Monday, May 3, 2010
Reclaiming the corner
Do you recognize the above corner? If you are a west side pedestrian or cyclist, or maybe a No 2 bus user, the likely answer is yes (motorists should not recognize it -- your eyes are supposed to be on the road!). It's at the corner of Bayswater and Somerset, northwest side, where Bayswater starts to suddenly go downhill (elevation speaking, not quality wise).
Behind the green picket fence is an amazing ever-changing collection of . . . stuff. Gnomes, flower pots, a yapping dog that escorts pedestrians past the fence, a patio ... all seem to me to made from recycled materials. People after my own heart. I think the garden is a loveable element of spontaneous urban form, the diversity that keeps neighborhoods interesting.
All the garden is apparently on city property.
Somerset, and the section of Bayswater abutting this property, is being rebuilt this summer. Wider sidewalks, landscaping, decorative lighting, all those good things that make neighborhood main streets much better for residents and businesses.
At corners, the style of streetscaping being employed along Somerset extends the sidewalks and paved areas w-a-y back to the property line, and sometimes beyond. The result is roomy corners for pedestrians, improved sight lines for motorists (opening up the corner triangle, in traffic engineer speak), and changed landscaping at the corners. A typical corner might look more like this:
The city's policy for the Bayswater / Somerset corner was stated to me as "In regards to the corner, the City’s policy and practice is to reclaim public space within the right-of-way for public purposes, and eliminate unlawful encroachments". The drawing for this corner is shown below (the house and corner in question is toward the top right of the intersection):
I find myself somewhat torn about this corner. While interesting now, it could become a parking space or other unattractive use with another resident. In which case, I favour reclaiming it and landscaping it as a public space that will somewhat permanently set its format and use in concrete and official plantings. On the other hand, some of the corners already installed along Somerset/West Wellie seem to me to be rather too large, and this dynamic patio/garden is much more interesting.
It is a trade-off of the spontaneous vs the planned, the resident vs the corporate city, public space vs private space. Where do other west side readers stand on this?