I just came back from the mailbox, which contained one article only- this month's Riverside Outlook (PDF), the City's newsletter of fun and interesting things happening around Riverside. It's mainly a forum for the Parks and Rec department to get people out to their events, and for local politicians to crow about their accomplishments. The latter is what I want to talk about here.
Downtown Riverside has been the recipient of substantial investment over the last few years, and deservingly so. While I can disagree with where the money has gone (the Fox Theatre, new parking meters, tearing up and re-building the pedestrian mall), I do like that City leaders see Downtown as a key part of their future economic growth strategy. Some days I get close to thinking that many of our local politicians "get it" when it comes to urbanism and smart growth.
And then I see this month's Outlook, and I realize they've missed the point entirely.
On the front page this month is an article about the Fox Entertainment Plaza, a new development coming to Downtown next to the Fox Theatre. The newsletter lauds this new "mixed-use" project, intended to bring visitors and jobs to Downtown Riverside. Mixed-use development? Bringing people into dense, walkable places? Providing jobs for citizens in a depressed economy? What's not to like, right? Until you read what the City's definition of "mixed-use" is: a 400-space parking garage, a theatre, museum space and two restaurants.
City leaders- this is not mixed-use, and it is certainly not smart growth. The entire point of mixed-use development is to utilize a space at all hours of the day, and it usually means getting people LIVING on a plot, along with jobs and entertainment. There are admirable examples of mixed-use development right here in Riverside- Sterling University Palms and the University Village are both projects that combine student apartments with retail, and in the case of the UV, office space and a police station as well. Putting a restaurant and a theatre on the same property doesn't qualify- and then adding a parking garage to downtown? Ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong- I like the idea of having more museum and theatre space in Riverside. But to call this project "mixed-use" is cynical greenwashing.
But wait! It gets worse! On the inside pages of the Outlook is an article entitled, I kid you not, "Convenient parking available in downtown!". The article takes up nearly half a page in the newsletter, describing all of the "FREE" parking available Downtown- proceeding to break it up by type of parking! (Surface lot, garage, and on-street) Of course, nowhere in the entire newsletter does the City mention the plentiful transit service available to Downtown from literally anywhere in Riverside or the surrounding areas.
One of the things I try to do on this blog is to show the world the kind of potential Riverside has as a real urban city. Then the City government does something stupid like this, and my only recourse is to introduce my skull to a wall repeatedly.