Not everything about the past can easily be categorized as "the good old days."
Some St. Vincent's Hill Historic District residents, however, are seeing benefits in returning their streets into a modernized version of their hey day -- with narrow roadways, big front lawns, street parking and lots of trees meeting roundabouts, bicycle lanes and bicycle boulevards.
Sarah Nichols and Judy Irvin, executive director and board member, respectively, of Solano Advocates Green Environments (SAGE), have turned their sights on their own neighborhood and how it becomes a more livable, convivial place. In fact, it's an effort they and others have undertaken in various fashions for the past five years.
To that end, Nichols joined with her neighbors to draft a cultural landscape report, titled "Mean Streets to Green Streets." It would return residents their tree-lined front yards by narrowing the roadways.
Everyone understands historic buildings. But the environment around them is ephemeral," Nichols, a landscaper, said. "So, you do historic research and you come up with solutions that are historically feasible for the area."
In recent years, the federal historically registered neighborhood has had its share of street prostitution and crime to grapple with, and residents have publicly voiced their concerns about it.
And now, neighbors are looking to their next step -- actively improving the area.
The two women say they want to begin with Sacramento Street, a four-lane road now used less to handle high traffic volumes than to facilitate speeding traffic.
The city was able to widen its old streets in the 1960s to 80-foot right of ways that had been established at the city's founding by General Mariano G. Vallejo. He had envisioned grand boulevards in the pre- motor vehicle times, Nichols said. During the redevelopment boom of the 1960s, streets like Sacramento were widened to four lanes, in anticipation of unrealized traffic upticks.
Nichols said she is aware of public concerns about putting all available city money into public safety. She agrees that is worthwhile, but adds that beautification also should have a place in the city's budget.
"When you plant a tree, you pant hope," Nichols said. "Fifty years from now, we can give something to the next generation who lives here... Beautification, if not dealt with now -- if not now, when?"
At 6 p.m. Monday, SAGE will make a presentation to the city's Beautification Advisory and Code Enforcement Commission -- of which Nichols is a member -- at Vallejo City Hall on the cultural landscape report. They also went before the city Housing and Redevelopment Commission earlier this month seeking a $325,000 federal Community Development Block Grant to pay for engineering drawings for their plan.
Irvin, an architect by trade, said she does not see changes to her neighborhood happening overnight, but hopes that the city will consider seriously revising its street standards for all city historic districts.
"Visions are powerful," Irvin said. "You can talk about problems all you want, but when you have a picture .. it's easy to get behind.... I do see a meme being planted in people's brains."