has two banquet rooms, five classrooms, outdoor stages and an attached youth center. The facility, which ideally would be self-sustaining, has long required subsidies from Oxnard’s general fund. The city’s contribution was $11.1 million from fiscal year 2003-04 through last summer. On top of that, Oxnard in June 2016 paid $2.8 million to erase accumulated fund deficits. The ongoing tab from the general fund is about $900,000 a year. That’s more than half of the center’s $1.5 million budget.
Nonprofit groups now pay half the rental rates commercial entities do. A worksheet provided to the board of directors showed more than $131,000 in rental fees were subsidized for nonprofits in the last fiscal year. Schools get space for free. Revenue from all rentals for the year totaled $585,655. The executive director told the board she is looking at putting a cap on the number of subsidized nonprofits. She also has started reserving dates — weekends, holidays — for potential commercial customers.

draculapaccI believe we can and should diversify the PACC’s mission and make it a true visual and performing arts center. The City should ask for something in return for its $900,000 a year subsidy. That something is physical space for the following. First, a multimedia studio to accommodate PEG (that’s Public, Educational and Government) programming could be carved out of the 5 classrooms. Perhaps a new structure could be built and paid for out of the over $2 million in PEG fees the City has available to fund such ventures. Certainly Measure O money (the ½ cent sales tax initiative to enhance city services) might also be utilized. A head end connection to the local cable franchise would allow real time broadcasting of PACC events which cannot occur presently. A studio would allow for the training of residents to produce their own content which could then be shown on the public access channel. Opportunities for collaboration with the City and local school districts would provide incredible opportunities for young and old alike.

Second, a satellite senior center, focused on the arts and perhaps partnered with a child care facility, would allow seniors access to both volunteer and participate in opportunities at the PACC. Bringing the arts to the community should be a high priority of the PACC and its Board of Directors. Observing the arts is fine but participation in the many forms of art leads to human growth and the fulfillment of human potential, at any age!

These are just two examples of numerous ways to fully utilize this wonderful asset. The PACC can someday be connected to the downtown and its museums and theatres by a future vision expressed by the Oxnard Community Planning Group we call the Paseo Cultural. More on that later.

I hope this leads to further discussion of the immense potential represented by our Performing Arts and Convention Center.

Oxnard Performing Arts & Convention Center
800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, CA 93030

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.

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