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Thread: Who has a really great neighborhood plan, or neighborhood planning process?

  1. #1
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    Who has a really great neighborhood plan, or neighborhood planning process?

    All:

    I am currently reviewing neighborhood planning practices and am curious to know of anything innovative going on out there. What communities do know of that take this very seriously? Do they bring in consultants? If so, are there any consultants that are particularly focused on neighborhood planning?

    I appreciate any guidance you have to suggest.

    Thank you,

  2. #2
         
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    I work with small-area planning in my small municipality (nothing cutting-edge here, so I won't try to impress you with anything I've done).

    When I need inspiration, I look to these three cities: Nashville, Austin, and Portland. All three focus heavily on neighborhood planning. If I remember correctly, all three handle neighborhood planning in-house, though I'm sure they hire outside consultants when warranted (perhaps for charrettes and the like).

    Best wishes.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    As a consultant, our firm has done a number of neighborhood plans in California. As a planner on a few of these neighborhood plans that have been paid for by municipalities, i feel it is always best to solicit neighborhood participation. I wouldn't call it innovative per se, but soliciting neighborhood feedback is always key to a positive planning outcome. So far we have found this strategy to work for the neighborhood planning process:

    1) Kick off with a community Survey and mail or have in key locations.
    2) Provide neighborhood vision workshops to establish a "vision" for the neighborhood. This vision will be the springboard for the entire plan. The visioning can be done in many ways, with residents writing on boards, providing visual image surveys through either paper or digital "clickers" for instant gratification. From these you construct a "vision statement" to which the land use plan and subsequent document you outline to implement the vision.
    3) Provide the neighborhood with updates through workshops throughout the process.
    4) Hold public hearings per municipalities regs.

    Hope this helps.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    neighborhood planning in Austin

    One of the biggest problems with neighborhood planning in Austin is that neighborhoods are given a set of goals or recommendations to follow when crafting their plans, but are not at all required to meet those goals. Essentially a neighborhood can vote to keep itself in 1950s suburbia if that is what they want. This is a problem. I believe that either Seattle or Portland handles things differently. I believe in Portland neighborhoods are allowed to craft their own plans but are required to meet a set of goals. They can't just vote to keep things the way they are.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PatrickMc View post
    ...Essentially a neighborhood can vote to keep itself in 1950s suburbia if that is what they want. This is a problem. I believe that either Seattle or Portland handles things differently. I believe in Portland neighborhoods are allowed to craft their own plans but are required to meet a set of goals. They can't just vote to keep things the way they are.
    Hmmm... We have a different perspective. What is wrong with a 1950's neighborhood remaining a 1950's neighborhood if the residents prefer it? As I look out my office window, beyond the commercial strip in teh foreground, I see a solid canopy of trees rising up a hillside. Under it are small (1400 to 2000 square foot) brick ranch houses on lots from a quarter to a half acre. Overall density is lower, because pockets of wooded wetlands remain undeveloped. Deer, turkeys, owls, and other animals roam this neighborhood. There are no signs of decay, although this is a neighborhood with ditches for stormwater, with sidewalks only on major streets, and nothing but single-family homes. The street network is only semi-connected, so the only traffic is local residents. It is a quiet neighborhood with few fences and a general feeling of openness. Kids have room to play safely, and schools are excellent, so it attracts families. Older people, some the original inhabitants, still live in their homes. How does this make it a bad place?
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Hmmm... We have a different perspective. What is wrong with a 1950's neighborhood remaining a 1950's neighborhood if the residents prefer it? As I look out my office window, beyond the commercial strip in teh foreground, I see a solid canopy of trees rising up a hillside. Under it are small (1400 to 2000 square foot) brick ranch houses on lots from a quarter to a half acre.
    Hmmm so you like my old office? I thought you hated it. BTW I want my 20 year stack of Planning magazines back. I forgot to grab them on my way out.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    The City of Birmingham, MI has a pretty a couple pretty in-depth plans for particular neighborhoods within their jurisdiction and they have been relatively successful in actually sticking to the plans and persuading developers to work with them.

