A Street: The Main Street of Downtown
A Street has always been the primary retail street of Downtown and is expected to remain so. In its early days it had the advantages of direct access from Five Points, and not having to compete with dozens of newer, suburban shopping centers for Oxnard’s customers.
It hit a low point when the 1960s Gruen Plan for Downtown – to turn almost the entire downtown core into a pedestrian mall – was partially implemented by closing A Street to vehicular traffic and building a variety of shade structures and pools within the right of way. Like hundreds of other
“downtown malls” around the country, that experiment failed completely and over the course of two successive improvement plans it was restored to a simple commercial street with angled parking.
And as the Downtown moves to a new level of success and vitality, there are additional opportunities to bring people, activity and a cooler Downtown character to A Street. Making
it the primary bike boulevard of the Downtown is such an opportunity, including the following recommendations:
- The curbs in the angled parking blocks south of 3rd Street were designed so that parking could be either “front in” or “back in”, depending on how the striping is painted. While unfamiliar to many, back-in angled parking is in many ways easier and safer to use, primarily because one does not need to back out blind into traffic upon exiting a space. This configuration widely understood to be far safer for bicyclists and simple re-striping (which could be done in one or two blocks on a test basis) could allow A Street to be designated a “bike boulevard” with “sharrow” symbols on the pavement.
- In the blocks north of 3rd Street up to Deodar, the street is wide enough that Class 2 bike lanes could be striped, replacing the central continuous turn lane and narrowing the vehicular lanes to 10 feet. This would generate lower vehicular speeds and make A Street a safer, more comfortable bike route for residents of nearby neighborhoods – and existing and future residents of the Downtown – to use to access the Downtown.
- “Bike corrals” for parking bikes without blocking sidewalks can be simply constructed adjacent to the existing mid-block crosswalks and planters.
With its traffic and parking restored, A Street once again has a chance as a successful main street, but still has a somewhat vacant character. Clearly the main solution to this challenge is more customers, more successful business, and more downtown residents. Design cannot make that
happen, but it can help.
Simple, feasible measures that can help to accelerate the cycle of business improvement and reinvestment in the physical environment include:
- Replace the dead and dying geraniums in the midblock planters with new plantings that require less water and are more striking and attractive.
- Allow businesses the option of placing “parklets” in the parking spaces in front of their shops. These devices act essentially as “sidewalk extensions”, providing generous amounts of room for outdoor dining that the existing 10 foot sidewalks cannot support.
- Add curb extensions (bulb-outs) at cross street intersections – particularly 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th – to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians on A Street, and provide additional opportunities for attractive landscaping. As the intersections of Oxnard Boulevard and these streets are the first clue that there’s a downtown here, these intersections are their introduction to A Street as its primarily retail and restaurant street.
- Infill development and shopfront renovations should include large, clear glass display windows that provide pedestrians with clear views of retail displays and restaurant interiors. Shopfronts with recessed, tinted or reflective glass – of which A Street has quite a few – block pedestrian views of displays and interiors and add to the “dead look”.
- Simple canvas awnings that project out over the sidewalk are by far the best way to shade shopfront glass from the sun, while also reducing the glare that can prevent pedestrians from being able to see inside. Stubby little awnings – particularly shine plastic ones and curved profiles with signage on them – do not perform that function well and contribute to a “cheap strip mall” aesthetic that A Street really doesn’t need.