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.

Street of the Week No. 8: Copenhagen's Potato Rows

Streets for people is the name of the game in Copenhagen's "potato rows" (Kartoffelrækkerne in Danish). The streets here are narrow, and place the focus on people and community as much as cars, using such features as plantings, raised and varied paving surfaces, and tables and chairs. The middle of most blocks features an area that serves as an outdoor living room and gathering space for neighbors.

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21st Street in Paso Robles, CA Recommended for $1M Grant

California's Strategic Growth Council has recommended that 21st Street in Paso Robles, CA receive nearly $1 million in funds to retrofit the streetscape so that it becomes a model of sustainable infrastructure.

21st  Street is one of the four railroad crossings in Paso Robles, and is a major pedestrian connection between the residential neighborhood, schools and the parks. The critical design informant for our work on this street has been the presence of Mountain Springs Creek that currently runs below the street in a pipe. During heavy storms, creek boulders literally burst out of the pipes and into the street, requiring significant clean up.

Working with E2 Inc., our proposed design daylights a portion of the stream, by creating a robust, vegetated channel that can accommodate 150 CFS of flow. Careful not to damage the creek with oil and heavy metals, we've proposed three different street cross-sections along the corridor so that we keep stream and stormwater flows separated. Since we are using native plants, over time a restored ecological program will take root, and this streetscape that will improve mobility, increase social capital and amplifye ecosystem services for the residents of the city.

The Strategic Growth Council will make the final decision on December 3. Good luck Paso Robles!