Posts Tagged ‘infill’

Designing Around Highways: Improving Air Quality

Monday, February 8th, 2010

How can you improve your neighborhood if a highway runs through it? One challenge is dealing with air pollution immediately next to the highway. Homes and schools located within 500 feet of freeways can expose people to elevated levels of fine particulate matter (PM) and excess cancer risk from toxic air contaminants (TAC). The first defense is to locate new schools and homes beyond the recommended distance. Additional mitigation can also include locating or re-orienting outdoor play areas as far from the freeway as possible. (You could also tunnel or otherwise get rid of the highway, but let’s focus on some more short-term mitigations.)

For existing and planned developments within 500 feet of a freeway, planners an also consider tiered plantings (off-set rows) of trees such as redwood, deodar cedar, live oak and oleander to reduce toxic air contaminant and particulate matter exposure.

Oleander flowers, a recommended mitigation for poor air quality

Oleander flowers, a recommended mitigation for poor air quality

This recommendation is based on a laboratory study that measured the removal rates of PM passing through leaves and needles of vegetation. Particles were generated in a wind tunnel and a static
chamber and passed through vegetative layers at low wind velocities.
Redwood, deodar cedar, live oak, and oleander were tested. The results
indicate that all forms of vegetation were able to remove 65-85 percent
of very fine particles at wind velocities below 1.5 meters per second
(approximately 3 miles per hour [mph]) with redwood and deodar cedar
being the most effective. Even greater removal rates were predicted for
ultra-fine PM (i.e., aerodynamic resistance diameter of 0.1 micrometer
or less). However, many urban locations lack the land area needed for
this mitigation.

Additional mitigation measures include:

* Where appropriate, install passive (drop-in) electrostatic
filtering systems, especially those with low air velocities (i.e., 1

* Locate air intakes and design windows to reduce PM exposure
(e.g., windows nearest to the freeway do not open).

* Install indoor air quality monitoring units in buildings.

* Require rerouting of nearby heavy-duty truck routes.

* Enforce illegal parking and/or idling of heavy-duty trucks in

Special thanks to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for this information.
You may also find additional information and links on the CARE Program
web page

Mapping and Re-use of Public Remnant Sites

Friday, February 5th, 2010

A look at Vacant land in SF

Alison Arieff, founder of the SF-based Dwell Magazine, has done a lot to bring urban and architectural theories to a wider audience. Now working as an architectural critic for the New York Times, she’s bringing a lot of attention to planning and infill. In a recent piece, she goes back to the Bay to highlight a project that uses GIS to map small remnant sites–gutters, lot fractions, pieces of unused street space–and proposes their use for parks and green infrastructure.

With so much emphasis on land assembly and large sites, it’s interesting to think about a local streetscape or parks plan that plots and utilizes these other spaces.

Local Code on Prof. de Monchaux\'s site

Pittsburg Approves EIR for Railroad Avenue eBART Specific Plan

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Last night, Pittsburg’s City Council certified the environmental report for the Railroad Avenue Specific Plan, a FOCUS Priority Development Area.  This is a significant step toward development of the planned eBART station and associated mixed-use transit-oriented development in Pittsburg and Contra Costa County.

The Railroad Avenue Specific Plan is the third successful station area plan funded by MTC’s 2005 Station Area Planning Program, an initiative to finance planning efforts that will boost transit use, increase housing supply and jobs near transit stations and along transit corridors, increase walking, biking and other alternative forms of transportation, and supply key retail and services near transit.

By providing opportunities for development of a maximum of 1,800 new dwelling units and approximately 990,000 square feet of office and retail uses in the station area, with an emphasis on creating walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, the Specific Plan will go far towards attaining the FOCUS goals of establishing complete communites around transit.

Pittsburg approves environmental plan for eBART transit-oriented development – .

You’re Not an Environmentalist If You’re Also a NIMBY

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

This article looks at proposed new rules for the Berkeley and Oakland downtowns, and provides a really good discussion about the environmental benefits of compact development; controversies around balancing green building, affordable housing, density, and building heights; and the impacts that the proposed development standards might have on the likelihood of generating development based on market realities.

You’re Not an Environmentalist If You’re Also a NIMBY.

Bay Area Council Economic Institute Releases Economic Recovery Workplan to State

Friday, June 19th, 2009

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute recently released the Bay Area Regional Economic Recovery Workplan to the State.

The workplan, developed in collaboration with Bay Area agencies, governments, and civic partners, identifies projects and activities with high regional priority in terms of jobs and long-term competitiveness within seven sectors: transportation, water, housing, business development, human capital/workforce, energy/climate, and science & innovation.  It will be used by the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, as well as other state agencies, to facilitate decision-making regarding the allocation of federal stimulus funds available through the state.

The workplan highlights the FOCUS Priority Development Areas as an opportunity to align short- and long-term job growth with our regional goals of delivering more affordable housing and transit-oriented development.  Of the 572 projects submitted by Bay Area cities, counties, regional agencies, and private and civic organizations, over 150 fell within or significantly benefitted the Priority Development Areas.

Room for Bay Area to grow, smartly

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The San Francisco Chronicle discusses Greenbelt Alliance’s Grow Smart Bay Area report on how the Bay Area can accomodate the region’s future growth in existing urban areas.

Room for Bay Area to grow, smartly.