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Downtown Design Guide Passes Planning Committee

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, at 01:36PM
South Group Streetscape Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The South Group's streetscaping, which required variance from typical City rules in order to be implemented, now serves as a model for pedestrian design.

A new set of rules intended to make Downtown a more people-friendly place passed through the City Council's Planning committee yesterday. Councilman Ed Reyes praised the development of the Downtown Design Guide, and the way in which different city departments joined together to rethink how city-wide rules applied to the Downtown area.

The Downtown Design Guide was developed by the Planning department's Urban Design Studio, which consists of Emily Gabel-Luddy and Simon Pastucha. An important part of their work was done in concern with an inter-departmental group known as the Downtown Street Standards Committee.

On that committee was Lillian Burkenheim of the Community Redevelopment Agency, who similarly spoke highly of the process. "It's extraordinary because all the different city departments came together to do a plan together, one that we can all agree upon." Burkenheim told Planning and Land Use Management committee chair Reyes that in the past, differing department priorities have led to inefficiency. "I look at a plan. That plan also gets looked at by City Planning and DOT and Bureau of Engineering and we all have a take on how wide the sidewalk should be, and the developer generally gets caught in the middle."

The project also offered a chance for participants to put thought into how Downtown's streets should work. "In Downtown, a particularly difficult issue was that when the city-wide street standards were applied, they didn't fit Downtown, but that was the marching orders one department had," Gabel-Luddy told Reyes. "So we would end up, and the developers and sometimes the community would end up, caught in the middle of something that did not make sense but nonetheless was the current city rule. These new rules make sense."

Multiple speakers were enthusiastic about the idea of applying the lessons learned from the Downtown Design Guide to other parts of the city. The ordinance changes necessary to enact the guide into city rules next must go to the full City Council for approval.

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