By: Daniel Herman, Student Representative for the Public Realm Initiative Council
This quarter’s meeting of the Public Realm Initiative Council focused on two topics: first, Jason Ficht, former Vice Chair of the council, spoke about his experience in Houston during and after Hurricane Harvey; second, the opportunities group presented potential projects the Initiative Council can work on. The second presentation followed with a discussion on the scope of the Public Realm Initiative Council’s work. The meeting concluded with the decision to distribute a survey among members to determine project priorities.
To start, Jason Ficht, who recently moved to the Houston region, shared his thoughts on how public space is vitally important during times of disaster. Hurricane Harvey had such a dramatic impact, in part, because of the lack of zoning. Texan prairie-land grasses usually can soak up tremendous amounts of excess water. But, the land lost its permeability due to sprawl; rapid development paved over the land, which profited the private sector but failed to make land use safe for the public, who will pay for the long-term costs of cleanup.
So, what lessons can be learned from Houston? Ficht wanted the members of the Public Realm Initiative Council to consider how the Orange County/Inland Empire was preparing itself for a natural disaster. Are we doing enough in our land use patterns to mitigate for disasters in our region, such as earthquakes, fires, and floods? At the very least, we can start to think about how communities need local, designated spaces for emergencies. Everyone should know where they can go for help before a disaster strikes.
Next, the opportunities group presented a list of projects for the Public Realm Initiative Council to consider. For each project, the group explained its “four p’s”: problem (goal), project (outcome definition), politics (challenges), and priority (project leads).
Below is the list of potential projects:
- Dog Parks
- Street-car Plazas (Santa Ana)
- Willowwick Golf Course/ Santa Ana River [102 acres]
- Fairview Development Center [114 acres]
- Platinum Triangle [820 acres]
- Irvine Business Complex [2800 acres]
- Costa Mesa Community Center + Lions Park [13 acres]
- OC Fairgrounds [150 acres]
- Irvine Cultural Retrace [260 acres]
- Tustin Legacy [1600 acres]
These projects varied greatly in scale, but they all will shape, and potentially improve, public spaces.
After the presentation of these potential projects, members of the initiative council discussed what the focus of their work should be. Three routes emerged (perhaps to choose one, two, or all three):
- Publication: share best practices, like a dog park implementation guide
- Mapping: research and collect all potential sites and share them online
- Direct engagement/advocacy: choose a specific project and work with the people involved, give recommendations, attend city council meetings
In the end, members decided it was best if a survey was sent out to determine what the council wants to accomplish.
Finally, the Public Realm Initiative Council meeting concluded with a tour of the Great Park.
(Photo Credit: https://www.greatparkneighborhoods.com/oc-great-park)