The California Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNUCA)
The CNUCA (www.cnucalifornia.org), a statewide 501(c)(3) member organization, launched its first, annual pro-bono community charrette in Livingston, CA June 22th to 25th. Each CNUCA Charrette targets primarily economically disadvantaged communities as defined by the State1 . The charrette provides an opportunity for volunteer CNU members to collaborate with community members on the development of conceptual-level plans and form-based codes for downtowns, corridors, and area designs that build economic, environmental, and social health and resilience, and improve adaptability to future conditions.
The NCI Charrette process used to develop the plan consists of a design-based, accelerated, collaborative project management system that spans the entire pre-construction period; a proven, flexible, three-step framework that can be customized for almost any project that requires multiple stakeholder involvement.
The first CNUCA Charrette held in the City of Livingston, California was hosted by City Manager Jose Ramirez and Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza. The Charrette Team accomplished the following within about four days: A Downtown Plan and Form-Based Code, Citywide Growth Strategies, Impementation Recommendations, and Tactical Urbanism. The products were compiled in this booklet and delivered digitally after the event. The services and products generated and delivered by the CNU consultants to the jurisdiction will enable the Livingston community commence an implementation process and attract funding.
The Livingston Charrette, hosted by City Manager Jose Ramirez and Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza, proposed the following charrette objectives to the CNU Team:
Create and increase wealth for all sectors of the community – land and building owners, businesses, homeowners, workers, job seekers
Create opportunity for all sectors of the community – aspiring entrepreneurs and youth, health organizations, educational organizations
Develop a unique and positive image for the term “City of Livingston” that attracts visitors and new residents, and pride for those who live here
In accomplishing these develop a long-term sustainable income stream for municipal government.
The Value of the People and Process
The value of the Charrette includes the following:
Brings a fresh set of eyes, ears, and hands to Livingston from a diverse set of disciplines, communities, and experiences who have proven expertise in creating wealth and developing opportunities for all community sectors
Allows them to sit down and listen to people from a broad range of community sectors, and draw out their insights through questions and interactions
Allows them to talk the streets and observe, look at current and past documents and note the directions of change
Allows them to create physical changes and observe the reactions of the public as they experience the physical changes.
Allows the experts to interact with each other and test and argue out how their observations on the economy, on traffic, on architecture, on business on the layout of the city, on physical appearance affect each other.
Offers the experts to test their ideas and observations against local knowledge and experience to increase the chances that they are workable and will lead to accomplish their objectives.
The City challenged the CNU Team, with the assistance from members of the Local Government Commission (LGC)and their subconsultant, Nelson/ Nygaard, to produce a document that describes a pathway to a community different from its larger neighbors who are likely to outcompete it for businesses, commercial and residential development. LGC helped the City secure a Caltrans grant for a primary corridor and street design in the City.
Phased Strategy for Form Based/Smart code Implementation
Continue to put emphasis on obtaining consensus support from the General Plan Committee for a revised and less expansive General Plan update. This is particularly important given that the committee consists of a diversity of stakeholder, including representation from groups such as the Farm Bureau and Merced County that opposed and/or had serious reservation concerning the magnitude of expansion of the 2008 draft GP update. Also seek consensus for this less expansive General Plan update from other stakeholders and stakeholder groups not represented on this committee.
Pursue local, state, federal and private foundation sources of funding to create the planning and environment documents needed to update the General Plan and provide the various form based oriented implementing mechanism identified below.
Obtain Planning Commission and Council approval to utilize the Form Base Vision plan created in the 4 day Charrette as the foundation for the revision of the General Plan update.
Circulate RFP to update the General Plan utilizing the vision identified in the Charrette.
Obtain General Plan Update and required CEQA approvals by the Planning Commission and Council.
Circulate RFP to update the existing zoning code for the downtown utilizing a) a Smart code or b) utilizing a specific plan based on form based principals.
Obtain Planning Commission and Council approval for either a SMART Code or Specific Plan and any required CEQA documentation for the downtown.
Circulate RFP to proactively create a Specific Plan based on formed based principal for one or more of various growth areas and connecting corridors identified in the Charrette.
Obtain Planning Commission and Council approval of one or more Specific Plan or (Plans) that are developed for one or more growth areas and/or connecting corridors.
Coding and Economic Development
As noted in the accompanying analysis, there are serve limitation, complexities and ambiguity to the existing zoning code that greatly handicap the city’s ability to move forward– be that in term of revitalizing the downtown and/or attracting anchors employers to designated ‘growth sites’ on the town’s outskirts. Nothing more clearly illustrates the magnitude of this problem than the entitlement induced delays in the entitlement process related to the Blue Diamond development proposal that resulted in the loss of 500 potential future jobs!
Adoption of a General Plan update based on form based principals in conjunction with the implementation of a form based code and/or specific plan (as noted above) for the downtown and other key development area in the City will provide the city with the optimal entitlement tools to transform Livingston economy. In particular, it will encourage investment as developers see the city proactively moving ahead to transform Livingston. Likewise, cleaning up the entitlement process will reassure developers that they will be able to move through the entitlement process in a timely and predictable manner. By way of contrast, the failure to incorporate these entitlement tools and standards exponentially increases the odds of another Blue Diamond debacle and continued stagnation in the downtown.
