October 1, 2010

North Camino Ramon Plan: The Vision vs. The Present

The North Camino Ramon Plan has captivated me at least in part because its projected vision is vastly different from its current reality. As the plan states, it:
strives to meet sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction goals as the plan area transforms from an automobile-dominated, low-density commercial area to a transit- and pedestrian- oriented neighborhood that will be a community focal point with a mix of uses.
For all of you who have never been to San Ramon before, I decided to do some quick and dirty photojournalism to give you a sense of exactly how "automobile-dominated, low density" the plan area is. Slideshow @ the end.

One thing I noticed was that if you cleared the parking lots of landscaped curbs, cleared fences between parking lots, and cleared elevation grades, you would have a lot of room to build. As I biked around, I was frequently able to thread different parking lots into an ersatz right-of-way. Removing barriers between the lots would not a street network make, but there would be room for one. I say this without taking any measurements, or thinking about space for the buildings the City would presumably want to build along the new streets.

The blue arrows in the map below mark "parking lot rights of way" that, given either a dose of eminent domain, reform-minded ownership, or vigilante jackhammers, could become streets without bulldozing buildings. The red arrows mark routes that would need ... something more drastic. The blue circle corresponds to the planned center of the park that would itself lie at the middle of the mixed use retail/office/residential neighborhood.

This bears a passing similarity to the official plan:

I wonder if the final plan will insist on perfectly straight streets--a few kinks could avoid a big Planners vs. Community stand-off. But let's be clear, the parking lot right of way, even with street kinks, makes the eventual plan only a smidgen less ambitious. Those businesses all want their parking, and will be loathe to relinquish it. And the parking lot that's planned to replace lost surface parking (#5), looks like it will be built over office buildings that include local insurance agencies, HVAC management software, kiddie hair salons, and local soccer league administration. The other building the lot would replace houses the City of San Ramon offices, but hey, they've got greener grass in mind anyway: plans to build a new city hall complex (pdf) just south of this North Camino Ramon Development.

In any case, check out the slideshow of pictures I took. Here's a rough map of the route, to help you locate yourselves. The first picture starts on the northernmost street, looking west (AKA left, looking at the map), then south, then east, then the route kicks in.

"Automobile-dominated" indeed:

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