Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ventura California has much to teach about retrofitting residential neighbourhoods

take away thoughts
Rick Cole spoke about the work Ventura City Council continues to do in retro fitting existing residential neighbourhoods using form based code which guides how buildings behave in the public realm. Form based code is based on timeless principles derived from cities over time.
Ventura's city planning is about 'how we will grow, not will we grow' This approach has come to be known as smart growth and follows the imperatives of infill first! and balanced transportation

They keep on 'reclaiming the awfulness'. People in those neighbourhoods like them and see no reason to change. He showed, with a series of slides, the same streetscape over an 80 year period and how it had evolved. Much had changed. Most obvious was the increasing presence of the motor car in these neighbourhoods. As he said, cars are not parked in garages any more - they are full of the stuff we buy at Walmart. The change led him to ask: 'what is the American dream?'. It is not static and will continue to evolve.
He is passionate for mixed use, rather than zoning which separates functions. He wants to talk about planning in language that people can understand, rather than the arcane and impenetrable language of planning.

On the subject of engagement and creating the vision for Ventura, he has found that people prefer relatively brief processes that have a beginning, a middle and an end. He encouraged speaking to regular people, rather than stakeholder groups with entrenched interests where you the best you are likely to achieve is a 'bastardised compromise.' Stakeholders have 'a dog in the fight'. 'In a driving rainstorm in the middle of the night, they'll be there.' 'Entrenched interests don't represent the future.' Instead, you should speak with 'sensible people who are not fanatics.'

He showed many examples of highly walkable neighbourhoods with a mix of densities, attractive shared open space and neighbourhood scale retail.

Rick Cole
City Manager, Ventura

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