Durable Growth

Looking around town: Checking on continuing stories

Petaluma block party

Petaluma block party

I describe this blog as a perspective, with an urbanist eye, on land use in the entire North Bay.  However, I live, work, and participate in the Petaluma community.  Unless I watch myself carefully, I can easily find myself writing only about Petaluma.  Lately, I haven’t been watching myself carefully.

That became evident when I began to write updates on several stories I’ve been following.  All of the stories were based in Petaluma.  Oops.

I promise in the near future to again begin traveling beyond the Petaluma city limits.  At least I’ll do so as soon as the broken glass is swept up.  (For those not in the Bay Area, the North Bay sustained a 6.0 earthquake early Sunday morning.  The entire household was awakened, except for the 14-year-old Golden Retriever who continued to snore blissfully.  We sustained no damage, not even a picture askew, but the towns of Napa and Sonoma weren’t as lucky.)

I have a working list of projects which I intend to visit around the North Bay.  But if readers have particular projects they’d like me to visit, or public hearings they think I should attend, let me know.  I’m always interested in inside information.

So, today will be a summing up of older Petaluma stories.  My next post will be final thoughts on the athletic field at the River Front project in Petaluma (where else?) about which I’ve recently written twice.  And then I’ll take a quick look at planning in England.  But after that, I promise, I’ll widen my perspective to include more of the North Bay.

Fairgrounds: As I’ve previously written, there will be a special meeting of Petaluma Urban Chat this coming Tuesday, August 26th.  We’ll continue our independent analysis of the redevelopment options for the Sonoma Marin Fairgrounds.  Several members are preparing sketches for sharing and discussion.  The meeting will be at the Aqus Café at 2nd and H Streets.  We’ll begin at 5:30.  Everyone is welcome.

I’ve been corresponding with a parent who has been active with the Live Oak Charter School on the fairgrounds.  She advised me of several factors, including funding for improvements under the recently passed Petaluma City Schools bond measures, that increase the likelihood that Live Oak will remain in its current location.  Anyone who is preparing a sketch for Tuesday evening may want to include Live Oak in its current setting on the Gnoss Concourse.

Block parties: In response to my recent suggestionthat readers contact their favorite City Councilmembers to advocate for loosening and clarifying the block party rules in the Petaluma Municipal Code, several readers promised to do exactly that.

One faithful reader even copied me on her emails to all seven Councilmembers.  To their credit, six of the seven responded.  The messages ranged from “That’s interesting” to “Let me look into it and see what I can do” to “Here are some thoughts for making a change in 2015.”

I’m pleased that she received responses, but would have preferred if at least one had been “Let’s get this fixed right now!”  Perhaps I was hoping for too much, particularly during an election season.  Plus, reduced City Hall staffing has an effect on the speed of administrative changes, no matter how laudable.  I’ll let this situation perk for awhile in hopes that something develops.  But failing that, at least we have a plan for 2015.

Celebration of Evening Bus Service: I haven’t yet seen the numbers, but suspect that the celebration of Petaluma Transit evening bus service was a failure to launch.  I hung out near the Boulevard Cinema for an hour in the early evening.  I saw a few students hanging about, perhaps ready to take advantage of the reduced admission charge, but it was far short of a critical mass.

The failure is disappointing.  Not so much because of the time spent by transit staff in organizing the event or the post that I devoted to the subject, but because the community needs strong transit service, including evening service.  And because local students need to achieve transit comfort to reach their full potential in the 21st century.

However, as Thomas Edison was reported to have said upon the failure of another light bulb concept, we’ve haven’t failed as much as we’ve found another idea that doesn’t work.  We’ll take a step back, reassess the opportunities, and try again.  And we’ll eventually succeed.

Keller Court Commons: I previously wrote of this pocket neighborhood project that would bring an alternative and more compact land use pattern to Petaluma.  In my post, I noted my disappointment that the zoning code required the project to become a planned unit development (PUD), arguing that the additional hurdle shouldn’t have been required for the more benign land use.

The project easily secured its first Planning Commission approvals a couple of weeks ago.  Afterwards, I finally met the developer face-to-face.  He hadn’t seen my post, but among his first comments was astonishment that he’d needed to form a PUD, noting that no other community in which he’d worked required more than a conditional use.

It was great that Petaluma was able to approve Keller Court Commons.  It was less great that the city made the process more difficult than elsewhere.

Next time, I’ll conclude my thoughts on the athletic field at River Front in Petaluma.

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.

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