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Thread: Do planners want to end sprawl?

  1. #101
    Quote Originally posted by kw5280 View post
    I'm pretty much along the same line as ursus. As planners we should not have agendas such as ending sprawl. We should use our knowledge and put it into action when appropriate. If a community is looking for a solution to sprawl then we provide one. Our weapon is the master plan and there are not any rules that say what we write in a master plan has to conform to ITE or any other specification. It is merely an analysis of what exists and a vision for what the community wants in the future. As ursus suggested, we speak for ideas we know work based upon previous experience and we use examples to solidify those ideas.

    This is a brilliant response. My job is not to indoctronate suburban residents into some narrow-minded ideal of how people ought to live because it has become some APA backed mantra. My job is to implement the vision for the City as established by the residents and elected officials. For a great deal of America the ideal living situation is in a low-density subdivision and I think its arrogant to tell people that they cannot live in the type of community that they want.

    I don't think I would ever move to a suburban style subdivision but I sure as heck aren't going to tell others they cannot.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

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  2. #102
    Cyburbian
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    This is a brilliant response. My job is not to indoctronate suburban residents into some narrow-minded ideal of how people ought to live because it has become some APA backed mantra. My job is to implement the vision for the City as established by the residents and elected officials. For a great deal of America the ideal living situation is in a low-density subdivision and I think its arrogant to tell people that they cannot live in the type of community that they want.
    But I think inherent in the title "Planner" is the responsibility ourselves to have long-term vision. The "vision" of the people is typically to ensure that absolutely nothing changes so that their precious property are never at risk. I certainly don't purport to know what's best for the people, and I don't think it's our job to indoctrinate. However, I do think we should have an opinion, and I do think we should push people to vision beyond their immediate needs. We are trained to look beyond the here-and-now, and I think part of that is guiding people towards a sustainable system. If we can't do that we're no better than trained monkeys.

  3. #103
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    Quote Originally posted by hipp5 View post
    But I think inherent in the title "Planner" is the responsibility ourselves to have long-term vision. The "vision" of the people is typically to ensure that absolutely nothing changes so that their precious property are never at risk. I certainly don't purport to know what's best for the people, and I don't think it's our job to indoctrinate. However, I do think we should have an opinion, and I do think we should push people to vision beyond their immediate needs. We are trained to look beyond the here-and-now, and I think part of that is guiding people towards a sustainable system. If we can't do that we're no better than trained monkeys.
    HIPP5 I am glad their are planners out there with that attitude, BUT many people do not like the idea of their life being planned. That is the fundamental difficulty in promoting sustainable patterns of habitation. The other fundamental difficulty is that a lot of people think that what we have is sustainable.

    We already no this, but besides Your duty as a planner to envision sustainability, there is a duty as a citizen, that is determined to make life better for hi/her community, and as a human, that is determined to ensure future generations have a good opportunity at living sustainably, that Planners enjoy also.

  4. #104
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    I'm not a planner, but I want those who are to be more assertive and to insist on preserving or restoring the rural-to-urban Transect and on strictly adhering to Smart Growth and New Urbanist principles.

    Does the whole world have to be T3? Is it inherently superior to the other Transect Zones? Do these places have to consist of nothing but culs-de-sac and houses that are more garage than anything else? Does every person on the planet want a life spent in a conventional suburb?

    So many of these assumptions are based on brainwashing from the car and fuel industries over the last 60 years. People are sick of it all, and many are no longer willing to be slaves to oil producers, especially as gas prices continue to rise.

    Despite the last-ditch efforts of the Fox News crowd to demonize anyone daring to ask for a bike lane (or, in the case of St. Charles County, even the right to ride a bike), there's widespread demand for greater walkability and greater variety. And, planners only need to facilitate the efforts of those developers who are smart enough to be in the business of supplying both.

  5. #105
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man View post
    This is a brilliant response. My job is not to indoctronate suburban residents into some narrow-minded ideal of how people ought to live because it has become some APA backed mantra. My job is to implement the vision for the City as established by the residents and elected officials. For a great deal of America the ideal living situation is in a low-density subdivision and I think its arrogant to tell people that they cannot live in the type of community that they want.

