Whew, ol' Bookchin derailed this thread for a few months.
Sorry to ambush you like this, Lee, after all this time; but revisiting this thread has convinced me that I need to dispute much of what you say; I think youíre just dead wrong about some things, and I canít let it stand.
Is that really a fact or only partly true?Originally posted by Lee Nellis
I vigorously dispute this. Zoningís purposes are as much aesthetic and moralistic as they are eonomic (just read the mission statement in the front of your codebook). In reality zoning succeeds in serving not one of the three purposes, for itís misled by faulty theories. Thatís what makes it a dismal failure: it states its goals and misses them by a mile.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
How so? I canít find the evidence to support your contention; maybe you can supply it.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
What I do find in some of your responses is assertions that are unsupported by evidence, untrue, and that give off the weary and hackneyed aroma of received and unexamined wisdom. Hereís an example:
Some did, some didnít; and more to the point:so what? This one's a red herring.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Iíve heard this old saw so many times, I know itís just an article of faith. As wisdom itís both store-bought and shopworn. It has no relevance to the present discussion despite its comforting familiarity. Weíve all heard it, and itís never been anything but a clichť; itís like saying your carís engine runs better since you put on new tires: plausible to the inattentive, but untrue.
I didnít talk in my post about the effects of time, because history doesnít interest me as a connoisseur or as an antiquarian; I donít require my walkable environments to be ďauthentic,Ē i.e. old. Iíd be quite content if someone would build me some new ones, and I donít give a ratís a$$ about the style. Thatís why I was so happy with my five days in Seaside without once getting in my car. Iím interested in what we can do here and now. And we can do the same things now as we have ever done. History doesnít bind us unless we rush to declare defeat; we make history if we give ourselves that option (ask George Bush). And we all have unused reservoirs of power.
If I use images of old places to illustrate well-designed pedestrian environments, thatís because Iím forced to; zoning mavens like you have outlawed such places, so lately we havenít built too many. (Now thereís a concrete example of making history.)
ďYou canít replicate what grew up over hundreds of years.Ē The part you canít replicate is the actual effects of the hundred years, which are often minimal: wear and tear, ďpatina,Ē construction techniques, minor alterations. These are certainly not the essence of what Iím talking about; thirty years ago we thought Ėwith equal perceptivenessóthat the essence of such places was to harbor crackheads and pimps. What I am talking about is an inspiring, beautiful and ecologically sound walkable environment, and that doesnít need to be replicated, just permitted.. The only reason we can think preposterously that such places are the result of time is that we havenít built such places lately. The ones we have built are often ridiculed on the grounds that theyíre not convincingly old-looking or (equally, and sometimes from the other side of the same mouths) that they look too old. The snake has swallowed its tail.
The South Slope of Beacon Hill was developed rapidly; it achieved its present form over a mere ten years. Itís not growing up over time that makes the South End or Beacon Hill walkable; itís the physical form. Itís houses that touch, itís close-by or interspersed shops and community facilities, narrow streets, specific responses to local conditions, and absence of parking lots, front yards, sideyards, setbacks, buffers, permeability ratios and landscaping strips. In other words: the opposite of everything conventional zoning holds dear and mandates. And when the dust settles on an assemblage of zoning blunders like Beacon Hill, injuryís added to insult, for you find that fools pay upwards of 5 million to live in such substandard inadequacy. Thatís the kind of foolishness that nobody needs protection from; nor does the environment.
Truth is, Beacon Hill was as walkable when it was brand new as it is now, as well-liked by its inhabitants, and almost as charming. And though itís been around for almost two hundred years, it hasnít changed much in that time. It, like all of Back Bay, was built up fairly rapidly in small increments by a large number of speculative homebuilders and individuals erecting custom houses Ėexactly like a modern subdivision. Whatís different is that the rules in the older cases yielded row houses and a walkable, humane environment, and in a modern suburban subdivision you getÖthe familiar barf.
The South End didnít grow up over hundreds of years either, and Bath didnít, and the original Regent Street didnít; they were built all at once by big developers, as more recently were Hampstead Garden Suburb, Normandy (Thornberg) Village, Coral Gables and Forest Hills Gardens, none of which can be replicated under present-day zoning (and all of which were built in kitschy revivalist styles weíre allowed to love by the aesthetics police because that was seventy years ago. Exception: walkable Miami Beach, built in ďmodernĒ Deco style).
Hereís a surprise: the people who moved in loved these places from Day One, because their minds werenít addled by Modernist moralism: ďitís immoral to not be Ďmodern.íĒ). If you were allowed (I didnít say "required") to build places like any example mentioned above, you can be sure the yuppies would snap them up Ėeven at the astronomical prices youíd have to charge (less, however, than the construction cost of a Manhattan condo by Richard Meier). The market for genuinely nice places will never ebb (at least not during an administration that keeps kicking money upstairs); and the price of housing would ease minutely for all the rest of us, who can't afford the nice places.
