Thursday, January 19, 2012

Clovis: A pedestrian-oriented development without any sidewalks...?

In 1993, the Clovis General Plan called for the concept of "Urban Centers" to be included in future sprawl/growth.

In 2003, after years of work, the "Loma Vista Specific Plan" was released, setting (what appeared to be) strict guidelines on the development set to happen as the city took over agricultural land to its east at the southern edge of the city. The city was ready to grow and it appeared that they wanted to correct at least some of the mistakes of previous sprawl expansion.

Rough Boundary of Loma Vista Plan area. Residential development is clearly underway in the west. The majority is still prime agriculture, for now.
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The 2003 plan showing the Loma Vista area in relation to the rest of the city
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The guidelines included fixed components, like parks and trails and such, and guiding principals, such as:

  • Quality of life: Foster family values and maintain a small-town feel of Clovis by promoting a lifestyle that is socially and culturally enriching, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible.
  • Community design: ...a series of diverse residential neighborhoods planned around compact pedestrian-oriented mixed-use cores
  • Local Transportation: Organize land-use in a manner that promotes pedestrian-oriented circulation patterns and reduces the number and length of vehicular trips
2003 plan


That was the lofty goal set in 2003, after years of discourse. Yesterday, the city council unanimously approved a housing subdivision in the Loma Vista areas that essentially throws away those guiding principals. The planning council had already approved it.

They approved a new development with:
-No sidewalks
-No trail/paseo, which had been shown in maps for years
-A wall where another developer had previously left open a path for residents to walk from one development to the next
-No studies of any kind taking into account pedestrian flows to the nearby schools and churches. How do you promote pedestrian circulation with no data on how pedestrians walk...?

I really don't see how a residential community without any sidewalks, and without an extension of the trail system promised in maps for years can be allowed. But in these parts, if a developer is proposing it, it's almost always allowed.

When developers started building their subdivisions in the new area, they did indeed adhere to the plan. The trails went in, well designed trails. Sidewalks had good connections and such.

An outdated (because they keep allowing waivers) city map showing current and future trails. In red, the Loma Vista area. In yellow, the subdivision. A trail is clearly shown as coming in the future. Now, it will never be built.

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As the recession hit, the developers started pushing for "waivers" to their original proposals. Sidewalks, promised at 10 feet in initial approval, were being decreased to 5 feet in the updated requests. The trails (called paseoes) went from being paths with almost no street crossings, to paths in the median in roads, and then proposed as glorified sidewalks. Now, this developer is proposing no trail at all. Of course, corners are being cut everywhere, including constant requests to allow electrical infrastructure be placed above ground.

And the sad part is, the planning and then city councils keep saying "yes".


The city council approved the plan, even though the developer and the head planner both admitted that what is in this document and the final project will be slightly different, because of a few last-minute changes. Rushing the approval didn't seem to raise any eyebrows.

Here is the project that was discussed on Tuesday night:

Consider various actions associated with an 18.3 acre property located at the southeast corner of Ashlan and Locan Avenues. Ciao Properties, LLC, owner; McCaffrey Homes, applicant. (Staff: B. Araki)
Planning documents

Location, you can see the existing trails to the east
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Here is what they want to build. No trails, no sidewalks, no problem.
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Interesting note. In the map above, the green highlight is the connection to the existing trail. And by connection, I mean it won't be a wall, like what they'll do to the path in the red area. This connection is being touted as a feature, because thanks to a loophole, they're not even required to do that*. The developer of the existing subdivision assumed that the owner of the neighboring tract would adhere to the plan and provide multiple pedestrian linkages.

That developer was clearly naive.

*The loophole is that the tract was originally approved as apartments, without a trail. The developer then switched to low density detaches housing, keeping the waivers of the past and asking for new ones.



Three people, including myself, spoke against the plan in its current state. The other two residents who spoke against the plan are immediate neighbors of the project. One man spoke about multiple issues he was against, and made some good points. For example, he talked about how the city plans require developers to place the transformers underground. He stated that recently, many projects have requested a waiver, even though the increased density of these projects make it more feasible for the developers to cover the additional cost of placing them underground (cost is spread out over more homes). He also spoke about how a couple of months ago, the city approved a development by the same company with 33 foot wide streets on a trial basis. Now, the developer is back asking for the same, but as nothing has been built, no trial has happened.

He also spoke on the same issue that concerned me, the lack of paseos and pedestrian connectivity.

The city council chose to ignore the opposition, and only asked the developers a single question, which went along the lines of:

"The transformers, above ground, will be hiding behind shrubs yes?"
"Yes"

And then they unanimously approved the project.

4 comments:

  1. Very disappointing. And it's virtually impossible to recover from the access paths being denied.

    In Canberra (Australia) most cul-de-sacs have walking access, but not vehicle. Means you can still get quickly from one area to another on foot, but keeps the vehicle speeds low in the residential streets.

    Not suprisingly, the older areas with this kind of layout have much higher land values than the newer estates which didn't include the pedestrian/cycling permeability features.

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    1. Anon, thats interesting that in your case it's the older areas that have cul-de-sac walking access. Here, only the newest of the new areas do, and as this post shows, some developers are trying to go back to the old ways.

      Developers have absolutely no interest in land values. They sell homes today. If values rise or decrease in 5 years, theres no benefit to them. Its why we need to regulate things like energy efficiency in homes. The developer doesnt care if the costs are huge, because they dont pay it, and almost no homeowner asks about future utility costs when buying a home.

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  2. You can have walkable places without sidewalks:

    http://www.newworldeconomics.com/archives/2007/120207.html

    But I think Tokyo is much different in many other ways too :)

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  3. Ill have a post in the future about how these walkable communities have no where to walk to.

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