    I don't think I would ever move to a suburban style subdivision but I sure as heck aren't going to tell others they cannot.
    Aaaaaaa-men bruddah.

  6. #106
    Quote Originally posted by hipp5 View post
    ...The "vision" of the people is typically to ensure that absolutely nothing changes so that their precious property are never at risk.
    I think this is an unfair characterization of the public. I think that most people are reasonable and realize that development is good and that the land around them will likely be developed, just as the land they live on was.

    I think its our job to take the public's ideas about their community and work with them so they get the community they want not the community we think they should want. Yes, we should encourage sustanable practices but only to the extent that they fit in with what the community wants.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

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  7. #107
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    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man View post
    I think that most people are reasonable and realize that development is good and that the land around them will likely be developed, just as the land they live on was.
    I have agreed with you completely on all you have said until you said this. That just isn't my experience. Most people don't get the concept of open space being developed. It was open space when I bought my house...I thought it would be forever.

    I don't think most people's "vision" is to ensure that their property never changes. Sure, most people care about their property values, but in the end, people want a quality of life. They want to be able to enjoy their home, their neighbors (if they choose to have any), and the environment in which they purchased or built their home. Keeping this quality of life (whatever it may be) should be our ultimate goal.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  8. #108
    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man View post
    I think this is an unfair characterization of the public. I think that most people are reasonable and realize that development is good and that the land around them will likely be developed, just as the land they live on was.

    I think its our job to take the public's ideas about their community and work with them so they get the community they want not the community we think they should want. Yes, we should encourage sustanable practices but only to the extent that they fit in with what the community wants.
    I think that planning based on the assumption that what the community wants is what they should get is a flawed way to design environments and to manage our planet's resources. Sustainability should wait until people want it? That makes no sense since we are currently driving over an unsustainable cliff. You devalue your ability to guide people to what you think they should want. They may not know they want it if it is never offered. Also -- "wanting something" does not make it inherently good. We have made the concept that we should have whatever we "want" into a religion in this country. It is legitimate to question what people want and determine if it is or is not good for our country and planet. Sprawl is clearly bad on multiple levels.

  9. #109
    It seems pretty clear that there is a much greater demand for higher density walkable communities than we are delivering. Metro areas should not be a winner take all design contest. Choice is important.

  10. #110
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by steel View post
    I think that planning based on the assumption that what the community wants is what they should get is a flawed way to design environments and to manage our planet's resources. Sustainability should wait until people want it? That makes no sense since we are currently driving over an unsustainable cliff. You devalue your ability to guide people to what you think they should want. They may not know they want it if it is never offered. Also -- "wanting something" does not make it inherently good. We have made the concept that we should have whatever we "want" into a religion in this country. It is legitimate to question what people want and determine if it is or is not good for our country and planet. Sprawl is clearly bad on multiple levels.
    I think the point is that surely more good stuff needs to be built, but we shouldn't expect everyone to enjoy what we think is good stuff. Some people don't want good stuff, and you aren't going to force them into liking good stuff - let alone living in good stuff - no matter how compelling your PowerPoint is.

    That simply is the way it is. Do I think it is great? No. But I don't think my wonderful PowerPoint is going to change too many minds.

    Societies change slowly, and the percentage of societies that like our idea of good stuff isn't 100%. It might be 50-65%, but definitely not 100%.

  11. #111
    Cyburbian
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    I don't mean to suggest that we should force anyone into anything. We've tried that before with our grand plans at the turn of the 1900s. But I do think we have an ability to be more than takers of shopping lists and "yes"-(wo)men. We did go to school for more than just notetaking skills.

    Inherent in our title as Planners is to plan for the future, and the evidence is pretty clear that our current system is structured in such a way that we don't have much of a future if we keep it up. The way I see it is that our rules are now set up so that we are in effect forcing people to live in a low-density system that's dependent on the automobile. I'm not trying to suggest that there aren't people who like that system, or that we should stop those people from living that way, but I do think there are a lot of people who don't like the system as it is now, or lots of people who accept the system as it is now because that's all they know. We have the ability to push people to think beyond what they know and question whether or not they really are ok with the way our societies are structured.

    If all we do is listen to the wishes of the people we're essentially encouraging tyranny by majority. There are notions about the way we live that most people accept, but aren't necessarily "right". Someone needs to stand up and challenge those notions. If no one did then blacks would still not be people and women couldn't vote. I think planners have the ability to challenge the accepted lifestyle of an unsustainable system.

    EDIT:

    I don't think most people's "vision" is to ensure that their property never changes. Sure, most people care about their property values, but in the end, people want a quality of life. They want to be able to enjoy their home, their neighbors (if they choose to have any), and the environment in which they purchased or built their home. Keeping this quality of life (whatever it may be) should be our ultimate goal.
    I agree, our job is to ensure quality of life. However, I think a good portion of the population associates "property values" with their quality of life. What I mean by that is that they can't bring themselves to risk considering beyond the status quo. Any changes risk going beyond what they know, and thus they risk losing control over their quality of life. In essence people use property values as a proxy for their comfort. We have the ability to coach people out of that comfort zone and lead them to question their assumptions about quality of life.

    Societies change slowly
    Certainly, and that's why I don't think shoving concepts down people's throats works. However, something or someone needs to push for that change, or else it's non-existant rather than slow. Why can't we be that someone?
    Last edited by hipp5; 13 Aug 2010 at 11:56 AM.

  12. #112
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    The crazy aspect to all this hand-wringing is that, before World War II, every city was designed in a fundamentally-sustainable way.

  13. #113
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    I think the end of sprawl is a laudable idea and a more land-use efficient goal, but without the public awareness and the political will it won't happen.

    In our state comprehensive planning was legislated 20 or 30 yrs ago as a requirement for localities that wanted to enjoy the fruits of state support and various kinds of funding. Broad goals in our local comp plans were fairly well articulated, but not very well realized, ergo sprawl-type development has galloped along unabated.

    Thinkers like J. Kuntsler may be more on target than any of us like.

  14. #114
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    The crazy aspect to all this hand-wringing is that, before World War II, every city was designed in a fundamentally-sustainable way.
    Yes, exactly. Add some wall and roof insulation, some solar access planes and enable passive solar heating, and you're pretty close right there.

  15. #115
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    The crazy aspect to all this hand-wringing is that, before World War II, every city was designed in a fundamentally-sustainable way.
    Really? How do you figure that?

  16. #116
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    Cars, oil, and freeways are the biggest culprits for most of the world's problems.

    Quote Originally posted by Repo Man View post
    This is a brilliant response. My job is not to indoctronate suburban residents into some narrow-minded ideal of how people ought to live because it has become some APA backed mantra. My job is to implement the vision for the City as established by the residents and elected officials. For a great deal of America the ideal living situation is in a low-density subdivision and I think its arrogant to tell people that they cannot live in the type of community that they want.

    I don't think I would ever move to a suburban style subdivision but I sure as heck aren't going to tell others they cannot.
    Why are the suburban-style, auto-dependent subdivisions so comparatively inexpensive? There's a vast surplus of that kind of lifestyle in existence, especially in the United States, whereas very little T4, T5, and T6 residences, as well as viable T2 places, are available.

    The fact that planners have not been regulating the rural-to-urban Transect over these many years is one of the biggest crimes the profession, with the help of public officials and special interests, has perpetrated on the public.

  17. #117
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Cars, oil, and freeways are the biggest culprits for most of the world's problems.
    None of which would exist without...people!

    I think your comment about planners having perpetrated a crime on the public generates good discussion on important topics, but my personal view is that while the profession may have aided and abetted the process of auto-orientation by making recommendations in support of this type of development, it is lawmakers (those venerable elected officials) that ultimately create/accept and put into law the regulations that govern development and which planners enforce. And that is how I expect the power dynamic unfolds - oil companies, car companies, home builders, etc. petition lawmakers to support laws and regulations that help them maximize their profits. These folks (city councilors and the like) ultimately make the decisions and sometimes do so in the face of mountains of planning evidence supporting the opposite viewpoint. The responsibility ultimately rests with the legislators, in my mind.

