Durable Growth

After a few community announcements, April Fools’ Day – Part 1

Current Community Separator

Current Community Separator

Before getting onto today’s “business”, I have reminders of three upcoming meetings of potential interest to North Bay urbanists, particularly those in Petaluma.

Connecting with SMART – On Thursday, April 7 at 4:00pm in the Petaluma City Hall, 11 English Street, the Petaluma Transit Advisory Committee will take up the draft Short-Range Transit Plan.  A key element of the plan is the proposed rerouting of buses to strengthen connectivity with the coming SMART commuter train.

The meeting may sound dull and bureaucratic, but it’s truly thrilling to ponder a future, now only months away, in which Petaluma residents can leave their front doors and walk a block or two to stops from where Petaluma Transit buses will convey them to the SMART station from where trains can be taken to destinations from San Rafael to Santa Rosa.

Although I think the Petaluma Transit staff has done a fine job of framing the challenge and of developing bus route solutions, there remains an opportunity for local citizens to ask questions and to suggest even better solutions.  More details are in a post I wrote a few days back.

Connecting with SMART, Part 2 – On Tuesday, April 12 at 5:30pm at the Aqus Café, 2nd and H Streets, Petaluma Urban Chat will convene with much the same agenda as the Transit Advisory Committee, discussing the integration of Petaluma Transit and SMART.

Petaluma Transit will have a representative present, so for those who can’t attend 4pm meetings or are allergic to City Hall, this will be another chance to be heard.  I also wrote about this meeting in my earlier post.

Moving the Community Separators Ahead – On Wednesday, April 13 at 4:00pm at the Petaluma Community Center, 320 N McDowell Boulevard, Sonoma County Planning will convene a community workshop on community separators.

The separators are areas of restricted land use between communities, intended to keep cities from growing together.  The goal is to keep Sonoma County looking like Sonoma County, not the Los Angeles Basin or the South Bay where the only way to know you’ve moved between cities is a green traffic sign alongside a gridlocked arterial.

As I wrote several months ago, if you want Healdsburg, Windsor, Petaluma, and other character-filled Sonoma County cities to continue to feel like distinct places, community separators is a key element.

The separators are up for renewal and possible expansion.  The Petaluma workshop will be the third of three workshops that are part of the process.  The Greenbelt Alliance, which strongly supports the separator renewal, has written about the workshops.  Also, the Greenbelt Alliance regional director has made a Facebook page on which residents can indicate their intention to attend the meeting.  If you support the goal of community separators, you should attend the workshop.

I’ll attend all three meetings and encourage readers to join me.

Onward to the topic I’d intended for today, the recently passed April Fool’s Day.

Over the history of this blog, I’ve often touched on April Fool’s Day.  Although walkable urbanism isn’t necessary prone to pranks, normally considered the key element of April Fool’s Day, it can provide settings for whimsy, quirkiness, and fun, which I’m willing to connect to April Fool’s Day.

Early on, I wrote quarterly updates about April Fool’s Day.  But now I’ve transitioned to a giant annual April Fool’s Day blow-out, with all the fun, quirky, and whimsical stories that I found worth sharing over the past twelve months.

So, over the next four posts, including today, I’ll present the 24 best and oddest urbanist stories of the year, at least in my opinion.  The stories will be presented in the reverse order of my personal rankings, so today may start a little slow, but I find myself laughing out loud at the stories I’ll reach a couple of posts hence.

#24 Walkable Urbanism as a Party Game – Urban planners, recognizing that they sometimes talk in lingo intelligible only to other planners, have invented a game intended to introduce their terminology to the masses.  I suspect they’ll still only be understandable to each other, but at least they’ve found a fun way to do so.

#23 Mass Transit as an Art Form – Those who have visited London are familiar with the look and feel of a Tube station.  From the font on the signs to the station layouts, Tube stations are distinctive.  Which led artist Camilla Barnard to make a slightly off-kilter rendition of a Tube for her entry in the London Design Festival.  Is it truly art?  I don’t know.  But I find it both visually and intellectually intriguing.

#22 Reversing a Decision for Politically Forward-Thinking Pedestrian Signals – After following other Austrian cities in the adoption of pedestrian signals that acknowledge gay relationships, the city of Linz decided to remove the signals.  I don’t think I would have thought to use pedestrian signals to acknowledge the range of romantic preferences, but having done so, it seems small-minded to opt back out.

#21 Steampunk Condos – In a decision that seems dubious at best, a New York City condo is being marketed with a steampunk theme, that puzzling celebration of industrial revolution meets Victorian England.  I fear what will come next, evocation of Dickensian slums or the Roman estates of 2nd century Gaul?  Personally, I’m fine if we leave one-off historical architectural knockoffs to Las Vegas.

#20 Bridge to Nowhere – A Danish architectural firm has built a 200-foot diameter circular bridge, without handrails, over an arm of the North Sea.  It’s visually appealing and might be fun to walk a couple of times, but I don’t see any longevity to the concept.  And the absence of handrails would drive an American building inspector crazy.

#19 Error 404 Tree Not Found – Today’s offerings will end with a bit of whimsy from a concerned citizen who used internet lingo to alert the city to a tree that had gone missing.

When I next write, it’ll be to offer items #13-18 on my April Fool’s Day list.  And perhaps also to note some news from SMART.

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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