Sunday, May 6, 2012

Napa Neighborhoods and New Urbanism

In a recent post, I critiqued the wayfinding systems in Napa.  I thought the signage missed an opportunity to direct visitors toward interesting residential neighborhoods near downtown.  But my recollections of the neighborhoods were based on memories from a decade ago.

I recently had another couple of hours to burn in Napa, so rechecked the recollections.  (Napa residents, I’m not stalking you.  I’m driving my wife to Napa for occasional breakfasts with an old friend and have time to spend while the two of them chat at length.)

My recollections were accurate.  All of the homes, apartment buildings, and bed-and-breakfasts shown on this post are within a half mile of downtown.  Even more significantly, all of them have Walk Scores of more than 80.  When I introduced Walk Score in an earlier post, I suggested that any score above 50 should qualify as walkable urban.

I enjoyed the residential architecture of Napa.  And I enjoyed the interactions I had with others who were on foot in the neighborhoods.  If I was staying in a hotel in downtown Napa, or if I had time and calories to burn before dinner at one of the fine restaurants in town, I would appreciate knowing that these neighborhoods are within easy walking distance.  Perhaps my interests are not those of everyone, but I’ll continue to suggest that the Napa wayfinding system would benefit from pointing folks toward the neighborhoods.

I had another thought while I wandered.  Foes of regional planning argue that new urbanism is about forcing people to live in multi-story residential boxes.  Perhaps some of those foes even live within the neighborhoods where I walked.  But, as I’ve asserted before, new urbanism is about living where non-vehicular transportation is a viable option.  New urbanism residents don’t need to be without a car, but they live in a place where they can choose to live for a week on foot.  Or on bicycle.

Every single home that I passed met that standard.  Which leads me to offer my Urbanism Postulate #1: “Many people already live in new urbanist settings, but don’t know it.”  It perhaps doesn’t express a perfect truth, and undoubtedly needs other postulates to buttress it, but it’s a start.  I’ll return to it again.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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