Wednesday, October 1, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Neighborhoods for the 20-minute life

By
December 2, 2010 |

Enterprise columnist

\n

Every serious plan to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions includes policies and actions to reduce the number of gallons of gasoline we burn in getting ourselves around.

\n

The three legs of this stool are the car (increase fuel efficiency), the fuel (encourage hybrid and electric vehicles) and the driver (better driving techniques and reducing the number and length of trips).

\n

Finally, the federal government has acted to increase fuel-efficiency requirements and the state is implementing a “low carbon fuel standard.” Local governments are being asked to look for ways to make it easier for people to go about their daily business with less need for a car, reducing vehicle miles traveled.

\n

Most of this discussion is focused on new construction; designing new neighborhoods with greater density so there are enough people to support some small-scale commercial that is near enough to walk or bike to, and incorporating convenient access to transit options.

\n

The elephant in the room is what we are going to do with existing neighborhoods. This receives very little discussion, in part because it is a much different and more difficult problem than designing new neighborhoods. New construction, even in good times, is only about 1 percent of the total in terms of the number of buildings in the state. Changing the way we build new houses and neighborhoods will, eventually, have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but in the short term increasing energy efficiency in existing buildings is where the meat of the issue lies.

\n

One concept that has emerged is the “20-Minute Neighborhood.” The city of Portland defines these as places with “convenient, safe and pedestrian-oriented access to the places people need to go to and the services people use nearly every day: transit, shopping, quality food, school, parks and social activities.”

\n

This is not a new idea; it is a rediscovery of an old one. Even as recently as the 1930s, before owning a car was common, practically all neighborhoods fit the “20-minute” definition. Academics talked about the “neighborhood unit” basically consisting of everything you need within a quarter-mile of where you live.

\n

Davis is fairly unique among cities in that it, to a large degree, built itself by design. It\’s not an accident that we have a strong and vibrant commercial center and an outstanding bicycle infrastructure.

\n

But we also jettisoned a key element of a people-oriented neighborhood. We used to have — as recently as the 1980s — a requirement that every home be within a half-mile of a neighborhood commercial center anchored by a grocery store where residents could buy groceries, take their laundry, get a cup of coffee, etc. The push for larger and larger stores eventually succeeded in repealing this requirement, but there is still a significant portion of our city that has many of the elements of a 20-minute neighborhood.

\n

So we have a head start, but we still have a long way to go. Also, a 20-minute neighborhood may be too big. The average walking speed is about 3 miles per hour, making the radius for a 20-minute walk about a mile. This is too far to easily carry groceries and it will seem even farther in the heat of the summer and for people who are elderly or have mobility-related disabilities. Perhaps we need to think in terms of a “10-minute neighborhood.”

\n

Efforts to make existing neighborhoods walkable or bikeable are, to a certain extent, boxed in by policy decisions of the past and invite (continuing the metaphor) thinking out of the box.

\n

One idea is to establishing “hubs” throughout the community where residential and commercial uses are already co-existing (the downtown is one, others would be around neighborhood shopping areas) and allow increased residential density in these hubs and in concentric circles emanating out from there, gradually decreasing that density with distance from the center.

\n

Over the years, as density increases in each of these circles, the allowed density could be further increased so that, gradually, neighborhoods would become more dense and more able to support commercial uses within walking distance. It can\’t realistically be done overnight.

\n

Some neighborhood commercial centers are possible sites for infill development and could be re-purposed to function as a “hub” for increased density. For example, Davis Manor Shopping Center on East Eighth Street, could be a site for multi-story (think tall — at least five stories) residential with ground-level commercial. It\’s big enough that it could be designed to have minimal adverse impact on adjacent housing, it\’s on an existing transit (bus) route, and it\’s near a school site (Valley Oak). Similar opportunities exist in other parts of town.

\n

Getting way out of the box, it would be interesting to re-think how we use parks and schools. Are there sites in parks, for example, where a small building with lockers could function as a drop-off site for grocery stores that take orders over the Internet? Are there schools that could provide existing space or new space for evening and summer neighborhood activities, perhaps even generating revenue for the schools?

\n

Changing existing neighborhoods is not impossible; communities in Europe and elsewhere have been doing it for centuries.

\n

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis. This column appears the first and third Thursdays of each month. Send comments to johnmottsmith@comcast.net

\n

Comments

comments

John Mott-Smith

.

News

Undocumented Student Center offers help to immigrants

By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Rairdan supports more inquiry-based learning

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Mondavi Center hosts all-star lineup of classical, jazz, dance and more

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C3 | Gallery

Willett students sensitized to those who are different

By Maria Clayton | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Friends of the Library host biggest book sale of the year

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Give blood and get a free movie ticket

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

‘Edible City’ discussion planned

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
TSA bomb training may be noisy

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Katehi will address Rotarians on Monday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
 
‘ADHD — Myth or Reality’ addressed at UCD talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
AIM testing dates set this fall, winter

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

 
Tour Honey Bee Haven on Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Woodland City Cemetery tours planned

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
UCD athletics have break-from-work entertainment for everyone

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: C5 | Gallery

Wetlands visitors may see ducks arriving

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Boy Scouts host family event in park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

How did the Aggies get their name?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C12

 
.

Forum

Hey, it’s free childcare …

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Will you open your heart, and your home?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
The right vote for education

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Just what Davis schools need

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

Nolan’s a calm voice of reason

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

DHS girls tennis team tames Lions

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devil girls play dynamite pool defense

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis volleyballers finish strong at Franklin

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Hard-working Blue Devil boys get a water polo win

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s fall as AL wild-card game lives up to its name

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
AYSO roundup: Beans, Capay can’t shake each other in U19 play

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Legacy roundup: Milliennium takes Manteca tournament

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

 
Alliance roundup: Los Azules, Italia win tourneys

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Sports briefs: Real Salt Lake has too much for Republic

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

From the ground up: Rediscovering classic cheesecake

By Ann Evans | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Leonard D. Blackford

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Anne Elizabeth Elbrecht

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, October 1, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A8