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Tactical Urbanism - Recap

Hello everyone!

This is not the regular bi-monthly news blast – it is a recap of our second general meeting that was held on Monday 8/19 at the Ronnenburg Center at OCC. We talked about Tactical Urbanism – which describes:

Community-led demonstration projects that enable residents and stakeholders to participate in relatively inexpensive temporary transformations to test and experience changes.

In other words, it is a bottom-up approach to city-making, where people use inexpensive materials to apply short-term changes to the public realm, often infusing life into otherwise neglected space. It is tactical in that the action is not only an end, but also a means to 1) test the improvement and gather feedback from the community, 2) engage neighbors in collaborative place-making, and 3) demonstrate that our streets can be better, and better for everyone.


Here is the Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials. This is the definitive guide. It is very user-friendly, informative, and free. Start here, flip through the whole thing, and get inspired.

Shoutout to Council member Arlis Reynolds for showing us this: the City of Burlington, Vermont has a (Public-Works-Commission-endorsed) Community-Led Demonstration Project Policy + Guide. Yes it’s tailored to the City of Burlington, their geography, permit processes, etc. But the majority of it is applicable elsewhere. It breaks down the steps necessary to embark on a Tactical Urbanism project. (We need one of these for Costa Mesa!)

Tactical Urbanism goes by other names too. The Project for Public Spaces uses the name Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper. You can find plenty of inspiration from their case studies here.

Now What?

At our meeting we brainstormed in groups and came up with locations that might be good candidates for these sorts of interventions, and what specifically we might be able to do in each (which is why you need to start joining us 😉).

The Short List – In Order of Ease(?)

Lil’ Lighthouse Preschool – 301 Magnolia St. The preschool is a part of Lighthouse Community Church – which operates out of properties on either side of Magnolia St. at the Corner of Santa Ana Ave. Since preschoolers cross this street several times a day during the school year, we thought some painted bulbouts on the excess roadway might be welcome support. It would shorten the kids’ effective crossing distance/time, while encouraging drivers to take the turn more slowly than what the current turning radii allow for.

Woodland Elementary School – 2025 Garden Lane. This school has a very popular rear access point through an easement off Santa Ana Ave. Kids and parents walk, bike, and scoot through this entrance both to avoid having to go around the entire block, and to avoid the stressful and dangerous pack of cars every morning at the front. (See this time-lapse video I made a few months ago.) The problems are that Santa Ana Ave. has a posted speed limit of 30mph(!), and that the nearest crosswalk & stop sign are over 500 feet from this entrance. The conventional approach might be to paint a mid-block crosswalk, install some large white and yellow “School Zone” signs, and maybe even put one of those fluorescent plastic things in the middle of the street. But maybe just getting drivers to slow (way) down for this block would be a more context-appropriate and less obnoxious solution. The answer is not obvious for this one, but then again, tactical urbanism is all about testing. We talked about street paint, and maybe some objects at the edges of lanes (potted plants, non-MUTCD signs, etc.), just to slow drivers down. If you have an idea, please share with us!

Eat Chow – 1802 Newport Blvd. We had comments about the whole stretch of E. 18th St, but we focused specifically on the first block. One group suggested restriping the south side of E. 18th to allow for angled parking. Not only would this narrow the street (thus slowing traffic) but it could compensate for the parking that might be lost to our second idea – parklets. Parklets are parallel street-parking spaces that have been reclaimed, temporarily or permanently, and used as an extension of the sidewalk. They can be simple or elaborate, but they always have some sort of barrier from the street (3 sides) and sitting furniture. There are two businesses on the north side of this block that are prime candidates for a parklet into which they might extend their outdoor dining area – Eat Chow and Coffee Dose (this is one way of doing a parklet – for the exclusive use of patrons of the adjacent restaurants; the other way – set up to be open to the public – may be better applicable elsewhere?) For several years, cities have been creating application processes to make parklets possible. Additionally, there are many new toolkits out there. Here’s one. Here’s another. Side note: Caltrans has released guidance just this year on issuing permits for parklets on state highways (Newport Blvd.)! The only problem at the moment is that only streets with speed limits 30mph or less are eligible. Something to work towards and think about.

Joann Street Bike Trail & Placentia – 2315 Placentia Ave. The Joann Street Bike Trail is an off-street connection from Harbor to Placentia: great! What’s not so great is that it starts/ends mid-block on Placentia. If you’re northbound on your bike it’s not a big deal (aside from the fact that only a miniature sign indicates that the trail is there, and there’s no clue to where it might go). But if you’re traveling south, you’ve got quite a dangerous street to cross and no obvious way to safely cross it. A crosswalk with a flashing light would be great here, but a wayfinding sign and maybe some markings on the ground would be a nice start.

(Answer: It’s on the back of the stop sign.)

West 18th and Park Ave. Despite initial appearances, this T-intersection is bad for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Part of the problem is due to all the excess asphalt, which tends to strengthen drivers’ perceived entitlement to the roadway and increase their speed, while making the distance to cross exceptionally long for people on foot or bike. This seemed to all of us to be an ambitious project, but one with high potential – especially given the fact that it is on the corner of the new Lions Park & new library! An idea was to paint off the westbound right turn lane that comes from Newport Blvd. (which would allow crossing distances for people on foot to be much reduced), paint a crosswalk or two, and adding a roundabout. Such a transformation could slow drivers without causing them any significant delay, and strengthen the connection between these three adjacent blocks.

Junipero Drive between Arlington and Presidio. This street bisects two parks, and even though it only provides two vehicle lanes, the roadway is over 60 feet wide. Given that the street doesn’t have consistent sidewalks, this seems like a prime spot to activate some of the paved area (a walking path with benches and potted trees?), which likely could be done without the loss of any street parking.

Start Thinking

We came up with a good shortlist, but that’s only because we’re familiar with these locations. You can probably think of a handful of locations and potential solutions that none of us at the meeting even considered. Please: send us your ideas, whether listed above or not. If we get enough, we’ll make a place to start showcasing them on the site. Doodles are welcome!

First Project

Everyone agreed that the Lil’ Lighthouse preschool bulbout plan sounds like a great first project. I will take the lead on this one, and will obviously need a lot of help. The first steps are to talk to the preschool and church staff (done – they are on board), put a rough plan together, then take it to the Public Works Dept. for their input/permission. If you would like to be kept updated on this project and/or would like to help out in any way, reply to this email saying so, and I’ll make a sub-email-group. If all goes smoothly, I’m hoping that project day can happen on a Saturday in late September or early October.

If you are willing to take the lead on another project, let us know and we’ll figure out a plan.

Lastly, here’s the video I said I’d share of the guy that took over a bus stop for a morning, and gave some dignity to an otherwise-neglected space, turning it into a place. In addition to all the dangerous and unpleasant roadways, we have an ample supply of bus shelters in town that could use some TLC.

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