Monday, May 6, 2013

Jakes’ Walk: The Debriefing and the Future

Two months ago, I suggested the route for a possible walk through downtown Petaluma.  I hoped that readers would propose their own urban walking routes, either in Petaluma or in other North Bay cities.  One reader forwarded several walking routes that he had prepared for a Rotary club several years earlier, a couple of which included downtown Petaluma.  But otherwise, no one rose to the challenge.

However, several people indicated an interest in taking the walk that I had outlined, which I called Jake’s Walk after a canine walking companion.   This past Saturday was picked for the walk, although the frequently over-exuberant Jake was left behind.

The day worked out well.  There were only three of us, but it was well-matched three.  We ambled slowly through the town, stopping frequently to talk about a well-formed tree on B Street, the history of the plaza in front of St. Vincent’s Church, the new Ricky Watts mural, the potential of American Alley, and the missed opportunities along Water Street.

The American Alley talk was particularly interesting, with the shared vision that the alley might be turned into a pedestrian wonderland if problems such as emergency access and solid waste collection could be solved.  We were particularly enthralled by the possibility of an entrance directly into the used book room of Copperfield’s Books.  There was the concern that one end of the lane ends on E. Washington Street, which lacks pedestrian friendliness.  But we were only prepared to solve one problem at a time. 

By the time we’d finished a leisurely lunch of paninis and draft beers at the recently opened Corkscrew, we’d spent more than three enjoyable hours in enlightening conversation.

I think we should build on this auspicious start.  With summer rapidly approaching, I know that family schedules are well-booked.  But I’ve set a couple of fall dates.  Please put them on your calendars.

On Saturday, September 21, starting at 11am, we’ll do a Jake’s Walk in Windsor, taking a close look at the urbanist thinking behind Windsor Town Green and the development around it.   If a reader from Windsor can propose a route, that’d be great.  If not, I can assemble a plan from my visits to Windsor.

On Sunday, October 20, starting at noon, we’ll do a reprise of the original Petaluma Jake’s Walk, hopefully with more folks to supplement the original three.

The goal of both walks will be the same, to observe the urban context and to talk about what works, what doesn’t, what the future opportunities might be, and how the planning process helps or hinders urbanism.
Jake’s participation in either walk remains uncertain.  I think having dogs come along would be fine, but Jake needs to acquire a few more manners before he can join the group.

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


  1. I hope I have displayed sufficient manners to tag along on a Jake's Walk and benefit from the company! There's nothing like being there with other urban enthusiasts to find new perspectives. This helps focus the power of imagining the ideal to actual concrete, design, and trees in a city we all need to share. "Card-carrying new urbanist" Jeff Speck (Walkable City) says he is an expert in being a generalist to promote making cities better for all. This requires drivers to get outside the car, bicyclists to step beside our bikes, and dogs to follow the guidance of their guardians. Oh, and maybe I should get off my (high?) horse to go on the walk.

    1. Barry, your manners were fine. I look forward to the next walk, although I hope there are more than three of us next time.

      And I agree that Speck's point about the necessity of generalists is both spot-on and elegantly expressed.