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Yucaipa's Historic Uptown Streetscape

Landscape Architecture by Steven Frenken, City of Yucaipa, and Van Dyke Landscape Architects, San Diego

The roundabout island at California Street in Yucaipa has an oversized bronze sculpture by Aaron Eby depicting a farmer resting after a day of picking fruit. In addition to the street lighting, 128 adjustable composite well lights (Par 38 120-volt LED bulbs) accent the fern pines, Chinese tallow, Chinese fringe, 'Forest Pansy' redbud and Indian Hawthorn 'Majestic Beauty' trees along Yucaipa Boulevard.

Southern California's Inland Empire is directly east of Los Angeles, encompassing Riverside and San Bernardino counties, home to about four million people. San Bernardino, 65 miles east of L.A., sits at the foothills of the mountains bearing its name. Ten more miles east on I-10 brings you to the city of Yucaipa (pop. 51,700), nestled 2,600 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Yucaipa was incorporated in 1989, and since then has experienced significant growth. Today, after almost three years of planning and a year of construction, Yucaipa's Historic Uptown streetscape project is complete.

The COR-TEN steel "Craftsman-style" structure at the 2nd Street roundabout features three-sided, internally lit color-changing mural panels that relate the past days in the orchards and ranches of Yucaipa. The roundabout hardscape apron has 80 mm 'Old World' pavers (Belgard).

The efforts of the Yucaipa City Council, the uptown owners and the Yucaipa Redevelopment Agency to begin the transformation and revitalization of the 'Heart of Yucaipa' are a truly singular accomplishment. With an entirely new concrete roadway, colored concrete sidewalks, landscaping, decorative streetlights, entry archway and roundabout intersections, the streetscape project is one of the most complex public works projects a city can undertake. The project comprised four city blocks of Yucaipa Boulevard.

With project amenities such as banners, benches, decorative pots, historical markers, unique features in the center island of the roundabouts, hanging flower baskets and a sound system for ambient music, the new historic uptown is becoming an attraction.

The request by the city council to evaluate the inclusion of roundabouts into the streetscape design provided the opportunity to reconsider the originally developed design concept, which in turn produced a plan that completely alters the character of the uptown district.

For most Yucaipa's residents, their only memory of Yucaipa Boulevard has been a four-lane artery that extends through uptown.

Given the population increase in recent years, changing Yucaipa's main street thoroughfare back into a two-lane roadway seemed counter intuitive. However, after millions of dollars in investment and years of construction, the city had developed a significant amount of roadway infrastructure throughout the community to support the uptown circulation alteration. Combined with the goal of uptown revitalization, converting Yucaipa Boulevard to a two-lane roadway with angled parking immediately creates a special opportunity to remake the heart of Yucaipa into a pedestrian, shopper and business-friendly destination.

The inclusion of roundabouts in the uptown has added traffic capacity and safety to the intersections. The conversion of the parallel parking to angled parking provides 50 additional parking spaces on Yucaipa Boulevard.

The streetlighting specifications for Yucaipa Boulevard are 'Omega' luminaires (with 250-watt halide lamps) and 'Gateway' poles/bases (both from Sternberg Lighting). Each pole has two hanging steel-frame baskets and two banners. The poles have internal drip tubing for automatic irrigation to each basket.

While the number of pass-thru drivers traveling in the uptown area will likely decrease, that loss is expected to be more than offset by the greater exposure businesses get from the slower traffic speeds necessary to navigate the roundabouts, what you might call "planned congestion."

Based on the traffic analysis and subsequent installation of recommended improvements, it is evident the two-lane and roundabout configuration does not have a significant adverse effect on either the roadway network outside the project area or within the uptown district. In many ways, the uses of roundabouts serve the community better than intersections with signals.

After meeting with several community groups representing various business interests, the consensus was nearly unanimous in support of the proposed change to the streetscape plan. The value of reorienting the uptown district toward a more shopper/visitor-conducive plan was recognized.

Yucaipa celebrated the completion of its $6 million Uptown streetscape with a street fair, music and the unveiling of the bronze statue on the California Street roundabout on May 5, 2012. The fair and music continued on Sunday, plus a Soap Box Derby was held on newly narrowed Yucaipa Boulevard between Bryant and Adams streets.

Let There Be Music and Art
The newly reconstructed uptown was the setting for the first annual Yucaipa Music and Arts Festival, an economic and community success. There were approximately 20,000 attendees over the three-day event for residents and visitors. The first night featured a certified Farmer's Market, now a weekly event. Within a month of the event, there have been many uptown businesses looking to expand and new businesses interested in coming into the uptown area.

Custom powder-coated steel fencing, and colored-textured concrete lighted bollards (Quickcrete) protect the pedestrian ways at the roundabout intersections.

