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The Charming Italian Tradition of the Passeggiata – the Nightly Community Stroll

Each evening, between the hours of 5 pm and 8 pm, Italians take to the streets, to walk and socialize, in a nightly ritual called “La Passeggiatta.” Sociologists label la passeggiata a cultural performance, and on Saturdays and Sundays entire families participate, this frequently being the main social event of the day. Afterward, everyone heads home together for the evening meal. “Sociologists label la passeggiata a cultural performance, and on Saturdays and Sundays, entire families participate, this frequently being the main social event of the day. Afterward, everyone heads home together for the evening meal.”

For Maggie and Dom, la passeggiata is one of our favorite treats when we visit an Italian town. It is the much-loved evening community stroll, and we love encountering it.

The passeggiata in Palermo mostly occurs on their main walking street (Via Maqueda), and it is an unforgettable, inspiring sight to see.

Via Maqueda is a large street, yet like our recent experience in Bologna, la passeggiata so fills the large street that it is a gridlock of pedestrian congestion that one normally only sees with a road clogged with cars.

But in contrast to car congestion, when everyone is angry with everyone else on the road, pedestrian congestion adds to the sociable joy of being on common ground with other people. As Dan Burden once said, cars are happiest when there are no other cars around. People are happiest when there are other people around.

One of many things that makes me proud to be an Italian is the Italian tradition of la passeggiata.

As I understand it, the size and popularity of la passeggiata on Via Maqueda has been growing over the years (it became a walking street in June 2018). I believe that is because such an event benefits from being a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle. That is, because humans are a social species and our world tends to isolate us from each other, something that draws people to sociably be with others is so enjoyable, so rare, and such a “people-watching treat” that others in the city start learning about the enjoyable event and join in. And this growing number of participants induces even more to join as word about it is spread (or people encounter it on their own). And so on and so on.

La passeggiata is, in the words of urban designers, a “social condenser” that most humans seek out to enjoy.

In my view, all cities, to be healthy, should have a nightly passeggiata.

This Italian community evening stroll is usually found on “walking street” that has been closed to cars — but not always… Click here for a video I shot when Maggie and I happily and serendipitously stumbled upon a passeggiata in Palmero.

In her book titled The Passeggiata and Popular Culture in an Italian Town,  Giovanna Delnegro states that this custom “reinforces a sense of belonging.” Individuals greet their friends and acquaintances while sharing all the latest news and gossip. Women frequently hold hands, walking together in what appears as an informal parade. As they mark the end of the workday, men can be heard to say andiamo a fare qualche vasca, or “let’s go do some laps.” Not only is the custom of la passeggiata a social bonding experience, but also good exercise, and I can use all that I can get!

According to Miklas, one of “original purposes of la passeggiata was to display the charms of young women who were eligible to be married, and in this process, parents of these girls encouraged them to be flirtatious. They wanted their daughters to fare una bella figura, or to look good. This could be one of the reasons that generally people change their clothing after working, and put on their finer attire, dressing to impress, for the evening stroll. The goal is, after all, or to see and be seen.”

“In the larger cities such as Rome, some streets are just packed with people, making it nearly impossible for cars to get by. One of these streets in particular is Via del Corso, known for its shopping. As people are walking, it is not uncommon for them to stop and do some window shopping. Another favorite spot for everyone to congregate during this evening ritual is the piazza, and Piazza Navona is a wonderfully entertaining spot. Usually in the early evenings, you will find mimes performing, musicians entertaining and vendors demonstrating the latest new items. Piazza di Spagna, or the Spanish Steps, becomes another crowded spot for la passeggiata.”

“As an integral part of everyday life in Italy, la passeggiata is an endearing custom in Italy, one that I enjoy very much.  Italians like to share things and be with one another, and they like to be outside, as their homes are frequently small. Unless it is raining, you can count on la passeggiata to occur in every city, town, and village in Italy every day of every week.”

Source: https://italoamericano.org/story/2015-5-19/passeggiata%20

 

 

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Some Reasons Why Boulder Is Not a Bicycle Heaven Like Utrecht in The Netherlands

 

By Dom Nozzi

July 17, 2019

A champion of NIMBYism on the Boulder City Council had a citizen send her a YouTube video about Utrecht, a city Maggie and I recently visited and LOVED, and her comment was that “I had the good fortune to visit Utrecht over the Christmas holidays and see the ongoing efforts and results. Where did they get the money to build it?”

One thought I have in response to her comment is if you enjoyed Utrecht so much, why do you spend much of your time fighting against every step Boulder wants to take in that direction???

I then posted this on the FB wall below her comment:

Boulder is far more wealthy than Utrecht. Over the past few decades, the City of Boulder has squandered millions of dollars (often matching fed and state dollars) to overdesign roads to convenience cars, speed up cars, and encourage motorists to drive inattentively. The result of those millions spent is that our transportation system is now far less safe, far less multi-modal (ie, it is much more of a car-only system), and far less likely to induce the compact, walkable land use patterns that the City master plan calls for. Perhaps the biggest strategic mistake that Boulder and its citizens have made over the years is to counterproductively try to reduce congestion on roads and parking lots by increasing the capacity of those free-to-use facilities. By ruinously equating congestion reduction with quality of life, Boulder has ironically undermined a great many objectives. Such efforts have ironically given us more traffic crashes, more per capita car travel, more air emissions, more noise pollution, more strip commercial, more low-density sprawl, more sign pollution, more ugly buildings and infrastructure, more “heat island” woes, more fuel consumption, a transportation budget that is always requiring the City to push for more transportation tax revenue, and more speeding.

In sum, a quality of life that is degraded on many fronts.

Oh, and by the way, we have done nothing to reduce congestion after all those millions to try to reduce congestion. Oops.

Until Boulder escapes from the ruinous, aggressive efforts to reduce congestion, it will never make progress in moving toward better conditions for each of the many objectives I mention above.

On the same day, a survey went out asking Boulder citizens what they thought about lowering traffic speeds on city roads. Here is my response:

Boulder needs to revise the street design of streets all over town to obligate motorists to drive slower and more attentively. Shame on Boulder for spending the past century using “Forgiving Street Design” to encourage excessive speeds and inattentive driving. Unless Boulder redesigns stroads such as Broadway, Canyon, and Arapahoe (among many other roads too numerous to list here), Vision Zero will be nothing more than lip service for better traffic safety. After a century of Forgiving Street Design, as well as more Warning Signs, Warning Lights, Warning Paint, Warning Education, and Warning Enforcement, isn’t it time to use effective safety and speed tools such as street design?

Boulder needs to show way more leadership on these issues.

And stop being our own worst enemies.

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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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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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