Every so often, I will lay out some simple ideas that could make the city of Stockton more pleasant. Today’s simple fix? Make neighborhood streets smaller.
Real estate research shows that home buyers value neighborhoods with low traffic volume, slow street speeds, and minimal noise. But for some reason, development in Stockton has offered the opposite: wide streets that promote speeding and discourage walking. Anyone who has walked through neighborhoods in North Stockton can see that the streets are designed for cars, not for people. For example, take a look at this street in a North Stockton development…
Here is a street that was clearly built with cars in mind, not pedestrians. This excessively large lane in a residential neighborhood is about 30 feet across, a small river of asphalt (16 to 18 feet is considered optimal). Even with cars parked on both sides, a street like this invites motorists to pass through at high speeds. Additionally, newer developments tend to have more curved streets and turns, making it easy for drivers to speed onto a new street without seeing what is ahead. This creates an unpleasant, if not hazardous, environment for pedestrians. Sadly, this is the kind of street people see throughout newer developments in Stockton. So, then, what should a healthy neighborhood street look like? See below
As you can see, this street is narrow, which naturally makes cars go slower, meaning drivers are more attentive to pedestrians. Additionally, you can see from the sign on the right, parking is only permitted on one side. Coupled with the planting strips (the trees lining the road), keeping cars off of one side of the road keeps this street pleasant and inviting for pedestrians. These features help keep property values high as home buyers enjoy this type of environment. Furthermore, making narrow neighborhood streets gives developers more room for houses. It’s a win-win. So where is this model street? In Stockton, right near UOP’s campus. Older neighborhoods in the city are much more conducive to walking and are generally more pleasant.
How can the city promote this type of street design? It can mandate it by changing the city’s development codes. The city of Portland, Oregon has limits on street width and restricts many new residential streets to one-side-only parking. The benefits are obvious: nice streets, higher property values, slower cars and happier pedestrians. But the best benefit of creating streets the naturally promote slower cars? Never having to deal with speeding motorists like this again: