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Old 08-26-2008, 12:54 PM
 
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Laguna West is a community south of Sacramento and west of Elk Grove. It was designed by well-known urban planner Peter Calthorpe, considered the father of transit-oriented development.

Does anyone have experience living in Laguna West, or know someone who lives there? Did the development sell well? Has the neighborhood remained economically viable? Are any of Calthorpe's principles of transit-oriented development obvious in the neighborhood?
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Old 08-26-2008, 01:08 PM
 
Location: Happiness is found inside your smile :)
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I lived in Laguna West-ish

I lived right where Target is on Laguna - BEFORE the Target was there, they were building it

And my ex hubby (whom I'm still friends with) lives right there in the thick of it - in the LAguna West part closer to the 5 freeway (on Saul Court)
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Old 08-26-2008, 02:10 PM
 
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Is Laguna West a smart growth development or not?When it was being built, you found articles like this one, praising it.FOCUS; A Transit-Oriented Approach to Suburbia - New York Times (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEED8103AF933A25752C1A9679582 60&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=allNow - broken link) that it is built out, many argue that it is not. See sites listed here.Democratic Underground Forums - Request error have yet to see a large scale smart growth project that after it gets built out is still referred to by the defenders of smart growth as a smart growth project. Inevitably after the project fails to achieve the goals planners laid out for it, they stop referring to it as a smart growth project. No one spends enough time figuring out why the smart growth projects keep failing in the same way. They just blame the developers, never questioning that plan could have design flaws that keep it from succeeding. Phil Angelides has a lifetime record of being very progressive. If someone who ideologically believes in the project as much as Phil Angelides did couldn't make it work, why should we expect less ideologically committed developers to be able to make it work?
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Old 08-26-2008, 02:14 PM
 
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I am not sure I can directly link to this site. I will post the link again here hoping it works.Democratic Underground Forums - Request error not here is the content of that link:Any claims regarding Laguna West are very deceptive. The postive writeups the community received were based on its original PLANS. Had Angelides built the town to those plans, it really would have been a vision of the future. As anyone who has actually VISITED Laguna West knows (and I have, many times), Angelides basically dismantled all of the original high points once the development was approved. Walkable? What a laugh. The original walkable neighborhoods were rapidly converted into conventional suburban streets. Non-car oriented? Maybe on paper, but the transit centers were never built, the light rail station was abandoned, and no busses run through the neighborhood today. Environmentally friendly? The plans were amended to basically eliminate open space, and the community today has houses literally packed on top of each other. High density housing for modern living? Never built. It is the epitome of sprawling suburbia.But don't take my word for it:"The clay and gray rooftops blend in a nearly impenetrable expanse of large, tightly packed homes. … It's easy to mistake it for more of suburbia," - San Luis Obispo Tribune"Environmental critics today say that serves largely as a bedroom community 12 miles south of downtown Sacramento. Many stores and jobs are beyond walking distance, while transit options are not abundant" - Sacramento BeeSir Peter Hall, writing in the June 2000 issue of the journal Town & Country Planning, calls Laguna West a "California tragedy". But Calthorpe's most ambitious plan (ed: Calthorp is the designer hired by Angelides who actually designed the environmentally friendly masterpiece), and the one most often quoted, was for Laguna West, south of Sacramento. Over coffee, he bewailed what had happened to it … it as an utterly conventional Central Valley tract-home development. Don't go and see it, he begged. It isn't worth the ride. I pondered, and finally failed to take his advice. … At the end of the day, I knew what he had meant. … The fact is that Laguna West is a catastrophic failure.The New York Times, on June 14, 2002, described Laguna West as "classic urban sprawl": "For example, Laguna West, a development near Sacramento, was initially hailed as a pioneering example of how to build a community that was not overly dependent on the automobile. But it has since gone through changes that have led critics to label it as classic urban sprawl, though with porches and alleys." The same Times piece also quotes Wendell Cox, a design consultant who has written critically of recent subdivisions, labeling the project "pitiful": "Laguna West is one of the most pitiful examples of a so-called New Urbanist community that in reality is little different than a 1970's-era development in Los Angeles." Even the Sierra Club, in the May/June 1997 issue of the club's magazine, Sierra, termed Laguna West a "fairly conventional suburb." Livable? Walkable? Environmentally sustainable? Only in Angelides' imagination. So no, I don't give Angelides any environmental cred. Since the environment is my #2 voting qualifier, it's unlikely that I'll be voting for him.
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Old 08-26-2008, 04:18 PM
 
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Thanks for confirming my suspicions, zen_klown: Laguna West was mentioned in an earlier thread about transit, and I noticed that it only has one bus line that runs hourly--then a book I am reading (The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler) mentioned it as a great example of how we should start building cities (although I noticed several other glaring errors in that book, enough that while I like the premise I don't think he did enough research before committing pen to paper.) My only experience with Laguna West was in the late nineties when I built custom computers to order, and delivered a finished PC to the neighborhood, and it seemed like pretty much the epitome of what I don't like about suburbs.

Quote:
No one spends enough time figuring out why the smart growth projects keep failing in the same way. They just blame the developers, never questioning that plan could have design flaws that keep it from succeeding.
I'd kind of like to do that. If rules are set, and then the developer doesn't follow those rules, are there consequences to the developer? If there are none, why should they bother following the rules?

