Sunday, July 18, 2010


Sacramento is blessed with two historic rivers running through it, and turning their waterfronts around from many decades of neglect has begun, but leadership still needs to consider the stultifying reliance of passive open space—especially along the American—that tends to keep people away rather than inviting them in.

The sanctuary aspect of the Parkway is vital and wonderful, but it needs balancing with the needs for public safety and full community access.

The dangerous conditions in the Lower Reach (Discovery Park to Cal Expo) are a prime example of passive open space policy contributing to a public safety threat because the area has been allowed to become a haven for long-term illegal camping by the homeless.

This article from the Project for Public Spaces notes—point 8—that deficiently and offers several more suggestions to turn around waterfronts.

An excerpt.

“As more cities envision their waterfronts as lively public destinations that keep people coming back, PPS outlines the following principles to make that happen. They are not all hard and fast laws, but rules of thumb drawn from 32 years of experience working to improve urban waterfronts around the world. These ideas can serve as the framework for any waterfront project seeking to create vibrant public spaces, and, by extension, a vibrant city…

“2. Create a shared community vision for the waterfront

“Unlike a master plan, a vision process does not lock a project into a prescribed solution. It is a citizen-led initiative that outlines a set of goals–ideals to strive for–that set the stage for people to think boldly, make breakthroughs, and achieve new possibilities for their waterfront. Because a vision is adaptable and can be implemented gradually, starting with small experiments, it often becomes bolder as public enthusiasm for making changes builds and the transformation of the waterfront gains credibility.

“3. Create multiple destinations: The Power of Ten

“PPS has found that an effective way to structure a vision process is to set a goal of creating ten great destinations along the entire waterfront, an idea we call the “Power of Ten.” This focus on destinations, rather than “open space” or parks, enables a genuine community-led process to take root. Once ten destinations have been identified, then nearby residents, businesses, community organizations and other stakeholders begin to define the uses and activities they want to see at each place. Ideally, each destination should provide ten things to do, which creates diverse, layered activity, ensuring that no single use will predominate.

“This process is open-ended–so that the result can fulfill the hopes of people involved in the process. This cannot happen when it is assumed from the outset that the goal is to build, say, a park, which may narrow the range of possible outcomes and prevent some of the best ideas from ever seeing the light of day….

“8. Use parks to connect destinations, not as destinations unto themselves

“In a similar vein, parks should not serve as the raison d’ĂȘtre of the entire waterfront. Passive open space puts a damper on the inherent vibrancy of waterfronts, evident in cities such as New York, Vancouver, and Toronto that have relied too heavily on “greening” their waterfronts without mixing uses that draw people for different reasons at different times. The world’s best waterfronts use parks as connective tissue, using them to link major destinations together. Helsinki, Stockholm, Sydney, and Baltimore have employed this strategy to fine effect.”