October 31 2013

Is Rincon Valley’s Sprawl-Oriented Design Beyond Repair?

On the eastern edge of the city of Santa Rosa lies the Rincon Valley community, a typical middle-class suburb in the heart of wine country. The neighborhoods in this area, most notably the Skyhawk and Saint Francis developments, were designed in the sprawl fashion seen in many late-twentieth century American communities. Along with a landscape of homogeneous architecture, Rincon Valley’s disjointed street network and prolific use of cul-de-sacs creates neighborhoods devoid of connectivity. Although surpassed in severity by other suburbs, Rincon Valley sports all the symptoms of an urban planning nightmare.

The Skyhawk community is located on Highway 12 at the eastern extent of the city, Santa Rosa, California

Street Design

Streets here have been designed in a hierarchical fashion with minimal pedestrian safety measures. This flawed design makes cars the most widely used mode of transportation. Why is this a concern? If climate change hasn’t already convinced you, then maybe the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will.

Land Use Patterns

Rincon Valley has three main retail zones, each home to a variety of businesses which are within walking distance of a few residential areas surrounding it. But since these businesses are constrained to shopping centers, as opposed to being woven into the residential fabric, automobiles are still necessary to complete most daily commutes.

Santa Rosa, California, Map of Rincon Valley taken from Google Earth showing the three main retail centers used by residents

Public Transit

There are two bus routes that service Rincon Valley; the headway is approximately one hour at any given stop and is predictably always fifteen minutes late. The rider demographic is predominantly lower income residents, which turns transportation into an equity issue as well as a logistical one. Because automobile owners dominate Rincon Valley, transit planners believe that an hour headway is enough to service the few people who use the bus system. Bus Rapid Transit is not a viable option here, but perhaps Bogota’s Transmilenio could serve as an inspiration for a more robust public transit system.

Rincon Valley might be beyond repair, but at least it will serve as a blueprint for what not to do in the future. There are however, places where amelioration could be implemented, such as underused parking lots and vacant land.

Does your town suffer from urban sprawl?  If so, which aspects of it affect you the most?

Credits: Images by Nick Danty. Data linked to sources.

Nick Danty

Nick Danty is a graduate of the Geography and Planning Department at California State University, Chico and currently works at the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) in Santa Rosa. Nick has been involved in several programs at RCPA, but is most proud of the 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Project, for which he served as the project manager and outreach coordinator. A Northern California native who calls his single-family detached dwelling home, Nick is not a stranger to the ills of suburban sprawl and the toll it takes on human and physical environments. Nick’s travels to Europe and throughout North America have shown him preventing and retrofitting sprawl is possible through intelligent neighborhood design, beautiful architecture, mitigation banking, innovative transit systems and visionary urban and rural plans. He is very excited about writing for The Grid, and plans on discussing projects and programs happening at his agency related to transportation planning, climate adaptation, livability, urban land development, and environmental conservation.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2013 at 9:33 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Is Rincon Valley’s Sprawl-Oriented Design Beyond Repair?”

  1. sally Says:

    I very like it

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