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  1. 1. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 1
  2. 2. Credits Pratt Institute Graduate School for Planning and the Environment Panama Studio: Obarrio, Panama City Alisa Drooker Kevin Reilly Anusha Venkataraman Professor Perry Winston Advising Professor in Panama: Alvaro Uribe Additional thanks to: Fernando Aramburú Porras Asociación de Residentes y Proprietarios de Obarrio Patrick Dillon Panama Workshop Summer 2008 2
  3. 3. Introduction The neighborhood of Obarrio, in the corregimiento of Bella Vista, Panama City, is a rapidly changing residential area facing intense development pressure. Surrounded by dense commercial developments and increasingly being encroached upon by high-rise residential buildings, Obarrio is one of the last remaining low-rise residential neighborhoods in the - . central city. The residents of Obarrio, organized under la Asociación de Residentes y Propietarios del Obarrio (ARPO), seek to protect Obarrio from becoming dominated by mega- blocks and high-rise apartment buildings. Instead, the Obarrio they envision integrates many of the current positive existing characteristics of the area with the necessary changes Obarrio will have to make to survive The purpose of this study is to survey the existing in the newly emerging Panama City. conditions of Obarrio and make recommendations of guidelines for protecting Obarrio´s assets and In this study, we first outline this urban vision in the promoting positive growth. The primary activities context of Obarrio and Panama City. Next, we provide undertaken are as follows: an overview of the assets Obarrio enjoys as well as the challenges it faces. Ultimately, we develop a set of planning guidelines that can be used to advocate for the •Survey Existing Conditions healthy development of Obarrio. We use a few case •Map Development Trends studies of particular sites in the Obarrio neighborhood to •Develop Planning Guidelines illustrate the threats faced as well as the alternative •Recommend Potential Tools for Change vision of development that our guidelines present. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 3
  4. 4. Obarrio in Context Panama City Panama City is a city of about 1.1 million and is rapidly growing. As the nation’s capital and the metropolitan region adjacent to the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, the city is a center for international business and trade. Accordingly, numerous companies have chosen to open offices in Panama City and international investors form a strong basis for the city’s and country’s economy. It has also become a popular destination for vacationers and retirees alike from both the United States and Central and South America, particularly Venezuela and Colombia. Image Source: Panama Workshop Summer 2008 4
  5. 5. Obarrio in Context, continued The urban issues facing Panama City are due in great part to the lack of effective and coordinated planning that addresses the short and long-term issues raised by rapid physical development. The streets and current traffic pattern are not equipped to handle the exponential population growth that is occurring. Infrastructure, particularly water provisions and the lack of a sewage collector, cannot handle even the present population. The city lacks even one functioning sewage treatment plant. Obarrio is no exception in its experience of these problems, and the particular issues outlined in this study provide a glimpse into a microcosm of the city. Every neighborhood in Panama City is beginning to look A low-rise residential street in Obarrio with a like this: dominated by high-rise buildings, built with foreign skyscraper looming behind, on the next block over capital, and unaffordable to the vast majority of residents Panama Workshop Summer 2008 5
  6. 6. Obarrio in Context Geography Obarrio is located within corregimiento of Bella Vista, one of the wealthier areas of Panama City. Bella Vista is characterized by older colonial-style homes, but many of those are currently being replaced with high density apartment buildings. Obarrio is bordered by the neighborhoods El Cangrejo to the west, Bella Vista and Marbella to the south, El Carmen to the north, and San Francisco to the east. Obarrio is cut off from its southern neighbors by the Matasnillo River and a highway that feeds into the Corridor Sur, while it is well-integrated with its neighbors on all other sides. Its geographic core is also the heart of its residential district, while the northern corner formed by Via Brasil and Via España is its commercial center. A park in Bella Vista Andres Bello Park on Via Argentina overshadowed by a skyscraper. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 6
