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Paving (4 replies)
I just purchased a home, and have rented for three years, on Iron Horse Lane. I was asking a friend who had lived on the same street for many years the same question you have posed here. He said that the city has always treated it as the responsibility of the homeowners on the alleyways. But, I think it is time that the city realize that it is in their best interest to pave. I have commented before that, in a one year time period on my block, two cars were hit (including my own), my gate was hit, the library was hit, and another building was hit. People tend to drive too fast because they like the gravel or are trying to avoid main streets. They often hit rather large dips and probably lose control. I have named one seasonal puddle "Lake Iron Horse." The condition gets worse each year. Just adding gravel has caused the roads to be too high, allowing water run-off to flow into properties.

In addition, the appearance of the alleys gives some people the impression that it is OK to litter, drink, or urinate here. One bar has their recycler pouring out leftover beer bottles in the alley (hopefully I have stopped this). My friend and I were both commenting that the alleys could be really attractive. I think paving would be the obvious first step. Anyone interested in working with the city to this end is welcome to contact me via email. I am willing to get the ball rolling.

Diana (dianabrumbaugh)
Iron Horse Lane
Posted – 09/11/05 9:06am by Lynn R Slater, updated or replied 09/11/05 9:25am

On the alley issue, I have a different opinion. We've lived here for 14 years, and our alley connects with the preschool at the Congregational Church. It is already difficult to reinforce to people dropping their kids off that the alley isn't a speedway, and we have always been of the impression that if the alleys were paved, there would be rampant speeding. My sister's house (not in Niles) was once robbed. The access was the alley. The police told her that there are a huge number of houses on alleyways that are robbed (for obvious reasons). Pavement scares me because of the possibility of a quick getaway. (My sister's alley was beautifully paved, by the way.) True, there are some monstrous potholes, but at our house we consider them nature's speedbumps. Also, since according to the city, they are not public property, would the police do anything about wreckless driving in the alleys?

I, too, think that the alleys could be nice looking. I am as guilty as the next person about letting the weeds gain control over my life (especially in the alley), but we have spent lots of time and money on plants we have put there. If people just didn't dump there automobile carcasses in the alleys, that would be a great start. Unfortunately, even with pavement, such garbage would still be an eyesore.

I am sure that you get the brunt of the bad stuff with your house facing the alley. However, we've been here quite a long time and have seen a lot of stuff. I fear that paving the alleys would make most things (especially the traffic issues) worse.

Vickie (allofusmayers)
Second Street

Posted – 09/11/05 9:08am by Lynn R Slater

Paving -- a compromise?
I have recently visited Palo Alto and it appears that they have paved alleys and they look fantastic!

I also drove by the Congressional Church on my way to work this morning. It appears that section of the alley is paved. Have the homes behind it had any problems with theft? I understand your fear of a clean getaway from crooks Vickie but the unpaved alleys look like a seedy place for an unsavory element to propogate currently whereas the homes backing up to the church seem to have benifited from that paving in that as soon as the paving stops dead cars, junk and weeds flourish.

I wonder if a compromise could be agreed upon between the city and its residents that would look beter than the current state of affairs and benifit the greater good of the community.

apts in rancho aroyo
Posted – 09/11/05 9:12am by Lynn R Slater

Bricks, not asphalt
Yes Paul, those are the key words, celebrate and promote. Ashland, Oregon and Port Townsend, Washington both have alleys that live, and add charm and ambiance not available on Main Street to those cities. The key is to empower the property owners to be able to beautify and make money off the things.
Asphalt would not be the most powerful choice here.
Something on the human scale, morphable,with the mark of hand laying would have many times the value.  Brick, cobbles , even high end rolled crushed rock would be far more appropriate, Stamped concrete is probably all we'll get in this direction, but maybe with a handlaid brick or  wooden boardwalk pedestrian path, alongside.
 Shade trees or arbors with vines would go far toward turning these lanes into the attractive havens they could be. Street lights, sure, but low and warm. They still don't have main street right, way too bright, and it's  been hurting eyes and any chance of evening ambiance, for years now.  Doesn't anyone from Fremont ever go to Nevada City?
Speaking of the alleys, how about including the Side Streets in there too. I remember when I had the Nile Cafe on I street,  I couldn't believe it when they they redid main street for $3 million, without turning any corners all through town. No benches, no nice lampposts, no new sidewalks with commemorative stamps, no trash cans. In fact, I remember we lost our I street trashcan in the process, Ha, Ha... 
Those sidestreets are the bridges to the alleys, they are an overlooked factor in getting any customers, or entrepeneurs,  to support  future alleyway venues. 
I propose as a first step that the city offer  a program of fifteen gallon shade trees and good quality paving brick with sand to bed it, to any property owner with alley frontage, who feels they would like to make improvements to their frontage...
An open-ended affirmative venture of comparatively modest cost to the city, in a self proclaimed "quirky" district. Who knows what might come of it? 
-- Dirk
Posted – 09/11/05 9:19am by Lynn R Slater

Bricks were once offered
You know, as in anything, a lot of the uncertainty could be resolved by simply initiating  positive changes. Owners, or empowered renters,  with property abuting the easements are the natural torch bearers in this.
If these people that live or work here every day are not motivated to make "meaningful places", out of their part of these accesses, it is highly doubtful that character-filled enrichment, and true comfort and inspiration will ever come to reside here. Master plans are simply incapable of instilling the charm that dozens of unique treatments effortlessly weave together.
"Talk is easy, Good Building is hard", is another way to say it.
The fact that people may want to volunteer or contribute is a wonderful empowerment, if the principals involve are sincerely motivated to make the small changes which can lead to establishing a firm positive identity and create momentum toward further, larger "improvements".
Once individual and community energy and money are invested, the vision can start to emerge, the place begins to speak for itself, and become respected as worth preserving and able to attract ongoing attention and investment.
That first part, where we are now, is the leap of faith. After the inertia builds, it's a no-brainer.
I remember years ago discussing this with the main guy from Mission Clay products up at the end of Old Canyon Road, I think his name is Bruce something... The kilns were still there and the old bricks were on pallets soon to be shipped out. We were at the Nile Cafe talking , and I mentioned what a mess the alleys were in the winter. We walked around the corner to Iron Horse Lane, looked the situation over, and he volunteered to donate a large quantity of  his salvaged brick for a walkway paving idea I had, just for pedestrians, on the fringe of the car lane.
Well, I dropped the ball, nothing came of it. But I remember thinking how easy it was for him to offer what amounted to maybe tens of thousands of dollars worth of paving material, if I could get the permissions, and labor, and coordinate it.  I have no doubt but that this is still the situation. People love Niles, and want to help it truly bloom....  But it takes leadership and authorizations, or just plain dedication, risky investment, and brazen initiative on the part of people who have valid stakes or a certainty of vision, to test the waters and maybe, finally, get something with some real horsepower going.
...Dirk Visser 
Posted – 09/11/05 9:25am by Lynn R Slater

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