The adoption of the Smart Code will allow city staff to work much more effectively and efficiently because of the code simplicity in the area of the city that are expected to have the most development activity.
Quality of Life
Identifying a unified and sustainable vision and implementing mechanism for the city’s land use policies will facilitate the attainment of the quality of life that Livingston residence and officials seek.
Complementary Economic and Community Investment Strategies
Livingston and the surrounding area is home to families that own some of the state’s most notable agri businesses. Staff has anticipates that city will increasingly be in a position to attract additional investment from these family member as a result of the city’s proactive efforts to transform the city not only by greatly improving the entitlement process, but also by greatly improving the maintenance and appeal of the public sectors of the city. In this latter regard, staff has indicated that while residence take great pride in maintain their own residence and neighborhood, they desire the city to do a much better job of maintain their property.
Making a Distinctive Place
This distinctive place will be constructed from the unique strengths of Livingston of local families that include owners of large, profitable agricultural-based businesses. Their support will help create a more beautiful and prosperous Livingston that enhances their products, the rich, vibrant and diverse cultures of its residents, and the fund raising talents of its non-profit organizations.
The plan should comply with California environmental requirements and enhance rather than impede the agricultural economy. It should demonstrate the flexibility to adapt to the changing requirements of its users and imposed by external conditions.
The form-based code or development regulations should recommend flexible design recommendations to adapt to uses created by the marketplace, coupled with prescriptive standards that prevent developments unworthy of Livingston or that interfere with or constrain the market potential for others. The proposed improvements to the streets should enhance communjtywide circulation for personal and commercial vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
The Charrette Team
The all-volunteer CNUCA Charrette Team consisted of the following:
Charrette Director: Steve Coyle, AIA LEED, Town-Green, CNUCA Director
Citywide Plan: Ian Ross, Principal, City Design Collective
Downtown Plan: Daniel Dunigan, AICP LEED, CNUCA Director
SmartCode: Howard Blackson III, CNUac, Principal, Placemakers, CNUCA Director
Tactical Urbanism: Mario Suarez, AICP, CNU-A Principal MSR-UR
Planner Implementation: Steve Lawton, Retail Consultant, Main St. Property Services, CNUCA Director
Implementation: Matt Shannon, Managing Director, Urbanus, LLC, CNUCA Director
Citywide Plan: Kat Fonotova, Analyst, School Facilities Consultant
Citywide Plan: Elizabeth Romero, Transportation Planner, Solano County Transit
Downtown Plan: John Anderson, Principal, Anderson-Kim Architects/Planners
Downtown Plan: Scott Watkins, MBA MPP LEED ND, CNU-A, Managing Partner, Buildaberg
Downtown Plan: Dao Doan, RA, MURP CFO/Senior Principal, Mainstreet Architects
Downtown Plan: Steve Price, Principal, Urban Advantage
SmartCode: David Petritz, Field Manager, Sonoma County Conservation Action
Tactical Urbanism: Jodie Sackett, Senior Planner, Los Angeles County
Implementation: Michael Michaud, CNUCA Director, Manager, Wigh Properties
Charrette Team Collaborators The CNUCA team coordinated its activities with representatives from the Local Government Commission (LGC), a nonprofit located in Davis, who focused on a major corridor and local street design as part of a CalTrans grant. The LGC’s team was led by Paul Zykowsky, LGC Director, and Josh Meyer, assisted by transportation consultants from Nelson/Nygaard led by Michael Moule, PE.
With CNUCA assistance, the City received an AIA SDAT grant that will target revitalization strategies for the downtown of the City. The AIA elected to commence the on-site effort in the fall so the charrette work will help inform it.
City of Livingston Collaborators
Jose Antonio Ramirez, City Manager, City Charrette Manager
Rodrigo Espinoza, Mayor
Gurpal Sampra, Mayor Pro-Tempore
Jacquelyn Benoit, Recreation Superintendent
Jim Gordon, City consultant
Livingston Community Collaborators
Jose Arroyo, USDA Rural Development
Hector Bravo, Livingston High School
Jose Elias, Valley Artist
Brandon Friessen, Tri-Value Hardware
Manjit Kaurmenton, Resident
Richard King, Foster Farms
Alex McCabe, Livingston Business Association
Leslie McGowan, Livingston Medical Group
Joann Mires, Court Theater Community
Cesar Ochoa, Resident
Jean Okuye, Merced County Farm Bureau
John Pedruzo, Merced County Supervisor District One
Barbara Ratzlaff, Livingston Historical Society
Jesus Torres, Resident
Greg Thompson, Joseph Gallo Farms
Cindy Valencia, Merced County Health Department
Manuel Vieira, A. V. Thompson Produce
Andres Zamora, Livingston Union High School District