So you’ve finally aligned the stars to get something important done in your community. Maybe it’s a corridor plan that nods to the needs of pedestrians, bikers and transit riders, as well as car drivers. Maybe it’s an ambitious mixed-use master plan for your downtown. Or a revamped zoning code to enable the development and redevelopment everybody seems to want.
We believe form-based codes are the most efficient, predictable, and elegant way to assure high levels of walkability and urbanism – even in more rural environments. However, the political and staff capacity of many local governments is not prepared for a full zoning reform effort. CNU is developing an agenda of incremental code reform that blends perfectly with the Lean Urbanism initiative funded by the Knight Foundation and led by the Center for Applied Transect Studies.
Every day, social media serves up a seemingly endless stream of content. Raw information, with each item typically reflecting the priorities of its respective poster. If you’ve assembled good curators among your friends and contacts, it adds up to a lot of interesting stuff. But the real interest, at least for me, is when you stumble into curious intersections that seem to exist between disparate content.
I’m writing this as Wisconsin voters appear poised, if we’re to believe the hyperventilating pundits, to push the reset button on the 2016 presidential primary season. All bets are off from here on.
Not the smart money, though. That’s because the presidential campaign is likely to play out within boundaries shaped by what we voters tend to agree on most of the time:
The future we most believe in is the past we wish were true and are convinced we deserve.
This weekend in Miami, the Congress for the New Urbanism is staging one of the periodic Councils it uses to focus perspectives and best practices on topics of growing concern to CNU members and fellow travelers. This one is all about building “a Better Burb.”
The idea, says CNU CEO Lynn Richards, is “to leverage the momentum from the revival of the city.”
Local and regional governments in outlying areas, says Richards, are beginning to recognize the advantages of reversing sprawl — and the risks of not acting. “And they’re asking for tools and strategies to start or accelerate their suburban transformation. That’s what we’ll be focusing on this weekend.”
See if this sounds familiar:
The city planning staff, maybe working with an expert team of design consultants, comes up with what they think is a no-brainer solution to a high-profile problem. Say, a proposal for much-needed multifamily development to address workforce housing demand. Or a plan to fix a blighted block with a mixed-use project that checks all the Smart Growth boxes. Or perhaps a senior-friendly cottage court adjacent to an existing single-family neighborhood of larger lots and homes.
Let’s say the proposal earns staff support and gets planning and zoning commission okays for whatever changes are required in local codes. It heads to city council for final approval, where everything hits the fan.
Planning wonks might have felt all warm inside when they noticed zoning topics wedging their way into broader conversations about community affordability and equity. Bring it on. Finally.
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.
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.”
Last week, passing my Canadian citizenship exam was a poignant moment for me. I am grateful to have dual citizenship in Canada and the US, with the right to live and work in both great countries. I realize that we often spend time on this blog talking about what stands in the way of great placemaking, but I enjoyed over the weekend looking back at our Canadian urbanism series and celebrating what all’s going right in the nation to nurture neighbourhood-scale livability: Montreal: Lessons from great Canadian urbanism | Québec City: La ville de l’amour | Ottawa: Lessons from great Canadian urbanism | Mont-Tremblant: Cottage living in the Canadian Shield | Victoria Beach Lean Urbanism: A century practice? | Lessons from the Woods.