Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Walkable Schools" Presentation to the Orange County School Board

Planner and Central Florida Congress for New Urbanism coordinator Eliza Harris, transportation designer Jurgen Duncan, and I appeared before the Orange County School Board on April 27, and presented, "Walkable Schools: How Smart Growth Principles Can Help School Districts and Kids." 

To view the presentation, please CLICK HERE.

Gotha Middle School students crossing high speed traffic on Old Winter Garden Road.  The lanes are 12 ft.--as wide as those on an interstate highway.  

Children walking to Celebration Elementary School, built into the urban fabric. The narrow lanes, the bulb-out to reduce the pedestrian crossing distance, and on-street parking reduce speeds to safer levels. Windows on the rowhouses and on the school places "eyes on the street," and deter crime.

After the presentation, I sent the following email to the Orange County School Board:

Dear Chairman Cadle, Vice Chairman Flynn, and Board Members:

Jurgen Duncan, Eliza Harris, and I so much appreciated the opportunity to address you yesterday on the important issue of walkable schools. The analysis we shared demonstrated that walkable schools tend to reduce bus eligibility and associated OCPS transportation costs. We were delighted to hear of your strong support for, and efforts to achieve walkable schools within neighborhoods.

Chairman Cadle raised an important concern about societal attitudes. You may not know of an impressive group of Colonial High School students working to change them.

You may find instructive a Smart Growth "Report Card" at:

OCPS planners and others can download the new Walkable Thoroughfares manual from the Institute of Transportation Engineers' website without charge at:

Congress for New Urbanism chapter members have a breadth of expertise to share. I certainly have learned much from them. Please advise if we can assist you in any manner on these issues. Your advocacy for pedestrian-friendly street design and appropriate school sites can play a crucial role with local governments in improving the health and safety of our children.

Thank you again,

Rick Geller
Olympia High School--disconnected from the adjacent residential neighborhoods and on a four-lane arterial road.  The 1960's-era suburban layout requires virtually everyone to drive to the school, resulting in a parking lot consuming about as much land as the buildings, at enormous cost to taxpayers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jumping the Shark on Sprawl

Fonzie about to "Jump the Shark"--The phrase refers to a gimmick marking the downward slide of something once popular that should have ended already.

I told the Orange County Planning and Zoning Board that we've "jumped the shark" on sprawl development.  The Board voted 5-3 to recommend transmittal of Innovation Way East to the Florida Department of Community Affairs.  If ultimately adopted, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for this area south of the Beachline and east of the beltway in Southeast Orange County would change from Rural to a designation allowing considerable development. 

Village B2's gimmick is a "Conservation Zone" of 535 "executive homes" featuring Energy Star appliances, native landscaping, and other "green" elements.  Fran Pignone (appointed by Commissioner Linda Stewart), Marvin Barrett (appointed by Commissioner Fred Brummer) and I voted against transmittal.  Sprawl development such as Village B2 isn't so green. 

Village B2 would spread over two miles (measuring top to bottom) at a density of one home per acre.    The East Central Florida Regional Planning Council expressed concern that residents would find themselves two miles from a Village Center commercial area.  That means the residents will drive virtually everywhere. 

Innovation Way's policies require mixed-use, "compact villages," designed as Transit Oriented Development.  Transit Oriented Development requires a density of at least 8 residential units per acre.  One unit per acre would not support the transit line drawn on the applicant's map through Village B2.  Village B2 would perpetuate auto-dependent sprawl. 

To their credit, Innovation Way East's planner and engineer signaled a willingness to redesign Village B2.  Clustering of development, encouraged by an Innovation Way policy, would preserve more land in a rural and undeveloped form.  I would suggest looking at the development pattern for luxurious, sought-after executive housing in Celebration as a model.

Home in Celebration.  One acre lots aren't necessary for Disney and other tourist area executives. 

Hannibal Square, New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL--Restaurants and retail below with apartments or condos above.  An appropriate Main Street scale around which to cluster housing at a five minute walk. 
UPDATE 6/22/10: On 3-3 tie votes, the Board of County Commissioners denied transmittal of the Innovation Way East application to the Florida Department of Community Affairs.  The applicant cannot apply again for two years.