The City of Kodiak is situated in a beautiful waterfront setting. So, when I saw the frontpage article in April 12 stating that the lawsuit between Global Seafoods and Silver Bay had been dropped, I felt sad. Not because an agreement was reached, but because it means yet another commercial venture on the waterfront.
I realize that commercial fishing is the backbone of our economy. But I would like to see Kodiak improve our community’s “curb appeal” by adopting mixed-use zoning for our downtown waterfront and maritime district.
Renewing and revitalizing downtown and waterfront areas is a sign of a mature and forward-thinking community. I’ve witnessed this change of focus in many cities along the West Coast, from Edmonds, Washington, to Coos Bay, Oregon; and Morro Bay, California.
Since moving to Kodiak in 1984, the core of downtown and the adjoining spaces have taken on an increasingly rugged — dare I say — scarred and wounded appearance. It’s as if a monster backhoe bit an enormous, green chunk out of the Emerald Isle, exposing rock and fill. To see what I’m talking about, pretend you’ve landed in Kodiak for the first time. You drive into town. What are your first impressions?
You can find examples of the good, the bad and the ugly everywhere. Take the parking lot that connects Walmart and the Alaska State Troopers office. (Yes, please take it). The lack of curbside appeal is glaring and depressing. Where are the trees, shrubs and landscaping that enhance similar structures in the Lower 48? Does the City and Borough even require contractors to include landscaping in the bid process? Apparently not.
For more examples, let’s head over to Near Island. You see beautiful examples of landscaping at the new KANA and Afognak Center office buildings. Not so for Kodiak Housing Authority’s Emerald Heights: gravel and blacktop. Then, there’s the unfortunate denuding of Near Island’s natural landscape that’s visible to the right as you first roll off the bridge. Like Joni Mitchell sang in Big Yellow Taxi, “They shaved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
More and more studies show that mixed-use zoning have a host of benefits, which is a departure from decades of urban planning when cities segregated uses of land: houses in one corner of town and the commercial district in another.
The Borough and the City need to adopt more mixed-use zoning permits to foster a combination of commercial and retail with residential and recreation (such as parks and other green spaces), arts, more walkability and more tourist-friendly spaces. This could begin with forming a waterfront Strategic Plan that includes a community-based visioning process.
Want people to live, work, play — and stay in Kodiak? Don’t pave paradise. Provide connections. Create spaces that are people-oriented. That way, we will all enjoy a higher quality of life and a better sense of community.