Friday, August 19, 2016

Taking the Next Step - Opportunities to Get Involved during the Week of August 21

The number of North Bay public meetings with urbanist overtones seems to be increasing as we approach Labor Day.  Hopefully this will portend a winter of paradigm shifting.  It’s time to get onboard and to begin making your voice heard.  Also, with issues such as municipal elections and the road diet in Petaluma looming, there are also chances for neighborhood outreach.  If you want to make a difference in the world, there are opportunities to do so.

Meetings this Week

Cotati Planning Commission and Rohnert Park Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Monday August 22, 5:30pm, City Council Chamber, Rohnert Park City Hall,  130 Avram Avenue – A few weeks back, I puzzled in this space about a joint meeting that had been scheduled and then cancelled involving public bodies of the adjoining cities of Cotati and Rohnert Park.  I couldn’t imagine what topic could have been of joint interest.  I now have my answer.  They would have assembled for a study session of the “Bicycle and Pedestrian Network Adjacent/Interconnected Facilities.”

And the previously canceled meeting has now been rescheduled for Monday.

Given the adjoining boundaries of the two cities and the moderately continuous land-use pattern, I think a joint study session is a great idea, applaud the two cities for their foresight, and encourage the interested members of the two communities to participate.

Petaluma Planning Commission, Tuesday, August 23, 7:00pm, Petaluma City Hall, 11 English Street – I’m not sure I can truly characterize this as an urbanism issue, but I’m also not sure that it isn’t.  To buttress attendance, the downtown Petaluma movie theatre is asking permission to begin selling beer and wine to moviegoers.

The land-use entitlement angle is sufficiently complex that the Petaluma planning staff had to discourse at length before recommending approval.

But I find the urbanist issues even more complex.  On one hand, I want the theatre to thrive because theatres can be important elements of downtowns, adding to sidewalk vitality.  On the other hand, I remain unconvinced that the ability to buy a beer will attract more patrons.  Also, movie theatres are a great place for youth to learn socialization away from parental oversight and I fear that adding alcohol to the mix, even if the youth aren’t the ones consuming, could be counterproductive to those learning experiences.

And on a personal level, I’m not eager to have more people climbing over me mid-movie to visit the restroom.

I’ll likely attend this meeting to see if I can find personal clarity.

Windsor City Council and Planning Commission, Tuesday, August 23, 5:30pm, Windsor Civic Center Council Chambers, 9291 Old Redwood Highway, Building 400 – Windsor, in a joint session of the City Council and Planning Commission, will continue their consideration of the draft 2040 General Plan.  This week, they’ll focus on the economic development and public facilities elements.

General plan study sessions will never be riveting experiences, but I attended the study session earlier this week on land use and community design and found it unexpectedly compelling.  Windsor has been more aggressive in adopting urbanist concepts than many North Bay cities and it shows in both the urban fabric around the civic complex and in the general discussion.

To be sure, there are still folks asking for down-zonings because they claim the market won’t support higher densities, but the down-zonings for which they’re asking are less extreme than similar requests in other communities and the tenor of the discussion seems more urban, and urbane, in tone.

This doesn’t mean that Windsor has reached financial stability through urbanism.  As a local urbanist assured me as I was taking my leave, Windsor still has a long ways to go.  But they’ve already reached a higher level of urbanism and a higher level of debate, both of which were enjoyable to observe.

I won’t make the meeting this coming week, but encourage others to attend who may need to have flagging urbanist spirits raised.

Meetings in the Weeks and Months to Follow

Petaluma City Council, Monday, September 12, 7:00pm, Petaluma City Hall, 111 English Street – The Petaluma Planning Commission recently rejected the site design for the proposed Marina Apartments on Lakeville Highway east of Highway 101.  The reason was concern over the building massing and architecture, but disappointments were also expressed about the recent Council decision to relieve the applicant of a requirement to build a segment of multi-use path.

The applicant appealed the Planning Commission rejection.  The appeal will be heard by the City Council on September 12.  Although the primary focus will be the design of the building, it’s likely that the multi-use path will also be a subject of public comment.  Legally, the City Council could re-impose the multi-use path condition, although it’s unlikely barring a public outcry in support of the path.

Petaluma City Council, Monday, September 19, 7:00pm, Petaluma City Hall, 111 English Street – Petaluma staff will return to the Council for approval to submit a grant application for street improvements.  To best conform to the standards of the granting agency, staff initially proposed a road diet for Petaluma Boulevard South.  The Council, by directing that the item be removed from the Council agenda, effectively asked staff to look at other possible street projects as subjects for the possible grant application.

The Petaluma Boulevard South road diet reportedly remains the preferred project for City staff, setting up a potentially interesting discussion when the matter returns to the Council agenda on September 19.

I’ve been working with a group of citizens who are passionate supporters of the Petaluma Boulevard South road diet and have been working toward ensuring that the road diet returns to the Council with a strong public endorsement.  If you wish to help with the effort, please email me.  There is a role for additional helping hands.

Joe Minicozzi Digs into the Municipal Finances of Urbanism, Week of September 19, Multiple locations - Many readers attended three evening of talks by Chuck Marohn of StrongTowns and Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 this past January in Santa Rosa.  The two spoke about the theory of why suburbia often fails and the data that supports the theory.  Conversations are underway for a return visit by Minicozzi to the North Bay later this year.

Exact dates and meeting locations are still being developed, but I encourage everyone to block out much of the week.  Minicozzi’s message could have profound consequences for North Bay cities.

Rail~Volution, October 10-12, Hyatt Regency, San Francisco – The leading conference on the use of rail for community building is coming to San Francisco this fall.  The coming role of SMART in the North Bay will surely be discussed, as will the increasing density around BART stations.

Fun stuff coming up, with lots of opportunities to get involved.  Please grab at least one and hopefully more.

When I next write, I won’t write.  Instead, I’ll turn this space over to an urban planner trained in bicycle transportation who will write about road diets and bicycles.

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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