The new lighting and the concrete paving provide a well-lit environment for other nighttime events, like car shows. There is now a self-guided tour that takes people around the uptown. Historical markers engraved in the sidewalk identify significance city locations. There are plans to engrave mileage markers in the sidewalk. The new streetscape would not have happened without the direction of the city council to have the foresight to set the wheels in motion and see the project completed. Yucaipa City Manager Ray Casey views these upgrades as part of the city park system, with many opportunities for events throughout the year.

The COR-TEN steel oak tree lies on the ground prior to installation on the center of the archway. COR-TEN is an alloy of steel and copper. Layers of alloy allow the surface to continuously regenerate under the influence of the weather, that is, the steel rusts to form a protective coating under oxidation.

The roundabout islands created opportunities for art works:

  • Oversized bronze sculpture of a fruit farmer with LED accents.
  • Ceramic tiled packing labels on oversized COR-TEN steel fruit packing crates, an oversized fruit-picking ladder and a tree sculpture.
  • Three-sided internally lit and color-changing mural.

Design Elements

  • Decorative street luminaires and poles (Sternberg Lighting).
  • Z crosswalks and pedestrian-activated crosswalk lights for greater safety.
  • Two single-lane roundabouts replace signaled intersections; reverse-angled parking.
  • Speaker sound system and banners; street-level power supply access.
  • Colored concrete sidewalks with hand-scored grid lines and engraved markers; colored-textured concrete tree grates.
  • Weather-based irrigation controllers; below-grade drip irrigation; hanging flower baskets with internal drip irrigation.
  • Fiberglass-reinforced concrete planters; powder-coated custom steel fencing and concrete lighted bollards for pedestrian safety at roundabouts.
  • Custom Craftsman-Style steel entry archway sign with LED backlit COR-TEN letters; custom internally-lit LED rope lighting for COR-TEN oak tree and oak leaf motif, with granite coble column bases.

The concept sketch for the Yucaipa entry archway was prepared by Van Dyke Landscape Architects. The 63-ft. long arch has four 6-inch steel tube columns on each side, COR-TEN steel oak leaf motifs and letters, natural granite cobble column bases and LED back lighting. As of 7/19/12, installation of the archway is not yet complete.

Roundabout Wrap Up
Narrowing Yucaipa Boulevard to one lane in each direction in "Uptown," incorporating two roundabouts, and adding reverse parking were controversial. Traffic studies reports Uptown traffic slows a bit, but keeps moving, as the roundabouts replaced intersections with traffic signals. A red sign at the approach to the roundabouts warns drivers to yield to roundabout traffic. The roundabout speed limit is 15 mph. One traffic study revealed driving from 3rd Street to Bryant with the new street configuration increases travel time by 12 to 30 seconds, a small sacrifice for street revitalization.

Pavers (Belgard) form Z-shaped crosswalks. Protective medians, tactile strips and pedestrian-activated crosswalk lights further facilitate crossings.

Yucaipa's Future Looks Solid
With the streetscape project complete, Yucaipa looks to future growth. At a June 19, 2012 meeting, the Yucaipa City Council reviewed and approved the draft budgets fiscal year 2012-13. City Manager Ray Casey reported a balanced budget (once again), despite the continuing slow economic recovery.

Casey said operating revenues have exceeded operating expense by just over $11 million since 2007-2008. The city will also set aside a "substantive balance" from fiscal year 2011-2012."

Custom packing-labels made of ceramic tiles are installed on oversized COR-TEN steel fruit packing crates next to an oversized fruit-picking ladder, all under a tree sculpture.

City of Yucaipa Project Team
Uptown Design Team:
Bill Hemsley - Public Works Director, City Engineer
Paul Toomey - Planning Manager,
Steven Frenken - City Landscape Architect
Civil Engineer:
APD Consultants
Construction Management Phase 1:
Vali Cooper & Associates
Electrical Contractor:
B.W. Simmons, Inc., J.A. Electric
Electrical Engineer:
Hartzog & Crabill, Inc.
General Contractor:
Hillcrest Contracting
Landscape Architect:
Van Dyke Landscape Architects, San Diego
Landscape Contractor:
Three Peaks Corp. Calimesa, Calif.
Roundabout Intersection Design: RBF Consultants
Traffic Engineer: Hartzog & Crabill, Inc., RBF

Incorporating "reverse street parking" (i.e., spaces that you back into) between California and Bryant streets on Yucaipa Blvd. surprised and perturbed many residents. There is, however, a six-foot wide safety lane running between the roadway and reverse angle parking areas where drivers pull into in preparation to park, so as not to block through traffic. Easier entry into traffic flow, eye-to-eye line-of-sight between parkers and approaching vehicles and bikes, and safer access to trunks and unloading passengers are all advantages of reverse-angled parking.

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August 19, 2019, 10:29 am PDT

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