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Thread: Congress for the New Urbanism

  1. #1
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Congress for the New Urbanism

    I spoke yesterday at the New England Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism on how new urban-istic my town is

    I noted that many of the attendees were design professionals, economic development types and developers - but not a lot of planners

    is this just one too many organizations to get involved in so many don't or is there something else?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    This is my opinion.

    The whole new Urbanist movement is a great idea for getting folks to understand just what good planning is all about. It is about making places that work.

    That being said, planners themselves are not involved with this movement. This could be for several reasons. These reasons could include, but are not limited to:

    - It seems like common sense stuff to us. For example, we don't join groups that tell us that turning off lights when we leave the room will save electricity.

    - We largely don't have the power to be the decision makers, we lead through consensus. I blame this all on that Robert Moses guy (yeah I'm kidding).

    Planners do have a lot to contribute to the education of the public in these cases. There are a lot of people out there who have no idea that planning exists so it makes it hard for them to know what good planning is from bad planning. By telling the story of your town you were planting the seeds that hopefully will make our jobs easier in the future because more people will get it.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    By telling the story of your town you were planting the seeds that hopefully will make our jobs easier in the future because more people will get it.
    It's not design professionals, economic development types and developers who are blocking that process, it's politics.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    It's not design professionals, economic development types and developers who are blocking that process, it's politics.
    True, but the politicos will listen when the developers tell them what they want.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  5. #5
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Luckless pedestrian, I was at the conference. I'm sure we must have walked right by each other and didn't know the difference. I didn't arrive until 12 due to some commitments I had to take care of at the office, but I was there for the lunch panel hosted by Goody/Clancy, and I stuck around for the two afternoon sessions. I went to the one on the Green historic mill conversion in central Mass. and to the Smart Growth roundtable. It's too bad I missed your presentation, I'm sure it was great.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Luckless pedestrian, I was at the conference. I'm sure we must have walked right by each other and didn't know the difference. I didn't arrive until 12 due to some commitments I had to take care of at the office, but I was there for the lunch panel hosted by Goody/Clancy, and I stuck around for the two afternoon sessions. I went to the one on the Green historic mill conversion in central Mass. and to the Smart Growth roundtable. It's too bad I missed your presentation, I'm sure it was great.
    I was wondering if there were some Cyburbians roaming around there -

    yeah, I got there to see some a design guideline workshop at the 11:00, ate lunch and then boogied to figure out what I was going to say (!) and then left right when I was done to hit a Starbucks with an old planner buddy in Andover on my way back up here to Maine

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    True, but the politicos will listen when the developers tell them what they want.
    A mediocre developer who has been protected from competent developers his whole career by politicians is not going to turn his coat and embrace better urbanism.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Architectural Determinism

    I think most of the reasons have been listed here.

    One other- NU is really essentially about the built environment. Many planners deal with more than the physical side of things- affordable housing, social services, etc. NU will say that if you build the right environment everything else will fall into place. I don't think that's any more true than when LeCorbusier and his kind said the same thing in the 1950s, although at least NU does not reject history.

    Dolores Hayden, who wrote a great history of suburbs a few years back, called NU "architectural determinism." NU provides an important part of the planning picture, but by itself will not serve as the salvation of urban planning.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Masswich, I think that is a bit unfair

    All NUs say is that, for instance, if you build a more pleasant/safer walking environment and something to walk to, people are, say, statistically more likely to walk a bit and enjoy their neighbourhood than if they live, say, next to a virtual car sewer, etc.

    That is “determinism”, only in the narrowest, most defensible form.

    People do walk around little Tuscan villages in a way they do not in subdivisions.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  10. #10
    NU isn't the complete answer, but sprawl and design/planning between the 50s and 90s ISN'T the answer. Successful urban places can be seen from NYC to Zurich and Copenhagen.
    There are some things NU leaves out, however it's our best hope in getting our cities going in the right direction at the moment.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    Masswich, I think that is a bit unfair

    All NUs say is that, for instance, if you build a more pleasant/safer walking environment and something to walk to, people are, say, statistically more likely to walk a bit and enjoy their neighbourhood than if they live, say, next to a virtual car sewer, etc.

    That is “determinism”, only in the narrowest, most defensible form.

    People do walk around little Tuscan villages in a way they do not in subdivisions.
    If it seems unfair that is certainly not what I intended and I apologize for those who took it the wrong way. I agree with and support many aspects of NU as long as the debate is about getting people out of their cars and improving the overall quality of life in general.

