The regenerative potential of North Avenue
The North Avenue corridor sits adjacent to the City of Ventura, California – comprising of a 1,013-acre site. Both ecological and human constraints make this land-use plan particularly challenging. An abandoned oil refinery sits to the west and is listed as a superfund site (needing an extensive cleanup as recommended by the EPA). Light industrial blends with residential neighborhoods as the site moves up valley towards the Matilija dam. The area is a prime location for an ecologically fueled redesign that includes alternative transportation, greenways, mixed-use development and a more cohesive land use plan that connect downtown Ventura to the South and Ojai to the East. The successful implemented of this plan will provide hundreds of additional housing units to an area prime for those commuting North to Santa Barbara and South into the Los Angeles basin.
Framing the problem
How might we infuse a regenerative land use plan that connects ecological and human experiences, respects existing environmental conditions, and builds a sacredness of place?
Preparing for democratized land use design
- Mind the growing environmental challenges
- Consider residents and business owners as co-designers
- Keep the longview in focus as a frame for the future
Form-based Zoning: The “New” Ventura
The proposed land use plan calls for a range of mixed-use development, creating a more walkable, livable, and connected form of social engagement, all while reducing the overall impact on the natural environment. Greenways connect the corridor to the North and South, making alternative transportation methods such as cycling or walking readily attainable and intentionally made more accessible. As a whole, the Master Plan includes an urban core with a range of uses, including a civic and open spaces to further encourage social engagement and economic vitality. The zoning standards leveraged form-based as a way to infuse a mix of uses.
The resulting study culminated in a comprehensive land use and environmental Master Plan. The City of Ventura excepted the draft in the Fall of 2010 as a guiding document to be referenced as an annexed recommendation for future development.
Point + Periphery
Point and Periphery is a systems-based modeling methodology that leverages a Both/And approach to design. It asks to bare in the mind the multi-directional flow of information that is occurring at any one time. It mimics the circular process in nature – and seeks to continually observe a focal point while maintaining a widened lens for less obvious leveraging points at the edge of the system.
The visualization bellow suggests the continuous nature of information as the design team learns. The point (focus of the project) is continually becoming more clear as we source insights from the periphery, (building on the collective research that continuously fuels the design process forward).
Learning from local residents
To democratize the design process, our early project objective was to garner a wide-range of perspectives from local residents and business owners. The team ran a design charrette to capture a divergent ideation and exploration of land uses to better determine the implications on existing development. A key aspect of this phase was to learn about the existing habits and behaviors of the varying groups in the community to more accurately tease out who, what, when, where, why, and how they were spending their time. Below is the output of an early discovery session with members in the community.
North Ave design charrette | Community-based land use ideation session
Drawing connections from varying perspectives
Providing a comprehensive analysis of the area meant establishing a thorough understanding of the existing conditions of the North Avenue Corridor. This took the form of a detailed background report of the area. We found this particular phase incredibly rewarding as it required a boots on the ground approach to better understanding the uses and the connections/disconnects between them. It quickly became evident, both through conversations with community members, business owners, and personal site visits that the connection to the Ventura river that bisects the site would be a major connection point to people and the natural place.
From the environment to the use of space
Land use planning is often met with a contrasting approach. This project required us to push forward into the best aspects of how people will utilize a space, both now and into the future, while also adhering to current standards and the persistently present formulation of existing conventions. With the information available after spending 6 months capturing and distilling primary research, we began to consider the top concerns and forward-looking approaches to take into concept + zone mapping.
- 1). The community is reliant on automobiles for short + long distance transport.
- 2). North Avenue residents sense an overall lack of community within the direct 1/2 » 3 mile radius.
- 3). Local residents travel to neighboring cities for recreational activities, including organized sports.
- 1). Incentivize alternative transport via greenways along the Ventura River Corridor.
- 2). Design a mixed-use hub to draw pedestrian movement and attract social engagement in outdoor spaces.
- 3). Include parks and open space within the North Avenue corridor and allow for connection without the need for an auto transport.
Getting specific about the design
The Master plan development included a comprehensive look at the 1,013 acre site. A strong focus included the existing environmental conditions of the abandoned oil refinery and light commercial buildings to the south of the site. With this in mind, the team included a specific plan to serve as the city center for commercial, (restaurants and offices) and residential housing. It also includes civic uses in the form of parks to incentivize outdoor use and pathways to afford walkability throughout the greater area.
Specific Plan Concept for Refinery Village
Specific Plan Concept for Central Park Village
Making the proposal to the City of Ventura
The final proposal for the North Avenue Plan includes both background research, Form-based Code zoning specifications, A Master Plan/specific plan, including a detailed 3D model. The plan was excepted into motion by the City of Ventura Planning Department and serves as a guiding document for the City. As of 2020, the City of Ventura has North Avenue as the number the next plan to be annexed into the City urban reserve line, which would elicit a fast-tracking for development.