Durable Growth, Transportation

Too few good fellows to muster a charge

Future brewpub parking lot site

Future brewpub parking lot site

I recently put forth an idea (in two parts, here and here) about where the second SMART station in Petaluma could be located.

For new readers, it was long expected that the second station, which is to be the station serving the drivable suburban neighborhoods of town, would be located near the corner of McDowell Boulevard and Corona Road.  However, financial constraints and difficult negotiations forced SMART to consider other options.  A land swap was recently broached that would move the station a mile north to a site on Old Redwood Highway, east of McDowell.  It’s a location that much of the town, including me, finds unacceptable.

Seeing a possible impasse, I offered an alternative, geographically midway between the two possibilities, a currently undeveloped parcel on McDowell that is planned as a parking lot for the Lagunitas brewpub, but could perhaps be co-opted to serve as a train station with parking during the day and as brewpub parking in the evening.  With other infrastructure changes, including traffic calming on McDowell, it seemed an interestingly viable alternative.

However, I said that I would continue pushing the idea only if I knew that I’d committed comrades to help with the effort.

Today, I can report that, although my call didn’t go unheeded, I didn’t get enough response to continue advocating for the alternative solution.  I had two people reach out with offers of assistance, one with significant enthusiasm.  But both have positions in the community that would make it awkward for them to take active roles in the process.  They could have provided valuable inside assistance, but when it came to a public face for the proposal, I would have been tilting at the windmill by myself, a situation in which I too often find myself and in which I have no interest in doing again right now.

So I’ll set the idea aside for now, but with the possibility of disinterring it if the opportunity arises in the fall, when the land swap may again surface for discussion.

And it seems likely that the discussion will continue.  The local newspaper recently published an editorial arguing for the land swap, suggesting that putting the train station on Old Redwood Highway would be an acceptable solution.  The following week, a City Councilmember and a member of Friends of SMART replied with a guest opinion piece that cited the reasons the editorial was wrong.

I suspect that the guest opinion piece, with which I agreed on almost every point, reflects the collective opinion of the community, but it may take more volleys back and forth before the issue is truly put to bed.  And if those volleys give me the opportunity to again raise my alternative, we’ll see where that opportunity may go.

Lagunitas sidewalk

Lagunitas sidewalk

I have one last, mostly unrelated, point on my proposed train station site.  In an earlier post, I noted that clearing and grubbing had begun for the brewpub parking lot.  It now seems that the clearing and grubbing activity was limited to the route of the sidewalk that is to connect the parking lot to the brewpub.  That sidewalk has now been constructed, with only site cleanup remaining, even though no construction has yet begun on the parking lot.  It seems odd construction sequencing, but I assume there’s a reason.

But my comment today is about the design of the sidewalk.  I recently wrote with disappointment  about those who design pedestrian routes with seemingly random short radius curves that appear to be more about the designer’s ego than about respecting the role that walkability can fill in effective urban development.

At the time, I’d seen the proposed alignment for the brewpub sidewalk and found it more curvy than necessary, but marginally acceptable.  However, I was only given the horizontal alignment to consider.  With the sidewalk now built, I can see that it was the vertical alignment where my concern should have been.  The sidewalk seems to have random humps and bumps as it were designed for skateboarders, not folks ambling to a brewpub for camaraderie.

I’ll withhold final judgment until I use the sidewalk to walk between the future parking lot and the brewpub, but my initial response is a sniff of irritation.

Next time, I’ll ruminate on the upcoming decision by the Petaluma City Council on the EIR for the Rainier Connector.

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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