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.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife Sharon and I were out for a long neighborhood walk. This is not unusual for us, but on this particular day we took a route we hadn’t walked in quite some time. I was pleased to notice that one of the traditional, colonial-style houses we encountered was sporting solar panels on its roof. And then we noticed another. And another. And yet more, so many that we lost count. Not every house, certainly, but enough in this particular section of northwest D.C. to make a strong impression.
Having just wrapped up what may have been our favorite CNU ever, in Dallas on April 29 through May 2, we want to share some of the ideas that resonated the most with us. The topics below are snippets of great insights from many voices, including the likes of Andrés Duany, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Doug Farr, and Lynn Richards on Social Connections; Dr. Antwi Akom and Dan Slone on Equity; Charles Montgomery and Hazel Borys on Happiness; Chris Leinberger and Peter Calthorpe on Economics; John Anderson, Bruce Tolar, and Ben Brown on Affordability; Marina Khoury, Susan Henderson, Matt Lambert, Jennifer Hurley, Peter Park, and Hazel Borys on Form-Based Codes; Jeffrey Tumlin on Parking (and Dancing), Andrés Duany, Hank Dittmar, and Sandy Sorlien on Lean Urbanism; Scott Bernstein and Lee Sobel on Pedestrian Malls; and Jon Coppage, Andrés Duany and Charles Marohn on Politics. The Congress was full of concurrent sessions we wish we could have attended, so if you’re blogging other ideas or the pieces missing from these topics, please give us those links in the comment section.
Let’s take a wild stab at a generalization: Success at building a business or growing a non-profit or making a community more livable depends a lot on trust.
You have to keep delivering what you promise to get people to keep buying what you’re selling.
Steve Jobs ended one of his most memorable speeches with the encouragement, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” He was quoting the message on the final page of the final publication of The Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart Brand’s version of pre-Google, assembled with typewriters, polaroid’s and scissors. Jobs’ point for me was to realize that the hunger for knowledge is not neediness, powerlessness, or weakness, but rather is a transformational driver of change and growth. An essential part of wellbeing.
“What a bunch of idiots. Don’t they know this will create a traffic nightmare?”
Sound familiar? It’s the most commonly voiced complaint any time the community conversation turns to traffic calming.
Taken at face value, it’s not an outrageous sentiment. After all, when you’re out and about, anything that stands between you and where you want to be looks like a problem. So why on earth would anyone choose to further complicate your commute on purpose?
The National Arbor Day Foundation has a simple app on its website that allows visitors to see how a city changes as it adds tree cover and other vegetation. Using a little sliding tool, one can gradually change the illustration from one with few trees to one with abundant trees. The difference is striking: everyone I know would prefer to live in the greener city.
I love the Arbor Day app, but this is not a new subject for me. I have long maintained that the fates of nature and cities are intricately related: Nature needs cities, a truth still not sufficiently appreciated in the world of environmental advocacy, because compact urban and suburban communities reduce development pressure on the natural and rural landscape.
It’s pretty clear that breaking news in American cities is not going to let us duck debates about race, inequality and public policy. About time, right?
Still, it doesn’t feel like we’re getting anywhere, what with partisans screaming, “You just don’t get it!” to their opposites across a wasteland of failed ideas. We seem to keep picking away at the edges of problems, focusing on sub-issues that fit our predispositions and ignoring everything that complicates our perspectives.