Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cool Mainstreets: Pleasanton

I recently got back from visiting family in Nor Cal. On the way we enjoyed a few California mainstreets.

One of the themes for mainstreets is the historic flavor. Mainstreets have been multifunctional for their towns over many generations.

Pleasanton's mainstreet is fairly authentic. There is only a hint that the nature of the space and its use is contrived to a certain feel, as opposed to the aesthetics and function developing totally organically. What is lost in the effort to be authentic is well balanced by geography and key elements of the neighborhood.

You can go a block off the main drag and find cool historic homes. Look close to see the apple pie cooling off on the windowsill.

Lame infrastructure elements are mostly hidden or screened.

 You can go a block off the main drag and there is still cool stuff to discover. There are also nice restaurants on the sidewalk where the foot and car traffic volume is mellow.

There are just a few blocks of storefronts. You can park at one end and comfortably walk the whole stretch even in 30 minutes, even with midday heat. The trees help.

The variation in the store front designs is an asset. American mainstreets that I like reflect the American spirit of can-do entrepuneral spirit and individualism. I've not figured out why a mainstreet group would want to have all their storefronts conform to the same color or canopy designs.

 Storefronts are nice, but the people, the products, and the doings inside should be interesting and unique.

There is a museum at the end of that sidestreet.

Good eats in a local cafe is requisite for mainstreet. Dean's cafe was super friendly and there was a good balance of locals and tourist types, all striking up conversations with the staff about local stuff.

Pedestrian reminder in a crosswalk. People driving in cars and pedestrians cohabit the mainstreet.

Most of the people walking on the mainstreet appear to have driven to the mainstreet as a destination. Pleasanton had stop lights and popouts. 

The cool old gas station is a Pleasanton landmark. Not long ago the City of Encinitas dozed the city's historic gas station and built a parking lot caddy-corner to  Pacific Station. Maybe that was highest and best use of the location. Maybe.

The decision making was not the best. First the council decided if they wanted to spend money on repairing the building. They decided they didn't want to spend money on the building (at the same time there was strong lobbying behind the scenes for more parking spaces in that zone) and the City turned around and  spent money to build a parking lot. It all smelled like it was orchestrated to allow the council to give up on the historic building and give them cover for trading it for a parking lot.

It would have been better if the decision had been made by putting out all the alternatives with their costs/benefits and then selecting the best.

We do need parking because Downtown Mainstreet is a drive-to destination.  What would happen if the city held no-drive saturday(s) and made all parking anywhere near downtown illegal? Bus, bike or walk to downtown ONLY! Now that would put Encinitas on the map. Other events that shut down streets to autos make the walking/biking a recreational element of the event. This could be an event that challenges the "sustainable" movement to consider utility mobility (U-mobile).

I'm an experimentalist and like empirical data.  We should try it out a few times, just for fun.

I think we would find that the merchants like their customers who don't have excess time or physical capacity to walk or ride long distances. So we have to park them.  In Pleasanton they had small, clean, treed lots on the mainstreet AND the merchants provided parking on their properties.


  1. I agree... what a beautiful place... but, you're point? Union Station... The Lofts... the tearing down of my favorite gas Station... the Whole Foods Market our closest food option... So many of us fought so hard... and tried to make Encinitas understand the future value of rehab... not rebuild... This place is now so over regulated it's insane. Yet, on the otherhand... are they regulating the right things? Case in point... At the bottom of Third Street at Cottonwood Creek (where the tennis courts are) well... you could have called it open space... Some good doer volunteer environmentalists got it into their heads to take out the non native species. Tag the native ones, cut back the reeds, make a path more pedestrian friendly... nice all very nice... but, not soon after... the signs went up. No this, No that... in particular... No Dog's off leash. This was our playground. My children made forts in the reeds, caught tadpoles... my labs chased sticks (and got foxtails in their ears) and layed in the creek to cool off. OK... Mainstreet Encinitas... it was an improvement... but, look out Leucadia! I love seeing the old hotel and motor lodges refurbish... but, what's up with the "Deco" gas station that created a huge brick wall against the qauint yellow motel. "Deco"? Pahleese... it's a bright white monstrosity. You need community organizers to fight the gentrification that's coming to town. "Sign Regulation"... I'll bet the first to go will be the wonderful retro 50's Liquour Sign... sure, they need to replace the burnt out bulbs more often... But, I think it's going to take footwork (not everyone reads blogs)... put the flyers in the mailboxes. I'd be curious... how many tourists does Pleasanton have? We have so many to this area now that you can't park in front of your house anymore. I can't leave my house on "Moonlight Concert Sundays" or "Street Fairs"... and just plain sunny days. The Planning Deptartment has to deal with it... will they? No?

