Liveblog from the MICD Santa Rosa Technical Assistance Team Session

Jess Zimbabwe's picture

In early 2008, the Mayors' Institute on City Design received a generous gift from the Edward W. Rose III Family Fund, directed through the National Endowment for the Arts, to support technical assistance teams going into the communities of alumni mayors who have already attended one of our traditional Mayors' Institute sessions. The four cities that we selected for the pilot phase of this work were Santa Rosa, CA, Lincoln, NE, Cincinnati, OH, and Tulsa, OK.

I am writing from the front of the City Council Chambers in Santa Rosa, where our team is presently presenting its recommendations to city officials and other stakeholders. Santa Rosa was selected as our first pilot phase city based on the enthusiastic participation of Mayor Bob Blanchard (MICD 39, 2007), who recently passed away. It's an honor for us to be here continuing the vision of such a great leader.

The meeting is also being broadcast live on local cable television, if you happen to be in the area.

These are the recommendations of the MICD Resource Team:

  1. Focus on the downtown core and concentrate investments there (the blocks immediately around Courthouse Square)
  2. Extend the connectivity of 4th street's pedestrian character through the Santa Rosa Plaza mall
  3. Increase walkability through street trees, curbside parking, and retail that animates dead edges
  4. Use the arts, nature, fountains, and other activity to make downtown into the city's living room
  5. Celebrate nature by increasing the richness of the Prince Greenway by adding cafes, activity, and access points to the river walk
  6. Embrace the arts as a catalyst for downtown development
  7. Create a world-class planning cultutre and capacity with public sector leadership

And here are some recommended strategies for implementation:

  1. Increase the hotel bed tax and use the increment to enhance downtown
  2. Create a restaurant tax
  3. Fight for Tax Increment Financing enabling legislation at the state level
  4. Dispel the notion that parking should be free (or even cheap); downtown parking should generate income for downtown
  5. Tax motor vehicles
  6. Build increased trust among stakeholders
  7. Integrate the various diverse visions for downtown
  8. Invite (or compel!) absentee landlords to come to the table
  9. Stop the buck somewhere; empower your leadership

Many thanks to the following folks:

Your thoughts or questions would be valued, as this dimension of our program is very much still in its infancy.


MICD team presenting in Santa Rosa


Here are my photographs of this event.

And here's a tribute to Mayor Blanchard.

Update (7/20): The Santa Rosa Press Democrat covered the event today.

Jess Zimbabwe is the Director of Urban Development and Founding Executive Director of the Rose Center for Public Leadership in


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