    One thing that is important to note in Birmingham's case is that it traditionally has been one of the wealthier communities in metropolitan Detroit and they can afford to be a bit more selective about what happens within their limits. Regardless of how you feel about the developments that are happening, I think that they might be an interesting example.

    http://www.ci.birmingham.mi.us/index.aspx?page=455

    Incidently, the head of their planning commission is also the chair at a local university's geography and urban planning department.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Hmmm... We have a different perspective. What is wrong with a 1950's neighborhood remaining a 1950's neighborhood if the residents prefer it? As I look out my office window, beyond the commercial strip in teh foreground, I see a solid canopy of trees rising up a hillside. Under it are small (1400 to 2000 square foot) brick ranch houses on lots from a quarter to a half acre. Overall density is lower, because pockets of wooded wetlands remain undeveloped. Deer, turkeys, owls, and other animals roam this neighborhood. There are no signs of decay, although this is a neighborhood with ditches for stormwater, with sidewalks only on major streets, and nothing but single-family homes. The street network is only semi-connected, so the only traffic is local residents. It is a quiet neighborhood with few fences and a general feeling of openness. Kids have room to play safely, and schools are excellent, so it attracts families. Older people, some the original inhabitants, still live in their homes. How does this make it a bad place?

    The problem with this type of development is that it is not sustainable. Your 1950s neighborhood will become a slum when gasoline reaches a certain price. Maybe this is $6/gallon, maybe $10/gallon, but the point is that whatever price it takes it will eventually get there, because oil is a finite resource and will only continue to increase in price since we have reached the worldwide peak of oil production.

    The entire suburban environment you described is based on the assumption that cheap energy will be available in the future to keep the cars running. Perhaps you share this assumption, but this is not the view which is held by the majority of experts who study resource depletion. Without cars, the entire suburban infrastructure falls apart. Do you agree with this? If you agree with this, than you need only realize that the technology for alternative energy is not available at the scale required to keep the cars running as they are now.

    Suburbs can be deceptive places. All of that leafy greenness conceals the fact that these places are energy hogs which means that they are more harmful to the environment than higher-density cities. I used to live in a neighborhood much like the one you describe, and although I found some aspects of it to be pleasant, I realized that this living arrangement was unhealthy for the planet and for people, and so I moved on.

    Maybe you will raise the point that people will vote to create higher-density neighborhoods once gas prices rise to the point where the suburbs are no longer viable. If we wait that long, the cost of construction will be so high that nothing will be built. That is why it has to be done now.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PatrickMc View post
    Maybe you will raise the point that people will vote to create higher-density neighborhoods once gas prices rise to the point where the suburbs are no longer viable. If we wait that long, the cost of construction will be so high that nothing will be built. That is why it has to be done now.
    Everything you've said may be correct, but I'm skeptical that suburban Americans will ever agree to urbanize their communities, even in the face of peak oil. Too many people like the suburban lifestyle for it to be any other way. To clarify, by "suburban", I'm talking about suburbs of the auto-oriented & 1 acre lot variety, not dense inner suburbs that are really more urban than suburban.

    Too much capital is tied up in the suburban built environment for any kind of wholesale densification of these places to be financially viable. Trillions of dollars have been expended on building out the suburbs since WWII. They will be abandoned long before any possibility of converting them takes place. The money isn't there and isn't gonna be the foreseeable future. That said, the Jeffersonian antipathy toward cities is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that only under a true meltdown scenario would you see suburbanites migrating to cities en masse. They would do so as "energy refugees" in the midst of a crisis situation. Yes, there are measures that we could be taking now, but the political willpower does not exist yet and I'm not convinced that it ever will exist unless things were to get truly awful. All I can say at this point is that uncharted waters await us.

    I say all of this not as a doom & gloomer, but as a planner who has seen residents freak out over things as simple as zoning amendments to allow mixed use residential over retail in a neighborhood business district. Take a second and think about that and how enormous the gulf is between the changes your average suburbanite are willing to accept and what you propose.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Machete made many of the points I would. But let me add a bit about that articular neighborhood. Despite its 1/4 to 1/2 acre lots, there is a substantial amount of shopping on the arterial.When I lived there I would occassionally walk the 1/2 mile to a grocery store. My office was a mile away. Of course, I moved from there to another neighborhood 3 miles away, where I could get more land and didn't have neighbors right on top of my house.
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  11. #11
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I do like Austin's neighborhood planning approach if you are looking for something realistic and broadly applicable. It certainly has some flaws, but you can't force good planning. You do your best to sell it, but if people straight-up refuse...

    One of the things I like about Austin's method and format is that they preserve the "dissenting opinions" in an appendix. This is very useful to future staff generations that want to get a feel for what the discourse was when using the neighborhood plan to make a policy recommendation. Those dissenting opinions may not alter the policy, but may alter how it is approached in the community and the methods used.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Everything you've said may be correct, but I'm skeptical that suburban Americans will ever agree to urbanize their communities, even in the face of peak oil. Too many people like the suburban lifestyle for it to be any other way. To clarify, by "suburban", I'm talking about suburbs of the auto-oriented & 1 acre lot variety, not dense inner suburbs that are really more urban than suburban.

