Durable Growth

Taking the next step – Opportunities to make a difference during the week of June 12

Walkability in the Soho District of London

Walkability in the Soho District of London

I’ve returned from CNU 24, the annual gathering of the Congress for the New Urbanism.  As always, the conference was inspirational and motivational.  I’ve come back flush with new connections, eager to broach new ideas, and primed to suggest new initiatives.

But it’d be a strategic mistake for me to step too far too quickly.  Given its often narrow base within North Bay politics, urbanism can’t be implemented in broad strokes.  Instead, urbanists must edge toward the inevitable tipping point with persistent incremental steps, finding pivotal moments to weigh in with urbanist perspectives on issues that have already found their way onto North Bay agendas.

Thus, my weekly summary of upcoming meetings and other opportunities with urbanist angles follows below.  Perhaps because we’re moving into summer, it’s a light week, but hopefully readers will find something that stirs them to action.

Upcoming Meetings

MTC/ABAG, Monday, June 13, 6:00pm, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa – This is the Sonoma County edition of a series of meetings that have been seeking input into the Bay Area 2040 plan on growth scenarios and resulting transportation funding strategies.   I attended the Marin County meeting and, having another meeting on the same evening, will pass on this one.  But I suggest that anyone with an interest in growth and transportation in the North Bay make time to learn how MTC and ABAG have framed the issues.

Petaluma Planning Commission, Tuesday, June 14, 7:00pm (see update below), Petaluma City Hall, 11 English Street, Petaluma – The Adobe Road Winery is seeking to establish a wine-making footprint in downtown Petaluma.  But the permitting and construction steps toward that goal will be long and slow.  To make the Adobe Road name more familiar in Petaluma as the bigger project creeps ahead, the winery is seeking approval for a tasting room in the Great Petaluma Mill, at the corner of Petaluma Boulevard and B Street.

Petaluma has long been perceived as on the fringe of the Sonoma County wine scene, although the pending approval of a Petaluma Gap appellation could change that perception.  The proposed tasting room, to my knowledge only the second winery-branded tasting room in downtown Petaluma, would be another step on Petaluma’s path to the wine mainstream.

While a wine tasting room on its surface may not be urbanist, any land uses that pull people downtown, creating a sense of activity and place, is urbanist.  A wine tasting room meets that standard.

I have a pair of earlier obligations on my calendar for the evening, but will attend the hearing if time permits.

(Update – Due to a notification error, Petaluma Planning has deferred this hearing to Tuesday, June 28.)

Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit Board, Wednesday, June 15, 1:30pm, 5401 Old Redwood Highway, Petaluma – Despite what was said during the June 1 meeting, a further discussion on Clipper isn’t on the SMART Board agenda.  Indeed, there is nothing of apparent urbanist interest on the agenda.  But with the launch of revenue service only months away, there may still be value in attending to listen to public and Board comments.

Petaluma Tree Advisory Committee, Wednesday, June 15, 3:30pm, Petaluma City Hall, 11 English Street, Petaluma – Although the topic is likely beyond their purview, an interesting subject is on the Tree Committee agenda as a result of a letter from a citizen.  The missive notes the conflict between the street tree planting encouraged by the City years ago and the sidewalk damage now resulting from the roots.  The writer asks for City assistance with sidewalk repair to avoid tree removal by financially-constrained homeowners.

(As a sidenote, I know that the current City list of approved street trees specifically avoids trees known to damage sidewalks.  But I don’t know if the same was true when the trees noted by letter writer were planted.)

The letter frames a conundrum of our contemporary world.  As either a city or as homeowners, we don’t have the resources to fix the sidewalks, largely as a result of the cost burdens resulting from the drivable suburban paradigm.  But retaining the trees is essential for urbanism because traffic is slowed by the constraining influence of trees and shade from trees are both essential elements of the walkability needed for urbanism.

The choice becomes digging deep, probably through tax increases, to repair the sidewalks so the trees can be retained or felling the trees and continuing along the path toward drivable suburbia that will impoverish us by other means.

It’s a Hobbesian choice that should be considered at the highest levels of city government, which isn’t the Tree Committee, but it may still be interesting to watch how the Tree Committee handles it.

Novato Planning Commission, Wednesday, June 15, 7:30pm, Novato City Hall, 901 Sherman Avenue, Novato – The Novato Design Review Commission will take up a proposed senior living facility on South Novato Boulevard.  The site is on a four-lane arterial, flanked by a pair of churches, and is therefore of little interest to urbanists.

Further, I’m sure that the proposed developer, Oakmont Senior Living, will do a fine job with the architecture.  I recently toured an Oakmont facility and found it light, airy, and comfortable.

But I’ve included the meeting to raise a point.  When I’m in need of senior housing, I don’t want to be put in a building fronting on a four-lane arterial and flanked by churches.  I want to be in a place where I can walk to a pub, theatre, hardware store, and bus stop.  I want to be downtown.  I regret that we don’t give the seniors of today that choice and will push whenever possible for more downtown senior living facilities so they exist when I need them.

Rail~Volution, October 10-12, Hyatt Regency, San Francisco – The leading conference on the use of rail for community building is coming to San Francisco this fall.  I’m planning on attending.

Other Involvement Opportunities

Petaluma Boulevard South – When I last issued this calendar, I noted how bikeable/walkable revisions to Petaluma Boulevard South had flickered onto and off of the Petaluma City Council agenda.  I’m still trying to discover the background of the passing mention.

However, a group of citizens was energized by the brief flicker and is organizing to bring the subject of calming Petaluma Boulevard South back to the City Council, hopefully with enough votes to support it.

If you’re interested in advocating for improvements to Petaluma Boulevard South that will make the street more friendly for non-motorists and will allow better connectivity between the residential areas southwest of the street and the retail/recreational opportunities to the northeast, let me know.  I’ll get you in touch with the forming group, of which I’ll be a member.

Lots of opportunities to get involved.  Please grab at least one and hopefully more.

When I next publish, I’ll begin telling of my experiences with CNU 24.  I’ll start with a few of my mobility experiences in the city.

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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