SacCity street design standards

I had recently posted on the design for alley sidewalk crossings, based on a document from the City of Sacramento website. I shortly thereafter discovered that there are at least two sets of standards. The Department of Utilities, on the Development Standards page, has a Standard Specifications document which includes some text about streets, and the Transportation appendix of standard drawings which contains the diagram referenced. If you look at the text document, you will notice that it does not link itself to the Department of Utilities. Who wrote it, who would you contact about it? Who knows. Why the Department of Utilities has its own designs, separate from Department of Public Works, which has assigned responsibility for transportation, isn’t clear at all. On the positive side, though, this document was updated November 2020.

The Department of Public Works has its own Section 15 – Street Design Standards, part of the Design and Procedures Manual, linked on the Public Works Publications page. This is the document I discovered after using the Department of Utilities document. On the negative side, this document was last updated in June of 2009. Fourteen years ago. Again, there is no attribution to department in the body of the document. I only know/think this is a Public Works document because it is linked from a PW page.

There have been immense changes in street design best practices in that time. Most of the diagrams are overviews of arterial and collector roadways, very little about other streets. Bike lanes of any sort? Nada. ADA ramp details? Nada. Protected intersections? Nada. Curb extensions (bulb-outs)? Nada. Traffic calming infrastructure? Nada. The text of the document does contain references to a few of these issues, but without corresponding diagrams, there really is no guidance at all.

In searching for design diagrams, it appears there are additional designs scattered across the city website, some of them having to do with subdivisions, which seem to be treated separately from other street design. Let me say that this is not at all clear. The city website contains many documents without attribution to the department which created it. The city search engine is one of the poorest I’ve ever seen, and when it finds a document, it is almost impossible to tell where it came from or on which webpage one might find it.

At the SacATC (City of Sacramento Active Transportation Commission) meeting on 2023-03-16, staff presented an Introduction to Current Active Transportation Efforts. Under Projects, item 6 is ‘Street Design Standards Update: website expected in Fall 2023’. I spoke at the meeting about the weakness and antiquity of the current standards, and about the confusion over which set of standards is being talked about. City code, in Title 17 Planning and Development Code also has references to street design, but no linkage to the corresponding street design documents or diagrams. I don’t think staff realized how big a mess this is. It is not just the Public Works document that needs to be updated, but all city references to street design pulled together and properly referenced and linked.

A post in the near future will provide my ideas about what a street design manual ought to look like.

cover page of Section 15 - Street Design Standards, of the Public Works Design and Procedures Manual

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

2 thoughts on “SacCity street design standards”

  1. When they update street standards we should push for them to include street trees in new streets and new building plans. I commented on a lot split on 27th St today that installs sidewalk on the bleak streetscape along the DMV parking lot on 26th (which will be rarely used) but there were no trees on the plans. We also need to work in options for street trees in 8X8 planters in parking lanes, which will reduce parking somewhat, but is preferable to trying to get one to grow in a 4 x4 sidewalk cutout 4 feet from a 40 foot tall building.

    1. Good comments. I think the designs should always be for 8 foot sidewalk buffers/planting strips for new or reconstructed sidewalks, but for existing locations with narrower or no planting area, planters in the parking lane is a great idea. Trees in 4 foot or 6 foot planting strips always buckle (root heave) the sidewalk. There are several streets in the Poverty Ridge area of midtown where the planting strips are 12 feet, and the trees are very healthy. I’ll be working on, and posting on, several street design elements, and I welcome your input on those.

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