  7. 7. Obarrio in Context, continued Development Pressures Panama City currently has more than 110 skyscraper projects being constructed, with 127 high-rise buildings already built (see chart below). It currently holds the 65th place in the world in the count of high-rise buildings. Obarrio, like the city at large, is undergoing a significant transformation in scale, population, and level of building activity. Like many neighborhoods within Panama City, Obarrio is experiencing a surge in the number of new constructions. With the large number of condominiums, residential towers, office buildings, and mixed-use developments being built, population density is increasing far beyond what was expected and planned for. Though a similar statistic is not available for Obarrio, El Cangrejo and El Carmen—neighborhoods of similar size and scale to Obarrio—were each originally designed for a density of 10,000 inhabitants per square kilometer, but are presently reaching 35,000/km2. Source: Nicolas Barletta, La Prensa, June 2007 City Skyscraper Proposals 2007-2008 Status Count Built 127 Construction 122 Proposed 22 Stale proposal 2 Source: 864&statusID=3 View west on Calle 50 7 Panama Workshop Summer 2008
  8. 8. Demographics Obarrio’s most recent reported population is 5,347, or approximately 0.7% of the city’s population. The total number of housing using is 1,816, and the majority of its residents—4,258—are over 8 years of age. The average number of residents per density unit is 2.9. While Obarrio’s population density is well below city average at present, it is quickly approaching the density of buildings and people of the city at large. The reported median monthly income is $1,837, but it is quite likely that the actual income for each household is much greater, placing Obarrio on the upper end of the spectrum for Panama City. View North from Calle 50 Panama Workshop Summer 2008 8
  9. 9. Development Trends In order to gauge and understand “ground” conditions within the Obarrio neighborhood a physical site survey was conducted by. The observations made during the site survey were broken down into 5 categories: •Lots currently under construction •Lots where the original structures have been cleared but no construction activity has taken place •Lots which are underzoned – meaning that the zoning of the lot allows for much greater density than currently exists on the site •Lots which do not conform to the current zoning •Lots that conform to current zoning (typically containing low rise residential) Of the 449 lots existing within Obarrio, 200 lots were surveyed during the site survey. Results were as follows: Under Construction – 32 lots (3.64 hectacres) c Vacant ‘At Risk’ – 23 lots (5.51 hectacres) c Low Rise/Underzoned – 41 lots (5.72 hectacres) c Zoning Offenders – 14 lots (1.49 hectacres) c Survey conducted in May 2008, by Alisa Drooker, Kevin Reilly, Anusha Venkataraman, & Perry Winston Conforming Lots – 90 lots (11.71 hectacres) c Total lots surveyed – 200 lots (28.07 hectacres) c Total within Obarrio – 449 lots (53.49 hectacres) c Panama Workshop Summer 2008 9
  10. 10. Development Trends Obarrio, looking northeast This projection represents Obarrio as it currently stands. Development along the commercial corridor of the north as well as from the south is encroaching upon the neighborhood. As can be seen from the illustration, the central core of Obarrio contains single family homes on relatively large lots. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 10
  11. 11. Urban Vision of Obarrio Obarrio is known for its large single-family homes, and while the demographics of the residents may change considerably in the coming years, ARPO seeks to maintain the lower density they have enjoyed for years. Obarrio is the “urban lung” of Panama City, one of the last remaining neighborhoods with considerable greenery and open space. Grass, trees, and some plantings line the street, in addition to the extensive gardens inside the compounds of private homes. The residents of Obarrio value this greenspace in terms of their own quality of life, but it is also a significant asset to adjacent neighbourhoods and the city as a whole. For pedestrians, Obarrio is more accessible than most neighbourhoods of Panama City, but efforts must be made to protect the sidewalk from constant and pervasive encroachments. Overall, Obarrio is valued as a green, low- to medium-density, architecturally unique neighbourhood with engaged long-term residents. It also has easy access to the necessities and amenities of the nearby banking district and commercial areas. In the best case scenario of the future, Obarrio´s residential areas are safe from commercial use and are spared the attendant traffic and overflow of parking. Commercial uses are kept to a minimum, and are restricted to the one or two areas that are suitable for commercial use. Infrastructure, including drainage and wastewater disposal, parking provisions, public transportation, and traffic flow, is sufficient to handle the population of the neighborhood. In the residential core of Obarrio, the older homes are maintained, and all new residential constructions are in keeping with the scale and density of the neighbourhood, with as few additional zoning changes as possible. All buildings observe their property lines and are set back from the street a significant distance to allow for a sidewalk and streetside planting. On the whole, the neighbhorhood is safe and walkable, with usable and unobstructed sidewalks on all major and minor thoroughfares. Moreover, all new developments—both residential and commercial—provide some form of benefit to the community and adequately address their own infrastructural needs, while ideally contributing to the alleviation of the infrastructural problems of the area. Additionally, a few aesthetic guidelines, such as the placement of billboards and advertisements, enhance the quality of the natural and architectural environment. