Fouling Our Own Nest

By Dom Nozzi

The two images here exemplify not what happens when an enemy bombs a city. It exemplifies what nearly all of us so angrily demand in our cities: Affordable housing for cars (also known as free and abundant parking). As an auto-dependent society, we become our own worst enemies. We are compelled to foul our own nest — to ruin our own cities (at great taxpayer expense) — because there is little that is more important than making it easy and cheap to drive and park our car.  Andres Duany once said that the Department of Transportation is responsible for more destruction of southern cities than General Sherman when he marched south and burned southern cities near the end of the Civil War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman%27s_March_to_the_Sea

Text and images below posted to The Shoupistas Facebook page on July 2, 2019 by Darin Givens and Donald Baxter…

Top photo below: 1919 Atlanta at the intersection of Trinity Ave & Forsyth St. Compact land use, walkable streets.

Bottom photo below: what’s there now. In blue, pretty much the only set of structures left after the rest was turned into parking. Garnett MARTA Station is in the lower right.

I created these images 5 years ago. No need to adjust them because nothing has changed since then.

It’s not enough to build transit. We have to adjust urban design so properties & streets are matched to our transit investment, fostering ridership and decreasing car trips.

Untitled

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Thinking Like a Motorist is Ruinous

By Dom Nozzi

 

We have a love/hate relationship with walkable design.

Consider these comparison photos…

Orlando Phoenix Boulder Junction Copenhagen Amsterdam

Big city vs small town ambiance

Most all of us love the idea of walking in places such as the images on the left in the first photo above, and the images on the right in the second photo. But in the back of our minds, when we think about how frustrating it would be to DRIVE in those places, we end up furiously opposing building new versions of those places – including the places that we all know are the most loved places in Boulder: the Mapleton Hill neighborhood, the Boulderado Hotel, and Pearl Street Mall.

As I often point out, cars and people have opposite needs. Cars need very low densities to avoid crowded roads and parking. They need bright lights. They need oversized, car-scaled roads and intersections to travel at high speeds. They need large signs and billboards. They need loud sounds to hear each other. They need buildings fronted by huge surface parking lots for ease of parking

By striking contrast, people not in cars mostly enjoy the walkable and charming convenience of compact development. They dislike glaring light pollution. They prefer slower, human-scaled streets and intersections for charming place-making. They like smaller signs and no billboards. They enjoy peace and quiet. And they like buildings close to the sidewalk for ease of walking, the sense of place created by the enclosure that sidewalk buildings create (as in Pearl Street Mall), and are repelled by the prospect of needing to walk across a large asphalt parking lot.

Therefore, when we think like a motorist – which we are compelled to do because our community is designed not for a pedestrian but for car travel, which obligates us to make pretty much all of our trips by car – we are compelled to OPPOSE the creation of a higher density, compact neighborhood with relatively small yards, such as Mapleton Hill. We fight like the dickens against buildings as tall as the Boulderado. And we furiously oppose the creation of a new Pearl Street Mall (via such things as right-sizing). When we are obligated to angrily oppose the most loved elements of our community, then, we find that thinking like a motorist makes us our own worst enemy.

We start hearing the slogans that Boulder is notorious for:

“Does Dense Make Sense???” (NO! As motorists, we hate density)

“Don’t Be Dense, Boulder!!”

“Greedy Developers Want to Develop Every Square Inch of Their Property!” (An odd expression, since the most loved neighborhood – Mapleton Hill – has more “inches” developed than any other Boulder neighborhood)

“Get rid of parking minimums? It’s delusional to think nobody will need a place to park in this neighborhood!” (this despite the fact that eliminating required parking is a powerful way to create affordable housing)

“More development here would create intolerable gridlock. People aren’t just going to stop driving cars!”

“We’re not just going to turn Boulder into Amsterdam!” (this despite the fact that Amsterdam was very car-oriented in the 1960s, and Americans tend to love visiting Amsterdam)

 

Because we have created car-oriented communities that require us to make all of our trips by car, we are trapped in car dependency for many decades into the future, and are therefore trapped into being our own worst enemies.

Indeed, who needs enemies when we have ourselves?

