Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ventura embraces "New Weather Urbanism"

Today, the Ventura city council officially announced a novel program to
embrace “New Weather Urbanism” as a model for Ventura. “For too long, we’ve
allowed uncontrolled sprawling -casual- weather to dictate how we live. No
more. From now on, we will be actively encouraging a more compact range of
temperatures for our city – ideally between 65 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit,”
he said. “And the morning overcast? We’re definitely going to reign that
in.”

Ventura’s current weather pattern of overcast, onshore flows, and
inconvenient rainy seasons was described as “car-centric," automobile inducing and
“anti-pedestrian”. “Our current weather has made the car’s combination of
air conditioning, roof, and wipers far too compelling. It’s time to stop
adapting to the weather, and make the weather adapt to what we want,”
said the mayor, touting Ventura's unique approach of taking weathermen to
task rather than developers. And that something is a bold as it is pervasive.

“Have you ever tried to walk a half-mile in a business suit to a light rail
station when it’s 82 degrees and 60% humidity? You’d stay drier riding one
of those water rides at Magic Mountain,” said one local commuter,
who believes the new approach to weather should substantially improve
walkability and street life in local neighborhoods.

One reason given for the program was a perceived need for more open space.
As people run from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to
air-conditioned office building, the feeling of constant enclosure is
pervasive. “The Ventura region actually has plenty of open space, but now
we’ll get to actually experinece it year-round,” said the mayor.

Heat-induced sweating was also identified as a major problem for the
temporary tattoos of the hipster “creative class” that cities like Ventura
so desperately wish to attract and retain. “It’s, like, totally uncool
dude,” said twenty-something Dirk Duany as he wiped the sweat from his brow
once again while baking in the heat of a quaint sidewalk café ( Ventura has
tried to achieve the same ambience with “tunnel cafés” in the downtown high
rise building sector, but they’ve never had quite the same panache as a
Paris street café.)

In general, the new program is looking to increase the overall density ratio of
good weather days vs. bad weather days. In establishing the new guidelines
New York’s “bitter cold” urbanism
was compared to Portland’s “constant drizzle” model and San Diego’s “always
perfect” approach. After much heated debate, San Diego’s “always perfect”
approach won out. The new weather will definitely take some getting used to.
“Venturans have a very ingrained habit of keeping an eye on weather reports
before committing to a pedestrian urban mode. San Diego’s unconcerned blasé
attitude will take some time to develop,” said Deputy Mayor Carl E.
Morehouse.

Ventura is the largest city in America trying to eliminate zoning, and they
don’t plan to use traditional zoning in this program either. Instead, “form-based weather design
guidelines” will be set, allowing for some flexibility. “Sunny, partly
cloudy, overcast, even a gentle rain shower from time to time – all will be
acceptable within the city limits – but extremes of heat, cold, and rain
will not be tolerated,” said Anne Diagle, Mayor Brian Brennan's special
assistant for urban design.

Oxnard, Camarillo, Moorpark, and Thousand Oaks are all watching the
innovative program very closely, hoping to adapt it to their cities if it
succeeds in Ventura although Oxnard staffers off the record expressed concern that their city might become a "dumping ground" for substandard meterological events. "It raises the question of ethnic preference when suddenly one city like ours is expected to handle an increase in weather." This raises the spectre of a renewal of the Mall Wars of the 1990s when ech community tried to capture the best of a retail explosion while pawning off the traffic on the other.

"I don't know why they didn't do this earlier. It seems so obvious in
retrospect," said one citizen at the event, "You always hear people complain
about the weather, but someone is finally actually doing something about
it..."