The New Urbanism and Palo Alto
Original post made by Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2013
First of all, the New Urbanism embraces walking and bicycling to nearby businesses and services. While some of the downtown developments haven't been too bad, developments like Alma Plaza and the new JCC very unlikely locations due to the lack of public transportation and enough nearby housing density (including the on-site units) to support on-site businesses or services without most customers driving.
Secondly, one of the goals is reducing traffic volume, and traffic speed. Sometimes through adding a little local congestion. That makes a primarily arterial location such as Alma or San Antonio generally illogical. Reducing traffic speed is certainly laudable, and, one of the ways advocated by the New Urbanism is to use street trees adjacent to the street where slowing is desired. Unfortunately, in many some recent developments and proposals, the trees have been adjacent to the buildings, not the streets.
In order to encourage walking, wider sidewalks (on the other side of the street trees away from the street) are advocated. At least 1.5m/5ft, rather than narrower single-user sidewalks. Unfortunately, this configuration has not generally been followed.
I would like the city council and planning commission to return to basics: street trees adjacent to streets, with wider sidewalks away from the streets. And, higher density projects should be close to public transportation (CalTrain stations, El Camino buses), not in more distant locations where it is certain that most people will drive anyway.
Here is a design reference for New Urbanism from the U.S. Government Department of Transportation (of all places):
P.S. There are style problems with the new developments also. The JCC building at the corner at San Antonio and Charleston is a perfect example of Ugly Postmodernism. Arts and Crafts and Art Deco may be passe' stylistically, but, the worst of them usually look better than the best Postmodern. Until someone comes up with a better new style, lets stick to Arts and Crafts and Art Deco, even if that seems derivative and imitative today.