Innovation that Infiltrates: 21st Street Recognized for Pioneering Sustainability

It isn't always easy to be at the leading edge, but when you succeed, the rewards erase the challenges encountered while pushing the envelope. For the central California city of Paso Robles, successfully positioning themselves at the leading edge means recognition by  the Central Coast Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGB-C4) with the 2014 Green Innovation Award for their pioneering low impact design (LID) demonstration project:  21st Street.

The groundbreaking nature of this project began at its inception. After fines were levied against the City for illicit discharges into the Salinas River, the City, led by Wastewater Resource Manager Matt Thompson, negotiated with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to apply the fine money to a novel use that would benefit water quality within the region. The Water Board agreed and worked with the City to reallocate fine money and develop a work plan. The outcome was a partnership between the City, the Central Coast’s Low Impact Development Initiative and our office to develop guidance for the design of green/complete streets in the Central Coast region as well as a specific concept plan for 21st Street in Paso Robles, the runoff of which directly discharges to the Salinas River.

SvR was honored to be a part of the design team for the project, which was heralded as the first Green and Complete Street on the Central Coast. Informed by context-sensitive design strategies, the corridor helped the city create a more livable, walkable public realm while embedding sustainability strategies within the right of way, including:

  • 26,000 square foot reduction of impervious pavement,
  • locally-informed public art pieces,
  • dedicated infrastructure for cyclists,
  • wider sidewalks for pedestrians,
  • infiltrating bioretention areas that incorporate native plantings, and
  • a stream-bed channel that transforms a perceived liability—the high-volume, high velocity storm flows coming from the the Mountain Springs Creek watershed—and celebrates and reveals the creek while allowing for increased groundwater recharge.

Our involvement began when we were invited to help get the City "over the hump" to imagine a street unlike any they had done before. Working with the community, we established the schematic design bones that would inform the final design, tailoring our design solutions to fit within the existing fabric of the neighborhood, whether the adjacent land uses were residential or commercial.

After establishing the foundational concept  for the project, a team of local consultants, lead by the team at Cannon, moved the  project from concept to reality. Cannon estimates that, with recent local rains, "approximately 250,000 gallons of water have recharged into the groundwater basin, equal to a family of four using potable water for an entire year."

The 21st Street Green, Complete Street Project was made possible in part by an Urban Greening Grant from the California Strategic Growth Council. Thank you to Cannon for many of the images above.

Brice Maryman wins Denny Award!


There’s something really gratifying about building a bridge, opening a new road or cutting the ribbon on a new neighborhood park. The community can rally around it. It might be iconic piece that informs the identity of the neighborhood or city. Children will play on it and their smiling faces are a testament to its success. Capital projects are often physical examples of a problem solved or a community improved. Take that improvement to a smaller scale and it’s not quite so glamorous. All year round, City of Seattle Parks staff clean, trim, repair, weed, scrub, replace and tend parks and open spaces and there’s no ribbon cutting for a repaired bench. Yet it is these small, daily investments that sustain place over the long-haul, a universally acknowledged truth that isn’t often reflected during budget season.  On the contrary, securing stable funding for regular maintenance and long-term care of existing park assets is a challenge.

Cities around the nation have tried all manner of methods to keep up their park and open space assets, including installing pay-to-play lights at basketball courts for evening games! Seattle takes great pride in its parks and open spaces and this year voters passed the Proposition 1 establishing the Seattle Parks District to provide long-term funding and management of Seattle’s beautiful and health-giving legacy.  The passage of the Parks District has already sent a message to cities all over the country and they are asking Seattleites how they did it.

So, let’s rewind a bit and see how we got to ballot in the first place. To chart the best course forward for Parks, the City of Seattle convened a Parks Legacy Plan Citizens’ Advisory Committee. As a Seattle Parks Commissioner, the co-founder of the Open Space 2100 effort and an active member of the community in support of Parks, Brice was asked to serve on this committee. For approximately one year, the volunteer committee met to evaluate the needs of the current park system, make recommendations for an appropriate level of funding and determine the ideal funding mechanism (i.e. levy or metropolitan parks district). The quality work they did and the personal investment of each participant paid off at the ballot box. And though winning the Parks District measure was probably enough reward for the committee, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation recognized each member on Tuesday at their annual Denny Awards event. Congratulations to Brice and the rest of the committee, particularly the co-chairs Charlie Zargoza and Barbara Wright, for this recognition of their smart, hard work and for his lasting contribution to the Seattle Parks’ Legacy. That’s powerful stuff. It’s time to cut a ribbon on repairs!

More information on the Denny Awards
Seattle Parks District FAQ

The 3rd Annual PE/LA Holiday Gift Guide

Wondering what to get your loved one who works in the built environment for the holidays this year? Or perplexed about what budding engineers and landscape architects might want for the holidays? Well, wonder no more. It is our pleasure to present the 3rd Annual Holiday Gift Guide for professional engineers and landscape architects.

Gimme the Loop! Gimme the Loop!

Sustainable, local Loop soil amendments are produced by King County and will give spring plants a boost as they begin their growing season. Loop "replenishes the earth and closes the nutrient loop that begins when harvested plants remove nutrients from the soil."

Maps....They Don't Love You Like I Love You

Strut your urbanist stuff with these Urban Gridded Dogtags from Aminimal Studio, which use GPS data from Open Street Map to create each city's signature footprint.

A Get Together Just To Tear It Apart

Our friends over at Manzanita Kids have been making classic, wood children's toys for years. Now they have the perfect gift for the precocious preschool planner with their modular building sets.

We Built This City!

What do you get when the immensely talented Sean Kenney brings his Lego-building talents to the metropolis? Cool City, of course: a collection of urban vignettes sure to delight the creative kid in all of us.

Get Up, Stand Up

More data emerges each day about the links between our personal health and the built environment. Well, that goes for offices too! In Scared Sitless, Seattle author Larry Swanson offers "an antidote to the sitting disease" to help you get more active at work.

Can I Get A Cold Beverage?

How cool is this?  Repurposed bike chains become handles for mason jar glasses. The result: instant hipster cred.

On the New York Transit Line

Never be at a loss again with these transit map bracelets from Designhype, which are available in a number of different cities from London to Chicago, Paris to DC.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

Ever wanted to ride your bicycle across the country? Well, its never too late as Bruce Weber proves in his narrative of his second cross-continent trip that he undertook as a slightly creakier 57 year old.

Now You're In New York

Ever loved a place so much you wished you could take it with you wherever you went? Well, now you can with these customizable, open source skirts from Monochome. That's right, you can wear your 'hood.

And we'll just note some things that are coming in the new year: our own Susie Philipsen's album will drop in January, Janette Sadik-Kahn will tell the tale of her NYC Streetfight and UW's Thaisa Way will release her new monograph on Seattle's own Richard Haag. Those items and more may be on next year's list.

A special thanks to all of the members of SvR's staff for contributing ideas for this post including: Amalia, Brice, Jess, Justin, Lauren and Kathy. Think you can match the gift to the person who recommended it?