    Some NU advocates take it further, however. I heard NU presenters describe, for example, the HOPE VI program in the USA as the solution to affordable housing, while totally ignoring the fact that HOPE VI intentionally reduces the number of affordable units in the interest of better design, without any effort to replace those units elsewhere. Sometimes you have to compromise the ideal design in the interest of accomplishing other public goals. In the case of affordable housing, I agree that large towers increase crime, reduce safety, and generally don't work well. But replacing 1000 units of low-income housing, all of which are needed, with 100 units of mixed-income housing - of which 25 are low income - does not tell me as a planner where the other 975 families should live after they are relocated... Wouldn't it be better to design a mixed income housing development that incorporates key urban design features but recognizes that there is a basic need for 1000 units of housing that cannot be compromised.

    That is all I meant by my comments. I actually think NU, when incorporated into a set of tools for planning, is very useful.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    If it seems unfair that is certainly not what I intended and I apologize for those who took it the wrong way. I agree with and support many aspects of NU as long as the debate is about getting people out of their cars and improving the overall quality of life in general.

    Some NU advocates take it further, however. I heard NU presenters describe, for example, the HOPE VI program in the USA as the solution to affordable housing, while totally ignoring the fact that HOPE VI intentionally reduces the number of affordable units in the interest of better design, without any effort to replace those units elsewhere. Sometimes you have to compromise the ideal design in the interest of accomplishing other public goals. In the case of affordable housing, I agree that large towers increase crime, reduce safety, and generally don't work well. But replacing 1000 units of low-income housing, all of which are needed, with 100 units of mixed-income housing - of which 25 are low income - does not tell me as a planner where the other 975 families should live after they are relocated... Wouldn't it be better to design a mixed income housing development that incorporates key urban design features but recognizes that there is a basic need for 1000 units of housing that cannot be compromised.

    That is all I meant by my comments. I actually think NU, when incorporated into a set of tools for planning, is very useful.
    You criticize NU for being a form of architectural determinism, but then you yourself embrace the notion of architectural determinism by pretending that you can control what families will live where through the construction of collective housing.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    You criticize NU for being a form of architectural determinism, but then you yourself embrace the notion of architectural determinism by pretending that you can control what families will live where through the construction of collective housing.
    Not sure I follow. All I am saying is that we should, as professionals, try to ensure that people of all income levels have a safe place to live. I don't care where it is.

    If by "control what families will live where" you mean keep families from living on the street by providing them with low-income housing, I guess I am an architectural determinist.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    Not sure I follow. All I am saying is that we should, as professionals, try to ensure that people of all income levels have a safe place to live. I don't care where it is.

    If by "control what families will live where" you mean keep families from living on the street by providing them with low-income housing, I guess I am an architectural determinist.
    You assume that you know what is appropriate "low income" housing and that you can determine the market for housing through its architecture.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    You assume that you know what is appropriate "low income" housing and that you can determine the market for housing through its architecture.
    Now I see what you meant in your earlier posting. I don't mean that you should intentionally make housing less attractive to make it cheaper. But sometimes you can't afford all the bells and whistles if you need to house people. In any case I assume this housing is subsidized, and if the subsidy can include brackets and fancy windows, so much the better.

  16. #16
    Even if it is subsidized, it will still be priced at the market rate.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    Even if it is subsidized, it will still be priced at the market rate.
    This is getting off-topic, but why subsidized housing is sold or rented at below-market rates. For example, around here, a market rate condo is about $400K and the subsidized unit would be $250K for the same space. That's why public money is put into the unit. Of course, the buyer/renter has to income qualify to get the unit, and it has a permanent affordability restriction put on it.

    All of this is government intervention that may be a form of "determinism," so its a value judgement whether or not to do it, but I think it's worth it.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    This is getting off-topic, but why subsidized housing is sold or rented at below-market rates. For example, around here, a market rate condo is about $400K and the subsidized unit would be $250K for the same space. That's why public money is put into the unit. Of course, the buyer/renter has to income qualify to get the unit, and it has a permanent affordability restriction put on it.
    You're excluding a bunch of slightly-not-quite-poor-enough buyers who now have to pay full price or move elsewhere, but for the rest it is still priced at market rate.

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    Cyburbian
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