Having lived in six 100-year-old homes over the last 25 years, autumn always makes me carefully consider what it takes to keep these beautiful elders operational and up-to-date. As we were going through the process of winterizing this year, I am reminded of our recent attempt to modernize by making one small addition that would connect the kitchen to the garage without going through the basement or outdoors. However, a quick look at our development by-law told me that our house is currently “legal non-compliant” because it’s built too close to the house next door. In fact, most of our neighbourhood is the same. So a simple addition along the same lines as the existing footprint is a no-go, even if my neighbours give special permission. This makes our historical housing stock seriously marginalized because it’s illegal to update.
Maybe it’s a brief glimpse, inspired by Pope Francis’s visit, of a collective will to be better humans. Or maybe it’s just the math. But I’m feeling more hopeful about future traction for arguments — and for action — for more meaningfully connected, livable communities.
We are excited to see the high level of understanding in the Surgeon General’s Step It Up call to action last week, to promote walking and walkable communities. The Surgeon General noted, “Improving walkability means that communities are created or enhanced to make it safe and easy to walk and that pedestrian activity is encouraged for all people. The purpose of the Call to Action is to increase walking across the United States by calling for improved access to safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll and by creating a culture that supports these activities for people of all ages and abilities.”
This is the second of two parts addressing Hurricane Katrina 10 years after the storm. The first looked at issues in New Orleans. This one focuses on one hoped-for innovation in the storm’s wake in Coastal Mississippi.
Right about now, a couple and their two children are getting much-needed affordable housing help via a move into one side of a cool-looking modular duplex in Mobile, Alabama.
Extraordinary strides have been made in the advancement of placemaking over the past twenty-five years.
Think about it. In the years prior, the term “placemaking” wasn’t even in common use by developers, designers and planners. Nor were terms such as form-based code, new urbanism, smart growth, transect, charrette, visual preference survey, traditional neighborhood development, transit-oriented development, sprawl repair/suburban retrofit, return on infrastructure investment analysis, tactical urbanism, WalkScore, complete streets, context sensitive thoroughfare design, LEED-ND, light imprint infrastructure, WalkUP, the original green, lean urbanism, the high cost of free parking, etc.
I guess it says something about where I am on life’s conception-to-compost journey that the phrase “Ten Years After” evokes a forgettable British group from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But, hey, let’s at least credit Alvin Lee with capturing a timeless sentiment in his lyrics for the band’s 1971 hit, “I’d Love to Change the World”:
I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you
Kinda resonates through the ages, no?
Even before last week’s official release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, advocates and defenders were honing their talking points. In April, liberal Catholic author Gary Wills upped the ante on what was anticipated — accurately, it turns out — as the the pontiff’s vigorous critique of global inequities exacerbated by climate change:
“The fact that the poor get poorer in this process is easily dismissed, denied, or derided,” said Wills. “The poor have no voice. Till now. If the pope were not a plausible voice for the poor, his opponents would not be running so scared.”
Mo’ money, mo’ problems. That’s what Biggie says. Me, I lack the net worth to fully test the premise, but I tend to agree anyways. Because it’s something that plays out at the community level over and over again.
Too often, people are conditioned to believe that, with the right vision, leadership or hard work, a community can prosper and, in time, overcome its problems. That you can exist at a point where you’re down, come together in response, then ultimately reach some idealized state where your challenging times are behind you.
When we look back on this period, we might discover that the effort to ramp up realistic approaches to the challenges of community affordability reached some sort of tipping point in the spring and summer of 2015.
Lately I’ve been thinking about “health, safety, and general welfare” — the basis by which zoning is typically legitimized and measured — and wondering just how great a disconnect needs to form between our purported values and our land use regulations before we admit that something’s not working.