The Next Urbanism

‘Tis the season to rejoice and enjoy the brotherhood of all mankind, as well as that of our in-laws…

As we ease into 2012, I am officially announcing a New Urbanism victory across North America, as we recently witnessed the end of building suburbia and its physically isolated, segregated lifestyle. Proof? Just this week, the award-winning New Urban News, a publication dedicated to all things New Urbanism, officially changed their title to “Better! Cities and Towns.”

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Do We (Still) Need Vancouver?

A few years ago Urban Guru Leon Krier asked this question — “Do we still need Vancouver?” — at CNU XVII Denver. In response, the Next Generation of New Urbanists invited then-new Vancouver planning director Brent Toderian to speak in favor of Vancouver, which is easy to do. For, since the fall of Hong Kong, Vancouver has been reinvented to become one of the world’s most livable cities, and a model for urbanization.

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My Right Turn at the Intersection of Good Ideas

When things get tough, people start digging in ideologically, increasingly viewing the world through the lens of their own experiences to fortify their already entrenched positions.

Yes, experience counts for a lot and, chances are, they do hold some piece of the larger solution. But as we’ve learned time and time again, things are never that simple. There are no magic bullets.

Answers typically turn up where perspectives intersect.

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Pruitt-Igoe: More ego or opportunity for vocational penance?

The restoration of degraded, traumatized, and distressed communities has been a high priority for the Obama Administration. The EPA, HUD and DOT are all allocating revitalization funds for places as large as Detroit and Cleveland, and as small as Ranson, West Virginia.

That’s the kind of solid support needed at the big picture level, where communities can be considered — and treated — as the living organisms they are. But what about revitalization at a smaller scale? Because that’s when it stops being about the relative health of the collective and gets down to the level of individual lives.

Real people.

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Extreme Makeover: Zoning Edition

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

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City Neighborhoods: Livin’ large

Empirical observation is a key to unlocking secrets of great urban design. As Jane Jacobs wrote in Death and Life, “The way to get at what goes on in the seemingly mysterious and perverse behavior of cities is, I think, to look closely, and with as little previous expectation as possible, at the most ordinary scenes and events, and attempt to see what they mean and whether any threads or principle emerge among them.” In my case, proof is in the pudding.

The most notable observation I’ve had since I sold my sports car in January, leaving me walking or biking ’round the neighborhood every day, pretty much everywhere, is that I haven’t lost a pound.

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Urban Renaissance Gone to the Dogs

Downtown San Diego has gone to the dogs.

Having grown up in San Diego, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed experiencing our downtown’s renaissance. Its revitalization has altered our cultural patterns and social connectivity. Today’s downtown is host to vibrant new neighborhoods, monthly cultural events, and the Gaslamp District’s rise (or demise) to Bourbon Street-esque nuttiness, as well as a baseball park, convention center, new library, and new city hall, the usual suspects of downtown revitalization over the past twenty years.

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CNU 19: The Uprising

Like my anniversary, family birthdays and selected holidays, the Congress for the New Urbanism is an annual ceremony that I faithfully attend. My lovely wife would confirm that I never question the necessary time and money spent to participate in the congresses. And, as expected, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at CNU 19 in Madison, Wisconsin, even though I had to leave a couple days in…

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St. Patrick, Charles Dickens and the Role of Beer in Community

This morning I took a moment to reflect upon the challenges and tragedy of the past year — BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well, Aussie wildfires, the Christchurch and Haiti earthquakes — until, as a Californian, my mind inevitably drifted back to current events in Japan and their nuclear radiation currently floating its way stateside over the Texas-sized plastic trash flotilla/vortex in the northern Pacific.

And did I mention last week’s news on democratic revolution in the Middle East/North Africa? It’s enough to drive a guy to drink.

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