North Park’s bicycle and pedestrian identity enhanced

Posted: January 21st, 2013 | Featured, News, North Park | No Comments

Two additional bike corrals, concept for ‘parklet’ approved for 30th Street by Planning Committee group

By Dave Schwab | SDUN Reporter

North Park Planning Committee’s Urban Design-Project Review Subcommittee made the neighborhood a little more bike and pedestrian friendly by sanctioning two new bicycle corrals as well as conceptually approving a new “parklet” on 30th Street.

At the subcommittee’s Jan. 7 meeting, community planners also made substantial progress on updating a proposed land-use map for North Park, distinguishing commercial and residential areas.

At the behest of North Park Main Street (NPMS), the subcommittee approved two new bike corrals on 30th Street. Both corral designs are consistent with an existing corral previously approved by North Park Planning Committee. There are currently three bike corrals in Uptown.

“We’ve been asking for these bike corrals for 13 months,” said NPMS Executive Director Angela Landsberg. Money to install the bike racks is coming from a County grant that will be used to “improve the appearance of North Park and help with people doing more biking,” she said.

North Park Main Street Executive Director Angela Landsberg stands inside the bike corral located at North Park Way and 30th Street. (Photo by Anulak Singphiphat)

One of the new bike corrals will be located across the street from Mosaic Wine Bar at 3422 30th St. and the other will be in front of Toronado, located at 4026 30th St.

“There will be six bike-shaped racks,” Landsberg said, adding that tree-lined 30th Street in North Park is becoming a widely used corridor for cyclists. The new corrals will help get cyclists “off our trees” when parking and “into proper structures,” she said.

Business owners at Mosaic and Toronado “have signed on” and are in favor of these bike corrals, Landsberg said. “[Existing corrals] are getting tons of support from the community and each day see more and more usage.”

Subcommittee members at the Jan. 7 meeting questioned whether any vehicle parking would be replaced by bike corrals. They were told the loss would be nominal, with only a couple of parking spots affected. The planners also said bike corrals should to be marked on the North Park Community Plan.

“We should integrate them into the Community Plan going forward, knowing bicyclists and pedestrians are going to be a big focus of our identity,” said subcommittee chair Robert Barry.

Following discussion, the board voted 7-0-1 to approve the new bike corrals.

Landsberg also requested the group approve a parklet – a user-friendly urban amenity featuring benches and other features – to be installed in front of Caffé Calabria at 3933 30th St. She said creating the addition would require city approval.

“Parklets are popping up in other cities and are very popular,” Landsberg said, adding they are “congruent with increased pedestrian activity.” Landsberg was asking for conceptual approval only, as the project has yet to be designed.

Parklets take up space on the street as an extension of existing sidewalks, which “increases the ability for people to have a place to sit in urban areas,” Landsberg said. They are both paid for and maintained by adjacent business owners, and therefore would come at no cost to the City.

“They are for public use,” Landsberg said. “It’s not a private space for business owners to use only for their customers. It’s a public space for anyone to use.” She also said the business owners supported the idea, as they approached NPMS for the parklet.

The subcommittee consensus was that they approve the concept of the parklet as a way to increase outdoor public space, providing a usable amenity accommodating needs of pedestrians. Initially approved for a three-year period, the group voted 8-0 in support of the concept.

The subcommittee also continued work on a large-scale, long-term project: updating the land use element of the North Park Community Plan. The plan is the blueprint for residential and commercial land use development and has not been revised since 1986.

Barry said the idea is not to completely rewrite the plan, as commercial areas remain largely unchanged, but there have been some land use changes that should be identified for the next 25 to 30 years.

Large, color-coded zoning maps were spread out on tables, and attendees inspected and discussed their details. Revision of the plan is an ongoing process likely to take a significant amount of time to complete.

North Park’s Urban Design subcommittee currently consists of 14 members pulled from the North Park Planning Committee and community. The group reviews existing and upcoming planning, zoning and design development. Voting members at the January meeting included Barry, Cheryl Dye, Vicki Granowitz, Rene Vidalis, Carl Moczydlowsky and Roger Lewis. Seated community members were Kitty Callen and Rob Steppke.

The group meets the first Monday of the month at the North Park Recreation Center, located at 2719 Howard Ave. The next meeting will next convene on Feb. 4 at 6 p.m.

What is a ‘parklet’?

According to Wikipedia, a “parklet” is “a small urban park, often created by replacing several under-utilized parallel parking spots with a patio, planters, trees, benches, café tables with chairs, fountain(s), artwork, sculptures and/or bicycle parking.”

Parklets have been installed in various urban areas around the country in recent years, including Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Though their function is the same, there is no “cookie cutter” design for a parklet; they are as vast and diverse as the communities they serve.

Sample architectural rendering of a “parklet” (Courtesy Laurie C. Fisher, CA Registered Architect)

In keeping with the Urban Village concept assigned to North Park throughout its history and documented in the 2007 picture book by Donald P. Covington, North Park Main Street Executive Director Angela Landsberg wanted to explore incorporating these urban parks locally.

So last fall, Landsberg, with her assistant director and a few community members in tow, approached then-mayoral candidate Bob Filner at Caffe Calabria in North Park, where they hope to one day install one, and proposed the idea to both Filner and Caffe Calabria’s owner. Filner, who has publicly emphasized his support of the neighborhoods throughout his campaign and in various press conferences since taking office, backs the idea.

Landsberg said the process for the parklet “is a perfect example” of a “decision district,” a method that empowers a community to make their own decisions.

It is too early in the process to have a design yet, but Landsberg is eager to work with the City and move the concept forward.

“What we were waiting to find out from the city is their criteria, so that we could work within that framework with a designer,” she said. “That’s where we are right now. We want them to tell us … what we can do.”

Various departments within the City are gathering the information needed and Landsberg is happy with the results so far.
“[The different departments have] been doing just a great job of getting back to us with information on this and … have been really helpful, and the mayor’s office assigned us a point person to get this concept rolling.”

Landsberg hopes this helps people see North Park as an Urban Village, and not focus on the fact that two parking spaces have been removed, and rather focus on the bigger picture the opportunity paves for the community.

“It’s a really important part of creating a village that is pedestrian and bike friendly – an environment that is not autocentric,” she said. “It’s going to encourage people to walk to the places they want to go to, … to bike, … to have eyes on the street, and have outdoor open space in an urban setting where we don’t have a lot of small pocket parks.”

Editor’s Note: The architectural rendering above is just a sample of what a “parklet” can look like, and is not associated with any design North Park Main Street has considered or reviewed. Currently the parklet for 30th Street is merely a concept at this point.

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