 

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“NIMBYs” Belittle Legitimate Concerns About New Development

 

By Dom Nozzi

Speaking as a town planner with decades of experience, I have observed countless supposedly enlightened citizens who strongly support various land use changes EXCEPT when it is near their home (this is the classic NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard — sentiment).

While I sympathize with some of the reasons for opposition — bizarre modernist design that fails to fit in with the neighborhood, or car-happy design that provides too much surface parking —  I have very little patience for opposition that worsens overall community quality of life.

For example, the main opposition to proposed development, by far, is a fear that the new development will “crowd my roads or parking spaces.” That sort of opposition tends to be counterproductive, as it results in such things as higher per capita car trips, less neighborhood-based shopping, more Big Box retail, less sociability, less walking/bicycling, and higher local taxes. It is also snobbish, in part because it selfishly suggests the attitude that “I’ve arrived. You can pull up the ladder now.”

It must also be noted that impacts of nearby development can be reduced or neutralized if the city puts sufficient dollars into code enforcement (noise control and parking control, for example).

I have noticed that too many opponents of proposed development tend to exaggerate the proposal. A 3-story building is commonly referred to as a “high rise.”

I have also noticed that many people who LOVE vacationing in charming, walkable, compact European towns fight aggressively against proposed development that would move their own community incrementally in that direction. I sense that a number of folks tend to verge on being misanthropic, and tend to dislike the elements of what makes a city wonderful.

To which I must ask of such people: “Why did you choose to live in a city if you dislike cities?”

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The Inappropriateness of Highway Design in a City

 

By Dom Nozzi

There is a big problem in the roadway design found in Boulder, Colorado. Too much of the design has an inappropriate “highway” orientation.

This is incompatible with what a city needs to be healthy and safe.

Exemplifying this is a dedicated right-turn lane in central Boulder (for those of you who live in Boulder, it can be found on Raleigh onto Broadway southbound). This lane – because it creates excessive asphalt width for motorized vehicle travel — inevitably promotes excessively high motor vehicle turning movements and promotes inattentive driving by the turning motorist. Without removing that right turn lane, in my opinion, this intersection will remain a dangerous intersection.

As long as Boulder continues its counterproductive, decades-long, highly expensive efforts to convenience cars, this city will remain a very dangerous place for travelers and will fail to achieve its newly adopted “Vision Zero” objective, regardless of how much we install more safety lights, safety paint, safety signs, safety enforcement, and safety education. There is no win-win when it comes to cars.

And Boulder continues to fail to understand that.

There are serious negatives to double-left turns (and their highway cousins, the dedicated right-turn lane and the slip lane).

Of course, double-left turn lanes also destroy human scale and a sense of place. A double-left turn lane intersection will never feel like a place to hang out because it vastly exceeds human scale. These over-sized intersections are so hostile that they obligate property owners at each of the four corners of the intersection to pull back from the intersection with massive setbacks, large asphalt parking lots, and auto-oriented land uses that can tolerate such an unpleasant atmosphere (such as a gas station). This sort of deadening creates an area of apparent abandonment, and is the antithesis of what a city needs for health.

Ultimately the double-left turn intersection fails to induce nearby land uses that will generate tax revenues sufficient to make this part of the city self-supporting. It becomes an on-going financial liability that will forever drain substantial dollars from the city budget

The enormous size and relatively high motor vehicle speeds induced by a double-left turn intersection creates dangerous and intimidating conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians, which substantially reduces the number of such trips and increases the number of traffic injuries and fatalities.

It is exceptionally improper to install what amounts to a highway “deceleration” lane in a city (not to mention the fact that it would further widen an already over-wide roadway). Cities should not have deceleration lanes, overpasses, flyovers, grade separations, highway interchanges, 6- or 8- or 10-lane configurations or anything else that accommodates highway speeds by motor vehicles and undermines the important need to create lower-speed, human-scaled dimensions in our infrastructure.

It is likely that this proposal is a response to historical rear-end collisions in that location, where cars following too close behind cars in front of them rear-end the car ahead when the car ahead makes a right turn onto Raleigh. But this “solution” simply enables a form of travel (inattentive, high-speed driving and tailgating) that is inappropriate in a city.