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 11
  12. 12. Urban Vision of Obarrio, continued Obarrio is a “garden district,” offering public Additionally, Obarrio boasts numerous strengths green space as well as that must be preserved and can be leveraged to considerable open space achieve the neighborhood vision described and foliage on private above. Some of these assets are described in property. further detail in the next section, but also include the following: Low- to medium-density, offering a respite from the higher density of the rest of the city and a higher quality of life Architecturally unique and well-maintained residences Engaged long-term residents with the desire and ability to advocate for their neighborhood Easy access to the necessities and amenities of the nearby banking district and commercial areas Residential architecture typical of Obarrio Restricted commercial uses within residential blocks Safe and walkable residential streets 12 Panama Workshop Summer 2008
  13. 13. Neighborhood Assets Obarrio as “Urban Lung” Obarrio has been preserved as the “Urban Lung” of downtown Panama City. It is lush and green, human scale, and in close walking distance to all necessities and amenities. Obarrio Boasts: •Public green space- park, ample sidewalks •Foliage and greenery provide shade, absorb carbon, reduce heat, and contribute to healthy air quality •Green public space has a positive impact on real estate values, (in the US): -The average value of properties adjacent to the greenbelt is found to be 32% higher than those located 3,200 feet away. -Philadelphia's Pennypack park accounts for $12 million in real estate value of residences located within a half-mile of the park. Source:Fairmount Ventures, Inc October 1999, GreenSpace Alliance Panama Workshop Summer 2008 13
  14. 14. Neighborhood Assets Local Character and Architectural Gems Obarrio is known in Panama as an area occupied by wealthy Panamanians, with large villas and well maintained private property. It was and still is in many parts a low scale residential area, with high property values deriving in great part from its green character. Obarrio has a lovely housing stock: •Single-family homes •Almost all homes are set back considerably from the street •Significant amount of green areas and open space on private and public property •The residential streets are walkable •With the exception of very new developments, Obarrio’s buildings observe contextual scale Panama Workshop Summer 2008 14
  15. 15. Neighborhood Assets Contextual Building While Obarrio is primarily a neighborhood of smaller scale villas, there are several larger scale residential buildings that have been built over the past decades. The present buildings are in scale and context by providing set-backs and are built at heights that don’t dwarf the existing urban fabric. Below are some examples of such buildings. The most recent building booms are much larger and use all of the land lot, changing the character and charm that Obarrio now celebrates. Examples of Buildings along Samuel Lewis, that while tall, are of similar scale to surrounding buildings, have setbacks, and are respecting the green area. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 15
  16. 16. Neighborhood Assets Sidewalks and Walkability Despite recent threats, Obarrio is a highly walkable neighborhood • Many of Obarrio´s streets already have sidewalks • All necessities are easily within walking distance • Some property owners take precautions to prevent parking on sidewalks Panama Workshop Summer 2008 16
  17. 17. Neighborhood Concerns Disregard for Building Scale There are many elements contributing to the increased discontinuity in building scale: •New developments and spot-rezoning has led to a massive imbalance in building heights and disrupted streetscapes •Single family homes and medium sized apartment buildings are being demolished, destroying the fabric of the community •Higher density developments overwhelm the infrastructure of the area. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 17
