Throughout my professional career, whenever a new or innovative approach is taken on a development project, its title automatically defaults to that of ‘Pilot Project.’ It occurs so often that I am changing my title to ‘Pilot Project Pilot’ as I would then be involved with pretty much every development proposal out there. Due to overuse, I suspect that conventional ‘Pilot Projects’ will fade away, just as the terms Smart Growth, Watershed Planning, and Lifestyle Centers have.
Want to get some sleep tonight? How about snuggling up with your local Development Code? Read any section, such as Sign Violations and Enforcement Procedures, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be out before you get past the Statement of Purpose.
That’s a problem, because such volumes don’t exist to cure insomnia. They exist to engage us in the collaborative project of creating our shared surroundings. That means something and, while I understand that Comprehensive Plans, Zoning, and Subdivision Ordinances, by virtue of their lofty stature, might make for poor everyday reading, we all suffer when they end up so… tedious.
“Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify.” – Thoreau
Urban Design is concerned with the practice of designing, repurposing and revitalizing 3-dimensional places. These place types are described in Charter of the New Urbanism principles, as, “The neighborhood, the district, and the corridor are the essential elements of development and redevelopment in the metropolis. They form identifiable areas — centers, edges and in-between — that encourage citizens to take responsibility for their maintenance and evolution. Neighborhoods should be compact, pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use. Districts generally emphasize a special single use, such as airports, campuses, and industry. Corridors are regional connectors of neighborhoods and districts; they range from boulevards and rail lines to rivers and parkways.” Personally, I add ‘downtowns’ as another essential element of city-making.
Git ‘Er Done | Hazel Borys
This year’s CNU was all about doing again, unlike the past few years where we’ve focused on stop-gap measures to redirect our investment choices to more resilient patterns. Looks like they might be starting to pay off. Still, we have plenty of hard work ahead to remove both legal and financial hurdles.
Since meeting Chuck Marohn, I’ve advocated for his rational Strong Towns approach to reforming our inefficient auto-oriented infrastructure system. Chuck’s message to focus infrastructure decisions on their long-term return on investment is radical because he is a Traffic Engineer. Honestly, the most frustrating and irrational meetings I have held are not with any citizen group or elected officials, but with local Traffic Engineers. Over the years, smarter growth traffic specialist like DeWayne Carver, Rick Hall, Rick Chellman, and Peter Swift have protected me from having too many direct encounters, but all are located east of the Rockies.
As the planning profession roils in the confluence of the 21st century’s Great Recession, Peak Oil/Peak Auto Travel, Millennial [Re]urbanization, and the borderline religious fervor of sustainability, I have officially declared that ours is not the same planning profession John Nolen built. So, how can planning rebuild its brand?
This is not the planning profession John Nolen built. A century later, our great recession has sparked a full re-evaluation of what a city’s urban planning department should be ‘doing’ for its citizens. As witnessed in Los Angeles and San Diego, the planning profession is being measured by its eternal conundrum between Forward Planning Departments that plan for future development projects and Current Planning Services that process today’s development applications.
And, it appears that a few radical devolutions are taking place.
Citizens, politicians, and planning officials have embraced the need to allow for walkable neighborhoods across North America and mixed-use is an essential component for achieving walkability. However, the term mixed-use has held different meanings in different places over the past 40 years or so.
For example, mixed-use zones have usually had to declare a primary and secondary use with both use’s development standards redundantly stacked together and the primary use, such as residential, controlling the building’s configuration, orientation and disposition — thereby marginalizing the building’s ability to effectively host other commercial or office uses. Also, a mixed-use zoning designation meant that a land owner had the right to ‘choose’ a specific use, such as either commercial or residential. While the zoning district had a mix of uses, the implementation was single-use.
Chuck Marohn, and his Strong Towns message, is revolutionary in that he is a credible transportation professional who is single-handedly taking on the transportation profession. And winning.
Last year, Walt Chambers of Great Streets San Diego, and I brought Chuck to San Diego for one of his now ubiquitous Curbside Chats. In short, the Strong Town message is to be cognizant of the long-term ramifications of short-term infrastructure investments, especially ones that simply support auto-oriented lifestyles.