Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some innovative disaster planning initiatives in Tulsa, Santa Fe, San Francisco, and Davenport Iowa

The "Designing for Disaster" exhibit at the National Building Museum isn't particularly big but among the displays four initiatives stuck out as worth looking into more, as examples of the best in planning, when it is proactive.

The minor league baseball stadium in Davenport, Iowa has its own floodwall. (Paul Colletti/The Dispatch/AP.

Davenport, Iowa, like many cities in the midwest that are built on rivers, in this case, the Mississippi River, experiences a great deal of flooding in the spring, as a result of snow melt and the concomitant rise in rivers.  But they have avoided building a flood wall.

Davenport joined with Rock Island, Illinois on the other side of the river, and other cities, to create a common River Vision Plan. As Davenport has been pushing revitalization of their riverfront forward, facilities are built to evade water, deal with water and/or capture and hold it.

From "Davenport Resists Flood Wall as River Swells: Iowa City Leaders Stand By Decision For Levee-Free Town," Wall Street Journal
Davenport's waterfront features a downtown park with a historic bandshell and a minor league ballpark protected by its own floodwall. A new skateboard park is vulnerable to floods but easy to clean up. A large art museum was built in the last few years atop a flood-ready parking garage. 
Under a plan called RiverVision, Davenport and Rock Island, Ill., right across the river, are making other river-friendly changes. Davenport is seeking $10 million in federal funds to develop another stretch of riverfront with special landscaping and materials that will allow the water to come in and make cleanups even easier. The hope is that all the attractive green space will draw residences and more businesses downtown. 
Rock Island, long protected by its 1960s-era flood wall, has lost some of its connection to the river, city officials said. It is building a city park with raised elevations so the river is more visible. A riverboat casino is being moved, to make way for more riverfront access.
San Francisco's wooden buildings are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes.  They have a program for retrofitting these buildings, which they call "soft story buildings," that are multi-story with at least five residential units, constructed on a weak "foundation," usually a garage, which is particularly vulnerable to shaking during an earthquake.

All such buildings in the city are evaluated and must be retrofitted with earthquake protections.   Property owners are eligible for no-interest loans to pay for the improvements.

Los Angeles is now implementing a similar program.

The watershed of Santa Fe's source of drinking water is particularly susceptible to wildfire.  After nearby Los Alamos experienced millions of dollars of wildfire-related damage to their water resources, Santa Fe figured it would make sense for them to be proactive.  They created a watershed fire protection plan and a water fund to pay for various land protection initiatives.  While a water tax for watershed protection measures was proposed in the plan, thus far private and philanthropic donations have negated the need for a tax.

-- Municipal Watershed Management, Santa Fe
-- "Healthy Headwaters Success Stories -- Santa Fe, NM,"  Carpe Diem West

Historically, Tulsa has been prone to bad flooding, resulting in deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage.  While the city had been engaging in floodwater management initiatives since the 1970s, in 1984, after flooding which resulted in 14 deaths, the city created a Department of Stormwater Management and developed a Citywide Flood and Stormwater Management Plan, which provides for specific improvements across the city.

The primary focus of the plan is removing buildings from the flood plain and converting these spaces to greenways and parks as a way to absorb flooding while minimizing damage.  The plan has been frequently updated--another iteration is underway--and since 1990, no structure built before 1987 has been damaged by flooding.

-- From Roof Top to River: Tulsa's Approach to Floodplain and Stormwater Management 

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At 3:45 PM, Blogger CivicHacker said...

Maybe cities like Davenport should keep filled sandbags ready ahead of time?


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