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The Public Realm in San Diego: Urban Parks, Plazas, Streets & Open Spaces
What is an urban park, plaza or street? What makes urban public space the lifeblood of a city? How can a vibrant public realm enhance our neighborhoods? The Public Realm, the built environment, nature, and the physical and economic health of our community are all related. This is not a new concept, rather it is a concept that is one of the basic elements of modern city planning.
In 1908 John Nolen wrote in San Diego: A Comprehensive Plan for its Improvement; “A system of parks is unquestionably demanded. Such a system can be secured more easily than in any other city that I know…connect the system of parks to the boulevards and parkways already planned, develop it naturally, simply, harmoniously, and then confidently invite comparisons with it to any park system in the world…it would give to the citizens health, joy, and more abundant life, and to the city, itself, wealth and enduring fame.”
The words of Nolen are as relevant today as they were over 100 years ago, and we have acted on his words. The MSCP and Canyonlands have preserved our natural habitat and our canyons and hillside, and we are working with those as shapers of the built environment. We have built many wonderful neighborhood parks, and the new County Waterfront Park has raised the bar downtown. These are but a few examples. At the same time, San Diego no longer has the vacant lands that Nolen envisioned for Parks. We have not built the Parkways and Boulevards that he proposed and now many of our streets and roadways are a negative public realm.
The region will grow by a million people in the next 30 years. Will our region - already short in public space by current standards - be able meet the needs of this population growth? And do our current standards for park and open space limit the kinds of things we can do to have a diverse and vibrant public realm? Do they create a variety of spaces and places that promote social engagement and urban life? And how will we address “Nature Deficit Disorder”?
Estrada Land Planning
Schmidt Design Group
NewSchool of Architecture & Design
2014 Breakfast Dialogue Sustainability Partner: