Friday 20 October 2017

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY BLUEPRINT AND “ECODENSITY”

The idealist in me wants a bold set of recommendations for Kern County, but the urban designer of real politic in me, is doubtful.

Two things have stoked my scepticism: Kern County Supervisor’s political clock, and some dismal communications management from the Planning staff lately on urban density matters.

The suburban development industry is getting uneasy about the “EcoDensity” push. Sure, urban developers like density, but they like predictability even more, and this is a fundamentally conservative industry that has prospered by getting things done behind closed doors diminishing options for an “EcoDensity” policy. Kern County’s bungling of communications on proposed land use changes harbours a near total lack of specific planning policies regarding density. This came to the surface again last week.

Developers are less interested in ideology than in getting someone they can work with in the Board Chair and the Supervisors seats. Few “EcoDensity” discussions to date have brought the process of county/city-building into light. Uncomfortable public scrutiny will raise profound questions. To flesh out “EcoDensity” with tough, original and politically sustainable policies is going to take some doing.

Under consideration this last week was a “Recreational Vehicle Park” of 120 spaces. The setting was amidst a manufacturing zone on more than three quarters of the boundary edges and a four lot residential front on the other boundary. Served by a north-south “Future Arterial”  – Allen Road was discussed for the 9.41 acre site with only estimated traffic figures entering and exiting the two site entrances. This did not show the cumulative impact to Allen Road’s future traffic. The packed 120 vehicle spaces gave little credence to “Park” as the only recreational amenity was a tiny fenced in swimming pool. Enclosed within a ten-foot wall on three sides and a view of industrial steel buildings across the road, the property concept did not present an attractive place for residents and provided no access for walking or biking to an attractive park a distant mile two miles away.

Astounding as it might be, the project property value with the surrounding industrial and residential community that exists, did not advance the possible changes that this future land-use value would bring, after the proposed project implementation. Also the property falls under considerable sound impacts from blasting whistles, 24/7 at Hageman and Allen Roads intersection, from the busy Santa Fe railroad, a little distance to the north.

No agreement was reached on how many residents might reside in each individual “Recreational Vehicle”. The range of 250 to 260 was bandied about but not confirmed in any way, for lack of specific knowledge. Is a policy of 26 –38 people per acre for a Recreational Vehicle Park an acceptable standard? And what about California State versus Kern County jurisdiction over the design, maintenance and operation standards?

The theory of “ecological footprints” or a balance between man made and natural environments needs to bring the urban design pencil to paper to accommodate a balance acceptable to economic, social, environmental and cultural futures for Recreational Vehicle Parks in our Great Valley.

Who will preside on “EcoDensity Footprints” and when will this be accomplished as part of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint?

Graham Kaye-Eddie

Master Urban Designer             527 words        11/1/07

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