Diana DeRubertis's blog

Beyond the Trail

A recent Planetizen interview on the relationship between park space and active living got me thinking about what spaces inspire physical activity and what spaces discourage it.

In my old apartment complex, the indoor fitness centers were jammed while the nearby riverside walking trails were desolate, despite nearly perfect year-round weather.  Why? The trails were perceived as unsafe because they were completely isolated from view.

Walkable Los Angeles


Walkable Los Angeles. Casual visitors may be surprised to learn that this is not an oxymoron.

Why not rail?


When faced with the costs and logistics of rail, planners and city officials increasingly seem to favor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a trend likely to continue through the current recession.  But even with the many persuasive arguments for BRT, the nagging question remains:  why not rail?

Somewhere Between Blight and Gentrification...

Is there a happy medium between the run-down liquor store and the gourmet shop? 

What is the best form of Main Street retail, as people move back to the city and re-emergent neighborhoods acquire shops and services that were once lacking?

Residential Infill, 70's-Style


In 1979, the City of San Diego launched a plan to steer new development into the craftsman-lined neighborhoods close to downtown.   The idea was sound:  scatter higher density housing throughout existing smart growth communities. 

Shopping: An ‘Obnoxious Industrial Activity’?


As James Howard Kunstler points out in Home From Nowhere, one of the tragedies of single-use zoning is that it branded shopping as an “obnoxious industrial activity that must be kept separate from houses”.  Ironically, the places where most Americans shop today come pretty close to “obnoxious” and “industrial”. 

California Eliminates Transit, Expands Freeways

Here in San Diego, public transportation is on life support.  Despite record ridership, trolley and bus service has been reduced, with some bus routes cancelled altogether.  Fares are up across the board.  The monthly light rail pass will be $72; three years ago it was $60.

Sweet Spot Density for Livable Neighborhoods

Single-family detached homes typically epitomize sprawl, while 4 or 5 story apartment buildings now seem to be the utopian ideal for livable neighborhoods. But some of the most livable and walkable neighborhoods I know are largely comprised of single family homes.

Walkable Neighborhood Grocers


Costco may be coming to Manhattan, bringing 2300 parking spaces with it.

Is 'Walking Distance' Overrated?

The common wisdom about walkable neighborhoods holds that density – proximity to destinations – determines the number of walking trips. An ideal walking distance of a quarter mile is usually prescribed between residences and the nearest transit stop or retail center.

I don’t dispute that walking distance is important, especially when I’m lugging an armload of groceries. However, some trendy high-density development favors compactness at the expense of comfort and safety.