Road Diets Lose a Round in Petaluma

The Petaluma City Council recently declined to pursue a grant for a road diet extension. It was a regrettable decision.

In a blog post of five months ago, I wrote about road diets. In particular, I was writing about a pending road diet revision in downtown Petaluma. From that post:

"A road diet is a reduction in the travel lanes of an existing street, converting some of the pavement area to other uses, such as additional parking, center turn pockets, or sidewalks bulbs for traffic calming.

"Although reducing travel lanes would intuitively seem to reduce traffic capacity, the reduction can be less than expected. If the existing lanes are unusually narrow, as is true of Petaluma Boulevard, the current capacity may be less than indicated by the lane count. Meanwhile, the revised configuration can improve vehicle and pedestrian safety.

Several weeks ago, the Petaluma City Council considered the possibility of applying for a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to continue the road diet on Petaluma Boulevard South. The suggestion by City Public Works was to continue the road diet from its current end between D and E Streets to the vicinity of McNear Street or perhaps to the recently completed roundabout at the new Quarry Heights subdivision.

I describe the Public Works position as a "suggestion" because their endorsement was tepid. They found that the extended road diet was the best fit for the MTC grant, but were unsure if the community was ready for a further road diet on Petaluma Boulevard.

Their caution was justified. Both the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and Petaluma Patch ran articles that attracted community concern. At the hearing, further worries were expressed on behalf of downtown merchants, who feared the effect of ongoing construction on the boulevard.

The opposing perspective was offered by a member of the citizens committee for the Central Petaluma Specific Plan (CPSP), who articulately described the compromises during the CPSP process that envisioned the road diet. She also evoked the vision of a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly boulevard. I failed to add my voice to hers. I regret my silence although I couldn’t have matched her eloquence.

In any case, her passion was insufficient. The motion to pursue the grant for Petaluma Boulevard South failed on a 3-3 tie. Instead, the Council directed city staff to purse the grant for other parts of the city even those the alternative locations wouldn’t conform as well to the MTC guidelines, reducing the probability of grant award.

In the weeks since the decision, I’ve looked with a critical eye at the segment of Petaluma Boulevard South that would have been affected.  It truly is pedestrian and bicycle unfriendly. Although pedestrians and bicyclists can use the parallel local streets, many trips require crossing the boulevard and the road diet would have helped those crossings.

Ultimately, the City Council’s failure to pursue the grant for Petaluma Boulevard South was symptomatic of a failure to have a vision for downtown that includes non-vehicular transportation. Perhaps they’re correct in thinking that pedestrians and bicyclists wouldn’t be a key element of downtown in the future. But I think they’re wrong. And if another grant becomes available for a road diet extension, I’ll back it with enthusiasm.

Follow-Ups and Schedule Notes

Petaluma Urban Chat: December 11 was the first of two meetings at which Petaluma Urban Chat will talk about the StrongTowns Curbside Chat booklet. The discussion was well-attended and a good sharing of ideas. Everyone is invited to join us on Tuesday, January 8, 5:30pm. Charles Marohn of StrongTowns may be able to join us by Skype. Therefore, we’re looking for an alternative location in which a video chat can be as productive as possible. More details will follow here.  If you haven’t yet read the booklet, it can be found here.

StrongTowns: The Curbside Chat booklet is a good introduction to the StrongTowns philosophy.  But there is much more to be found on StrongTowns website.  For anyone looking for a supplemental reading assignment, I suggest the Rogers Interchange links on the StrongTowns Case Studies page.

Although the facts in the Rogers situation seem worse than in most California communities, the case study has the most similarities to California land development patterns.

The case study concludes with a suggestion of a zoning code that includes more urbanism. I agree completely with the advice, but it’s an interesting recommendation because the StrongTowns founder Marohn is a registered Republican and urbanism is often, although incorrectly, equated with liberal social engineering. But Marohn sets off on a path of financial conservatism and arrives at urbanism.

It’s a funny thing about urbanism. It’s the solution to a wide range of social concerns. Looking to accommodate the growing lifestyle preferences of the young and the seniors? Urbanism is an answer. Looking to apportion government resources in a more financially conservative way? Urbanism is an answer. Worried about climate change? Urbanism is an answer. Concerned about sending petroleum dollars to unstable regimes? Urbanism is an answer. Prefer to preserve green space? Urbanism is an answer.

And yet urbanism doesn’t receive the support that it often needs and often it struggles to succeed at the ballot box. As successful downtown Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy says, "Urbanism solves so many problems it's like a superhero. But a vilified one like Batman."