    Too much capital is tied up in the suburban built environment for any kind of wholesale densification of these places to be financially viable. Trillions of dollars have been expended on building out the suburbs since WWII. They will be abandoned long before any possibility of converting them takes place. The money isn't there and isn't gonna be the foreseeable future. That said, the Jeffersonian antipathy toward cities is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that only under a true meltdown scenario would you see suburbanites migrating to cities en masse. They would do so as "energy refugees" in the midst of a crisis situation. Yes, there are measures that we could be taking now, but the political willpower does not exist yet and I'm not convinced that it ever will exist unless things were to get truly awful. All I can say at this point is that uncharted waters await us.
    I think you're right that many suburbs will be abandoned rather than re-developed. The energy refugees will pour into the dense inner suburbs that you describe, which will require that those places become even denser and more urban. The plan I've written, or something similar, could be used as a set of guidelines for re-developing those areas.

    I say all of this not as a doom & gloomer, but as a planner who has seen residents freak out over things as simple as zoning amendments to allow mixed use residential over retail in a neighborhood business district. Take a second and think about that and how enormous the gulf is between the changes your average suburbanite are willing to accept and what you propose.
    It might take a decade of sustained high gas prices, but I think eventually suburbanites will move into the city or vote to change their communities. Otherwise they will be stranded in the suburbs and immobilized, which would be a nightmare to most. Businesses at that point will fail since businesses in the suburbs depend on auto traffic. The increased cost of shipping is a further blow to suburban businesses. The lack of businesses will require that residents travel even greater distances to obtain goods and services although they do not have cars to do so (or they cannot afford to buy fuel for them). The whole thing could get ugly very fast.

    Cardinal:

    Machete made many of the points I would. But let me add a bit about that articular neighborhood. Despite its 1/4 to 1/2 acre lots, there is a substantial amount of shopping on the arterial.When I lived there I would occassionally walk the 1/2 mile to a grocery store. My office was a mile away. Of course, I moved from there to another neighborhood 3 miles away, where I could get more land and didn't have neighbors right on top of my house.
    Most of the neighborhoods in Austin are like the one you describe. In these just-post WWII neighborhoods, everything seems to be just barely beyond walking distance, but is a very short drive away. You were probably one of the lucky ones who lived close enough to the store. At that low of a density, the vast majority of people are not going to be within walking distance of shopping. To have it so that everyone is within walking distance of a store you would need to have stores spaced apart in one mile intervals in every direction. This requires a much higher density than 2-4 units/acre. At a density of 2-4 units/acre, only a small fraction are within walking distance of shopping. Transit service also becomes poor. The result is that the majority end up driving.

    There is nothing morally wrong with suburbs, although they do seem to encourage a pod-like separation between people. The main problem with suburbs is that they are an unsustainable living arrangement.

    Suburban Repairman:

    I do like Austin's neighborhood planning approach if you are looking for something realistic and broadly applicable. It certainly has some flaws, but you can't force good planning. You do your best to sell it, but if people straight-up refuse...
    I think that either Portland or Seattle does give neighborhoods specific mandates such as "you must have x additional housing units by the year 20XX'". Neighborhoods are then allowed to decide how they accomplish this goal. This seems like a much better approach to me.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    I do like Austin's neighborhood planning approach if you are looking for something realistic and broadly applicable. It certainly has some flaws, but you can't force good planning. You do your best to sell it, but if people straight-up refuse...

    One of the things I like about Austin's method and format is that they preserve the "dissenting opinions" in an appendix. This is very useful to future staff generations that want to get a feel for what the discourse was when using the neighborhood plan to make a policy recommendation. Those dissenting opinions may not alter the policy, but may alter how it is approached in the community and the methods used.
    My biggest beef with Austin's method is that they use the amalgamation of all the neighborhood plans as a replacement for their comprehensive planning process. There's a great article written by one of Austin's neighborhood planners in one of UT CRP's student publications...I wish I could find it.

  14. #14
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen View post
    My biggest beef with Austin's method is that they use the amalgamation of all the neighborhood plans as a replacement for their comprehensive planning process. There's a great article written by one of Austin's neighborhood planners in one of UT CRP's student publications...I wish I could find it.
    That is very true... Austin has, to some degree, misused the neighborhood plans as a substitute for a comp plan. I'm guessing the article you reference is probably written by Carol Haywood.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  15. #15
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    That is very true... Austin has, to some degree, misused the neighborhood plans as a substitute for a comp plan. I'm guessing the article you reference is probably written by Carol Haywood.
    Actually, it was Sonya Lopez.

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