    I think we need state level planning authorities to help enforce things like Urban Growth Boundaries and similar strategies because without it, local municipalities end up fighting one another for revenue by encouraging sprawl in their territory, regardless of what the neighboring town is trying to do to curtail it. Leapfrog development like this has been a huge problem in areas that have tried to implement Smart Growth principles.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  18. #118
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    I agree. I was being overly simplistic.

    Competing market forces and special interests often seem like the only way to stem the corruption.

    Planners are not completely powerless, however. Certain individuals have done a really good job building political will among the general public for Smart Growth, and the best planners are those who show the courage to not immediately assume that such efforts are going to immediately be met with criticism and closed minds. Ultimately, the arguments for the New Urbanism are very strong.

  19. #119
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    New urbanism does not end sprawl. It is the Potemkin Village of sprawl. Investing in and making old urbanism denser ends sprawl.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  20. #120
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Certain individuals have done a really good job building political will among the general public for Smart Growth, and the best planners are those who show the courage to not immediately assume that such efforts are going to immediately be met with criticism and closed minds. Ultimately, the arguments for the New Urbanism are very strong.
    I haven't bought into the T3 stuff and the NU stuff. There are serious flaws in such micromanaging of the built environment. The overarching idea is good, the architects lack knowledge of greenery, and the Disney-like gooey environment bothers me.

    In my presentations I never favor NU and simply say Smart Growth seeks to return to built environment patterns found prior to WWII and people get it. People generally don't get long-winded excuses for NU and T4 and all that.

    We know how to make good built environments. We just stopped doing it after WWII with all our wealth and go-go style and thinking we didn't need to do anything other than drive everywhere, even to the bathroom.

  21. #121
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I've had this thought lately that the whole sprawl thing is an attempt to satisfy peoples' conflicting desires for both Town and Country.

    The Town is compact and provides you with many choices for everything from employment to dining, entertainment, shopping, and being stimulated by social interaction.

    The Country is less crowded, less dense, has fewer people around, supports privacy, quiet and stillness and moves at a slower pace. A good antidote to the Town.

    With the advent of cars and later the infrastructure in support of getting them around, the suburbs became possible. To me, the post WWII suburbs are a very conscious attempt at fusing Town and Country. Its close enough to the Town to enjoy many of the benefits mentioned above. But each person also has their own private (very important!) strip of green - their private park, if you will. Town and Country.

    Indeed, I read somewhere back in planning school about surveys that concluded Americans essentially want to live in the Country but have all the conveniences of the Town (City). I think in many ways, we have been trying to resolve these conflicting desires through development of the built form. Its been most intense since the 1940s/50s but it dates back even further, almost always facilitated by transportation developments. The town I grew up in had been 100 acre farms but then starting in the 1880s began being parceled out for wealthy Philadelphians' summer homes. By 1920 there was a paved road into Philly, train service and an airstrip and many people who worked in the city moved out there permanently. So, with the advent of the possibility of commuting, those who could afford it, turned their country summer home into a full-time household supported by employment in the city. Town and Country.

    In the past, the Country was seen as a backwater where education was poor, people were small-minded, opportunities were few and far between and the economic outlook was limited. People sometimes thougfht of themselves as "stuck" in a small town (and still do). So people strove to get to the City where the jobs and opportunity were. After the cities swelled and urban life became the norm for so many, some people began to think that perhaps the Country was not entirely bad afterall and so there were movements to recapture some of the positive aspects of Country life - but always within a safe distance from the city so as to avoid slipping back into ignorance and isolation. T and C.

    That's my take on things anyway.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  22. #122
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Of course we want "sprawl" to stop. But the only thing that has the chance to stop sprawl is gas prices of at least $5 a gallon. But alternative energies, including additional ways to power personal vehicles, may make this point moot. So in the end, "sprawl" will only stop when people no longer desire living on a 1/4 acre lot in the suburbs. That isn't happening any time soon.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  23. #123
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Cars, oil, and freeways are the biggest culprits for most of the world's problems.
    You are obviously a very young, somewhat ignorant young person to say something like that.

    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Why are the suburban-style, auto-dependent subdivisions so comparatively inexpensive? There's a vast surplus of that kind of lifestyle in existence, especially in the United States, whereas very little T4, T5, and T6 residences, as well as viable T2 places, are available.