  18. 18. Neighborhood Concerns Infrastructure, Traffic, and Parking Infrastructural Issues: Traffic and Parking Concerns: • Water and storm water • Overloaded street grid runoff • Inefficient traffic patterns • Lack of sewer system • Residential streets (especially • Overloaded power Calle 56) used as major feeders for traffic accessing Corredor Sur capacity • Lack of adequate parking • Uncoordinated waste provisions by new developments removal creates • Lack of parking enforcement Panama Workshop Summer 2008 18
  19. 19. Neighborhood Concerns Zoning Violators Zoning violations create precedent for the neighborhood. Some of these violations are not acceptable, while others indicate that an incremental change in the site’s zoning is necessary. • Numerous residentially-zoned sites are being used for commercial activities, particularly retail. • These commercial uses create substantial traffic and parking problems. • Some violators could be rezoned, while others could be fined and evicted. • Additionally, there is a well known “spa” that is being used as a prostitution cover—this is clearly not appreciated by the residents. An area zoned R1B being used for commericial purposes. Corner of Calle 59 and Samuel Lewis. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 19
  20. 20. Neighborhood Concerns Threats to Walkability The walkabillity of Obarrio is being threatened by: • Blocked sidewalks being used as parking • Inconsistent sidewalk materials, widths, heights, and level of accessibility • The privatization of public sidewalks in front of residences • Building design and lot maximization of new developments that encroach upon the sidewalks All urban sidewalks require the following basic ingredients for success: adequate width of travel lanes, a buffer from the travel lane, curbing, minimum width, gentle cross-slope (2 percent or less), a buffer to private properties, adequate sight distances around corners and at driveways, observed distances to walls and other structures, a clear path of travel free of street furniture, continuity, a well-maintained condition, ramps at street corners, and flat areas across driveways. Sidewalks also require sufficient storage capacity at corners so that the predicted volume of pedestrians can gain access to and depart from signalized intersections in an orderly and efficient manner. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 20
  21. 21. Neighborhood Concerns Aesthetics and Construction Practices Two remaining issues—that are separate but in many cases related—concern the negative incidental effects that new developments cause in Obarrio. Poor construction practices have been observed in regards to: • Erosion and sediment control • Lack of maintenance on vacant lots, often used for construction storage • Blocking of walkways and roadways with equipment While aesthetics are of less immediate concern, they have a large impact on the image of the neighborhood and its quality of life. Concerns include: • Excessive signage • Improper placement of billboards Panama Workshop Summer 2008 21
  22. 22. Projections: Case Study 1 N SITE NO RT H Looking southwest To represent the impact of current near unregulated development practices would have on the neighborhood, two sites which were observed to be vacant ‘at risk’ sites during the site survey were chosen to depict an almost worst case scenario of building. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 22
  23. 23. Projections: Case Study 1 NO RT H Looking southwest Current zoning, or lack thereof, would allow for the development of multi-use commercial and residential buildings that could house approximately 3,899 people. As can be seen from the shadow study, the buildings which range from 57 to 83 meters tall would cast significant shadows on the existing park (Harry Strunz Park) as well as existing homes within the neighborhood. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 23
  24. 24. Projections: Case Study 2 NO RT H N Looking southwest Presently, Case Study 1 & 2 provides Obarrio with acres of valuable green space, aiding in matters such as stormwater water absorption and temperature stability. Changing these lots will not only affect the aesthetics of Obarrio but the environment as well. SITE Panama Workshop Summer 2008 24
  25. 25. Projections: Case Study 2 NO RT H Looking southwest Similarly, case study 2 shows two large multi-use buildings that would have the potential to house as many as 1,400 new residents within Obarrio. While depicted as ‘worst case’ scenarios in building this is not uncommon to find within other parts of Panama City and it can even be seen on the fringes of Obarrio. Together, case study 1 and case study 2 could potentially increase the population of Obarrio by 5,299 people, nearly doubling the population of Obarrio from the 2000 census, while providing no additional increases in infrastructure. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 25
  26. 26. Suggested Guidelines: Overview Based on our identification of the strengths and challenges of the Obarrio neighborhood, we suggest the following Planning Guidelines. These guidelines can provide the next steps in neighborhood advocacy, as well as form the beginning of a neighborhood master plan. The suggested guidelines address the following areas: Density Control Contextual Building Sidewalk Continuity Traffic planning Aesthetics and Design Standards Infrastructure and Environment Benefit to Community Panama Workshop Summer 2008 26
