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This is a great blog post on how infrastructure decisions are made depending on who is paying for them. If they are publicly funded you get one level of infrastructure. If residents have to pay for their own infrastructure, you get a different level. Why do we continue to subsidize suburban development which doesn’t come close to paying for the infrastructure required to serve it?

Granola Shotgun

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Here’s the American Dream. If you can pull together $700,000 you can live large in a beautiful home like one of these. Three car garage. Great room. Massive kitchen. Formal dining room. Four or five bedrooms. Three or four baths. A front lawn. A swimming pool. An exclusive public school district. Privacy. A secure enclave far from big city problems.

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Let’s pull back a bit and get a sense of context. These homes exist in a part of Los Angeles County that’s really far from the city. It’s even far from other far flung suburbs. It’s not just far horizontally. It’s far vertically. This subdivision is so remote that there aren’t any commercial buildings of any kind for several miles. That’s by intentional design. The people who choose to live here self select for a particular lifestyle.

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How much do you think the federal, state, county, and municipal governments spend…

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Traffic congestion is typically the number one complaint about Sebastopol. Being at the crossroads of 2 state highways and given the physical limitations of any expansion to the road network we have to live with what we have. The only way we are going to reduce congestion is to develop in a manner that people are able to reduce their automobile dependence. This reblog of a blog post from Dom’s Plan B blog is a good summary of why congestion is not necessarily a bad thing, and why efforts to improve congestion often do not have the desired outcome.

Dom's Plan B Blog

By Dom Nozzi

April 3, 2010

In my opinion, it is a tactical mistake for those promoting “active (generally non-motorized) transportation” to seek to demonstrate (or otherwise argue) that promoting bicycling, walking, or transit will result in congestion reduction, as my book (The Car is the Enemy of the City) points out.

First, cars consume an enormous amount of space (a person in a car consumes 17 times more space than a person in a chair). That means that only a tiny handful of motorists are needed to congest a street. Which means that nearly all cities worth their salt have a “congestion problem.” And those cities which don’t have such a problem are showing a sign of being sick or otherwise dying, or at least losing attractiveness.

It has been shown over and over again by researchers such as Anthony Downs and Todd Litman that (in any city that…

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A great post about a wasted opportunity. The street along the Santa Rosa Junior College is a mish-mash of low density, car-oriented sprawl. Given the thousands of people that attend and work at the junior college and the adjacent high school it is appalling how we have developed this stretch of Mendocino Ave. This should be a lively mixed-use district. Small local shops on the ground floor with apartments for students above. In addition to the parking lot discussed in the blog, other recent additions to this stretch of road are the culinary center, which completely ignores the street frontage and is oriented to its parking lot and a Chick-Fil-A. The zoning code must prohibit this low-value development. It’s a completely missed opportunity.

Granola Shotgun

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Santa Rosa Junior College is installing another parking lot near campus. No big deal, right? This is a commuter school serving people from all corners of the county. Faculty and students need places to park.

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This parking lot is carefully designed to meet all sorts of requirements. There’s comprehensive handicap accessibility.

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Thoughtful landscaping will include drip irrigation for drought tolerant native plantings.

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Here’s a shade structure on the corner for pedestrians. I have no doubt there will be electric vehicle charging stations and that the lighting will be downward facing to preserve the night sky and view of the stars. As parking lots go this one will be as attractive and well appointed as possible.

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I pulled up some images on Google to see what was there before – three completely unremarkable old buildings. No one will miss them at all now that they’ve been removed. The…

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Orderly, But Dumb

Here is a great blog post of why modern zoning codes prevent implementation of human-scaled urbanism today. In most places, it is simply not legal to build mixed-use walkable neighborhooods.

Granola Shotgun

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Municipal governments all have land use policies that attempt to achieve particular goals: economic development, ease of traffic flow, maintaining open space, segregating noxious industries, and so on. So local authorities break out the colored pencils and create big blocks on the map. We all know what this looks like on the ground.
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Single family homes in subdivisions go here.
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Apartment complexes go here.
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Hotels go here.
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Offices go here.
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Restaurants go here. And so on…
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And in order to connect all those separate pods the local authorities need to build and maintain an infinite amount of very expensive attenuated public infrastructure like this.
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This is Ohio, but it could be anyplace. This has been the default land use pattern all over North America since the late 1940’s. Everything in this suburban landscape was built on a large scale by regional or national corporate…

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As I mentioned in my last post I am part of a grassroots organization looking to bring Urban3 and Strong Towns to Sonoma County to evaluate the development potential around the SMART train station areas, and to help our local decision makers and community at large, understand the financial implications of various development scenarios. We are calling ourselves the Urban Community Partnership and are in the process of forming a non-profit organization that will advocate for mixed-use, walkable financially-resilient developments. We recently wrote an op-ed that was published in the local paper, the Press Democrat. You can read the op-ed here.

The City of Santa Rosa has undertaken a first step in this process and has hired Urban3 to analyze Railroad Square, which has a SMART train station, and downtown. We plan on launching a fundraising campaign to be able to start the larger county-wide project soon. Stay tuned.

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War on Cars?

Nice blog post keeping things in perspective when comparing the impacts to our communities between cars and bikes and how the scales have been tipped in favor of the car for quite some time.

Dom's Plan B Blog

By Dom Nozzi

Many in Boulder seem to believe that City government is engaged in a “war on cars.” Let’s tally the “casualties” over the past century.

Number of motorists who killed a cyclist when crashing into them: An unacceptably large number. Number of cyclists who killed a motorist when crashing into them: Probably zero.1414284640

Taxes and asphalt cyclists (and others) must pay or put up with due to the negative costs of motoring: Very substantial and always increasing.

Taxes and asphalt motorists must pay or put up with due to the negative costs of cycling: Comparatively tiny.

Quality of life harm that cyclists (and others) must bear due to motorist noise and air pollution (cars are the largest source of noise pollution in Boulder): Substantial and uncontrollable.

Noise and air pollution caused by cyclists: Negligible.

Destinations that cyclists (and others) cannot get too because the destinations are too far…

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I am working with a group of people to bring Urban3 and Strong Towns to Sonoma County to study the existing development patterns and evaluate the financial productivity of different forms of land use. We hope this will help community officials make better decisions about growth by showing that sprawl is financially counterproductive to our communities. Johnny shares a great explanation here of the physical impact of pre- and post-
WWII development styles. Enjoy.

Granola Shotgun

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This week I participated in a newly formed group that will be bringing Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns and Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 to Sonoma County, California this fall. Sonoma County is experiencing the same challenges as most places across the country in terms of urban form and municipal governance and there’s a need to redefine the conversation.

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Santa Rosa is the seat of government for Sonoma County. I’m going to highlight two different parts of town and two very different forms of urbanism to demonstrate the basic message behind both Strong Towns and Urban3.

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This is the historic downtown of Santa Rosa. It’s compact, walkable, bikeable, and has good quality public parks. Most buildings in downtown are two stories tall, although there are many one story buildings and a few buildings that are five or six stories. This is a textbook example of a traditional pre World War…

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