    The fact that planners have not been regulating the rural-to-urban Transect over these many years is one of the biggest crimes the profession, with the help of public officials and special interests, has perpetrated on the public.
    You seem to have difficulty comprehending that we Americans have these strange ideas that people ought to be able to live where they want and how they want without some bureaucrat telling them they have to live in high rise apartment building in a large city when they want to live in a single family house with a yard in a smaller town.

    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    I've had this thought lately that the whole sprawl thing is an attempt to satisfy peoples' conflicting desires for both Town and Country.

    The Town is compact and provides you with many choices for everything from employment to dining, entertainment, shopping, and being stimulated by social interaction.

    The Country is less crowded, less dense, has fewer people around, supports privacy, quiet and stillness and moves at a slower pace. A good antidote to the Town.

    With the advent of cars and later the infrastructure in support of getting them around, the suburbs became possible. To me, the post WWII suburbs are a very conscious attempt at fusing Town and Country. Its close enough to the Town to enjoy many of the benefits mentioned above. But each person also has their own private (very important!) strip of green - their private park, if you will. Town and Country.

    Indeed, I read somewhere back in planning school about surveys that concluded Americans essentially want to live in the Country but have all the conveniences of the Town (City). I think in many ways, we have been trying to resolve these conflicting desires through development of the built form. Its been most intense since the 1940s/50s but it dates back even further, almost always facilitated by transportation developments. The town I grew up in had been 100 acre farms but then starting in the 1880s began being parceled out for wealthy Philadelphians' summer homes. By 1920 there was a paved road into Philly, train service and an airstrip and many people who worked in the city moved out there permanently. So, with the advent of the possibility of commuting, those who could afford it, turned their country summer home into a full-time household supported by employment in the city. Town and Country.

    In the past, the Country was seen as a backwater where education was poor, people were small-minded, opportunities were few and far between and the economic outlook was limited. People sometimes thougfht of themselves as "stuck" in a small town (and still do). So people strove to get to the City where the jobs and opportunity were. After the cities swelled and urban life became the norm for so many, some people began to think that perhaps the Country was not entirely bad afterall and so there were movements to recapture some of the positive aspects of Country life - but always within a safe distance from the city so as to avoid slipping back into ignorance and isolation. T and C.

    That's my take on things anyway.
    Very well said. Americans have always been in love with the idea of land and space. The American dream has long been a house in the country not a penthouse apartment. Our national mythic heroes are frontiersmen and cowboys or some variation of them not lawyers or industrialists. Probably 90% or more of our ancestors came to this country seeking land, and although most didn't actually acquire any, that idea remains lodged in our collective consciousness.

    We are who we are. We like to sprawl because we prefer low density, and that tendency long predates the advent of the automobile. Americans who could afford to do so were living in the country and commuting to their jobs in cities by the 1850s.

  24. #124

    A "Southern" Viewpoint

    Builders build what buyer's want. Period.

    The planners I know and darn near ALL students I am in class with here in South Florida are of the new urbanist mindset. Builders are seeing the value in density and many planning departments are, in conjunction with the mpo's, creating TCEA's and actually pushing for the density needed to support a viable transit solution. We are in the unenviable position of needing an additional highway but not having the space for it. Transit is the order of the future here. I digress. Buyers of new residential product are slowly adjusting to the fact that land in So Fl is at a premium, regardless of market conditions.

  25. #125
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jonkolbe View post
    Builders build what buyer's want. Period.

    The planners I know and darn near ALL students I am in class with here in South Florida are of the new urbanist mindset. Builders are seeing the value in density and many planning departments are, in conjunction with the mpo's, creating TCEA's and actually pushing for the density needed to support a viable transit solution. We are in the unenviable position of needing an additional highway but not having the space for it. Transit is the order of the future here. I digress. Buyers of new residential product are slowly adjusting to the fact that land in So Fl is at a premium, regardless of market conditions.
    As I have said upthread, in many instances, developers are *PROHIBITED* from building what their buyers want (see: local zoning laws). Many localities require those park-sized lots and super-sized houses as a matter of law. Planners may WANT to allow higher unit density, but the local politicians trump them and end up setting the rules.

    Mike

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