And just because a politician says he's progressive doesn't mean he is, it just means he wants progressives to vote for him. Angelides' current proposal is to put 400 single-family detatched homes on yet another greenfield site. He's even hiring the same community planner. My guess is that Angelides' only real commitment is to the dollar--he's a developer first, and if he can get his projects approved by applying a liberal coat of greenwashing, so be it--he apparently sees no need to actually follow through.
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Old 08-26-2008, 05:11 PM
 
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On the pressure being placed upon the developers you might want to read Last Harvest. Its about what happens when someone is trying to build a new traditionalist development. One of things he harps on is how the developer wants to follow the plan because of the huge costs associated with changing the plan. Basically when you change the plan, you cause the development to be delayed and that imposes huge interest rate costs and exposes you to market risk (that the market will turn against you after you proposed the development)Its for those reasons that I seriously doubt that a developer wants to change the plans if he can at all avoid doing so. But the other point that he makes in the book is sometimes market realities force well intended developers to amend the plan. He also spends a fair amount of time talking about what drives developers to put developments so far afield from the city center. Amazon.com: Last Harvest: From Cornfield to New Town: Real Estate Development from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway: Witold Rybczynski: Books might also want to read City Life. He spends a lot of time going into the history of why cities ended up looking like they do in both the US and abroad. Why Europe looks so different than the US and why inner cities sort of lost there vigor after WW2.Amazon.com: City Life: Witold Rybczynski: Books you might want to read a little Stewart Brand. His point is that buildings change over time in response to changes in the local communities and that local communities are dynamic. That both the communities and the buildings evolve. He is really big on constructive reuse of old buildings. One of the points that he makes is that real strict zoning can be bad because it tries to tightly to limit how building and neighborhoods can be changed. That in turn leads to blight. When the previous land use is no longer economically supported in the community, then the building becomes vacant.Amazon.com: How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built: Stewart Brand: Books am not entirely convinced that Angelides is merely a manipulative greenwasher. He has quite an extensive track record working as chief of staff to Gov. Jerry Brown, as the California state Treasurer and as candidate for Governor that suggests that his progressive credentials are legitimate. Developers are easy targets to demonize. But sometimes the expectations of the plan aren't economically rational. That is the biggest reason developers will try to amend the plan. Large scale new traditionalist developments are trying to impose by fiat, things that were created organically in a very different era. If you look at a lot of these fiats, they aren't working as intended. At 65th and Folsom Blvd, the retail is close to the streets and it has doors and windows facing the streets, but the development still is facing the parking lot because far more customers to the shops come from the parking lot than from the sidewalk. In the large scale new traditionalist developments you have a lot of technical compliance with the mandates of the plan, but the economic reality of the situation often drives the development to subvert the intention of the plan. I suspect that advocates of new traditionalist developments spent less time demonizing the developers and more time figuring out how to improve the economics of their fiats, future new traditionalist developments would be more successful.I think Shoup has the right approach here. Amazon.com: The High Cost of Free Parking: Donald C. Shoup: Books
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Old 08-28-2008, 11:26 PM
 
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Originally Posted by wburg View Post
I'd kind of like to do that. If rules are set, and then the developer doesn't follow those rules, are there consequences to the developer? If there are none, why should they bother following the rules?
It might be worthwhile to back out to Laguna West to see which parts of the plan worked and which parts didn't. If you look at the retail component of the development, off Laguna Blvd and ajoining Laguna Main Street, a lot of it just never got built at all, in part I think its because the retail that was built in that location wasn't particularly successful. There are several empty lots that have spent 15+ years vacant. The nearest neighborhood retail are a couple of minimalls on Harbour Point Drive and grocery stores further along Laguna Blvd near Franklin.

My guess is that the retail failed because of the zoning rules for the development. The land that is sitting vacant for the past 15+ years should be too valuable to remain vacant for so long. Retail everywhere else in the area is succeeding, but this stuff isn't. My hunch is that zoning isn't working but no one has been able yet to successfully rezone the property for better a better land usage.

The other aspect that didn't work is the transit. E-Tran, the Elk Grove transit agency is running a bunch of transit through the neighborhood (9 bus lines through Laguna and Harbor Point). But the busses going through Laguna West aren't anymore successful than the rest of Elk Grove for drawing riders.

Etran Map

A big problem is dispersion. In Laguna West you have people working in downtown Sac, in the Bay Area and in Rancho Cordova. Most of the bus lines are going downtown, but they are also running lines to both the butterfield light rail station and to the transit center at Consumnes River College as well as a couple of local routes. I think dispersion of work routes is a bigger problem than frequency of service. People are working in too many different areas for mass transit to serve them effectively.

The big advantage that midtown has over Laguna West for transit usage is proximity. A much higher percentage of the people living in midtown work in downtown versus the amount of people living in Laguna who work downtown. (if everyone is going to the same place, its easier to use transit to get there especially if you don't have to spend a lot of time on the bus.

The neighborhood itself is a hodgepodge of ideas. Some of the streets have alleys with garages in the backyard. Some of the streets lack alleys, but have garages set back from the street and others have garages prominently in the front yard. Most of the homes have porches, but the porches seem to be ignored. Most porches don't have swings or rocking chairs or benches, most don't even have planters. Perhaps that is because so many of the streets have planters built into them as a traffic calming device.

The streets are narrower and the planters built into the street as a traffic calming device make the street even narrower. Nevertheless you don't see many people walking on those streets. But I blame a lot of that on the lake itself. Most of the homes address the lake, not the street. Also traffic moves to fast on both Harbour Point Drive and Laguna. I doubt anyone would feel safe walking on either street. So really the development is an island, with very few things worth walking to. There is the lake, but most of the shore is dedicated to homes.
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