In 2014, several ULI members from the then-Placemaking Initiative Council conducted a year-long research project, called MyPlaceOC.com. (On the ULI OC/IE website, it is under ULI in Action/Reality Check 2.0.) The research was based on an assumption that if Orange County cities started looking at and addressing reasons why the 18-34-year-old demographic has been declining in OC that we could actually stem the tide and keep our children and our grandchildren from moving out.
There were four findings from this project. Provide for the following in Orange County: 1) a multifaceted transit network; 2) housing options; 3) walkable communities; and 4) stimulating urban environments.
Number 3: Walkable Communities
“…[the] demand for walkable neighborhoods is only going to increase, as more and more members of the millennial generation, the largest generation in American history, enter the home-seeking market. Millennials prefer urban amenities more than their predecessors: 50 percent consider it “very important” to be within an easy walk of places “such as shops, cafes and restaurants,” according to the results of a nationwide survey released earlier this year by the National Association of Realtors and Portland State University. Among baby boomers, the portion considering walkability to be very important is 38 percent.” SG Online Blog, November 30, 2015
What I noticed was that in the surveys that were conducted, Orange County residents like walkable communities and they also think they live in a walkable community. I would argue there are very few truly “walkable communities” in Orange County, today. Unless you are talking about driving to a trail to walk or hike or walking your dog in your neighborhood, walking to a coffee shop, then the grocery store, then home, is few and far between in the 34 cities that make up the metropolis, called “The OC.”
Making the transition to walkability is going to take time, and now is the time to start doing something about it. With the new year coming up, what can you do to resolve to help in 2016?
Phyllis A. Tuchmann
Executive Director, ULI Orange County/Inland Empire