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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 12:18 AM
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Urban Dinosaurs: It's Time These 8 Things Went Extinct In Our Cities

Urban Dinosaurs: It's Time These 8 Things Went Extinct In Our Cities


February 21, 2020

By Daniel Herriges



Read More: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/...-in-our-cities

Quote:
.....

People get to choose what to do with their property, and developers are going to respond to what the market and financing will bear right now and what they believe their customers want right now. In that real world, there's a need for some pragmatic lines in the sand: Okay, you can have your parking garage, but can you at least not build it like that?!

- I hit up the Strong Towns Community site—our dedicated platform for Strong Towns members to meet each other and ask questions, offer advice and spark discussion—to crowd-source some ideas for a list of design features that should go the way of the dinosaur, lest the next generation be forced to cringe 25 years from now at our hard-to-reverse bad choices. And our brilliant members obliged with some good ones. --- Some of these pertain to the public realm—the streets, the sidewalks, things the government itself ought to permanently stop doing. Some of them are about the private realm: things we might consider prohibiting developers from ever doing on their own land, because it harms and degrades the public realm when they do.

Sloped Parking

• Aside from the eyesore factor, sloped parking is effectively impossible to ever retrofit into other uses. You can sometimes retrofit a parking garage with level floors. This one is just doomed to look like this forever until someone tears it down, even if demand for parking were to plummet a decade from now.









Snout Houses

• Nobody needs to live in a glorified loading dock. Homebuilders do these not because anybody especially loves them, but because they're often the easiest way to cram a house with an attached garage onto a lot without applying much thought or creativity. Time to mandate some thought and ban the snout house, which ensures a lifeless, unpleasant street for decades to come.









Ultra-Wide Residential Streets

• These jumbo-sized streets not only cue drivers to go at dangerous speeds, they also render it impossible for the neighborhood to ever enjoy some of the perks of a great residential street, like a pleasing canopy of shade from mature trees. And Marianna also identified one of the key reasons we keep building them: a misguided insistence on the part of fire departments.









Four-Lane Death Roads

• These are the result of transportation planners shoehorning four lanes of traffic into a narrow right-of-way that won't accommodate much else—a shoulder, a median, a bicycle lane, etc. Add the complexities of an urban environment, like people turning in and out of the roadway to access adjacent businesses and homes, and you have a street that is horrifyingly deadly by design.









Retail That Turns Its Back On The Street

• The age of the strip mall with parking in front is waning, and for good reason: nothing kills the sidewalk experience like being sandwiched between a parking lot and a busy street. But the new replacement trend isn't always positive. A lot of suburban chain retailers have been wrangled by city regulations into moving their parking to the side or back of the store, but they've moved the "front" of the store to the back right along with the parking lot, surmising (probably correctly) that that's how most of their customers will be entering. The problem is it creates a dead street that's hostile to human activity.









"Pod" Subdivisions

• I'm ready to call it: huge enclave-style subdivisions with only one or two ways in and out are one of the most disastrous features of the suburban experiment. Every rapidly growing suburb sooner or later seems to develop a traffic problem, and these things are the reason why. It’s because they funnel every single trip their residents take—even a quick run to the store for milk—onto the same few arterial stroads. This is a near-certain recipe for congestion.









Reeeeeeeally Long Blocks

• I am reluctant to ban most things but I would ban long blocks and large block perimeters. Small blocks provide more intersections and more transportation choices. Caps on block perimeters will limit how far you have to travel to get to the front door of the neighbor who shares your back property line. Both of these are design features that make a big difference if real people are going to live in our communities. They have a safety aspect because emergency vehicles have more than one way to get in and out but the economic value of having more amenities and neighbors in close proximity is my main motivation.




Huge Curb Radii

• The problem: it makes life a lot scarier for anybody out walking. A driver flying around a turn at high speed is way more likely to never even see you in the crosswalk until it's too late. This kind of intersection is a tragedy waiting to happen, and needs to never be built again. Slip lanes in urban environments—with the dreaded pork chop island—are another variant of this trend that needs to go the way of the dinosaur.






.....
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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 1:17 AM
llamaorama llamaorama is online now
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I generally agree with the critiques of pod subdivisions and huge blocks. Good neighborhoods are porous, IMO.

Quote:
• Nobody needs to live in a glorified loading dock.
I'd think the benefit of the snout house is you can build a "normal", cheap home for the middle class that people want to buy on a much smaller lot than you could have if the garage was detached and around the back. In Houston we see houses like this pop up in older, neglected areas like Sunnyside, Acres Homes, Northline, etc. It's a way of bringing people back into inner neighborhoods which are affordable.