Despite what conventional traffic engineers believe, roadway design influences travel behavior positively or negatively. When Boulder builds highway-oriented design, it inevitably induces an increase in inappropriate highway-style (read: high-speed, inattentive) driving. This is toxic for a city. Street design needs to induce desirable behavior, not induce undesirable behavior.

Shame on Boulder for this proposal.

I have to wonder how much money the City will spend to worsen its transportation system in this way?

 

 

 

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Happy Cars are Ironically a Recipe for Ruining Quality of Life

 

By Dom Nozzi

Recently, someone on Facebook responded to an article that pointed out the hypocrisy of many political liberals. Such liberals support social justice, yet aggressively protect their snobbish low-density single-family neighborhoods from efforts to make such neighborhoods more inclusive by allowing more compact living arrangements.

In his response to this news article, he noted that he strongly dislikes the idea of “living in a real city with cars and people on top of me, noise, threats, vile smells, and just a general feeling of being under siege. Too much stimulation of a certain kind.” He concluded by saying that he “honestly can’t imagine how other people in these living situations find it appealing.”

A Facebook friend responded by pointing out that while this is true to some extent with some larger US cities, many cities have comfortable densities offering a pleasant quality of life.

I responded by pointing out that these more pleasant conditions are also found in a great many cities in Europe.

But this conversation brings to light one of the most tragic ironies of human history. The fact that today, we find ourselves in an auto-dependent world that compels us to equate easy, low-cost car travel with a high quality of life. The irony is that this is precisely backward.

Conveniencing car travel is a powerful recipe for destroying our quality of life.

By far, the biggest problem with the design and quality of life in American cities is that nearly all of them were and are built for the convenience of car travel. That inevitably means a loss of human scale, noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution, excessive lighting, excessive speeds, dangerous conditions, too many dead zone parking areas, loss of the agglomeration economies that allow cities to thrive, enormous inconvenience and danger for pedestrians and cyclists, excessive financial burdens for households and businesses and governments, a ruination of public health due to physical inactivity, an inability to maintain or repair the massive amounts of infrastructure that cars require, and ugly streetscapes due to the inevitable need for retailers to scream at high-speed motorists with glaring lights and signs. There are a great many other things I could list here.

Again, this is a great tragedy. Nearly all of us are car-dependent, which understandably makes most of us angrily demand that we continue to convenience cars. Which makes us our own worst enemies, as doing so, as I noted above, substantially worsens our quality of life.

In sum, promoting car travel inevitably creates cities that are in many ways unpleasant. This is a bitter, ruinous irony, since car dependency deludes many of us into thinking that making it easier to drive a car is IMPROVING our quality of life.

Making cars happy means that our generation is leaving an awful legacy for future generations. In the future, much of what we have built will need to be demolished and replaced.

A future time when we have finally regained our senses.

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The Bipartisan Downward Spiral

 

By Dom Nozzi

 

Having spent the past century making it rather easy and cost-free to travel by car (which inevitably makes it very difficult and dangerous to travel in any other way), our society is extremely dependent on car travel. Because almost no one in society can now escape extreme car dependency, there is a bipartisan, self-perpetuating downward spiral. Nearly all of us, regardless of political persuasion, angrily demand high-speed, space-consuming car travel be provided for and subsidized.

Which means that for even most progressives and planners, using effective tactics to reduce car dependency is completely off the table.

Given all this, even the most progressive, bold, exciting candidates for office find that reducing car dependency is a “Third Rail” that cannot be touched with a ten-foot pole.

The result is that populists on both Left and Right urge wider roads, reduced costs for motorists, no growthism, reduced densities, and shorter buildings.

Tragically, this downward spiral not only grows the number of car-dependent citizens in our society. It is also highly toxic for creating quality cities. To be healthy, cities need slower speeds and compact development.

Car dependency strongly undermines such design. In both the short term and the long term.

 

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Density is the New Green

The Many Benefits of Higher Density Development Patterns

By Dom Nozzi

 

Those who work in the fields of town planning and transportation are well aware of the overwhelming evidence that there are a great many significant benefits of higher density development patterns. Tragically, nearly all Americans believe higher densities destroy neighborhoods and overall quality of life.

