What makes a great street? Prof. Allan Jacobs will tell you

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 by Michele Beasley
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“First and foremost, a great street should help make community… A great street should be a most desirable place to be, to spend time, to live, to play, to work… Streets are settings for activities that bring people together.”

– from Great Streets by Allan Jacobs (1995)

The year was 1989. The Bay Area shook when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. Highways and bridges were damaged, including San Francisco’s Central Freeway. After many years of protracted battles, residents finally succeeded in getting the freeway torn down and replaced with Octavia Boulevard. The boulevard was designed by a team led by Allan Jacobs, formerly San Francisco’s Planning Director. It still includes four lanes for through traffic, but also features landscaped medians, sidewalks and two lanes for slower traffic and bicycles. At the end of the old freeway is a park, which has sparked the revival of the Hayes Valley neighborhood, now the home of flourishing boutiques and restaurants.

UC Berkeley Professor, Allan Jacobs has studied numerous urban streets from around the world to find out what makes a street truly great. What are the building blocks of a great street that make us want to take a leisurely stroll, meet up with friends over coffee, and window shop for hours? Clearly, some streets succeed more than others, and Jacobs believes that for our cities to thrive, we need more great streets.

In San Jose, the challenge, and the opportunity, is getting back to the way streets were originally designed — before planners segregated everything: homes from shops, pedestrians from cars. San Jose has embarked on a new style of planning and we hope this signals a new direction that will change the way people enjoy the city.

The Blueprint

Last year, the San Jose City Council adopted Envision 2040, the blueprint that will guide the city’s growth over the next few decades. Two of the major strategies include:

  1. Streetscapes for people
  2. A city of urban villages


That would be 70 urban villages throughout San Jose. And a key ingredient of a great place is streets designed for people. Whether people are driving, biking, taking the bus, walking, or skipping, streets should not only be safe, they should invite you in to visit the neighborhood. Now is the time for San Jose to flourish; to become a place of urban villages that people love to live in instead of just drive through.

On October 4, Professor Allan Jacobs will be in San Jose to chat about the building blocks of great streets and to share his experiences with street design, both near and far. Won’t you join us?

What:  Great Streets with Professors Allan Jacobs and Elizabeth MacDonald
When:  Thursday, October 4, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Where:  Bascom Community Center and Library, San Jose (map)

RSVP here!

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