Wilton Manors Passes The Spaghetti Sauce Test

I have a test I apply to a neighborhood.

If you can’t prepare dinner without getting into your car, then it fails the test of livability.

Broadly stated, it’s the idea that you should be able to get the minimum services in where you live within a mile of the house.  If you take the “I’ll Walk A Mile” as being the limit that you’d want to walk in order to make dinner, then Wilton Manors almost completely meets that test.

There are some small areas in the West End of town that you would have to go further than a mile to obtain groceries, and there may be other pockets here and there, but easily it is more than 80 or 90 percent of the city that is within that mile limit.

What brought this to mind is that I watched Kevin make Spaghetti Sauce this weekend.  When we make it, it’s from scratch.  You need two kinds of tomatoes, oregano, basil, spices and a lot of time.  May as well make up a lot of the stuff since the recipe is excellent, so we can the resulting sauce.

All of the ingredients are within a walkable 1/2 mile from my house.  There is no reason to get in the car for that sort of thing other than the occasional weather front or laziness.  Since the crime rate here is Roughly Average for cities in the United States, I don’t have to worry about having tomatoes stolen by some rogue tomato thief.

The worst thing I have to worry about is traffic.  Walking along Wilton Drive is bad enough, it is currently a raceway and there’s a big discussion as to whether to narrow the Drive.  The vast number of residents are in favor of it, the businesses on Wilton Drive are largely in favor of it, and the benefits are fairly obvious.  Increased parking will pay for itself within about 2 years as well as lowered speeds on Wilton Drive mean that it’s a greatly more liveable city.  The hope is that it will happen soon and that the sidewalks that are there will be widened since it can be a minefield to walk around the outdoor cafe’s that are crammed in between palm trees and light poles.

What brought this to mind is that I am lucky to live in an exception in the Sunbelt.  Most areas are largely sprawl.  Unmanageable by foot since there are rarely enough sidewalks and the distances are too great to get what you need even if you have a personal shopping cart to wheel your purchases home.

When I chose to live in an area, this sort of urban or newurbanist lifestyle was one of the first things I looked for.  There are always some drawbacks, but living near shops have always given me a huge benefit as a result. 

After all these years of living like this, being able to simply walk out of the door and off to the shops when we forgot the basil or need dessert is something I don’t want to lose.

I am not alone in appreciating this sort of New Urbanist lifestyle.  The property values here last year appreciated where most of the county were either “flat” or declined in a down market.  The inventory of homes for sale in Wilton Manors is so tight that prices are starting to sound more “normal” after years of major losses.

Of course each little area has its own character, this one is one I fell into.  There are other areas that have the same amenities in them, and each of those areas are more popular than those that are lacking them.

I guess that is really what they mean by the old Real Estate Maxim of “Location, Location, Location”.  Luckily, we have our Location in the sun.

Same Old or Subtle New Wilton Manors

This Morning an article popped up on the BBC news site talking about how the world is covered by acres of dark grey asphalt and that it doesn’t have to be that way.   We all like having our cars to get somewhere, but it is too much of a good thing.

Shopping centers and malls have to pave a parking area large enough to allow everyone who wants a space to find a spot on the busiest day of the year.  I can remember driving in large and long search patterns in my car at the King of Prussia plaza looking for a place to park before someone else grabs it and wasting a lot of gas in the process.  Imagine this parking lot on Black Friday in November…

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=King+Of+Prussia+Plaza,+King+of+Prussia,+PA&aq=2&oq=king+of+prussia+p&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=36.452734,57.919922&t=h&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=King+of+Prussia+Plaza,+King+of+Prussia,+Montgomery,+Pennsylvania+19406&z=14&ll=40.089257,-75.392536&output=embed” width=”425″>
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I’ve also driven past many a shopping center and decided not to bother because it was too full.  We’re having that problem here on any given Thursday night.

Wilton Manors seems to be addressing that particular wrinkle in stages.   It really is a small city, and you simply can’t expect things to happen overnight.  Some decisions are still in play, and that is the time to effect change.  Incremental change is the best way to do things when there are many people involved, you simply can’t demolish an entire business district and start with a rebuild, it is way too complex. You can not expect a city to simply say to its residents that it’s time you all reach deep into your pockets, we want to build a parking lot and it’s going to cost 4 Million.  It’s a quick fix that means you’re unemployed next election.  Business owners who failed to do due diligence when they set up shop in an area can’t expect that sort of thing to happen.

Set zoning laws, and hope they work, but change them when a better idea comes along.

The article on Auntie BBC had brought up an interesting thought.  Someone somewhere had a wild idea on how to make things a subtle bit better when you aren’t using that parking lot.  Plant as many trees as possible to shade the asphalt.   Asphalt acts like a rechargeable battery for heat.  It’s darker than the environment typically, although exceptions exist.  It receives sun for the day when something isn’t parked over top of it, and warms.  That heat gets radiated outwards and makes the world hotter, as well as your house if you live next to it.   While that is great in a Northern climate, those car parks everywhere are helping to contribute to Global Warming.  If you doubt me, go walk across a parking lot on a sunny August afternoon in Florida and prove me right.

Is it August yet?  Would you like to walk across this lot in 95 degree Florida sunshine and heat?

Simple solution, those trees join a coat of paint or a color added to the asphalt to allow the sun to be reflected back into the skies instead of storing the heat.  Every degree counts.

It is the same principle of having a lighter colored roof in a warm climate, or a dark one in a snowy one.  Passive solar heating or cooling where needed.  Passive is much less of an impact on the environment than having to run a furnace or air conditioning to make things comfortable.

Another wild idea was to create a shade over the parking area created by a roof of solar panels.  Sell the electricity back to the power company and contribute to the environment. Large enough roof and you have a lot of power, lower the cost of installation by government grants.

If you want to be Green, sometimes you have to think big and take little steps that may not seem important at first.

Sure, it’s a wild idea, and they all take money, but when you’re stepping back and looking at your existing city and your existing zoning laws, that’s the time to take a good hard look at all of them.  After all, there are some very tight and claustrophobia inducing sidewalks around this city and many others.  Before a new building gets built, lets make sure it benefits those who are here and have to live with it, and that includes something as mundane as a parking lot.

If a Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with a single step, each little step helps you achieve your goal.