Code Score: A New Aid for aligning policy and vision with outcomes

Whether we’re talking equity, affordability, jobs, health, or a list of other pressing topics, every community strives for more effective outcomes from policies to address a broad range of competing demands. The fact that the demands – and the strategies to address them – are competing for time and resources is its own problem, especially in an era of diminishing trust in cities’ and towns’ capacities to deliver on the collective local vision.

Continue Reading

Code Hackathon: What can go wrong with form-based codes?

We often talk about how places can hack their zoning code to enable livability. The Project for Code Reform is taking this idea to the next level, helping cities look for the lowest hanging fruit on the walkability front. However, for places on the cutting edge of land use reform that have already adopted a form-based code, there’s a different sort of code hack. Continue Reading

Climate Change Update, Part II: Leveraging “The Biggest Little Things”

“The best strategies are the ones that can be implemented.”

That’s a reminder from Jim Fox, director of NEMAC, the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Taking ideas to meaningful action is the bottom-line test of any plan. And it applies particularly to what is arguably humankind’s biggest challenge ever: the struggle to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Continue Reading

Climate Change Update, Part I: The End is Near (Really)

Back in 2011 when we were emerging from the Great Recession, I wrote an “End Is Near” post about the chance to make use of the crisis.

When you run out of all options except the ones that force you to think big,” I wrote, a little panic could be a good thing: “We are about to be freed to innovate, to become heroes even, by being stripped of comfortable delusions. Chief among them: Faith that somebody else will pick up the tab.”

Continue Reading

A new path to code reform

The Users’ Guide to Code Reform leads planners through the code reform process, providing tools for governments lacking the capacity to develop a full form-based code. Continue Reading

Jeff Speck’s Step-by-Step Guide to Making Better Urban Places

Kaid-BenfieldIf you are involved in the world of city and neighborhood design, you probably know (or at least have heard of) the work of urban thinker, writer, lecturer, and city planner Jeff Speck. He has authored or coauthored a number of books in the field, my personal favorite being The Smart Growth Manual (2010, coauthored with Andres Duany and Mike Lydon), a basic introduction to the principles of strengthening, building, and designing nonsprawling communities.

Continue Reading

The Transformative Power of Walkability (and beer)

I’m suspicious of the words “neighborhood character” in defensive mode. If they once signaled a community characteristic worth prioritizing, the’ve lately become weaponized. A dog whistle for opposition to everything from granny flats to transit to, you know, change. But I’m definitely okay when the character of the neighborhood in question embodies adaptation.

My current favorite example is in my West Asheville neighborhood. It’s a gas station/convenience store redefining the concept of “convenience” for a place in transition.

Continue Reading

The Human Scale

I recently watched The Human Scale again, a film from 2013, and felt the anticipation building to meet Jan Gehl at the 26th Congress for the New Urbanism (#CNU26) in Savannah next week, and at home in Winnipeg in September. I’m sure Jan will bring us an update on his city planning work in the last five years, but the ideas he shares in the film are timeless. Until then, here are memorable excerpts from the film, and the Twitter accounts of the speaker, when I could find them.

Continue Reading

Tools to Stop Coming Up Short on Affordable Housing

In the weeks before the Congress for the New Urbanism conference in Savannah, GA, May 15-19, we’re presenting interviews with experts contributing to a day-long exploration of “Affordability: The Intersection of Everything.” A three-hour morning forum on Thursday, May 17, kicks off the discussion, followed by two break-out sessions that afternoon. Below is an interview with Ahmad Abu-Khalaf, research analyst with Enterprise Community Partners. He’ll be on the morning kick-off panel.

Continue Reading