  27. 27. Suggested Guidelines Density Control In order to adequately plan and prepare for growth, Obarrio must know its capacity (for people, buildings, and vehicles) and be able to contain density within those limits. At present, the city has minimal density requirements but does not limit height or require a certain percentage of lot coverage. We recommend the following zoning strategies as tools to control the density of the neighborhood: • Reinstitute Floor Area Ratios (FAR). FARs can be built into zoning code, and control the density of the development through regulating the total floor area of the building. In Panama City, it could complement the current practice of regulating density through the number of inhabitants per area unit. • Minimum and maximum street wall Excerpt from the heights control the street-level height New York Zoning of a building. Handbook, illustrating various • FAR is the total floor area on a zoning orientations of lot divided by the lot area of that buildings whose zoning lot.” For example, a 10,000 s.f. zoning lot with an assigned max. FAR FAR=1.0 of 2.0 would have a max. floor area of 20,000 sq. ft. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 27
  28. 28. Suggested Guidelines Density Control, continued •Requiring setbacks reduces the buildable area on each lot, proving for greater green and/or open space and lower density. Front, rear, and even side setbacks can be applied, depending on the area and its current character. Illustration of setbacks from the New York Zoning Handbook for R6A, R7A, and R7X districts An ideal setback for streets of Obarrio´s scale is 10- 15 meters from the centerline of the street, as illustrated above. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 28
  29. 29. Suggested Guidelines Density Control, continued When developing specific guidelines regarding density control and open space preservation, the following must be taken into account: • What is the street level scale of existing as well as new/proposed buildings? • What depth of setback is required, at minimum? What size setback is desired (considering building height, FAR, distance from street, and context) • Provision for car pull-overs can be included without sacrificing sidewalk continuity • What percentage of lot coverage is appropriate for this location, context, and scale? Illustration of setbacks, street and sidewalk dimensions, street wall heights, and green buffers. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 29
  30. 30. Suggested Guidelines Contextual Building “Contextual building” is a concept that regulates the scale of new buildings to ensure that they fit with the area’s character and that a continuous street façade is maintained. It is often used in low- to medium-rise neighborhoods with a consistent character that is desirous to maintain. Contextual building can be mandated in the following ways: • Height: New construction should be no more than 40-60 feet taller than its tallest neighbor. Minimum and maximum street wall heights mandated. • FAR: Contextual building “districts” have strict minimum and maximum FARs. Apply zoning consistently among and between districts to prevent drastic changes that destabilize neighborhoods. • Setbacks: New construction should be no closer to the street than the closest adjacent building. Setbacks on upper levels allow light penetration and prevent shadowing of streets. • “Bookend” idea: Height and density are greatest at corners and intersections, creating smaller scale side roads appropriate for residential use. Allows adequate light and ventilation mid-block. An example of good contextual scale of medium density on Ave. Samuel Scale in Obarrio varies greatly from one and two-story Lewis homes…to egregiously out-of-scale and non- contextual towers Panama Workshop Summer 2008 30
  31. 31. Suggested Guidelines Contextual Building, continued Illustrated, at right: • Minimum Rear Setback • Green Space • Light and Air Penetration • Human-scale streetscape Minimum rear setbacks provide adequate light and ventilation for both high- and low-rise adjacent structures Panama Workshop Summer 2008 31
