I was all set to write a long treatise on how unimaginative a lot of planning for “open space” is, but then Frank goes and beats me to it. I endorse everything in his post.
That said, you don’t have to go to Boston to find an example of sterile green space. The I-90 lid is a poorly utilized stretch of green in the heart of our city, and we’re set to create a smaller version of the same thing in the Montlake neighborhood (see picture above).
Green space is very important if you’re asking people to forgo their own yards and live densely. But that tradeoff requires ubiquitous but small parks with simple amenities like playgrounds, not a few linear mega-parks. Really large public spaces are useful as a regional meeting place, but you only really need a couple of those per region, and we already have more than a couple.
In the cases of the waterfront and the SR520 lids, at the very least I’d like to see something besides grass and trees to attract people and make them vibrant urban spaces: P-patches and playgrounds. Better yet, selling the land off to developers (with conditions) can place people close to jobs and transit hubs, solve some affordable housing problems, and as a bonus generate some revenue (in the sales price, future property taxes, and foregone park maintenance costs) for the government*.
More after the jump.
* I stole that idea from all-star Slog commenter Fnarf, who said about the waterfront [puritan censoring is all mine]:
Oh, Jesus, not this boulevard-beach-trees s*** again. Is there no one involved in the process who has laid eyes on a city before? This is hippie bulls***.
My recommendation, if they do have to tear the f***ing thing down, is a rabbit’s warren of three or four-story buildings as close together as the fire code will allow, preferably as wide as a current alley. With a dozen T or Y intersections. Include the blank blocks and parking garages for more room. Make it interesting and cool, not vapid and blank. Otherwise that lovely boulevard (i.e., surface highway) is going to be a killer.
And for chrissake, any plan that comes with vivid green artwork like that should be dismissed out of hand. Force everyone to show it in February.
Hold a competition.
Convincing to me!