Monday, July 14, 2008

Problems to overcome in pedestrianizing landuse

We can build efficient pedestrianized uses by localizing housing in low infrastructure cost zones.

Writing in the Chronicle Lynn Vannucci notes, "High-density, mixed-use communities make more efficient use of resources for heating, and electrical and water-delivery systems than low-density suburbs." She points to the problems with pedestrianizing a space, "causing the pedestrian to feel that rather than strolling in a cozy village square he's wandered into the countryside - except that from its far border the vista is of the local Chevron station."

Dan Burden notes "quality of life is the level of access we have to the things we value most - jobs, safe streets, affordable transportation and housing, and quality health care, schools and civic spaces such as parks and other gathering places. The ability to walk to many of these places from our homes or places of employment generally raises that quality-of-life index. When researchers look for places where people are happiest, it's often in communities where they can live near where they work, walk their children to school and shop at stores within walking or biking distance."

Reducing the stress of commuting over long distances with pedestrianized mixed use development is key to a sustainable future. The problem of peak resource consumption has come about from us spending trillions of dollars. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own half of the $12T mortgage market. The federal government since the depression has spent trillions to make home ownership possible outside the transit linked downtowns in the process consuming farmland and open space and creating the problems of pollution, stressed consumers, and resource wars like Iraq. An unafordable driving infrastructure is our inheritance from 100 years of policy based on the false promise of cheap oil.

By building in open space we deplete environmental services raising the cost of emergency services and health care through lost disease sequestration.

Hard infrastructure include roads, sewer systems, septics, etc. Soft infrastructure is risk, a financial infrastructure like bonds, that links currency and commodities. Another Chronicle write (July 12th page A5: Costly Fuel Prevents Car Crash deaths) up notes that a 10 % rise in fuel costs leads to 2.3% decrease in crash fatalities from Vehicle Miles Traveled irrespective of improved driving behavior or law enforcement. Presently infrastructure like health care is amortized over everyone and the rules are made up in Congress and the state legislature. Without the state's subsidies, resources like Tejon Ranch are not financially feasible to exploit.

There is clearly a much higher cost to
- delivering water, sewer, power, health care, security, and roads at Tejon versus El Camino, the biggest difference being eyes on the street (able to call in a broken main or a mugging.)
- risk of not maintain the environmental services of Tejon in water purification, groundwater seepage (prevent overloading stormwater facilities,) air quality management, healthy streams, floodwater plains, disease sequestration, and wildfire control.

These costs need to be priced in and passed on. As the Federal government discusses the bailout of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, IndyMac, Smith Barney, etc with socialized risk and privatized profits we need to ask for localizing housing in low infrastructure cost zones like Belmont Station.

Car-free mixed use development is the key environmental challenge of our time. Development in a transit nexus affords opportunity to wean people of cars. By restricting car free development to TOD we can reclaim our cities of old while directly influencing less than 1% of the city scape.

For a pedestrianized square downtown Belmont we need
- the Transit Agency, Samtrans, to benefit from, or control, the landuse decisions within 1/8th of a mile radius (650 ft) of the TOD (zonal permit parking.)
- Floor Area Ratio Leniency directed toward demographic trends.
- Accommodating trip demand with a walking infrastructure by reusing existing infrastructure.

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