Los Altos Forward sponsored a free one-hour talk by the reknown public space designer Fred Kent. It was held Thursday evening at the bike shop at 359 State Street. The event drew a crowd of about 80 including former and current council members, like Ron Packard, Jarrett Fishpaw, Jane Reed, Penny Lave and Roy Lave as well as current and former planning commission members, like Jeannie Bruins and Mike Abrams.
Kent’s Key Points – the rule of 10’s for placemaking
Fred Kent’s message is to take an area and identify 10 destinations in it, and make sure each has 10 activities. He said parking should be around the periphery of an area. People would learn to change their visiting habits if parking became a little less convenient. Instead of driving in to do a single errand, people would and string together several destinations and walk through the entire area.
Most outdoor public space changes can be done ” simpler, faster, cheaper.”
Kent’s Advice for Los Altos – banks are boring
Some of his remarks applied directly to the situation in Los Altos. He praised the downtown wooden benches. He thought the Packard – Fishpaw idea of booting the banks off Main Street would be helpful (Fred used to be a banker!). He thought Pasarelle Realty’s idea to put a green space behind Petes and the bike shop would be wonderful. As for the civic center, he though only 1% of its potential for human enjoyment was being utilized, but that the existing intersection there was not helping to connect it to downtown. He suggested a roundabout!
Kent’s Worldwide Work – Times Square transformation
Fred Kent lives in NYC but his firm of 600 people consults worldwide. He was in town primarily to consult for the Stanford Medical Center. Perhaps you have heard about the transformation of Times Square. Today there are tables and chairs and people lounging in them. He took credit for the change, but said that the crucial step was to orchestrate the ejection of NYC’s transportation director. Hard Ball!
Kent’s talk was full of good ideas applicable to Los Altos. Of course, they all require changing bits of zoning. They would have high hurdles at the Planning Commission, unless the Council more clearly articulates that downtown public spaces is a policy goal. The Los Altos Forward organization hopes to continue to educate the public and also City of Los Altos officials and staff about how to increase vitality in the downtown. Besides education, the organization organizes “First Friday” events, where stores stay open late, musicians roam the streets, and activities for children are provided. The last one was for Valentines. The next one is May 8 with a Mother’s Day theme.
Behind Petes downtown, the City should not pay for the conversion from asphalt to green, Pasarelle should.
We hope Pasarelle will get the permits to go ahead with its little green space behind Petes and the bike shop. Decades ago the property owners downtown gave their individual parking lots to the city to be used in a shared manner. So the City owns the asphalt behind Petes. Nonetheless, we think that the City should not pay for the conversion from asphalt to green, Pasarelle should. Their tenants will be the primary beneficiaries through increased business revenue.