And that is the problem that we must face. Hopefully together.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated. Please comment below or email me. And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. He has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and three dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com. He can also be followed on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steven Kirk December 13, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I agree with Dave Alden's disappointment that the city council chose not to pursue a grant to create an extension of the road diet down along Petaluma Boulevard South. As a nearby resident, I have been driving down the boulevard and walking or riding my bike across it for the past 11 years. Although the roadway is rarely congested , cars tend to move aggressively through this section of the boulevard, and crossing it is typically rather dangerous. This is the primary gateway into our downtown for anyone (residents and visitors alike), and it doesn't come close to matching the allure or vitality of the destination. The boulevard feels more like an endless sea of asphalt and concrete than a gateway. A road diet would likely provide welcome amenities such as benches, trash receptacles, better lighting, wider sidewalks, bike lanes, safer parking, and substantial landscaping. Few projects could be more visibly transformative than a road diet along this key gateway into town.
Wire December 14, 2012 at 02:06 AM
MTC grant monies to extend our road diet Petaluma has to give up some rights, do you know what they were? I rather see those white towers of wind generation on the Sonoma Mountain Range, yes, several hundred.generators on the Petaluma gap.
Wire December 14, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Would it be Petaluma's best interest to get people out of their cars? Running a bus up and down Petaluma Boulevard South, all over the city. If had to guess life really needs not to be so rush rush then have your job down the street. Come look at Winsor's Town Green how are they doing ? Just about as good as any plaza. Take a look at Napa River rebuild and the future look, then you have Santa Rosa's, Sebastopol Ave. You don't have to travel out of state and look at parks and apartments. Are we talking about Agenda 21? Did you see Conta Costa turned down a thirty year one cent tax increase? For their Agenda 21 road tax. The Alameda County Transportation Commission said Thursday it has requested a recount on the narrow defeat of Measure B1, the one-cent sales tax boost that failed by a tiny margin to receive the necessary two-thirds approval. Alameda County transportation sales tax measure loses after recount Berkley's 80 percent voted for the tax increase and it still failed. The people are wising up. Danville citizens are protesting low cost housing you want another Fremont here?
Wire December 15, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Give this a listen to Dave http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTQPMt2dncE People dismiss the Wildlands Project as some crazy conspiracy theory. Stacey, a caller to the Barbara Simpson Show discusses her observation that many areas are now "off limits" to humans. Her friends in New Hampshire, that have family living on the property since 1748 are now surrounded by "No Trespassing" signs on neighboring property that the government has siezed. Check out this timely article on the topic: Rewilding Network—Saving Globe Through Big Wilderness: Another UN Agenda 21 Hoax ( http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/48568 ) It's all this same thing.
Dan Lyke December 17, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Wire, I'd be interested in a map of these places that are closed. In over a decade and a half of hiking in Marin County, the only place I've found closed off (except for seasonal closures for erosion control or nesting habitat) have been privately owned lands where the new owners decide they didn't want the hikers who'd been using those fire roads for years. And, similarly, when I grew up in upstate New York, we all put up "No Trespassing" signs to keep the NYC hunters and weekenders off of the land. If you were local, you knew which signs to ignore. I find the caller to that Barbara Simpson show a non-credible source because she isn't specific about which government agencies are buying up the land for which game preserves; in the vernacular of where I grew up, sounds like she was just a "ferner" in a place where she hadn't yet met the neighbors. And that Canada Free Press article is... well... not compelling. Especially when the summation is "Anti-Biblical". I'd suggest that if you want to build a convincing argument, you look to understand science and the mechanisms of the scientific method, and the processes of statistical analysis, and use those tools to present your arguments. Subjecting your arguments to that rigor will both make it much easier for people like me to understand your thesis, and to take your arguments credibly.
Dan Lyke December 17, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Yeah, as a regular user of Petaluma Boulevard South, I'd expect that automobile throughput would go up with the road "diet". We rarely have two lanes of traffic along there, and when we do it's very uncomfortable because the lanes are so narrow. South of D Street, between the narrow lanes and the street parking the road is effectively one lane each direction anyway. Enshrining that in road markings would be awesome. At least downtown, though, it seems like a no-brainer: A dedicated maneuvering / turning lane will keep the confusion coming from left turn for Northbound traffic headed to Western and the merge afterwards down, and make it easier to park for frequenting those downtown merchants.
Wire December 17, 2012 at 08:38 PM
