Zoned Out

From City of Rochester Zoning Code CCD-B (Center City Base District):

Parking lot.


Parking lots shall not be located at intersecting city streets.


Access to parking lots shall be from district, neighborhood or alley streets.


Front yard setback shall be two feet greater than the larger adjacent building setback and shall be a minimum of 12 feet.


Side and rear yard setback shall be a minimum six feet.


Parking lots shall be hard surfaced and concrete or granite curbed.


Parking aisles shall be oriented perpendicular to the front yard.


Parking lots shall have one paved pedestrian walkway to each street frontage sidewalk a minimum six feet and a maximum eight feet wide. Pedestrian walks shall be hard surfaced and equal in material and pattern to the adjacent sidewalk.


Setbacks shall be landscaped with one tree per 250 square feet and continuous ground cover. Parking lots shall be landscaped with trees and continuous ground cover in curbed islands so that the parking lot is shaded to a minimum 40% at tree maturity.


Lighting shall conform to Illumination Engineers Society of North America (IESNA) guidelines and shall be maintained from dusk to dawn.


All 4 lots at the intersection of Franklin and Pleasant are parking lots. At least one is abandoned. None conforms fully to the above code.

Welcome to the Parking District of downtown Rochester, NY- a great place (for your car) to visit!


From The Rochester I Know, by Henry W. Clune (1972)



It was inevitable, I suppose, that in time we were to be drawn into the city’s orbit, and made more or less a Rochester bedchamber; but the transition from a rural community to a suburban unit might have been accomplished with more grace and less disfigurement had avarice been restrained and some scheme of civic planning enforced.

After the city contractors had committed their first desecration and the rows of flimsy little dwellings had been occupied, Scottsville enjoyed-or suffered- something rather like a vogue. In the past, the approximate ratio of home building had been one new house every other decade. Now they went up a dozen at a time. We got dial telephones when previously we had had to hand crank the instrument to get Central; a sewer was installed for favored residents. Today, we have a shopping plaza, a new central school, a bowling alley, three saloons, and our little library is served by the large public library in Rochester. We have a new firehouse, a new post office, a bank, and a new school. Yellow school buses carry kids to school who live no more than a five- or ten-minute walk from the schoolhouse. Our taxes have risen astronomically.

We still have lovely old houses on two or three of our streets, and great widespread trees, and here and there the ambiance of tradition. But we are definitely suburbia. I confess I liked it better when some of our neighbors had privies out back, and one might walk to the post office and know everyone along the way. Now I know almost no one. And the ancients have disappeared. I am sure several of them will never die, unless shot with a gun. But they are undercover and overwhelmed. The suburbanites have taken over. They are young, or youngish middle-aged. They play golf on nearby suburban courses. They wear walking shorts when they garden, and brilliant blazers, with crests at the breast pockets at summer cocktail parties. They ride saddle horses. In the winter, they have ski racks on their station wagons. They are a new breed, and I have scarcely a nodding acquaintance with any of them…

The Rochester I Know

From The Rochester I Know, by Henry W. Clune (1972)



Today, the front porch is an architectural anachronism, and most modern dwellings lack these pleasant sheltered appendages. They have no purpose in the suburban home with its patio, its swimming pool, its air-conditioning unit; the urbanite would have no patience sitting on a front porch inhaling the noxious fumes of carbon monoxide with only the pricking glints of fireflies to divert him.

And city dwellers no longer have backyards where one might, if one wished, raise chickens, play croquet, sift ashes, paint a screen door, grow an eggplant, breed dogs, experiment in floriculture, dry curtains, or plant a quince tree: the space once available for these pursuits is now consumed by an asphalt drive and a two-car garage.

We need your help!

This post by Dan Speciale originally appeared on the RochesterSubway blog.

Do me a favor. If you’re at home, step outside for a moment and take a good, long look at your driveway and garage (Don’t worry, the Internet will still be here when you get back). If you don’t have a driveway or garage, step outside and catch me a Charmander! 

Did you do it? Did you stare intently at your driveway/garage situation? Great! Now, think about it for a moment and answer honestly: Does your car have a bigger bedroom than you do? Seriously. What percentage of the space that you own/rent/occupy is dedicated solely to vehicular storage? Your car isn’t paying rent. Why does it get the biggest room in the house?! 

What else could you do with that space the garage sits on? A jam space for your band? Art studio? Game room? Greenhouse? The possibilities are many…

How about that big chunk of pavement on your yard that’s all cracked and busted up? What could we do with that instead of paying someone too much money every couple of years to patch it? An herb garden? Space for a swing-set? You get the idea. 

This is almost definitely not your fault. You didn’t build the house (I assume), and you didn’t create the policies that have trapped our city and our country in a state of automobile dependency perpetuated by a built environment that caters almost exclusively to single-occupant-vehicles (I hope. If you did, I’m going to fight you. Right now. We’re going to fight). But you can help change that culture right here in Rochester.

On Friday, September 16th, we're turning an unused parking lot -- a barren wasteland amidst an endless expanse of blacktop, guardrails, and sprouting weeks -- into an exciting and engaging public space for PARK(ing) Day. One of the many features present will be an art installation, and this is where you come in. We are looking for submission of visual art in any form, expressing how you would transform, re-purpose, and ultimately revitalize your favorite run-down / abandoned / unused place in Rochester.

See our Request for Artwork for more details.