It's not urban density like author thinks of, but when you build this quasi suburban density it makes better use of existing infrastructure, reduces the need for outward sprawl, and helps the fiscal conditions of the city by revitalizing existing areas. In gentrified areas, a ban on the snout house and other strict form based zoning might mean some new urbanist style housing since what people care about more is the location than the housing. But in cheap areas, I bet small lots just get ignored because the market is for the conventional suburban home.

I think the aesthetic argument is foolish and subjective. In some neighborhoods people use their garages as porches, an open garage is an invitation to kids that the kid who lives there is available to play.
Quote:
Four-Lane Death Roads

• These are the result of transportation planners shoehorning four lanes of traffic into a narrow right-of-way that won't accommodate much else
No, these are a result of a reality where cities are just really huge and sometimes we need to accommodate cross town traffic. The alternative is to wide the road by destroying all the homes and businesses along it.

Last edited by llamaorama; Feb 22, 2020 at 1:30 AM.
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  #3  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 1:22 AM
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All of this is pretty basic, obvious stuff that's mostly in effect in any non-sucky place.
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  #4  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 3:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M II A II R II K View Post
Urban Dinosaurs: It's Time These 8 Things Went Extinct In Our Cities

Sloped Parking
I thought this was going to be a whine about:


https://www.flickr.com/photos/roevin/35881149416

something we pretty much have to accept in my town.
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  #5  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 3:32 AM
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^ many a clutch and parking break have died on those streets.
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 3:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JManc View Post
^ many a clutch and parking break have died on those streets.
If they were parallel parking spots you'd kill a lot more clutches and parking brakes on a slope like that.
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 5:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JManc View Post
^ many a clutch and parking break have died on those streets.
When I moved there I purposefully got rid of my beloved Kharmann-Ghia stick shift and got a car with an automatic transmission because I knew it would be no place for a clutch.

Last edited by Pedestrian; Feb 22, 2020 at 5:45 AM.
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  #8  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 5:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Chemist View Post
If they were parallel parking spots you'd kill a lot more clutches and parking brakes on a slope like that.
You mean like:


https://sf.curbed.com/2018/2/20/1703...ential-permits

Note how these good citizens are all obeying the law by "curbing" their front wheels (which helps out the parking brake and/or "locked" transmission).

Quote:
San Francisco Parking Tips: Why Curbing Your Wheels is So Important
Tuesday, November 8, 2016

To prevent runaway vehicles, local law requires drivers to curb their wheels when parking on a grade greater than 3 percent (1.72 degrees). Since most of us don’t carry a level to measure how steep a street is, it’s a good idea to make it a habit every time you parallel park.


https://www.sfmta.com/blog/san-franc...s-so-important
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  #9  
Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 5:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedestrian View Post
I thought this was going to be a whine about:


https://www.flickr.com/photos/roevin/35881149416

something we pretty much have to accept in my town.
I wonder, does SF have an issue with teens flipping these things over? lol
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 5:41 PM
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Could someone explain snout housing? I always thought it made more sense to have the house jutting out and the garage towards the back(but still facing towards the street). It would look better(to me) and the driveway would be longer, which suburbanites highly prize.

Street sizes. The more I get into the urban universe the more I realize the simplest shit, like narrow streets, are pretty damn key to creating a great urban environment. It seems like 95% of our roads in the US are too wide.
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 6:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtown,man View Post
Could someone explain snout housing? I always thought it made more sense to have the house jutting out and the garage towards the back(but still facing towards the street). It would look better(to me) and the driveway would be longer, which suburbanites highly prize.

Street sizes. The more I get into the urban universe the more I realize the simplest shit, like narrow streets, are pretty damn key to creating a great urban environment. It seems like 95% of our roads in the US are too wide.
This seems to me to be a suburban thing, at least on the west coast (but, yes, some areas of some cities much resemble suburbs).

