The North Park Innovation Zone

Arguably, North Park is the most forward-thinking neighborhood outside of downtown in terms of urbanism, alternative transportation, and community building.  But anyone that visits North Park can tell it is still very auto-centric.  If the City is going to succeed with its Climate Action Plan, the residents of North Park have to take it even further.  I think the City should support a North Park Innovation Zone to bypass normal planning to experiment with simple methods to quickly transform a neighborhood.  Unsuccessful projects could be eliminated and successful interventions could be spread to other neighborhoods.  So how can the neighborhood transition to a truly walkable neighborhood?  Here are a few "tactical" changes I think could happen (1) within a year and (2) for not much money. I intend to keep updating this list.  If you have any ideas, add it to the comments and I'll bump it up into the post.

  1. Many of the residential streets are way too wide.  Each residential street should have lines painted down the sides to narrow the width to 28 feet to create Yield Streets.  The excess width can be dealt with later, either to create wider sidewalks or planted areas.  The narrower streets will slow down cars, allowing kids to play in the street, bike riders to feel comfortable, and cut down on through traffic.
  2. Going one step further on improving the residential streets:  the City should set up a simple process for each north-south block to vote on closing off one end of the street using bollards or planters.  Bikes and walkers would still be able to get through, but cars couldn't pass through.  In effect, this wouldn't cause problems with locals, who would know how to drive to the street where there house was.  But it would eliminate through traffic and generally make it more difficult to get around by car.  Make it difficult enough and people will start walking and biking.  Each block could vote on what they want: some may choose simple bollards, others would pick decorative plants, others may decide on a community garden with vegetable boxes.  Each block would also be responsible for maintaining the plantings as they see fit.  This would not only lower the cost to the City, it would also create a greater sense of community on each block.  The neighbors would have to work together to decide what they want and come up with a maintenance plan.  Some blocks may choose to do nothing, and that's fine.
  3. There are several schools and parks in North Park.  To encourage walking and bike riding to school, the streets immediately surrounding schools and parks should be completely closed other than a narrow one-way lane.
  4. North Park Community Park:  This is a great park, but surrounding the park with houses is a waste.  With a house, each lot is used by only one family and is often empty all day.  To further activate the site, I would rezone the surrounding blocks to allow for mixed use.  This would allow more people to experience the park and also eyes on the street to make the area safer.  Imagine if Idaho and Oregon streets had small shops and restaurants where people could gather at night, spilling out into the park to eat.  Small lofts could be built above the shops to add residential use into the mix.
  5. North Park needs more offices.  I don't know how you make it happen, but the City should encourage building a large office building near 30th and University.  Any company that is seeking millennial employees would have a huge advantage because employees could live nearby and walk or bike to work.  Having office employees nearby on weekdays would also help support the local restaurants that would gain a new lunch crowd.
  6. North Park is only a few miles from downtown, but there's no stress free way to bike downtown.  I would close half of Pershing Drive, pushing all auto traffic into one side and giving the other side to people on bikes and pedestrians.  There would need to be some design changes on the south end with on and off ramps to the freeway, but I'm sure we could come up with something.
  7. (The rest of the ideas are from the comments)  Close Ray Street between University and North Park Way.  Allow street vendors or establish a permanent farmers market.  Add benches, tables, and chairs to create a community plaza area.
  8. Install a pedestrian scramble at 30th and University.
  9. Run MTS bus route 2 as a free service during the weekend.
  10. Right now, 30th Street between Upas and Adams Avenue consists of one travel lane in each direction with a middle turn lane, with parking on each side.  The city could eliminate the center turn lane.  With the extra space, cycle tracks could be added on each side.  It would also increase the safety for pedestrians. A few parking spots near major intersections could be removed to allow for a left turn lane.  This may sound crazy: no left turns?  It's actually faster and more efficient to hardly ever make left turns, not to mention safer for everyone.

What else do you have?