Juliann Allison, Associate Director, Center for Sustainable Urban Development, discussed her study on sustainability in Orange County.
Juliann Allison, Associate Director, Center for Sustainable Urban Development, presented her research findings on methods to increase sustainability in Orange County, CA based on a study held in Riverside, CA. As urban sprawl continues to create an environment that is increasingly congested and polluted, Allison explained that it is important to find ways to encourage people to take part in efforts to increase community sustainability. Allison introduced the topic of Walkability as a way to handle congestion.
“It’s an element of New Urbanism or a mode of urban design where we go back to your more turn of the century city structure where you have a center area and more of a grid layout of streets that are more conducive to people walking.” Allison said.
Allison said that health concerns are another positive reason to promote walkability. As cities become more congested and obesity issues rise in American cities, small changes to promote walking can make a paradigm shift towards a sustainable community according to Allison.
According to Allison, the Riverside report was funded by Caltrans via a $250,000 grant. The study included various members of the community including business owners and school boards along with multiple government agencies. Allison explained that the main focus of the study was to determine how to increase walkability in pre-existing communities.
“We know how to build new developments so people will walk. But trying to go back to older developments that are already established where you can’t simply put a porch on every house. You can’t simply build multi-family homes. You have to work with what you have.” Allison said.
The study was held in the Arlington and Ramona neighborhoods in Riverside. While the Arlington neighborhood had infrastructure that fit within the walkability mindset while Ramona didn’t. Community minutes were held to discuss issues of walkability and congestion in these two neighborhoods. The approach was heavily based on the idea of popular education that allowed the community to define what they found appealing about walkability.
“We were really seeking engagement with them to find out what they know about that area and that involves speaking to a wide variety of people all the way from children in the elementary schools to parents to the business community to some of the athletic organizations.” Allison said.
Another component to the popular education component to the study was a workshop on how to increase community walkability. This included taking members of the community out into the field on a walk audit. Upon their return, community members marked feedback on provided maps.
Another portion of the study dealt with the impact that pollution from car emissions has on community wellness. Allison said that communities north of the SR-91 freeway are less polluted than those south of it because the wind in that area generally blows south.
“These guys are blessed. They can go out walking just about any time.” Allison said.
Recommendations from the study include investing in public transit, adding sidewalks where they don’t already exist, reducing speed limits and taking the initiative to promote walkability.
ADDITIONAL VIDEO WEBSITES