California Explores New Way to Redevelop Cities, Improve Livability

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Many California communities are confronting the housing crisis by encouraging higher-density housing near public transportation in ways that also make the area more livable.

AARP, the City of San Jose and the Valley Transportation Authority just wrapped up a week-long event at the Tech Museum of Innovation called a charrette. The event gathered designers, property owners and residents to develop creative strategies for the Berryessa BART Urban Village and the North 13th Street business corridor.

Mike Laugher, founder and board member of the Berryessa Business Association, said they got a lot done in a week – speeding up a process that traditionally takes many months.

“In the news, you see software companies doing hackathons where they live-develop software applications with real-time input,” Laugher said. “So this has been an open studio where you urban design a project in real time with input as you go.”

The idea is to design a neighborhood that makes it possible for people to walk to the grocery store, to the park and to public transit, which is ideal for seniors and the disabled who may not drive. It also has the added benefit of taking cars off the road, which reduces air pollution and lightens traffic.

Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor of urban design at the Georgia Institute of Technology, took part in the event and said this interactive, holistic approach makes it easier for projects to get built.

“We are able to bring together the city with the developers, with residents and with people who can draw and sketch,” Dunham-Jones said. “So it really does help build consensus for what are the kinds of policies that need to change at a local level to help make places more livable.”

The first-of-its-kind event is meant to be replicated in many places around the state and nation.