  2. Totally agree on all points.

    Never been to Pleasanton but it looks nice.

    I'm still pretty happy with downtown 101, but it could use more of what Pleasanton has and less of the uniform new development.

    & I second everything shelayleemo says

  3. Shelay, Agree with you on some points. But #1, the deco station is stand alone awesome inside and out, handy and a needed amenity. A vast improvement over the rusty shack with year old candy bars. I think it should have faced the other direction, not only for better business visibility, but more openness to the yellow cottage north. And yes I was at the Planning Commission saying so before it was built. #2. ANYTHING would have looked better than that pregnant steel conex box - the hideous old Coast Dispatch building and it's parched plants in front. The Pacific Station looks great. WAY over crammed, but it looks great. The Whole Foods planned to go there should also provide a great service to downtown merchants and residents. Also, PS has provided ample parking in the basement at tremendous expense. We're not getting that with 3 story condo/offices in Leucadia. I would call them "work/live lofts" but as it turns out, everyone who lives there works somewhere else, and everyone who works there lives somewhere else - a failed plan that perhaps had good intentions. The linear two car garages, (designed to inconveniently block the first car in), are not being used for cars, but storage space. Another Planning Commission brainstorm that does not work and robs parking from local residents and businesses, yet we have to live with, forever. Well, it would be nice to live forever anyway.

  4. LOL... I think you guys are in co-hoots with the Architects... Pacific Station... I dunno. I think the work and live concept is a good one... but, the affordability factor has to be considered. If you're purchasing a high-end condo and leasing the space below that takes big bucks and big financial risks, especially if it's entrepreneurial retail vs. services. But, back to architecture... When you look at the artist rendering it shows a courtyard at street level. I don't see that now. I see a wall of glass and stone... with very little set-back. Maybe I’m missing something? I think affordable old-school row houses would have been more suitable... Or just something smaller scale keeping in line with a 1920's design (and more parking). I would think an architect would have had a blast working within those parameters. It's "old town". My reference to Whole Foods is because it didn't get a nic name of "Whole Paychecks" for nothing. We're losing our access to affordable shopping. (I hate crossing the 101 east for anything.) We have the Cardiff Market for our $$$ wholesome gourmet treats and a couple of Mom & Pop markets... the Farmer's Market. Unlike Pleasanton (which I bet doesn't have the tourist draw we do) Enci seems to want to max out the real-estate and (I think) they're losing the culture that drew people here in the first place. (It's obviously, lost its affordability factor). I really believe that people who are economically sound have a different vision than those that aren’t… and it tends to be trendy… whatever that means… at any given time. Leucadia seems to have escaped any trends going back to the 20’s. It’s a real mish-mosh of architecture, some combinations of buildings make you look and go "huh?"... But, that can be appreciated. I don't argue the Coast Dispatch Bldg needed to go... and the gas station in N Leuc needed a tear down... but, it’s so big... so white... kind of blinding... you lose any Art Deco details. I’m not freakin out about it. But, that wall... what can you say? The Gas Station in Enci... I'm not sure it's used for parking. It's chained off... I think it's a car "detail" operation now??? I want my local gas station back (But, he probably wasn't making a profit.) I love old Enci and what they've done except for... I just think more foresight, more design review, more culture vs. tax revenues needs to be considered... and, of course... with that comes more regulation and that's the hitch. I like that Leucadia is holding some ground. I love that the proprietors have fixed up their places. I don't like the round-abouts... I don't like the lane changes proposed... But, I’m one of those people that likes to hold on to the past. It is Historic 101. I worry Leucadia may become unrecognizable... from a home grown surf/art town to a high-end, "planned" community. Of course… with this bad economy… I don’t see any major changes coming… either good or bad. Its "cool" to be "cool"... but, everyone's definition will differ. But, I think its "cool" now... and I support rehab... plant those trees... paint those buildings... and figure out a way to provide tourist parking... get them off my street… but, that's another story. They're not coming... they're already here. Wow… that was long…sorry. Too much time on my hands these days!

  5. thats what happens with retired Fire fighters that freak out on roundabouts. They ramble on forever.

    thank god most people with logic saw the betterment by approving a more livable plan for Hw101. The existing conditions suck. If you love history, return the road to a dirt path which existed for hundreds of years, verses the crappy speedway that exists for only a few decades.

    Thank God we have smart people in Leucadia to offset such BS.


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