But in the denser parts of town, even where there are tracts of single family homes, it's living area over garage, even for fairly modern homes:


https://www.redfin.com/CA/San-Franci...2/home/1150865

But how about this idea:


https://www.google.com/search?q=grou...w32Epupjn40zNM

Video Link
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 6:58 PM
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There are some residential streets that not only not have sidewalks, but have houses designed like they were made for cars with inconspicuous front doors tucked away if they have pedestrian entrances at all.
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 7:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JManc View Post
^ many a clutch and parking break have died on those streets.
When I drove a stick I always parked in first gear, especially on hills.
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 8:03 PM
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Originally Posted by iheartthed View Post
When I drove a stick I always parked in first gear, especially on hills.
First or Reverse, largest gear.
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2020, 10:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedestrian View Post
This seems to me to be a suburban thing, at least on the west coast (but, yes, some areas of some cities much resemble suburbs).

But in the denser parts of town, even where there are tracts of single family homes, it's living area over garage, even for fairly modern homes:


https://www.redfin.com/CA/San-Franci...2/home/1150865

But how about this idea:


https://www.google.com/search?q=grou...w32Epupjn40zNM

Video Link
Weren't first floor garages banned in CA after Northridge? I've heard that "soft floors" which garages certainly count as were seen as major earthquake risks.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2020, 12:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Qubert View Post
Weren't first floor garages banned in CA after Northridge? I've heard that "soft floors" which garages certainly count as were seen as major earthquake risks.
They are quake risks. They have to be retrofitted in major cities by local ordinance:

Quote:
Soft Story Retrofitting Isn't Just Recommended, It’s the Law

In November of 2015, the City of Los Angeles signed into law, the Mandatory Retrofit Program under Ordinance 183893, requiring the retrofitting of wood-frame apartment buildings to better withstand a major earthquake. Structures that are in danger of being catastrophically damaged in the event of an earthquake are to be upgraded within a finite amount of time. This includes soft story retrofitting in Los Angeles county buildings. Los Angeles now has the nation's toughest earthquake safety rules.

From the Los Angeles Times:
“Under the law, property owners will have seven years to fix wood apartments and 25 years to fix concrete buildings. The city has already identified about 13,500 apartment complexes that officials suspect need repairs. A Times investigation in 2013 found more than 1,000 older concrete structures — including landmark buildings in downtown, Hollywood and Westwood — that require close scrutiny for retrofitting.”

Many more cities in the region are following suit and mandating the same soft story retrofit Los Angeles has signed into law. This is in an effort to avoid devastation and to safeguard residents from harm that has been caused by large earthquakes such as the Northridge quake in 1994.
https://www.alphastructural.com/othe...g-los-angeles/

I'm not sure whether this applies to single family homes at all and it doesn't ban first floor garages. They just have to be strong enough to meet new building codes. Not being an architect or engineer, I can't tell you what design features that requires.

In San Francisco, the requirement does NOT apply to single family homes:

Quote:
The Soft Story Legislation

On the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Mayor Ed Lee signed into law the Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Ordinance. This legislation requires the retrofit for all San Francisco “multi-unit soft-story buildings,” defined as: wood-frame structures, containing five or more residential units, having two or more stories over a "soft" or "weak" story, and permitted for construction prior to January 1, 1978. This program is currently active.
https://sfgov.org/esip/soft-story
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2020, 1:26 AM
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Retail That Turns Its Back On The Street
Michigan Ave - Dearborn Mi - a most surreal evening as I realized that the street was not abandonded, there was just NO entrance from the street for any of the businesses, the only entrances were from the parking lots one block on either side.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2020, 2:49 AM
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Originally Posted by harryc View Post
Michigan Ave - Dearborn Mi - a most surreal evening as I realized that the street was not abandonded, there was just NO entrance from the street for any of the businesses, the only entrances were from the parking lots one block on either side.
I think most places, if not all, now have entrances from both the street and the rear parking lots. But since they don't allow street parking on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, people still don't use those street entrances.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2020, 7:01 AM
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There are a few places in SF where retail turns its back on the street. One of the better known ones is a South of Market group of old industrial buildings repurposed as a mall with Bed, Bath & Beyond, Trader Joe's, Nordstrom Rack and some other popular stores.

From the street it looks like this:


https://www.google.com/maps/uv?hl=en...px8wE3oECBIQCw

There appear to be entrances to the stores, and there could be but they are kept locked (or at least locked from the sidewalk side--the fire code may require they be openable from inside). In reality, the mall is like this:


https://streetearthview.net/1/?clcsr...iew.net%2F1%2F

with interterior block parking and store entrances from the parking area.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2020, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llamaorama View Post
I think the aesthetic argument is foolish and subjective. In some neighborhoods people use their garages as porches, an open garage is an invitation to kids that the kid who lives there is available to play.
Aesthetics are important, and houses with garages at the front are ugly.
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