Jul 25, 2019 in Exploratory

Urban Planning

Urban planning is a dynamic, technical, and political process, which involves land use, environment utilization and protection, and the design of the urban environment, including transportation and communication. It guides the organized development of infrastructures and settlements within the metropolitan area. Urban planners, who are responsible for strategic development and improvement of the area, perform the duty. In most urban centers, there are four types of housing developments likely to be observed. They include primarily commercial mixed-use buildings, primarily residential mixed-use buildings, exclusively commercial buildings, and purely residential buildings. Understanding the concept of urban planning is beneficial practically and theoretically to both developers and students. Developers use the study to know what is required by the state law and where it is appropriate for them to erect buildings. The study is also employed by the government in the development of the economy as they plan for their infrastructural projects such as roads and railway lines. The land use determines the city development that should be introduced for economic and social purposes. 

To help students understand urban planning, a field trip was conducted to various streets in Mountain View. The following are some of the developments that were observed in the area: real estate, infrastructure improvement such as roads, and buildings. The housing in the area is comprised of single-family homes, low-density residential and R-1 zoning located near the single-family residences. The houses looked to be of similar age with the only likely difference being that some looked renovated. The similarity is more spelled by the similarity in their architectural design. One stark similarity is that most garages in the residence are situated next to the house that faces the main road and pedestrian walkways. There are others that are located in the backyard, and all of them are connected to the road by an alleyway. Both designs were motivated by the need to allow the home occupants to easily access the main road. 

The dwellings in the R-1 zone are limited to one structure per family per unit acre. It is to help reduce noise pollution by avoiding overcrowding in the area. Some of the R-1 zoning premises have a garage, which is connected to the main road by a small alley. The carports are significant because they help to curb the issue of vehicles overcrowding on residential streets thus causing traffic jams. Although commercialization of R-1 property is not allowed, the area has home offices and law firms located in the dwellings, which are sometimes permitted. In addition, most of the parking lots had a space for one car. It is because the law allows only one car per residence. The purpose of this kind of development plan is to provide an area for constructing residential areas. It is achieved through restriction of commercial and industrial developments in the area, thus enabling a less polluted environment. It makes the area conducive for human settlement because it is free from pollution, which in most cases emanates from industries.

The residential area was sparsely populated with most of the houses modestly constructed and had poor or no maintenance. However, there were still a few other homes maintained with gardens and ample parking space. The neighborhood is poorer than other areas of Franklin Street. Most of the households in the area were rentals compared to the family owned ones. In addition, most of the premises seemed to have four rooms or less. The cheap houses in the area can be a clear indication that there might be higher crime rates. It may be the reason as to why the area is less densely occupied than the other areas in the surroundings. It has no off street parking that indicates an availability of enough parking space. Most of the residents own a car but do not use them because public transit means are available and cheaper to use. Some new developments are being made, such as improving or renovating the buildings and construction of the pedestrian walkways.

The new development at the Bryant Street is a building by the WhatsApp Company that was acquired by Facebook. It started as a 78,000 square-foot project. It boosted the WhatsApp dig that measured at 11,000 square feet at 303 Bryant Street. The building has enabled increment of the company's employees from the 60 workers to around 400 workers. The urban development can be termed beneficial because it has led to the provision of employment to the area residents and emergence of more businesses around the building. It is also a tourist site as many people are anxious to see the unique development in the part of the town. To urban planning students and professionals, the building is a place of learning. It provides insight on the effect of new developments on the center and the nation. Students can also learn the process of constructing a development and the requirements by the state law.

 

In urban development, the land assemblage is done mainly for residential and commercial purposes. However, it is time-consuming and costly, but becomes profitable eventually. Assembling of buildings or ventures into one property goes through a particular process as required by the state law. The development at Bryant Street by the WhatsApp Company is built on a land that had several properties. To merge the areas into the new building, a legal process must be followed. The new engineers must negotiate with the property owners to accept leasing of the land. Acquiring of the land is the first step in the assembling of the property in urban centers. The process also entails merging of the parcels into one. The plots, on which the other properties are built, are given in measurements, and the total is presented as one figure. It helps in evaluating whether the total required is met to build the intended building. Land assemblage is legal, so the parcel and the process must be approved by the city council. The political entity issues an Administrative Certificate of Compliance to show that the parcel was created according to the state laws. Once the certificate has been issued to the property owners, both the old and the new developer can start negotiating on their preferred mode of compensation. It can be transferred to another land or may be paid in cash. In some cases, the other property owners are given business rooms in the building.

The residential development at Bryant and Dana Street are multi-family townhouses. The buildings are complex containing many family units. The multi-family developments in the streets do not portray the conventional sprawl. The parking garage in the buildings is not oriented to the street like normal single-family homes in the suburbs. The buildings are facing the streets and the houses have no setbacks. It is the same case with the streets. In addition, the area is densely populated and has fewer parking spaces. The fewer parking lots are as a result of the fact that more people use public transport and not private cars. The residents also work within the vicinity of their dwelling units, making it easier for them to walk to work instead of buying cars. It minimizes the use of cars compared to conventional sprawl, where the source of employment, organizations, institutions, and business firms are located a long way from their premises; and thus they need to use their cars to commute to work. There are some dwellings along Dana Street that have an off-street garage, which serves as a clear indication of a conventional sprawl setting. The area is sparsely occupied, thus providing ample space for the development. However, the dwellings are different compared to similar houses under the type of design because the pedestrian walkways are shaded with numerous trees with a thick canopy. It adds aesthetic value of the area and makes trekking enjoyable to Downtown, which is within a walking distance.

At the corner of Castro Street, there was a two-story building named S. Weilheimer & Sons, which was built in 1874. According to the people around, the building is said to have housed the first post office and to be one of the few buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake and currently host assorted businesses. It houses stationery, news store, travel agency, grocery store, clothing store and a hotel on its second floor. The hotel has been in existence since 1906. The street cannot accommodate the sprawl type commercial development because there is limited space for expanding parking lots, which are found in front of downtown businesses. Trees, well-paved, festival lights, and various streetscapes, which create a calm environment and provide fresh air, surround the walkways. It makes one enjoy walking downtown to explore businesses. Besides, parking is found at the end of downtown. Street parking is also allowed, although very few on-street parking is available outside the downtown business. Some of the on-street parking lots are being used as outdoor restaurants and walkways. The streetscapes were upgraded as per Downtown Precise Plan that was issued by the City of Mountain View. They were improved using funds from the city’s Capital Improvement Project.

Across Caltrain Station, there is a small subdivision, which had high-density houses that were situated next to each other. The type of development in the area is very different from the conventional sprawl setting, mainly because the carports or garages are located separately from the dwellings. In addition, the entrance to the premises is facing the street without any setback, limited off-street parking lots and bicycle lanes. The parking space is located in the backyard with the front entrance used only for walking. The garden is connected to the main road through small alleyways. The house prices in the area are very high because the subdivision is located near Bay Area’s transit corridor, which has caused the land value to appreciate. The transit corridor development was guided by the Plan Bay Area regional transportation framework with an aim of catering for local housing needs. Furthermore, the program offers a wide variety of housing options and important amenities that include, among others, grocery stores, restaurants, and community centers.

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