Streets have a mix of uses. Streets needs to be viewed in terms of a series of layered uses and speeds and be designed appropriately in relationship to the buildings that front onto the streets. The following are a list of uses per layer from building edge to centerline:
1) Ground floor Layer – The building fronting onto the street. Hold long-term Commercial, Residential, and Civic uses.
2) Encroachment Layer – Holds signs, less than public seating, dining, displays, deliveries, doorway zones. Holds more longer-term Commercial, Residential and Civic uses.
3) The Sidewalk Layer – <5 mph pedestrian travel lane with walkway, ADA access, on a clear path.
4) Furnishing Layer – Street Tree planters, more public seating, street lights, signage, parking meters, newspaper stands. Holds longer-term Commerce uses.
5) Parking Layer – Public parking stalls (angled/parallel/perpendicular/reverse angle), painted stripes, handicap stalls, transit stops, loading/commercial zones, drop off/delivery, and short/long-term car storage. Holds more shorter-term Commercial, Industrial, and Residence uses.
6) Cycle Layer – <10 mph zone between stopped parking cars and transit/travel lanes for various cycles ridden by various aged people.
7) Transit Layer – <25 mph zone between pulling in/out of Parking Layer and into the Driving travel through lane(s).
8) Driving Travel Layer – <25 mph zone (because any more than that kills most people)
All of these layers are mostly interchangeable and not every element is on every street. The big idea here is to introduce to the Furnishing and Parking Layers permanent Parklets, and movable/temporary Tiny Mobile Units in place of private car storage. These facilities can be rented and used for metered time periods as shops, hotel, and short-term residences. This is a shorter than permanent building Live-Work mix of uses that sit in the public right-of-way and reclaim the street from primarily auto flow use to a more livable and complex area that prioritizes the speed and scale of people. The image is an unfinished draft.
A forthcoming Mixed-Use Street PROPENSITY Map will illustrate where the more to less mix of uses on the streets are located. Think of it like a land use plan map for our streets. And, finally, for cities and places with overly scaled streetscapes, this is a way to reclaim public space for private commerce and housing (some public). A link to the ratio of public to private space discussion is here. What do you think?
An answer to our demands to end systematic racism will be found in reforming our role and structure of governance. Rick Cole, former Santa Monica City Manager, made some solid points about how our government system of today is a turn of the 20th century Progressive Era construct, a response to industrialization, in an era of racism. Racism was prevalent throughout that political movement comprising mostly white, small-town, Progressive voters grabbed the reins of power from business elites, government anti-trust policies shifting power from the elite robber barons.
As Thomas Leonard writes in, Illiberal Reformers, Princeton University Press, 2016, “The industrial revolution and the rise of big business after 1870 dramatically increased American living standards, but the era was plagued by recurring financial crises, violent labor conflicts, and two deep economic contractions. In response, progressive economists sought to regulate the American economy through a new administrative state based on scientific management principles. They established economics as an academic discipline, while promoting and helping build regulatory and independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve (1913), the Federal Trade Commission (1914), and the International Trade Commission (1916).
Unfortunately, their policies were based on social Darwinism and eugenics and excluded groups deemed inferior — including women, Southern- and Eastern-European immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and blacks.”
Red Lining and resulting zoning were born from that era, which I have spent a career focusing on reforming. However, I only just now realized that this advocacy for zoning reform was a very limited view and that I should be advocating for government reform in the same way.
I got a blog, I’m an urban designer, and I got opinions… so let’s do this!
This epic pandemic moment will resonate in two scales. First, at the global scale:
- Easily identified our global economy as being very fragile and forgetting the trickling down part…
- Every nation now has the experience to work collectively to… limit Greenhouse Gas emissions. We can all stop driving and we will survive. When our Climate Change Pearl Harbor or asteroid moment occurs, we’ll have practice in how to collectively work on surviving it. This is the hope we were looking for.
- There are always people on the wrong side of history. The anti-vaccine groups, hate groups, and libertarians are not helping us collectively survive and thrive as citizens.
- Today’s cities exist because of jobs. With the local economies collapsing, big cities will continue to provide the most available jobs to any region, and will continue to grow as long-standing local economic jobs in small towns will be late to the economic recovery cycle. We must prepare for continued big city housing crisis.
Second, at the local scale:
- We are sheltering-in-our neighborhoods (place). We are seeing our local streets, right-of-ways, and parks as the health, welfare, and safety valves they actually are. Mindful of San Francisco’s parks post-1906 earthquake and fire, where people lived until they were able to rebuilt their homes.
2. Pre-Covid trends will be accelerated:
- End of Class A office park pods (retrofitted w/urban amenities);
- More outdoor dining/entertainment (pop up container parks)
- More online shopping & music concerts/events;
- More bike/walkable streets;
- More parks for our health, welfare, and safety (See point #1).
3. (Stolen from Bill Fulton) New Office Space as a place more specifically for meetings, sales, showroom, model building, virtual touring (gaming), lectures, parties, and fun and less as a dedicated production work space, allowing for more of that to happen at home. This more mixed-use flexible workspace will help retention of parents who are raising young children, and people who love working from home. It’s a retention program.
