Durable Growth

Taking the next step – Opportunities to get involved during the week of July 17

Pedestrian bridge toward downtown Petaluma

Pedestrian bridge toward downtown Petaluma

Another week, another chance to be an advocate for urbanism.  The big event of the week is the Sonoma County Supervisors vote on community separators, although the Rohnert Park Town Hall Meeting could also be interesting.

Besides, it’s always a good week to take public positions in favor of improving the quality of life in North Bay communities.

Meetings this Week

Petaluma City Council, Monday, July 18, 7:00pm, Petaluma City Hall, 11 English Street, Petaluma – Tucked in a corner of an agenda otherwise absent urbanist issues is an intriguing consent calendar item.   Governor Brown has proposed that some multi-family projects be allowed to proceed “by right”, limiting the power of cities to shape those projects.  It’s an attempt by the Governor to ease the housing crisis by expediting multi-family housing.  The City’s agenda item is approval of a letter opposing the proposed legislation.

Although I agree with the City that a “by right” standard would allow too much flexibility to developers, I also argue that the Governor’s concern about the housing crisis should be taken as a sign that cities need to find a way to move housing projects along more quickly.  Too many multi-housing projects, especially those in walkable settings that have been particularly valuable in blunting the housing crisis, languished in city planning departments before the recession and then succumbed during the recession.

Cities helped create the housing crisis and the Governor’s proposal, even if too much of a reach, should be understood as a well-earned shot across their bows.

Cotati Planning Commission and Rohnert Park Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Monday, July 18, 7:00pm, Location to be determined – This meeting is a puzzle.  I’ve never heard of a joint meeting of a planning commission from one city and an advisory committee of a neighboring city, but it’s clearly on the Rohnert Park website, at least as of this writing.

There are red flags about whether the meeting will be held.  The Cotati website shows the Planning Commission meeting as cancelled.   Also, listing the location as undetermined only a few days before the meeting is an indication that the meeting in unlikely.

My guess is that the meeting has been cancelled.  But I’d be intrigued to know what the two bodies would have met jointly to discuss.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Tuesday, July 19, 8:30am, Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, 575 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa – The Supervisors will take up proposed revisions to the Sonoma County Community Separators, lands that are limited to less intensive uses to retain agricultural and open space between communities.  Community Separators and urbanism are two sides of the same coin, with the Separators pushing development toward urban areas and urbanism being the study of how to accommodate that development.

I participated last week in a meeting with one of the supervisors.  The summary is that the supervisors are broadly supportive of the proposed revisions, although details about the duration of the protections and the possibilities of exemptions are still being ironed out.

The Greenbelt Alliance continues to push hard for citizen support.

Please note that, although the meeting convenes at 8:30am, the Community Separators agenda item is expected to be taken up at 2:30pm.

I’d have normally attended this meeting, but will be only hours from a vacation, so wouldn’t be able to join other Community Separator proponents.

Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit Board, Wednesday, July 20, 1:30pm, 5401 Old Redwood Highway, Petaluma – The agenda for the SMART Board meeting still hasn’t been announced, but with the testing of the full schedule looming ever closer, to be closely followed by revenue service, the agenda is likely to include items of urbanist interest.  (Update: I was wrong.  The agenda has now been released and doesn’t have anything of urbanist interest.)

Rohnert Park City Council, Wednesday, July 20, 6:00pm, Rohnert Park Community Center, 5401 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park – The Council will be joined by the City Manager for a Town Hall Meeting, a forum for citizens to ask questions about the state of Rohnert Park.  While the meeting may not be specifically about walkable urbanism, it is likely that many of the answers should, but probably won’t, note a need for more and better walkable urbanism.

Meetings in the Weeks and Months to Follow

Petaluma Transit Advisory Committee, Thursday, August 4, 4:00pm, Petaluma City Hall, 11 English Street, Petaluma – The Transit Advisory Committee will consider the final draft of the Short-Range Transit Plan, a document required  from all Bay Area transit agencies by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.  After nine months of work, the plan will be given a final review and likely passed onto the City Council for their approval.  But there will be time between the Committee meeting and the Council meeting for final edits, so the public is encouraged to participate.

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.  The coming role of SMART in the North Bay will surely be discussed, as will the increased density occurring around BART stations.

Other Opportunities to Get Involved

Petaluma Boulevard South – Bikeable/walkable revisions to Petaluma Boulevard South recently flickered onto and off of the Petaluma City Council agenda.  A group of citizens was energized by the flicker, is committed to the goal of calming of Petaluma Boulevard South, and is organizing with the goal of returning the proposal to the City Council with enough votes to approve it.

If you’re interested in advocating for improvements to Petaluma Boulevard South that will make the boulevard friendlier for non-motorists while also creating better connectivity across the boulevard, let me know.  I’ll connect you with the group, in which I’m participating.

Digging Deeper into Urbanism – Many readers attended three evening of talks by Chuck Marohn of StrongTowns and Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 last January in Santa Rosa.  The two spoke about the theory of why suburbia often fails and the data that supports the theory.  Initial conversations are underway for a return visit by Minicozzi to the North Bay later this year, a visit that is tentatively scheduled to include an evening in Petaluma, along with time in other Sonoma County communities.

Petaluma was well-represented at the January meetings, but it was largely urbanists who were already familiar with the work of Marohn and Minicozzi.  If we organize properly, having Minicozzi visit Petaluma can educate others, including those who hold positions in which they can make a difference.  Having the visit during the election season can make the event additionally pivotal.

I’ll need folks to assist with organizational and fund-raising efforts.  Please let me know if you’re willing to lend a hand.

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

When I next publish, I’ll comment on the recent events in Nice.

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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