In simple terms, a plan is an adopted statement of policy, in the form of text, maps, and/or graphics, used to guide public and private actions that affect our future built environment. A plan provides decision makers with the information they need to make informed decisions affecting the long-range social, economic, and physical growth of neighborhoods, districts and corridors. Regional, city-wide, neighborhood, and specific area plans usually provide a visual representation of the plan’s objectives and intent.
As we re-populate our downtowns, and watch the crime statistics drop, people are seeing safety in numbers. Jane Jacobs was right about eyes on the street reducing crime. With the sense that it’s indeed safe to be in cities again, it appears that citizens are re-learning how to be connected in an urban context. Downtown’s street cafes, shops and plazas, filled with activity, are proof that we’re succeeding in bringing people back downtown. Safely.
This wasn’t always so.
Yesterday, I had the great fortune of sitting on a panel to discuss the possibilities of Redevelopment 2.0 in California. The other panelists included CNU Board member Scott Polikov, APA President-elect Bill Anderson, affordable housing advocates, planning professionals and professors, as well as my lovely wife (discussing the California Environmental Quality Act).
Sadly, I blew it.
In not learning from the past we are destined to repeat it. So, in this lab, I’ll examine some of the trends currently dominating planning and begin examining the quirks and pitfalls that can occur when a solution for one city is transplanted somewhere else.
In my last Next Urbanism Lab post, I detailed how my city of San Diego has been built over time through a layering of national planning and development trends — silver bullets, so to speak — in order to chase economic prosperity. Our new convention center, downtown baseball park, mall, and freeway were squished into our traditional urban fabric in order to save our city from some economic malaise at the time.
My city’s downtown is built on decades of layers. Planning trends layered upon planning trends. Over its history, through a long list of award-winning vision plans, San Diego has earnestly followed what every other city has done.
Not to discount the quality of the plans, mind you. After all, John Nolen did two. Kevin Lynch prepared one. Mike Stepner, FAIA, FAICP, gave us several. Incoming APA President Bill Anderson, FAICP, did our latest city plan, and John Fregonese is preparing a new one this year.
The point instead is to illustrate a legacy of following rather than one of leading. Consider, for example, the history that led us to where we are today.