Friday, October 5, 2012

More Travel Destinations and Petaluma Also Makes a List

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a list from Planetizen of the best public places in the U.S. and Canada.  I suggested that the list would make a fine set of destinations for an active retirement fueled by wanderlust.

My retirement planning has now become more challenging, but also potentially more fulfilling.  The American Planning Association (APA) has released three lists.  One for the best public spaces in the U.S.  Another for the best streets.  And a third for the best neighborhoods.

And there’s not a single public space, street, or neighborhood on the lists that I don’t hope to visit someday.  Just to buy a deli sandwich and to hang out on a park bench, enjoying the ambiance.  I’m easy to please.

Coincidently, I was on one of the streets just a week ago, Broad Street in Charleston, South Carolina.  Although it was without a deli sandwich, I did find a few moments to sit on a bench and watch the world.  It was a fine experience about which I’ll soon share more.

Unfortunately, the North Bay isn’t represented on any of the APA lists.  However, downtown Petaluma does appear on another list, as a final contender for the Southwest spot on the list of “Prettiest Painted Places in America”.  (A hat tip to Petaluma City Councilmember Mike Harris for tweeting about the list.)

It’s an odd list, lacking the cachet or panache of the APA list.  It’s hard for the Paint Quality Institute to compete with the American Planning Association.  One obvious quirk is the inclusion of Cape Cod.  I spent two days on Cape Cod this summer, driving the entire length from the ship canal to Provincetown, and loved it.  But never once did I remark about the great use of paint.

It’s also curious to see a subdivision, Northwest Crossing in Oregon, on a list that is mostly cities.  However, I had a small but peculiarly pivotal role in the start of Northwest Crossing, so will let the anomaly pass.  (The beginning of Northwest Crossing is a story for another time.)

Despite my quibbles about the Prettiest Painted Places list, it’s good to see Petaluma get noticed.  There are downtown buildings and residential neighborhoods for which the use of paint is truly praiseworthy.

Now, the challenge is to get the North Bay onto the APA lists in future years.  I think Petaluma Boulevard in downtown Petaluma is close to being worthy of inclusion as a great street.  Perhaps all that’s needed is an architecturally distinguished hotel at B Street to close the deal.  And I remain a big fan of Sonoma Plaza.  There are few places where I’ve enjoyed an open air sandwich more.

It can be one of our goals for the next decade.  To truly complete our already great North Bay downtowns and to let the world know about it.

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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