Urban Design

Our City is currently involved in several urban design discussions simultaneously.
Are cities gender neutral? Our city, being Charlotte’s Ville. Maybe she can multitask. Talk about redesigning her central park and her bridge downtown and not cut off the wrong leg by mistake.
I have missed the bridge-design events & discussion. Watching the video by Dan Bluestone and Brian Wimer has me playing catch-up.

Why do we allow our bad things to happen to our cities? Why do we allow our cities to be designed by autos and fire engines?
Jim Kunstler talked a bit about the Law of Perverse Outcomes in his November 2011 “Eyesore of the Month”.

http://www.kunstler.com/eyesore_201111.html

McPark

kudzu

The golden apple of discord was rolling up and down 11 charette tables at Charlottesville High School last night as competing interests sought to divvy up the remaining acreage of east McIntire Park.

At present the 65 acres are largely inaccessible to any citizen without a golf-bag. Programming ideas abound for the acreage in the land-bank. There were proposals for more asphalt, skate park asphalt, parking lot asphalt and perhaps asphalt transecting the park, parallel to the Meadowcreek Parkway, to connect the new northern and southern Parking lots.

Whatever the outcome, after the stakeholders get the baby divided there will be more public access.

The rectangular field, botanical garden and golf ball interests played nice with each other. Voices were not raised. Indeed, “everyone was heard”. But, I’m hoping before the Recreation Department and the City Council approve a final design they will visit Central Park in NYC for some ideas.

McIntire park was originally larger than its current size. The construction of the bypass ran through the park, with one section becoming what is now Greenleaf Park. Another section, at the southeast end of McIntire Road near the rescue squad, initially became tennis courts and more recently has been converted into a skateboard park. Of the original 150 acres, approximately 130 lie north of the 250 bypass with 55 acres on the west side of the railroad tracks, and 75 acres on the east side.– Parks and Recreation

non-responsive

I asked the Charlottesville Council candidates…

If your land-use and zoning preferences are followed into the future, in twenty years Charlottesville will look like ___________ (fill in the blank).

a. Charlottesville (1.3x density increase)
b. Alexandria VA (2x density increase)
c. Philadelphia PA (3x density increase)
d. Brooklyn NY (8x density increase)

None of the candidates answered the question in the format desired.
In fairness, this was the last part of a three part question and responses were cramped by a time limit.
Hoping the candidates will share their thoughts now.

Meetings (laughing)

Rivanna Pump Station
The existing Rivanna Pump Station is in close proximity to houses in the Woolen Mills.


Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone. For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own.–E. W. Wilcox

There are different types of laughter: etiquette laughter; nervous laughter; silent laughter; belly laughter; cruel laughter. Are any of these appropriate in a public meeting?
Political bodies have different “laughter cultures”. Locally, I don’t hear the Board of Supervisors or the City Council laughing but the Charlottesville Planning Commission likes to laugh. The local kings of laughter are the members of the Albemarle County Service Authority.

A bit of levity can lift the mood in a long meeting. Everyone loves a laugh. But laughter at the public’s expense, laughter where the citizens are the butt of the joke, this would seem to be inappropriate emanating from public servants. Audio clips are posted below, please listen for yourself and listen for the laughs. Is it proper?

Mini-Rotunda
Buy & Relocate
Convenience & View
Trailer-Mounted Pump Station

Sound bites are misleading. Every interview subject fears sound bites, with good reason. Statements are abstracted from context and standing alone, take on an entirely different meaning.
The bites here can be heard in context on Charlotteville Tomorrow’s website.

Mini-Rotunda is about 12:20 in to the 3/17/2011 ACSA meeting.
Buy & Relocate is approximately 52 minutes into the 5/19/2011 meeting
Convenience & View is 16:20 in to the May Meeting
Trailer-Mounted Pump Station is approximately 58 minutes in to the May meeting

Because of the limited utility of sound-bites to convey the essence of a meeting, I heartily endorse our local C-Span, Charlotteville Tomorrow. Charlottesville Tomorrow provides gavel to gavel audio coverage of important local meetings. I urge you to support this critical community service. I encourage you to be involved with local boards, commissions and legislative bodies. Serve on them, attend the meetings. Our collective quality of life rests on the shoulders of an engaged public.
(All audio presented here was recorded by Charlottesville Tomorrow)

ride of silence

cyclists on Water Street
A second ride of silence took place in CHO yesterday. This is a worldwide event held every year, 3rd Wednesday in May, beginning in 2003. Locally the event is organized by cyclist Alan Bewley.

Main street
More information is available at the official ride of silence website. The ride highlights the fact that our roads are shared public spaces that are not shared very well. The ride honors, and provides a prolonged moment of meditation/contemplation for cyclists killed in the streets.

Rugby Rd
The rolling police protection which accompanied the 80+ riders through the streets of CHO Wednesday affords a level of safety missing for cyclists most days.

Norris, Bewley
Mayor Dave Norris, after the ride with event organizer Alan Bewley.


Some of the riders…
Ian Ayers’ video of the event.
Peter Norton and Coy Barefoot talk about the streets.

fence


In the world of small town zoning there is the concept of the “buffer”. The buffer is akin to the roll of super absorbent paper towels produced on the home-front after an accident has occurred.
So, lets say the City planners locate Industrial zoning in a low income neighborhood next to houses. Such a fence can be required as a buffer.

Screen 3 (“S-3”).  The S-3 buffer/screen requires an opaque landscaping scheme, one that blocks views between two adjacent properties. This type of screening is for use between dissimilar land uses, where the maximum amount of visual shielding is desired. The plantings allowed by the S-3 designation consist of the following…
…With the approval of the director, an opaque wall or fence may be utilized for, or as part of, a required S-3 screen. Where allowed, such wall or fence (including any gate(s) forming a portion of such structure) shall be at least six (6) feet tall, or an alternate height deemed necessary by the director to protect required sight distances along a public right-of-way.–CHO Code 34-871

Does the fence stop the noise? Does it stop the smell? Does it block the view of the 85 foot tall manufacturing facility? No.
But it makes the planners feel they have done their job.