Why this disconnect?

Because nearly all Americans are utterly dependent on car travel, and higher densities make car travel much more costly and much more inconvenient.

Given this, it is clear that car-dependent Americans have a vested interest in fighting against efforts to improve community quality of life. This helps explain why so many community problems persist throughout the nation.

suburbia vs walkable3

In my 40 years of academic work in town and transportation planning, I have found that research studies show repeatedly and clearly that higher-density community and neighborhood development patterns provide the following benefits:

More affordable housing. This is due to smaller house size and smaller amounts of land owned.

Less per capita car travel. This reduces per capita air emissions and the overall per capita carbon footprint.

More physically fit community. With higher per capita levels of walking, bicycling, and transit use, residents of higher-density communities tend to be much more physically fit and less obese. Higher-density places promote social capital, and higher social capital is shown by studies to promote happiness, health, and longevity.

More financially sound households. A century ago, transportation was about 1 to 2 percent of household costs. Today it is about 23 percent and rising. The average annual cost of each car owned by a household is approximately $10,000. Higher-density neighborhoods substantially reduce the need for car ownership, car use, and overall household transportation costs. In addition, higher-density communities provide households with more job opportunities.

Lower startup costs. As Jane Jacobs noted several decades ago, higher-density town centers provide significantly lower capital startup costs for a small business. For example, it is much more financially viable for an individual to sell cooked food from a cart on a dense street corner than for an an individual to buy or lease a restaurant building to sell cooked food.

More neighborhood-based (and smaller) retail. Only higher densities make smaller, neighborhood-based, locally-owned shops financially feasible. Lower-density communities tend to only be able to financially support franchise stores or large-format retail stores that draw customers from a regional consumer-shed.

More neighborly. Higher-density neighborhoods promote sociability. Lower-density neighborhoods promote isolation and suspicion.

Slower speed. Healthy cities are slower in speed, as slower speeds promote retail and residential health. And significantly reduces traffic injuries and deaths. These benefits explain why there is a global movement o create “slow cities.”

More abundant and diverse choices. Higher-density neighborhoods inevitably create much more in the way of choices for restaurants, other types of retail and specialty goods, and culture.

More innovation and creativity. Many studies show that higher-density cities are significantly more innovative and creative than lower-density cities. Higher-density cities attract more talented, skilled people.

More exchange. The main reason cities exist is to promote the exchange of goods, services, ideas, and sociability. Higher densities substantially increase the efficiency and amount of exchange.

More productive workforce. Higher-density cities not only attract more talented workers – which in itself promotes productivity – but also enhances productivity by reducing transportation costs in creating products or providing services.

More walking, bicycling, and transit use. Higher densities induce mixed-use development patterns, which substantially reduces trip distances. Relatively short travel distances to destinations is by far the most powerful way to increase walking, bicycling, and transit use.

Higher quality transit. Higher-density leads to higher transit ridership, which leads to better, more widespread, and more frequent transit service.

More housing choices. Lower-densities tend to deliver very limited housing choice. Nearly all of the housing consists of large single-family homes on large lots of land. Higher-density neighborhoods can provide townhouses, apartments, accessory units, co-ops, and live-work spaces.

More fiscal health for local government. Lower-density development, as shown by strongtowns.org, is a fiscal parasite because it fails to generate anywhere near the tax revenue needed to pay for its significant impacts (mostly road work) on the community. And minimizes per capita expenditures for infrastructure.

More security from crime. Higher densities promote citizen surveillance (often called “eyes on the street”). Higher densities lead to more regular use of sidewalks and observing the outside through house windows greatly contributes to our looking out for our collective security. Since criminals tend to rely on not being seen, this citizen surveillance greatly reduces crime. Many compact neighborhoods are now called “911” neighborhoods, as compactness increases the chance someone will spot an emergency and call 911.

More travel independence for those unable to drive a car. In a lower-density neighborhood, distances to destinations are far away and require the use of dangerous and high-speed roads. This makes car travel essential for nearly all trips, and those unable to drive (such as seniors, children, and the disabled) therefore lose travel independence. They must rely on others to get around.

