Getting a head start with Urban Village planning in San Jose

Walking West San Carlos Street

On April 28, residents donned hats and comfy shoes to join Greenbelt Alliance on a walking tour of the West San Carlos-South Bascom area of San Jose to highlight the need for “complete streets.” Greenbelt Alliance has spent the past several months meeting with neighborhood leaders and partnering with a team of San Jose State University graduate students in preparation for the City of San Jose’s upcoming process to create one of the first urban villages under the newly adopted Envision 2040. [PDF]

Luther Burbank Elementary School Principal Marvelyn Maldanado welcomed us at the start of the tour. The school could really benefit from safer routes to school, she said. Then our team of grad students led the enthusiastic group from point to point as we heard from neighborhood leaders, transit planners and others about the various elements that go into making a street safe and accessible for all.  For example, we heard about plans to bring Bus Rapid Transit down West San Carlos Street from downtown San Jose to DeAnza College. (History repeats itself! Completed in 1904, a 28-mile streetcar loop connected San Jose, Saratoga and Los Gatos before being phased out in the 1930s.)

As the sun beat down on us, participants noted one important ingredient of a complete street: a shady tree canopy. Unfortunately, the palm trees in the middle of West San Carlos fail at this role.

We also stopped at San Jose Water Company’s water-wise demonstration garden at the corner of West San Carlos and South Bascom to hear from the residents who helped establish this garden. While there, it was interesting to note that the visually impaired regularly cross this busy intersection! Throughout the day, neighbors voiced their ideas for how to make the streets better for people of all ages. We heard from one skateboarding tour participant that local hangouts for kids, like an ice cream shop, would be a nice addition to the neighborhood.

Check out our photos and follow our footsteps by checking out this video created by a Buena Vista neighborhood leader.

 

Mapping out a walkable urban village

Greenbelt Alliance followed the tour with a community workshop organized by our team of San Jose State grad students and Professor Rick Kos. Residents poured over maps and engaged in role-playing, putting themselves in the shoes of someone who is visually impaired or a mother of an 8 year old who wants to ride his bike to school. West San Carlos and South Bascom are hostile to pedestrians and cyclists, but with some focused attention, we hope that the street can evolve to accommodate all people safely.

So what are some of the exciting things happening around the country that residents can apply to this cluster of neighborhoods in Midtown?

  • PopUpHood is a small business incubator, revitalizing Oakland neighborhoods block by block.
  • ArtPlace demonstrates that pop-up art installations can spur economic development. Watch this quick video to be inspired.
  • City Repair began with the idea that reclaiming urban spaces for community-oriented places creates greater neighborhood cohesion.
  • And San Jose’s own Bike Party demonstrates that thousands of people can take back part of the streets for one night a month!

Stay tuned as we compile all the great information generated through these two events. Greenbelt Alliance plans to hold another event in the weeks leading up to the City’s formal process, which kicks off in the fall. We also continue to seek resident and business leaders from the following neighborhoods: Buena Vista, Burbank, Pamlar, Sherman Oaks, Shasta Hanchett as well as the Burbank-Del Monte SNI area.  Please contact Michele Beasley to learn more and join our West San Carlos South Bascom Urban Village Facebook group!

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