Thatís exactly what happened at Poundbury, one of the recent projects with the vision, foresight, courage and perseverance to build an inspiring, beautiful and ecologically sound walkable environment. You recall what a battle-royal it took to change the zoning to permit that one; now that itís built, itís detractors Ėshepherded by modernist cheerleaders like Norman Foster-- simultaneously accuse it of being too clean and new and too old-fashioned looking. But truth is, itís barely distinguishable (shame on it!) from the rest of Dorchester, built a century or two ago; and that should surprise no one, as the requirements for accommodating the human stride and occupying the pedestrianís attention havenít changed at all over time. What has changed is the introduction of the automobile; and its suave integration is certainly Poundburyís great innovation.
So we get the conclusion before the observation, the cart before the horse: ďYou canít build like that these days.Ē
I can tell you why you might believe this deluded nonsense --and even who got you to believe it-- but I find it mystifying that any thinking person would cling to this view, when so much of the ideology that promulgated it has already been discredited. And I know for an indisputable fact that itís untrue, because I personallyhave built like that, and with dazzling profits. And it looks like thereíll be plenty more. So I reply from personal experience: ďHogwash.Ē
Get with the times. This is what you always hear from people who are mired in the present, therefore behind the times:
Modern development, like development of any era, happens according to the rules you set up. If you set up bad rules, you get bad developments. The only thing keeping you from building an inspiring, beautiful and ecologically sound walkable environment in 2005óif you are inclined toóis the rules that forbid it. If the rules allowed greater freedom, most developers would choose to go on doing exactly what theyíve always done and find familiar Ėbut not all! Iím not proposing to circumscribe one single solitary lilí olídeveloperís god-given right to go on despoiling the environment exactly as he pleases; I just say the developers who would choose a better way should be given a chance to run without leg irons. Iím arguing for more freedom here, not less; leave the crappy zoning in place for those who want to use it, but for goodness sake donít hobble those who want to do better.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
As it is, the intrepid few successfully evade the regulations through PUDs and other mechanisms, and produce the first glimmerings of the next era in placemaking. Itís through their efforts that we have Kentlands and Seaside and Windsor. And though thereís much to criticize (PUDs produce increments of development that are, we agree, too large and mostly too greenfield), and though it will take half a century or more for these places to grow together or otherwise achieve critical mass and significant impact, they clearly represent the future in post-Peak Oil times.
We need to let the dinosaurs of development lumber placidly into their tarpits, instead of creating and enforcing regulations to guarantee their survival.
Are you saying housing is mostly made in factories? I design housing, and I know it's one of the last bastions of hand craftsmanship; surely you must know that.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Are you saying well-designed regulations make housing look not mass-produced?Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Clearly you are saying ďwell-designed regulations counter the market .Ē Isnít that a direct contradiction of ďdevelopment is as it is due to market dynamics (which zoning simply mirrors),Ē only a few sentences back?
If thatís so, itís for poetic reasons, and has no meaning; Iíve rectified that by presenting only examples from capitalist economies in the present post.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
All those consumers out there, hot to buy into visually dead placesÖAll those bucks to be made by creating themÖOriginally posted by Lee Nellis
Q.E.D.?Originally posted by Lee Nellis
This could do with some elaboration; as it stands I recognize a truism but I donít know what it means in the present context.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Iím not frustrated; I have plenty of soul-satisfying work to keep me happy Ėbut none of itís within the rules. The stuff that is is just crap I churn out to feed my family (you canít criticize that, since you think thatís what I ought to be doing).Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Lee, I do sense some frustration in you, however. You already know the solution to that: as you say, ďget the message.Ē
Why not give them a chance? What they do canít be worse than what we have now, which is terminally crappy. And if people donít like it, they wonít buy it, and the developers will reap their just desserts.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Arenít you confusing capitalism with Marxism? Closet Marxists often do that; they also refer to inevitability. I suspect you of a little closet Marxism here, Lee; itís ok, we all went through that.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
But I have a whole lot more faith in peopleís discernment. Give them a chance in a genuinely free market and most will eventually make the right choice. Itís a slow process under the best conditions; thatís why if you canít help you need to at least Ėin John Wayneís immortal wordsóget the hell out of the way.
Now, enough flip-flopping, Lee: is zoning the ďmirror of the marketĒ or does it ďcounter the market realityĒ?Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Elsewhere in this thread you proclaim that youíre incurably addicted to first principles. Delve into those now, Lee, and find unequivocal answers to such questions, clear of cobwebs and fuzz; and then stick to them unveeringly until rational observation causes you to change your mind (which I hope is right now, since your thinking clearly isnít rooted in spite of your protestations to the contrary.)
At the very least, your first principles should tell you more than whatís impossible. They should be empowering, not enervating. Lee, it should be obvious from the very fact of this response that I regard you as a friend and have a high opinion of your capacity; thatís why the best advice I can give you is: Wake up; youíre in danger of turning into a tired, played-out bureaucrat.
Trips to the wilderness arenít enough.