More environmentally friendly. If we take, say, 100,000 people, that number of people will consume less environmentally sensitive land, produce far less air and water pollution, consume far less energy, and require less asphalt and concrete when living more compactly (ie, at higher densities). If we take that same 100,000 people and disperse them in lower-density patterns, the result is far higher levels of air and water pollution, far larger amounts of environmentally sensitive land consumed, far higher amounts of energy consumed, and far more asphalt and concrete needed.

Final Thoughts

A big part of the problem is that those who dislike density are thinking about the issue as a motorist and not as a human being. Since cars take up so much space, density is something that often makes the motorist furiously mad (so mad that the emotion tends to turn off a person’s brain). The idea of added density is seen as a direct threat to their ability to travel unhindered (or unfrustrated) by car. Car travel in a dense city is an effective recipe for infuriating a motorist. And again, because of the large space consumption of the car, nearly every trip the motorist takes puts them in a bad mood, as it is highly likely that driving a big metal box will be frustrating – even when densities are low.

Getting around by bicycle (or when I walk or use the bus), I pretty much never notice traffic congestion. In fact, almost every bike ride I take puts me in a better mood.

 

Some references:

http://www.lgc.org/wordpress/docs/freepub/community_design/reports/density_manual.pdf

https://theconversation.com/higher-density-living-can-make-us-healthier-but-not-on-its-own-34920

https://www.citylab.com/life/2012/11/cities-denser-cores-do-better/3911/

https://www.brookings.edu/articles/demand-for-density-the-functions-of-the-city-in-the-21st-century/

https://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/towns-and-cities/summary-value-urban-design-economic-environmental-and-social-benefi-10

https://www.citylab.com/life/2012/04/why-bigger-cities-are-greener/863/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/urban-sprawl/Costs-of-urban-sprawl

 

 

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A Form-Based Code for the Ideal Community

 

Land Development Code Requirements

 

Friendly * Slow Speed * Affordable * Familiar * Human Scaled * Car Light * Place-Making * Walkable * Inclusive

alpinebalsaminsideboulder

Aerial View of the Ideal Community in Boulder Colorado

as of August 9, 2019

 

Introduction

The Form-Based Code for the Ideal Community emphasizes the form of the Ideal Community by specifying the appropriate and desirable building placements, street dimensions, and building materials.

Boulder currently has an over-abundance of drivable suburban households that exceed the demand for such households, and an under-supply of walkable urban households that is far below the demand for such households. This will be a particularly acute problem going forward, given the substantial demand for such housing by the Millennial Generation and the growing climate change crisis. Boulder’s current housing stock is so overwhelmingly tilted toward the drivable housing option that it is quite ill-prepared to face the future in a sustainable, affordable, adaptable way.

The following are code requirements for the Ideal Community that employ time-tested principles for creating a successful walkable, lovable, affordable, adaptable, sustainable neighborhood.

The overall layout is compact, human-scaled, slow-speed and walkable.

An overriding design imperative for the Ideal Community, as implied by the urban transect principle outlined below, is that one size does not fit all. Therefore, this code requires that requirements such as the landscaping code, parking code, and setback requirements be relaxed in the Ideal Community as an essential means of achieving critical community objectives.

Urban Transect Designation for Context

transect color2

Source: cnu.org

The Ideal Community is located within the Urban Center Zone in the above figure.

 

 Examples of 3-, 4-, and 5-Stories in Boulder

3-Story Uptown neighborhood in North Boulder

Uptown

 

Washington Village neighborhood a few blocks north of the Ideal Community

Washington Village collage 

Washington Village 3-Story Frontage

Washington Village frontage (best)

 

Building Design

Building Materials

Buildings are clad in context-appropriate brick, stone, and wood. Such cladding is contextual, as it matches the traditional styles of the Mapleton Hill neighborhood.

 

Size of Residential Units

There is no minimum size for a residential unit.

 

Building Height

Maximum building height is 3 stories on the west side and 5 stories on its east side of the Ideal Community. A pitched roof that does not contain habitable space is exempt from the measurement of building height. Obelisks and clock towers are also exempt from height limits.

 

Residential Porches and Stoops

Residential buildings fronting a public street must include a front porch or stoop.

