Durable Growth

An urbanist Christmas list for the North Bay

071223006 Mitten on GrassSanta Claus is about 24 hours away from his pre-flight checklist.  It’s time to finalize my list of urbanist Christmas wishes for the North Bay.

New Years and the annual obligation of resolutions is still a week away, but thinking about my wish list reminds me that my first resolution should be learning more about the urbanist issues that are important to each North Bay community.  I know what it’s important to me in Petaluma and I have a grasp of region-wide issues, but I could learn much more about the priorities of urbanists in Napa, St. Helena, and Healdsburg.  Luckily, I have a whole year for that effort.

North Bay

More Urbanists: My wish list must begin with having more urbanists, especially those willing to make their views felt.  Critical mass is a crucial concept.

Urbanist Candidates:  The coming year will include a general election.  I wish for more and better urbanist candidates.  Not candidates who think walkable developments are fine as long as they don’t interfere with new big boxes, but ones who have both a comprehension and a gut-level feeling that urbanism is a logical and essential component of our future and who are willing to work to counteract the marketplace constraints that impede urbanism.

Finding a Balance with Tourism: As shown by Ballot Measure B in Sonoma and the continuing hotel proposals in Healdsburg, there is increasing interest in lodging options in downtown settings.  Here in Petaluma, the conversion of the Hotel Petaluma and the proposal for The Petaluman boutique hotel also shows how travelers are eager to have a walking environment outside their hotel room door.

I wish for the region to find the appropriate balance between tourism and urbanism.  Tourism can bring dollars needed to sustain urbanism.  But too many tourists can result in sidewalks and restaurants filled with nothing but tourists.  Find the right balance is key, but non-trivial.


Fairgrounds: Closer to home, I wish for good news from the negotiations between the Sonoma Marin Fair Board and the City of Petaluma.  The Sonoma Marin Fair is a fine institution.  But it sits on land that could change the course of the city if used well.  Finding a balance between the two won’t be easy, but perhaps Santa can help.

Petaluma Station Area: A year ago, the Petaluma Station Area Plan was adopted with great hope that it would soon lead to urbanist development in the heart of the city, adjoining the coming SMART rail station.  Since then, silence.

The problem seems to be that SMART hasn’t yet issued a Request for Qualifications, seeking a developer for the first parcel next to the station.  (I’ve heard reports the new owner of the next parcel beyond the SMART parcel is proceeding with a plan that will be consistent with the Station Area Plan.  But I suspect that the firm is hesitant to advance too far ahead of the SMART parcel which will provide the walking route between their parcel and the station.)

I wish for Santa to help SMART to get the paperwork underway and for a qualified and motivated developer to quickly snatch the opportunity.

Already Granted

SMART to Airport: Sometimes the best gifts are the ones you didn’t expect, but meet your needs perfectly.  In that category is the newly announced funding for a SMART station at the Santa Rosa Airport.  I’ve only used the Santa Rosa Airport a couple of times, but found it a much more pleasant way to begin a trip than traveling to San Francisco or Oakland.  Riding a train from Petaluma to the airport sounds even better.  I thank Santa for his prescience.

I know that some will quibble that there are insufficient air travelers to justify a rail station serving the airport, to which I can only repeat a comment often made regarding decisions about new bike lanes and bike paths: One doesn’t choose a location for a new bridge based on how many people are swimming the river.

Have I missed any obvious urbanist Christmas wishes?  Probably.  Please add your thoughts below.

Note: There will be a new post on Christmas morning.  But that will be only because I always write on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Christmas Day is to spend family and friends.  My post will still be waiting for you after the holiday.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

Comments are closed.