  32. 32. Suggested Guidelines Sidewalk Continuity The condition of Obarrio’s sidewalks are essential to the neighborhood’s walkability. Obarrio already boasts paved sidewalks that are separated from the street, setting the area way ahead of its neighbors in Panama City. In order to maximize this asset to the community, we make the following recommendations. Sidewalks in Obarrio should be: • Continuous, with minimal interruptions and clearly marked street crossings • On all streets, on both sides of the street • Of usable sidewalk width: 1.5-2 m for streets of Obarrio’s scale, and larger along more major pedestrian thoroghfares • Of uniform or similar materials that are appropriate for foot traffic—eg, not slippery or too uneven. As Obarrio is in an urban area, all sidewalks should be paved and handicap accessible. Steps are unacceptable; the pavement should be flat or at maximum 2% grade. • Protected from parking and other encroachments, through the use of raised curbs or landscaped buffers (ideal width is 1.8m, but must be at least 0.6m), • Free of private uses and blockades Considerable effort should be made to ensure that there are adequate sidewalks in front of all new developments. In A near-ideal sidewalk in Obarrio addition, linking sidewalks with surrounding neighborhoods makes the city a more walkable and pedestrian-friendly as a whole. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 32
  33. 33. Suggested Guidelines Traffic Planning At present, Obarrio’s roads cannot adequately handle the volume and pattern of vehicle traffic. Better planning is needed on multiple levels: within Obarrio, among Obarrio and its surrounding neighborhoods, and in Panama City as a whole. Outlined below are some specific strategies that are appropriate for Obarrio: • Maximize public transportation access to minimize car use. This can be done by increasing the number of formal bus stops and clearly posting bus schedules and routes. Public transportation not only reduces the number of cars on the road; it also encourages neighborhood walkability and reduces energy consumption. • Install traffic calming measures that aid in reducing speed and enhancing traffic safety. Traffic calming measures include speedbumps, landscaping treatments, medians, and curb bulb- outs at intersections, and are especially useful in residential neighborhoods that experience significant cut-through traffic. Calle 56 Este in Obarrio would benefit greatly from traffic The above graphic shows the road usage for the same calming; it would cut down the number of number of people by public transportation versus private vehicles cutting through the neighborhood to car use. enter the Corridor Sur, and those cars that do use the road will be forced to slow down. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 33
  34. 34. Suggested Guidelines Traffic Planning, continued Improved Traffic Planning, continued: • Install more stop signs and traffic lights to slow down traffic and encourage responsible driving. • Advocate for better regional traffic planning in areas surrounding Obarrio. • Particular areas of concern are entrances and exits on the Corridor Sur, the re-routing of traffic that will occur with the Cinta Costera development, and increased density along the northern and western borders. Any city-wide effort to improve traffic conditions must be coordinated on a regional and national level, particularly given the increased development in communities surrounding Panama City and the increased level of commuter traffic into the city from those areas. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 34
  35. 35. Suggested Guidelines Aesthetics and Design Standards Thus far, our suggestions have addressed the issue of making Obarrio more livable and functional. However, additional planning may be desired in order to make Obarrio a more aesthetically pleasing place to live. While aesthetic concerns are extremely important to some, they are usually quite subjective and can drain resources from more important problems. That said, there are numerous aesthetic guidelines that might be appropriate for Obarrio and that some residents have already expressed interest in adopting. • Reduce or eliminate commercial signage on residential streets. • Allow placement of billboards along commercial corridors only. • Create neighborhood design standards, in keeping with current character of Obarrio, for new constructions and renovations. • Implement sustainable design standards and introduce incentives for green building. While this deals primarily with energy use, environmental impact, and the load a new building introduces, it can have aesthetic implications as well. • Require the provision of lighting on all streets, residential and commercial. A billboard in a public park in Obarrio We recommend that while some of the above aesthetic guidelines may be appropriate, extreme caution must be exercised in their adoption. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 35
  36. 36. Suggested Guidelines Infrastructural and Environmental Solutions Stormwater Run-Off On developed land, rain water hits hardened surfaces on the ground instead of naturally infiltrating the earth below, causing excess water to collect in adjacent low-lying areas. Rain water flowhardened surfaces is called “stormwater run-off.” Any impervious surface—even if it is only somewhat impervious—can cause stormwater run-off. In the diagram to the right, houses, driveways, and roads cause a large portion of the visible run-off. These surfaces are usually man-made, are normally added to the natural landscape by development activity, and do not allow the rain water to infiltrate into the ground. Other examples of impervious surfaces include the rooftops on buildings or houses, driveways, parking lots, and compacted gravel. Diagram illustrating stormwater runoff with increased development and land coverage Panama Workshop Summer 2008 36