 

Building Alignment and Orientation

Building placement is square to streets and squares rather than rotated. The main entrance of buildings shall be on the first floor on the more primary street

 

Front Yard Building Setbacks

Buildings shall abut the streetside sidewalk. The build-to line is 10 feet from the streetside sidewalk curb. There is no side or rear setback.

 

Adopt an Architectural Pattern Book

In the past, pattern books were indispensable to builders, and there has been a revival in the use of such books in recent decades. In contrast to codes, which mostly attempt to regulate such things as bulk, density, and electrical requirements, pattern books try to set out a vision that each designer and developer of buildings in the neighborhood will follow. Pattern books relate the overall goals of a community or a development to the details the architects and contractors must master: placement of buildings on their lots, positioning of driveways and garages, selection of roof slopes, configuration of porches, proportions and dimensions of windows and doors, and so on. A Pattern Book enables builders and architects of only moderate talent to create streets and buildings that harmonize with each other. In part, the Pattern Book for the Ideal Community is based on a Visual Preference Survey of Boulder residents.

 

Mixed Housing Types

Accessory dwelling units[i] are allowed, as are [list allowable housing types here]. Higher numbers of unrelated adults are allowed to live together. Co-ops are also allowed.

 

Walls and Fencing

Brick, masonry, wood, fieldstone, stucco, or wrought-iron are required for walls and fencing.  Chain-link is prohibited.

 

Windows

First floors of buildings along sidewalks provide ample windows. Between 3 feet above grade and 8 feet above grade on the first floor of building walls facing a sidewalk, windows shall cover at least 30 percent of this area. Windows must be vertically-oriented.

Pearl St collage

 

More Examples of Building Height

3-Story collage

4 Story collage best

5-story collage

 

Streets and Parking

 Street Design

Overall street geometries are slow-speed geometries. Streets are curbed and rectilinear in trajectory. All streets are two-way. Some streets are narrow enough to be “give-way streets.”[ii] Give-way streets, slow streets, walking streets, and woonerfs are all acceptable street designs. Continuous left-turn lanes, one-way streets, cul de sacs, dead-end streets, and slip lanes are not allowed.

Streets are required to use square curbs and gutters.

Bulb-outs are frequently used to not only slow motor vehicles but shorten crossing distances for pedestrians.

 

Street Width

20 to 30 feet curb to curb-to-curb. Travel lane width no wider than 10 feet.

 

Street Trees

Street trees are abundant. Tree species diversity shall be provided for between street blocks, not within blocks. Within street blocks, street trees shall be of the same species. Street trees have a large enough canopy to shade streets and are formally aligned in straight lines.

 

Street lighting

Street lights shall be no more than 10 feet in height and are full cut-off.

 

turning curb radiusTurning Curb Radius

The smallest practical actual turning curb radii shall be used based on how the effective curb radius accommodates the design vehicle. An actual curb radius of 5 to 10 feet should be used wherever possible.

 

Permeability

High levels of permeability between the Ideal Community and abutting neighborhoods shall be provided. Connector streets and walkways shall be created on the east, west, north and south boundaries between the Ideal Community and its neighbors, rather than being a “separate island.”

A destination shall be considered permeable if it can easily be reached by the full range of transportation choices, which implies many connections to adjacent neighborhoods by streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks.  The Ideal Community must be permeable by being easy to reach by foot, bicycle, by transit, and by car.

 

Block Face Length

Block lengths shall be no more than 200 to 400 feet in length.  If they must be longer, mid-block “cross-access” paths or alleys shall be created to create a block no more than 400 feet in length.

 

Sidewalks

Sidewalks must be 7 to 10 feet in width. Shops along the street are encouraged to use canopies, colonnades, arcades, and balconies, and these features are allowed to encroach over the right of way. Café seating, tables, and A-Framed signs are allowed on sidewalks. Street furniture should be low maintenance and high durability.  Street trees shall be planted in tree wells within the sidewalk right of way.

