Downtown Taft is much like other small rural towns in the central valley of California. Just a short drive off the interstate, one only needs to follow a two-lane state highway that cuts through the town to see cars exiting as quickly as they've entered.
Taft's downtown is located on Center Street, just two blocks south of Highway 33, which parallels Interstate 5 and bisects the city from southeast to northwest. Like other downtowns, Center Street and Downtown Taft was the center of everything for the city from its founding in 1910 until new big box and strip mall shopping centers were built on the edge of town in the mid-1980s and early 1990s.
Celebrating Downtown Taft
Community Planning Assistance Team Report
In September 2018, the Community Planning Assistance Team visited Taft, California, to assess the city's downtown and provide recommendations for a downtown revitalization strategy. In this final report, the team presents opportunities for success, a framework for investment, and an action plan.
Residents of Taft have maintained their entrepreneurial spirit by occupying many of the shop spaces on Center Street. However, over the past 30 to 40 years, the number of vacancies, a frequent turnover of business types, and storefront facade changes to most of the blocks have taken away much of the charm of Downtown Taft.
General Plan goals, policies, and actions have been updated over the years, along with adoptions of downtown Specific Plans and zoning ordinances to help define and refine the downtown area. However, Downtown Taft's identity to local residents and those in the region is not well defined. The Taft City Council and its appointed Economic Development Ad Hoc Committee are ready to develop a definitive image and vision for Downtown Taft that is evocative of the history of the area, but reflects current residents' identity for Taft and the downtown. Taft requested help from the CPAT program to help the city develop a successful future Downtown Specific Plan.
Team leader Bruce Race, PhD, FAICP, FAIA, and APA Programs Manager Ryan Scherzinger, AICP, conducted a preliminary site visit to Taft on June 11, 2018.
The full team visited Taft September 9–13, 2018.
Meet the Team
Bruce Race, PhD, FAICP, FAIA
Bruce Race is the principal and founder of RACESTUDIO and is responsible for all aspects of project planning, design, and delivery. Since founding RACESTUDIO in Berkeley, California, in 1994, his projects have received 32 design and planning awards including national awards from APA, the American Institute of Architects, Environmental Protection Agency, Association of Environmental Professionals, Local Government Commission, and Society for College and University Planning. In 2015, Race joined the Gerald D. Hines School of Architecture as Director of University of Houston's newly created Center for Sustainability and Resilience. Race was on the founding Board of Directors for the Great Valley Center, an organization that strives to enhance the economic, social, and environmental well-being of California's Central Valley.
Susan Harden, FAICP, LEED AP, CNU-A
Susan Harden is an independent planning consultant specializing in community engagement and revitalization. She is also an adjunct faculty member in UCI's Urban Planning and Public Policy department where she teaches a graduate practicum focused on healthy neighborhoods. She is also on the NeighborWorks America Training Institute faculty where she teaches courses focused on community revitalization, engagement, mobility, and place. She is the co-author of a PAS report entitled Placemaking on a Budget. Harden also serves on the board of directors for Jamboree Housing, an affordable housing provider. As an educator, author, and presenter, she is committed to empowering communities to create positive and meaningful change.
Ed Starkie is a principal at Urban Advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Starkie has experience in real estate that includes moving complex projects from conception and feasibility analysis to financing and development strategies. A particular career focus has been the economic structure of vital urban places, of downtowns and neighborhoods that are pedestrian and transit-oriented environments. Starkie is a financial advisor for private and public development who brings a unique, pragmatic approach that results in projects that are feasible, profitable, and contribute to community livability. He also has also served on the faculty of the University of Oregon Urban Architecture Program and team-teaches urban design at the Portland State University Nohad Toulan School of Urban Planning.
Matthew Taecker, AICP, AIA
Matt Taecker provides a range of urban planning and design services through his firm, Taecker Planning & Design. He has directed and managed hundreds of projects and led dozens of community-focused planning efforts. His work emphasizes livable places, environmental sustainability, and paths to implementation with a particular focus on the revitalization of downtowns and aging corridors. Taecker is also managing principal for Corridor Planning that focuses on the integration of transportation, land use, and urban design. He also lectures extensively in the U.S. and internationally, and has taught urban design at Sonoma State University, USC, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley.