In my last post I wrote about schools in walking and biking distance.
I briefly mentioned that schools might not be the only place to think about when considering walkability. A proper neighborhood needs some shops. In my mind an ideal location to live would have - in walking distance - not only schools, but a corner grocery, a coffee/bake shop, and a neighborhood cafe or bar to hang out and meet other people in the neighborhood.
But none of those things can exist in many areas, because of zoning. In most of the city it is illegal to have any grocery, cafe or bar. This needs to change, to get away from car-oriented development and make the city walkable.
An analysis I read showed corner groceries get most of their pedestrian business from people who live within three blocks, or 600 meters. If we put a corner store in all the green areas we can reduce a huge number of vehicle trips.
Monta Loma has a typical “suburban” street layout. Streets are winding and disconnected to cut back on through traffic. Unfortunately this also cuts back on walkability. A few paseos to connect the grid would increase walkability here even without any zoning changes.
The Rex Manor area has more of a grid layout, but is completely residential. This is the area that most badly needs some corner store.
The area along Sierra Vista is already one of the most populous areas of the city. There is a market for some neighborhood commercial here. It should not be illegal to provide.
Old Mountain View is one place that does have neighborhood commercial. The small plaza on Calderon has a corner store, laundromat, restaurant, and a couple hair salons. This is one reason why Old Mountain View has the highest walkscore in the city.
Shoreline West also has a corner store. But it doesn’t show in the analysis. Because it is actually zoned residential.
The California Street Market is allowed to continue operating because it was doing business before the zoning code was established. It has been grandfathered in. But no other neighborhood commercial will be allowed in the area. More neighborhood commercial along California St could really help define the neighborhood, as well as get more people walking.
South of Cuesta Park is the least walkable area in the city. There is a little cafe inside the hospital, but last time I was there you needed to have an appointment to get in. I checked Los Altos, but there is no help there. They have zoned this area just as strictly residential. I feel bad mostly for the High School students, who are lacking an aftershool hangout.
Making the city walkable is not only a function of density. In my experience there is actually not much correlation. Walkability is more about more pathways and more destinations.
The city this year is struggling to get the housing element passed, and working on plans to allow existing commercial areas to be redeveloped into a mix of housing and commercial.
But there has been very little talk of the opposite, allowing commercial in existing residential area.
Except this year it was mentioned as potentially part of the R3 update. I really hope it goes in. There was broad support from the people in the workshop I attended.