Livability, Division, Exclusion and Other Naughty Words

This is what we’ve come to: An escalation in urban property values and cost of living so extreme in some quarters that there are now those who, with a straight face, argue against efforts to improve neighborhoods. Don’t bring those improvements goes the often implied but less frequently articulated point of view, as improvement increases quality of life, quality of life increases desirability, desirability increases demand, and demand brings newcomers and drives up cost.

That’s how the process goes, for sure. You’ll get no argument from me in that regard. But surely we’re capable of something better than leave suffering areas suffering so they can stay off the radar.

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The Other Side of Anxiety? Realism. And maybe hope.

When the dust settles after the current traumas, I think we’ll see this time in our lives and in our nation’s history as a period in which what we’ve learned about human psychology, democracy and policy-making at every scale has exposed weaknesses in ourselves and our institutions that will take a while to fix. And that could be a good thing.

We’re wired to seek simple solutions, even when evidence suggests hairballs of complexity. And the more stressed we are, the faster we default to The Answer. Evolution encourages us to be hammers in search of nails. Needless to say, this has not always worked well for us. (See racism, genocide, xenophobia, etc. Also Urban Renewal and the 2016 presidential election.)

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The (Irrational) Criminalization of Walking

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, if only there was a concise resource available that articulates key reasons why walking is so much less prevalent in the modern age; why this presents unanticipated threats to safety, health, the environment, child development, and social equity; and what we in our communities can do to effectively advocate for change; and that argues the case in a manner compelling to folks across the political spectrum, then today’s your lucky day. Because yesterday marked the release of “The Criminalization of Walking” by law professor and congenial urbanist, Michael Lewyn, and it’s got all the tools you need to restore common sense, wherever you live.

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CNU 25 Seattle: Highlights from the silver anniversary

Last week was the 25th annual Congress for the New Urbanism, where 1,400 city planners, architects, developers, economists, and mayors from around the world gathered to discuss the future of cities. Hosted in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute, comprised of an additional 6,000 developers and builders, the two events brought significant inspiration and insight to those working in the city building trenches. Here are a few of the ideas that resonated the most with me, along with some of my favourite spots in downtown Seattle, where the “unboxed” conferences were held. All images are clickable for a larger view, and have CreativeCommons ShareAlike License with Attribution to Hazel Borys. Continue Reading

Florida Man Fails to Fix Everything, Reconsiders Position

You know magical thinking about cities is fading when one of the gurus says stuff like this:

“My optimism has been tempered and I’ve become more of a realist.”

That’s Richard Florida, the guy who inspired a (mostly unsuccessful) stampede to hipness 15 years ago with the publication of The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life.

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Parking is a Commodity, Not an Experience

Yesterday the Atlantic ran a piece on the Great Retail Meltdown of 2017 which, to summarize, tied the present culling of the retail herd to three phenomena: the rise of online shopping; a half century of overbuilding retail space; and the present shift in spending from goods to experiences.

In short, with people increasingly getting their everyday stuff online and valuing an interesting meal with friends over a trip to the mall to get a Hollister sweater, our overly abundant providers of commercial goods are taking a beating.

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Feared Dead, Math’s Back: Planning nerds vindicated

Planning for the future tends to be a humiliating exercise. Whatever’s headed our way is both inevitable and unpredictable. Yet because it brings with it the consequences of decisions we made or ducked in the past and now have to manage or endure in the present, we have to take a stab at decisions that are coherent and well-informed.

Or not.

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Placemaking: Geek niche or the root of pretty much everything?

When I first developed my interest in placemaking twenty years ago it was driven by design. I was a brand advertising person which, by necessity, involves the study of behavior. Not just of people but of their context.

Where and how people choose to live, I learned, provided a lot of insight into the kinds of things advertisers care about. Circumstances. Values. Aspirations. The things people choose to buy to get through their everyday lives.

It doesn’t tell you everything, of course, and for every broad stroke there’s no shortage of individuals who defy the generalization. But still, when you’re observing people in the aggregate, there’s a lot of content there.

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