4. The neighborhood is the Rosetta stone of understanding how to build cities, which are very complex. And, at this moment, we are collectively learning more and more about our neighborhoods because we are driving less and walking more which is a good thing.
Plus, we’re learning how to respond to a global scale crisis, which is another good thing when the comet (climate change) hits.
The city’s public officials are obsessed with changing how we get around the city. But instead of just talking about expanding our mobility options, the scooter companies have come in and actually provided a change.
I have seen the future of downtown transportation, and it is fun!
The electric scooters from Bird and Lime are the greatest mode of travel in San Diego since my grandma rode through Balboa Park in a convertible or cruised Broadway in a hot rod.
The value of scootering is three-fold. First, getting around the city faster, easier and cheaper than in the old expensive convertible or gas-guzzling sports car is a big deal.
I work on the eastern edge of East Village, and my wife works on the western side of Broadway near the waterfront. If we want to meet for lunch, it’s a 25-minute walk, leaving little time to eat and walk back. Driving is faster, thanks to downtown’s one-way streets, which were designed for my grandmother’s hot-rod. But that still means a 10-minute drive for me, after which I pay up to $10 per hour for parking in a lot a few blocks away from my wife’s office, or peck around hoping to find street parking for $2 per hour. It’s a chore.
Instead, we can use our smartphones to find a scooter, walk one block to pick it up, and ride less than four minutes to drop it off at our destination. It costs $2 tops.
The city’s public officials are obsessed with changing how we get around the city. San Diego has adopted a Climate Action Plan that promises half of us who live near transit will get to work without a car by 2035. But instead of just talking about expanding our mobility options, the scooter companies have come in and actually provided a change.
I keep my helmet in my office. I ride on the street most of the time. But honestly, it’s not as safe to scooter on the street as it should be for three important reasons. The condition of the pavement is abysmal. Holes and cracks are treacherous no matter how you’re getting around.
Second, downtown’s long, straight, one-way streets facilitate high-speed traffic. Cars bunch up at each signal and roar to 35 miles per hour before stopping at the next light six blocks away. Once that first bunch of crowded, angry, honking cars pass by, scootering is a lovely experience on the street; our volume of traffic is usually low compared with the capacity our street network is built to handle.
And third, there is very little quality pedestrian, bicycle or scooter-oriented infrastructure built in downtown San Diego.
What these scooters are showing us is the fallacy that cars provide “independence.” Scooters will change how we get around downtown San Diego for many years to come.
There is a caveat: These scooters are not as appropriate for more urban cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Those cities have tremendous transit service and wide, clear sidewalks, and are filled with lots of people, cars, trucks and commerce. San Diego’s downtown sits more comfortably in the Phoenix, Austin, Dallas, Houston and Denver scale of intensity and transit availability. We actually need these machines to bridge those gaps between Little Italy, Gaslamp, Ballpark and City College, as we continue to urbanize.
Give it time. Hopefully officials see the scooters as an opportunity to build the infrastructure needed to support such a fun way of getting around our extremely beautiful city.
[This was first published in Voice of San Diego on April 24th. I’d like to add that the ability to scooter around with your work clothes on it an advantage to using these versus bicycles for short, work-oriented trips. The fun, convenience, and cost combination makes scooters a viable mobility tool to cut emissions and auto trip to meet our Climate Action goals.]
“The true value of urbanism occurs when are able to interact with each other. These physical connections will redefine our ability to both endure and thrive into the 21st century.” – Howard M. Blackson III
“Segregation Sucks.” – Bruce Donnelly
My latest thoughts on Context-Sensitive Thoroughfare design…
Every city and town are formed by its neighborhoods, districts, corridors, and its downtown. Each of these place types range from a more urban extreme, such as downtown, towards its more suburban, rural, or natural boundaries. And, each of these include a broad spectrum of public and private functions and places.
Looking in more detail, each neighborhood has its own set of more urban centers, general areas, suburban, and rural edges. For example, in my San Diego neighborhood, our center is the 100% shopping corner with coffee shops, boutiques, bars, mixed-use buildings and bus stops. And, my neighborhood boundary is formed by canyons and Balboa Park. In between are a variety of housing types ranging from garden apartments, bungalow courts, and small lot homes nearer the center to large lot homes along the canyon edges.
Single-use districts are places of industry, education, and regional institutions. These include airports, hospitals, and military basis. I tend to put suburban sprawl in…
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In my professional career, my time assisting the City of San Diego in experimenting with a Civic Innovation Lab was the most bittersweet. While its potential was incredible, having the results we did, after just six months of life, was incredible as well. Thanks to Amanda Kolson, who tells it well here: http://nextcity.org/features/view/teddy-cruz-fonna-forman-civic-innovation-san-diego-public-interest-design
And, a heartfelt thank you to our Planning Director, Bill Fulton, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, Mario Lopez, former Mayor Filner, fellow Innovators David Saborio, Ilisa Goldman, Xavier Leonard, and our patron saints Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz! Hope you enjoy the story.