If I had to guess from this caller it has to be a wildlife preserve. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTQPMt2dncE The reason I say this even the border patrol can't go on park property in Arizona. Conservation group protests Rehberg support of Border Patrol access bill Friday, June 22, 2012 protesters The day after U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., voted in favor of a bill expanding Border Patrol access to national parks, forests and wilderness areas, a group of protesters put up a fence by the door of his Missoula staff office. The 15 members of Montana Conservation Voters chanted “No land grab,” and waved signs objecting to HR1505, authored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and co-sponsored by Rehberg. The bill would allow Homeland Security agents to drive vehicles and establish bases on any federal lands within 100 miles of the Canadian or Mexican borders, “and ensures that federal land managers do not impede the Border Patrol’s efforts to secure our border on public lands,” according to a statement by the House Natural Resources Committee Republican Press Office. Post Continues on missoulian.com Read more: http://patriotupdate.com/2012/06/conservation-group-protests-rehberg-support-of-border-patrol-access-bill/#ixzz2FLNbHiu1
Wire December 17, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Babeu: Docs prove Obama officials treated bounties on border ... www.humanevents.com/.../babeu-obama-treated-bounties-on-border-... Oct 7, 2012 – 2010 death of Brian A. Terry, a member of the elite Border Patrol Tactical Unit, parties to ... who is now a senator and is a native of Arizona. ... or coyotes, would not use the wilderness areas as safe passage for their crimes. ... sanctuaries, and thus off-limits to both federal and local law enforcement officers. www.humanevents.com/.../babeu-obama-treated-bounties-on-border-
Wire December 17, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Now think about that OYSTER FARM in Drakes Bay Twitter / EditorRandyGraf: Border Patrol Agent Kerry ... https://twitter.com/EditorRandyGraf/status/15483930987732992 Border Patrol Agent Kerry ambushed in area that Congressman Grijalva wants as wilderness area and off limits to BP ... Don't miss any updates from AZ News-Telegraph Join Twitter today and follow what interests you! Full name. Emai
Wire December 17, 2012 at 08:49 PM
[PDF] Amendment 2523 to ensure that wilderness areas and other public ... www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve...id... File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View According to the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing more ... 9 “Border-Related Impacts to Sonoran Desert Wilderness in SW Arizona,” Organ Pipe Cactus .... smugglers is because ―environmental concerns limit the range of U.S. .... agents the ability to conduct vehicle patrols off-road, a manager of one of
Wire December 17, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Guessing you didn't know this, as the EPA shut all USA humanity, from wilderness areas. It's ok as long your not a citizen of USA because you need your ID as a citizen.
Wire December 17, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Dan Lyke December 17, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Wire, you are being completely incoherent here, and your sources are a wildly disjoint set of insane conspiracy theorists, and statements from credible sources taken out of context. First, on the Montana attempt to *expand* border patrol abilities to use motorized vehicles in designated wilderness areas, wilderness areas have been around and designated as strictly non-motor vehicle areas for longer than "Agenda 21" has been around. Second, the "humanevents.com" article you linked mentioned people being excluded from "environmental sanctuaries", and yet that's clearly not the case: There are many Department of the Interior designated "environmental sanctuary" spaces in which human recreation occurs. The Coburn report you linked to is 404ing on me. But your continued harping on "Agenda 21", a non-binding set of resolutions from an obscure conference in 1992, as an over-arching vision for environmental conservation really hurts your credibility. Many of us have come to the conclusions that we have for reasons entirely unrelated to the political posturing and maneuvering of the UN, there is no budget or organization driving that agenda forward, and if it appears that way it's because a large number of people think a sustainable environmental policy is a good idea. We all have an impact on our neighbors; pretending that we can continue to exploit resources and grow population indefinitely is, at best, silly.
Wire December 17, 2012 at 11:52 PM
U.N. PLAN TO DESIGNATE 'WILDERNESS' AREAS THAT WILL BE OFF LIMITS TO ANY HUMAN ACTIVITY IS GOING ON RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES! CLINTON TAKES LEADERSHIP ROLE. Resources to aid your Understanding America's Map is being quietly redrawn, to create vast areas where no human activity -- especially living -- will be tolerated. This plan is called the "Rewilding" Project. Once it is fully implemented, you will be told where you can live and what occupation you will be allowed to work, if you are allowed to live at all. President Clinton continues to implement this plan quietly, by Executive Order. The New World Order is coming! Are you ready? Once you understand what this New World Order really is, and how it is being gradually implemented, you will be able to see it progressing in your daily news!! Learn how to protect yourself, your loved ones! Stand by for insights so startling you will never look at the news the same way again. YOU ARE NOW ON THE CUTTING EDGE www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com/sustainable-development-arti...