 

Outdoor Mechanical Equipment

Outdoor mechanical equipment includes outdoor heating, air conditioning, and ventilation equipment. All outdoor mechanical equipment must be placed on the roof, in the rear or side of the building, or otherwise visually screened from the street. In no case shall outdoor mechanical equipment shall never be allowed along street frontage(s). Outdoor mechanical equipment on the roof shall be screened from abutting streets with parapets or other types of visual screening

 

Parking

No parking is required. Maximum parking allowed is the minimum parking previously required for this zoning district. Any installed bicycle parking is required to use Inverted-U design, and such parking is allowed to encroach into the sidewalk right of way.

Parking shall be located in structured parking garages (and on-street parking). Structured parking garages must be wrapped with housing, retail, office, or a combination of such uses. On-street parking is abundant and either priced or used only by permit. Revenue from parking pricing is dedicated to improvements within the Ideal Community. No off-street surface parking is allowed, nor are there any minimum parking requirements. Fee-in-lieu of parking is provided for. Leased parking is available in the structured parking garage. Shared parking between property owners is permitted.

The price of parking shall be unbundled from the price of housing in the Ideal Community.

First floors of buildings are not appropriate places for the parking of cars. Available parking is modest in quantity and hidden away from the street.

 

Signs

Signs used by businesses are kept relatively small in size. Downtown Boulder sign regulations are required.

 

Floor Area Ratio (FAR)far-diagram Seattle WA

Required Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is at least 2.0.

 

Residential Density

Increase the number of houses above 300 units. [Minimum and maximum residential density to be determined.]

 

 

Mixed Use

Relatively small offices and retail shops are allowed. Residences above shops are allowed.

 

Vistas Terminated

When feasible, civic buildings or other structures with strong verticality are used to terminate street vistas.

 

Prohibited Uses

Auto Dealers, Auto Service, and Limited Auto Services.

Carwashes.

Gas Service Stations.

Parking Lots as the principal use, other than structured garage parking.

Outdoor Storage as the principal use.

Freestanding retail greater than 30,000 square feet in first floor area.

Gasoline pumps when accessory to a Food Store.

Drive-through’s.

 

Lot Size and Width

[To be determined. This should be relatively small, human-scaled dimensions.]

 

Articulated Instead of Blank Walls

[Covered by window requirements?]

 

Icon Architecture

[Necessary?]

 

Trash Containers

All solid waste, recycling, yard trash containers (except litter containers), and grease containers, shall be placed at the side or the rear of the building and attached to that building with an enclosing wall so that it is not visible from the street.  The enclosing wall shall not exceed 7 feet in height, and shall be finished or painted with the same material as is used on the building.  The enclosing wall shall be fitted with an opaque sliding or hinged door and working latch.  Loading docks shall be placed at the side or rear of the building and shall be screened from the street.  If the building is residential only, these containers shall be located in parking areas or in a location remote from the streetside sidewalk. When in a parking area, solid waste, recycling, and yard trash containers (except litter containers), and grease containers shall be located in that part of the parking area furthest from the streetside sidewalk, or at least 20 feet from a streetside sidewalk. These containers shall be screened to minimize sound to and visibility from abutting streets or residences.

 

Operating Hours for Allowed Businesses

Businesses, such as offices, close no earlier than 7 pm.

______________________________________

[i] ADUs, but also called ancillary units, granny flats, carriage houses, or outbuildings.

[ii] Such streets have a width that obligates motor vehicles to “give-way” to an oncoming vehicle in order to enable pass by.

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Achieving Community Objectives with the Design of the Alpine-Balsam Site

By Dom Nozzi

I support a relatively dense, compact, human-scaled neighborhood design at this location. I also support a timeless, traditional building design that matches the traditional design found on Mapleton Hill. Combining these features with a mix of housing, retail, office, and civic buildings have been shown throughout the nation to promote travel choice, civic pride, travel independence (particularly for seniors and children), reduced per capita environmental impact, and affordable housing.

Affordable housing is promoted largely thru reduced per household transportation costs, a smaller amount of real estate consumed per house, and smaller house size.

The design I favor for Alpine-Balsam also leads to lower citywide taxes, the need for less per capita asphalt, improved citizen health, reduced per capita greenhouse gas and climate-changing emissions, more equity, more of a sense of community, more citizen safety, slower speeds, and more bicycling, more walking, and more use of transit.

There are a great many more benefits, but for the sake of brevity, I will not mention more. One version of my detailed recommendations for designing this property can be found here and here.