  37. 37. Suggested Guidelines Infrastructural and Environmental Solutions, continued Use existing water streams and green areas for stormwater run-off: • Obarrio has a stream system draining into the Rio Matasnillo that should be used as a natural mechanism to catch stormwater runoff from adjacent paved areas. After the water passes through settling ponds, sand filters, and constructed wetlands, it will pass into the natural wetlands. Wetlands and stream buffers are an effective way of controlling stormwater since they act as filters, trapping sediment, metals and organic chemicals before these pollutants reach waterways. • Using land set aside by the city government and allowing for proper irrigation, the community of Obarrio as well as Panama City would maintanance cost savings and can forego construction of a traditional subsurface storm sewer system. Also, use of such natural methods cleans the runoff, preventing discharge of tons of harmful pollutants. In addition to the cost savings and runoff reduction improvements, the “Bluebelt”—if cared for properly—provides recreational opportunities and a wildlife refuge for area residents, as well as increased property values. Rio Matasnillo at the south side of Obarrio Panama Workshop Summer 2008 37
  38. 38. Suggested Guidelines Infrastructural and Environmental Solutions, continued Garden areas and green medians absorb stormwater runoff: Urban stormwater runoff treatment can be addressed through landscaping and proper parking planning. Several areas in Obarrio have landscaping that capture water and successfully prevent runoff. Below are some additional solutions which should be instituted for adequate protection, particularly in areas with significant amounts of street-level parking. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 38
  39. 39. Suggested Guidelines Infrastructural and Environmental Solutions, continued Silt Fencing prevents soil from leaving project site. Obarrio’s building boom is creating dangerous conditions at many work sites. Silt fencing is an affordable and easy solution. A silt fence is a temporary sediment barrier consisting of a filter fabric stretched across and attached to supporting posts and entrenched. It is constructed using synthetic filter fabric, posts, and, depending upon the strength of the fabric used, wire fence for support. A filter barrier can also be used, and is constructed of stakes and burlap or synthetic filter fabric. Purpose: To intercept and detain small amounts of sediment from disturbed areas during construction operations in order to prevent the sediment from leaving the site. Silt fencing prevents sheet flows from the site and can help manage low- to moderate- level channel floods. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 39
  40. 40. Suggested Guidelines Infrastructural and Environmental Solutions, continued Permeable pavement is paving material that allows the rain water to flow through and infiltrate into the soils below. Examples of permeable pavement include porous concrete, permeable interlocking concrete pavers, concrete grid pavers, and porous asphalt. Example of permeable parking lot near the Panama Canal Parking Material Options Example of positive storm water management in Obarrio. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 40
  41. 41. Suggested Guidelines Infrastructural and Environmental Solutions, continued The Case for Tree preservation and Planting in Obarrio: •Trees reduce storm water through interception and canopy storage of precipitation. •The canopy of a street tree absorbs rain, reducing the amount of water that will fall on pavement and then must be removed by a stormwater drainage system. In one study, an 8-year old Cork Oak intercepted 27 percent of the gross rainfall, while a 9-year old Bradford Pear intercepted 15 percent. Savings are possible since cities can install surface water management systems that handle smaller amounts of runoff. •Clean Air: A major study of Chicago estimated that trees in that city annually removed 15 metric tons of carbon monoxide, 84 tons of sulfur dioxide, 89 tons of nitrogen dioxide, 191 tons of ozone, and 212 tons of small particulates. The estimated value of this pollution removal was $1 million for trees in the city itself and $9.2 million for the entire Chicago area. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 41
  42. 42. Suggested Guidelines Infrastructural and Environmental Solutions, continued •A recent study found that planting shade trees could reduce the need for power plants. Data from California shows that 50 million shade trees planted in strategic, energy-saving locations could eliminate the need for seven 100-megawatt power plants. •A study of benefits and costs of tree planting in Chicago found that the projected value of trees (e.g., pollution reduction, energy saving, property value) is nearly three times greater than the projected costs. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 42