Wire December 17, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Sierra Club's proposal to reorganize North America into 21 Ecoregions. The Sierra Club, one of hundreds of non-government organizations actively working to bring about this transformation, has suggested that North America be divided into 21 ecoregions, that ignore existing national, state, and county boundaries. In 1992, they published a special issue of their magazine which featured a map, and extensive descriptions of how these ecoregions should be managed. (1) The function of government will also change. The legislative function, especially at the local and state level, will continue to diminish in importance, while the administrative function will grow. Already, in some parts of the country, counties are combining, and city and county governments are consolidating. Regional governing authorities are developing; taking precedence over the participating counties, which will eventually evaporate. State governments will undergo similar attrition; as regulations are developed on an ecoregions basis, there will be less need for separate state legislation. The administrative functions of state governments will also collapse into a super-regional administrative unit, to eliminate unnecessary duplication of investment and services.
Wire December 18, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Sustainable communities of the future will bear little resemblance to the towns and cities of today. Single-family homes will be rare. Housing will be provided by public/private partnerships, funded by government and managed by non-government “Home Owners Associations.” Housing units will be designed to provide most of the infrastructure and amenities required by the residents. Shops and office space will be an integral part of each unit and housing will be allocated on a priority basis to people who work in the unit – with quotas to achieve ethnic and economic balance. Schools, daycare, and recreation facilities will be provided. Each unit will be designed for bicycle and foot traffic to reduce, if not eliminate, the need for people to use automobiles. Transportation between sustainable communities, for people and for commodities, will be primarily by light rail systems designed to bridge wilderness corridors where necessary. The highways that remain will be super transport corridors such as the “Trans-Texas Corridor” now being designed. It will eventually reach from Mexico to Canada. These transport corridors will also be designed to bridge wilderness corridors and to minimize the impact on the environment. http://www.eyeonbrevard.org/2012/11/04/agenda-21-the-vision/
Dave Alden December 18, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Steve, thanks for commenting. This road diet opportunity came and went too quickly for either of us to have much impact. (It's part of my concern that higher levels of government often return resources to cities with constraints and schedules that are too restrictive.) Let's hope that another road diet opportunity will come along to which we can speak more effectively.
Dave Alden December 18, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Wire, perhaps the only "right" that Petaluma would have lost is the right to use those funds on other civic needs. It's part of the balance which I've mentioned between broader regional goals and local municipal goals. I'd prefer that regional governmental entities not distribute money to the cities with multiple constraints. But I'd also prefer that cities conform to regional priorities. It's a dilemma to which I don't have an easy answer.
Dave Alden December 18, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Dan, thanks for the comment. I understand why the downtown merchants are nervous about the road diet. When you've learned to thrive under one set of conditions, change is always unnerving. It's a shame that the MTC funding cycle and the City's construction schedule didn't allow one phase of the road diet to be completed, for the downtown users to see the beneficial results, and for funding for the next phase to be secured. Instead, the process seemed disjointed and ineffective.
Dave Alden December 18, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Wire, on Agenda 21, I'll repeat what I've written before. The underlying documents for what is now called Agenda 21 were adopted in the early 1990s. They speak of reasonable goals, but with little capacity to move toward those goals, so were mostly ignored for 15 years. But suddenly in late 2009, in the absence of any change in their content or implementation, they are suddenly condemned as a part of a vast global plot. What happened in 2009 that caused the changed perception?
Wire December 18, 2012 at 09:59 PM
A U.N. publication from 1992 titled ‘Agenda 21: The Earth Summit Strategy to Save our Planet” best describes its intent. It states, “Agenda 21 proposes an array of actions which are intended to be implemented by every person on earth, and calls for specific changes in the activities of all people. It continues by saying, “Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all humans, unlike anything the world has ever experienced.” This worldwide movement was signed on to by President George H.W. Bush and 178 other world leaders. As if the elimination of private property ownership, population control, and education, based on U.N. standards were not enough, Agenda 21 will eventually affect our lives in other ways like the relocation of people from rural areas into cities, limiting the type of vehicles we drive, higher gas prices, changing routes of transportation, BANNING HUMAN ACCESS TO LAND, seizure of private property, restrictions on water usage, quotas on harvesting, prohibitions on plowing the soil, limitations on raising animals for meat, regulations on what we eat and drink, control of home energy usage, increased taxation, and even forced community involvement. So it's a joke? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg_hckM27A0 Just five minutes of your time.
Wire December 18, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Presi­dent Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12858 to create the President’s Council on Sustainable Develop­ment in order to harmonize U.S. environmental policy with U.N. directives as outlined in Agenda 21.


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