I have worked professionally and academically in town planning, urban design, and transportation for 40 years. As I understand it, the following things are desired by nearly all of us at Alpine-Balsam (and Boulder in general):

  1. More affordable housing.
  2. Less per capita car travel.
  3. Lower car emissions.
  4. Smaller and more diverse retail rather than Big Box retail.
  5. Better public health.
  6. Better public safety.
  7. Lower taxes and a city govt that is in better economic health.
  8. Less speeding car traffic.
  9. More travel independence — particularly for seniors and children and the disabled.
  10. More walking, bicycling, and transit use.
  11. Better, more frequent transit with higher ridership levels.
  12. Less “spillover” parking into nearby neighborhoods.
  13. Less noise pollution.

How do we achieve these objectives?

Based on an overwhelming amount of scientific research and case studies, we know the following tactics are, by far, the most effective ways to achieve the above objectives.

  1. Unbundle the price of parking from the price of homes at Alpine-Balsam. Require parking cash-out for those working at Alpine-Balsam.
  2. Keep the size of each housing unit relatively small.
  3. Insist on relatively high housing density, in part by using buildings up to five stories high and keeping housing units small.
  4. Use relatively narrow streets within Alpine-Balsam to keep motor vehicle traffic relatively slow, safe, and attentive.
  5. Requiring parking (I understand that 0.8 spaces are proposed) severely undercuts affordable housing and several other objectives listed above. ZERO parking should be required at Alpine-Balsam. This will NOT result in zero parking provided. Development financiers will require that parking be provided — particularly retailers. Much of the parking at Alpine-Balsam should be priced/metered and on-street. Off-street parking must be either underground or in multi-story garages lined with retail and office.
  6. Nearby neighborhood on-street parking should be either permit parking or metered parking. Nearby neighborhood streets should be traffic-calmed.
  7. The design of Broadway needs to be revised so that it is far easier and safer for pedestrians to cross to and from the Ideal Shopping Center.
  8. Include or at least allow things at Alpine-Balsam that meet the daily needs of residents (small shops, offices, fitness, medical, cultural, governmental, etc.)
  9. Use human-scaled dimensions at Alpine-Balsam. Street lights should be no taller than 10-14 feet. Building setbacks should be relatively modest. Surface parking should not be allowed off-street. Street and building signs should be very small. When mounted on poles, signs should be very short.
  10. The design of buildings should be such that citizen surveillance and neighborly conviviality is promoted. 11. Promote or at least allow accessory dwelling units, co-ops, and relatively high occupancy limits.

Deploying the above tactics will deliver to us a neighborhood that will effectively achieve a great many important Boulder objectives, and serve as a model for future projects.

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More on the Failure of Modernist Architecture

By Dom Nozzi

November 15, 2018

Nearly all modernist architects, as part of their ruinous obsession with being “innovative,” take great joy in designing a building that completely ignores the context of other buildings on its street or neighborhood or community. The arrogant, selfish quest is to design a jarring, heroic “LOOK AT ME!!” building that sticks out like a sore thumb with regard to other buildings.

I believe humans tend to enjoy the pleasing character of assemblages of buildings, not individual buildings. People flock to Assisi or Florence or Venice not so much because of the desire to enjoy individual buildings, but to enjoy the collection (assemblage) of (time-tested) buildings built with traditional (not innovative) designs. Some designers call such humble buildings “soldier” buildings – these are buildings that are not much as individual buildings, but when assembled with other “soldiers” creates a city that is so formidable in its magnificence that people throughout the world flock to it to admire it.

There is a place, of course, for “look at me” buildings that are designed to not fit into the context of nearby buildings. But that design must be reserved for civic buildings such as churches or important government buildings. When most or all buildings ignore context (as modernist buildings, by definition, strive to do), they create a chaotic public realm that is chaotic, unpleasant, unattractive, disorienting, and stressful to most people.

Consider, for example, the attached photo. The image of a modernist city on the left exemplifies chaos and confusion and lack of coherence.

It will never be tourist attraction, except for those who want to experience something bizarre or crazy.

Modernism vs Traditional in Boulder, April 2017

 

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