Saturday, February 28, 2009

Putting Parking in its Place II

When was the last time you went somewhere because it had a great parking lot? Unless I'm seriously mistaken, nobody goes to a place just because you can park there. In fact, according to Ethan Kent, the current obsession with parking is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving livable cities and towns, because it usually runs counter to what should be our paramount concern: creating places where people enjoy spending time.

He's found that the hang-up on parking is an indicator that a community has no broader vision for itself.
Come on, Newport Hills! We're better than that! Red Apple, where is thy core??

The problem with the Red Apple is there is no longer a purpose for the parking lot. I know a few skateboarders who would argue this point, but with the loss of a destination like the supermarket, and soon, the drugstore and with it possibly the one remaining gas station, there is a huge hole in the center of our community.

In temporarily abandoned park(ing) spaces, reclaiming them for public use for even one season is a viable alternative, if the owners are willing to work with the residents and city regulations, which typically require a simple temporary use permit and permission from the owner.

How about starting with a few ideas for a sustainable vision for parking lots. Why sustainable? Because right now it's on everyone's radar for a good reason--keeping people in their own communities keeps them out of their cars, and there are grant opportunities out there for neighborhoods to do what they can to help the planet.

Farmers Markets

Who doesn't love a Farmers Market on the weekends?

“Businesses are increasingly cooperative,” according to a recent PI article about the explosion of Farmers Markets in Seattle. "Owners of the Grocery Outlet in Madrona rescued the displaced MadCap (Madison Park/Capitol Hill) Farmers Market by welcoming it to the store parking lot… Year-round market sales were up 300% this year (2008) and the year before. (As well as way up in attendance, even in the wind, rain and snow…)"

A Kiosk

Center a kiosk for community information which could grow into a drop place for CSA Community-Sustained Agriculture produce boxes.

Raised Beds and Victory Gardens

For most residents of Newport Hills, the garden is a low-maintenance landscape, sort of Japanese/Zen and shady. They're beautiful, restful places, but often lacking in adequate sun and warmth for those gorgeous tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons we crave. During times of economic hardship, victory gardens are grown in the community's sunniest spots to help offset the high price of fresh produce.

Here's my suggestion. We've already identified a lot of the sunniest spots in the Red Apple core (pun intended!) Take a look at the aerial shots in my previous post "Google Earth". There they are: in the parking lot. For every other parking spot, create a raised bed as the "seed" of a community garden. It's a wonderful way to have residents of all ages share their knowledge and interests. There could be seed give-aways and plant exchanges to raise money for community events.

The water supply is already there, and when it comes time to build something more permanent, the raised beds can be relocated elsewhere. Have the master gardeners set up a display showing water-wise techniques and other ideas for community sustainability.


On a similar note, landscaping is a critical component to the livability of any home--just remember--vegetation good;native vegetation better! An example of site sensitive vegetation is xeriscaping, a term coined by the Colorado Water Wise Council and featured in the website Sustainable Design Update here

They recommend these three simple rules for sustainability, whether it's in your own garden, or your community's:

First, make an effort to preserve any existing native plants, as they obviously like where they're living and can be groomed into a low maintenance greenscape.

Second, work with a local gardening supply store (not a Big Box) to help you select plants that will grow best given your local climate and soil conditions, reducing the need for excessive watering.

Third, seek out organic options for fertilizer (manure) and herbicide (vinegar or corn meal) to prevent any long term negative impact in your garden or nearby streams.

Lesson 8: Let sustainability be our watchword


Anonymous said...

Hi Robin, just found your post via the Newport Hills website/email update. I'm very interested in your ideas for the shopping center, particularly the community garden idea -- are you a NH resident? I plan to attend tonight's meeting at the Bank of America. Would be happy to connect with you on this. Mary T - Newport Hills

RobinB said...

Hi Mary, Thanks for visiting! I'm in the process of starting up a community garden working group and would love to have you be a part of it. Yes--I'm a 15 year NH Resident and just become a LH resident last year (Lake Heights next door!). So glad you were able to go to the meeting--what did you think?

RobinB said...

Mary-Don't know if you're still checking these comments, but just to let you know I'll be at the Community Mtg at 7 on March 17. If you could find me there we can get started organizing!