Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

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January 3, 2007
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Towns, cities are changed by New Urbanism

What is New Urbanism?

New Urbanism promotes walkable, compact, mixed-use communities assembled in an integrated fashion.

The theme is infusing discussions on housing from Grass Valley to Tahoe, where town leaders are exploring how to mix housing for people of different socio-economic levels, promote pedestrian friendliness, get people out of their cars and foster a greater sense of community.

Developments such as Nevada City CoHousing and four large projects proposed for Grass Valley - Loma Rica Ranch, SouthHill Village, Northstar and Kenny Ranch - all have elements of New Urbanism in their design.

New Urban communities contain housing, work places, shops, entertainment, schools, parks, and civic facilities essential to the daily lives of the residents, all within easy walking distance of each other. The concept in general also promotes increased use of trains and light rail, instead of more highways and roads.

There are currently more than 4,000 New Urbanist projects planned or under construction in the United States. All seek to create diverse, walkable, compact, mixed-use communities that can serve the needs of inhabitants in ways that are sustainable, affordable and economically viable.

Such is the idea behind New Urbanism, a planning concept for clustered, integrated communities in which families can work, shop and play within walking distance of their homes and friends.

Think Nevada City or Truckee of the past, when residents could still buy hardware and produce downtown.

It's a lot to consider, but some regional planners say it's not out of reach for the area.

New Urbanism

isn't so new

"Ironically, this is the historic development pattern of the Sierra Nevada," said Steve Frisch, vice president of programming for the Sierra Business Council. "Because of the constraints on the region, the vast majority of the (original) communities in the Sierra Nevada are New Urban. Think about Sutter Creek and downtown Auburn."

Coming back to a historic building pattern is necessary, Frisch said. It will increase the circulation of local dollars, foster more intimate social connections and support locals at all levels of the economic spectrum, he said.

It was for these reasons and more that Rick Holliday and his development company purchased Truckee's railyard and set forth with a plan to build a multi-use community that extends Commercial Row into a livable locale.

"The downtown tends to cater more to tourism," Holliday said. "The new property should try to connect some new development with the successful historic development and create a broader experience for local people."

Such a place should include a theater, a bookstore, a market and high-density affordable housing, Holliday said, adding, however, that his vision is still not complete.

The Placer County Redevelopment Agency plans to improve life on Lake Tahoe through the $30 million Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project and a 10-year housing plan for the North Shore.

The improvement project, slated for 2008, will improve sidewalks, streets and bicycle lanes, add parking, lighting and landscaping, according to the agency.

The multifaceted housing plan includes housing rehabilitation and mixed-use development that caters to people on fixed, low and moderate incomes.

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The Union Updated Jan 8, 2007 11:40PM Published Jan 3, 2007 03:00AM Copyright 2007 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.