  43. 43. Suggested Guidelines Benefit to Community Obarrio is not simply a geogaphic neighborhood—it is also, and more importantly, a community of people, encompassing long-time residents, new residents, and commercial venturers. As such, every effort should be made to build community cohesiveness and maintain quality of life and environment. As such, a particular responsibility is placed on the developer to: 1. Attempt to integrate their development into the surrounding neighborhood. 2. Provide for basic services. 3. Contribute resources proportionately (monetary and other) to infrastructural improvements necessitated by the increased load introduced by new development. 4. Introduce some new benefit to the community, including but not limited to additional green space, public parks, and/or open space to preserve Obarrio as a “garden district” (for developments over a certain scale). Harry Strunz Park Panama Workshop Summer 2008 43
  44. 44. Development Alternatives While recognizing that development will occur within Obarrio, it is possible that through the passage and enforcement of stricter zoning regulations that development could be somewhat reigned in, creating buildings that are more in scale with their surrounding Looking southwest environment and enhancing the quality of life found throughout Panama City and Obarrio. When case study 2 is analyzed again and a FAR of 4.0 is implemented along with setbacks the results can be aesthetically pleasing as well as perhaps meeting a prospective developer’s goals. Instead of 2 buildings housing some 1,400 people, the site has been reconfigured to four 9 story buildings, capable of housing 168 new residents. Looking southwest N Looking southwest SITE Panama Workshop Summer 2008 44
  45. 45. Tools for Change In addition to the design-based suggestions we have made, a holistic community-based approach must be taken to ensure that progress is possible and can be maintained. The following strategies can be applied effectively in Panama City. • Broaden the stakeholder base: Organize tenants as well as property owners. While property owners may hold much of the power in the neighborhood, tenants can be powerful advocates and are crucial in maintaining grassroots energy for change. • Promote Obarrio as an asset to the whole city. This can be articulated through the “garden district” image of Obarrio; its greenness increases the health and vitality of the city as a whole, and can serve as a model neighborhood. A community meeting discussing proposed zoning changes in Bella Vista • Emphasize the potential of increased property values for low and medium density in an urban context. While the investment return is high for high- density development, the individual property values are not necessarily greater. Likewise, the value of a small property is greater if it is surrounded by other low- rise homes rather than and apartment complex. • Every effort must be made to reduce spot zoning. While numerous community groups are already advocating against spot zoning, including la Alianza Pro Ciudad, these advocacy efforts must be taken to the next level through connecting with other groups and neighborhoods and suggesting concrete alternatives. Positive development in Obarrio Panama Workshop Summer 2008 45
  46. 46. Tools for Change • Enforce existing zoning. This is crucial in bringing Panama City to the same standards as other international cities. For areas where zoning does not match current use, proactively identify appropriate spaces for re-zoning. • Develop a city-wide comprehensive plan! Neighborhood master plans are helpful as well, especially for those areas without the power to effectively self-advocate. Neighborhood planning provides the opportunity for citizens to become actively involved in planning their communities and addressing issues of local concern. • Cultivate relationships with developers to encourage better communication and accountability. Once a face can be recognized on every side of the table, issues can be dealt with more effectively and concerns can be addressed proactively. • Research and identify best practices from other Latin American cities. Connect with other neighborhoods undergoing similar changes, city-wide and regionally. Look at successful examples of community-based development in Latin America, and talk with those groups about their strategies and challenges. Panama Residents advocating for a Comprehensive Plan. With these practices and our suggested guidelines in place, Obarrio will be an even stronger and more sustainable community, setting a precedent in Panama City and providing a new model for considered development in Latin America. Panama Workshop Summer 2008 46