Urban Design 101: Walkability

August 25, 2009 12 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Sometimes the smallest design details can add up to make the largest difference when it comes to urban connectivity and enhancing the pedestrian experience.

What is Urban Design?

Urban design makes places more walkable, sustainable and livable. Urban design is the key to making places that are successful socially, economically and environmentally... good to live in and attractive to visit. Urban design is the life between buildings. The art of creating places for people to live, work and play.

Walkability Checklist
With leadership from the Urban Design Studio, in Summer 2007, the Citywide Planning Commission adopted the Walkability Checklist and directed that it be applied to all projects seeking discretionary approval, primarily Site Plan Review and Zone Change cases. Initially advanced by Councilmember Eric Garcetti, making our City more walkable is the natural outgrowth of a good climate, a desire to reduce carbon footprints, and create more opportunities within neighborhood districts for social contact and exchange.
Walkability has a long history in the City, first considered prominently by former Councilmember Michael Woo who introduced the original Pedestrian Bill of Rights.  

The development of the initial Checklist required input by many stakeholders, lead by the City's Pedestrian Advisory Committee and including participation from several departments and agencies as well.

On August 23, 2007, the Citywide Planning Commission approved the Walkability Checklist. The final graphically complete Walkability Checklist was completed in November 2008.

Source: Urban Design Studio, City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning

Imagine if every project applicant requesting permitting in Jacksonville had to make sure their plans incorporated the recommendations in this walkability checklist?  

For sustainable urban design, the devil is in the details. Many of these details are routinely overlooked by those who believe revitalization comes in the form of mega developments and deep pockets. This graphic presentation by the Urban Design Studio within the Los Angeles Department of City Planning shows how creative design can change the look and feel of a sidewalk without major investment from the public or private sector.  

When it comes to connectivity and urban revitalization, maybe it's time for Jacksonville to get the small and affordable things in place before making huge expenditures, such as spending $29 million on an isolated space like Metropolitan Park?

Article by Ennis Davis