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Thread: Balancing economic development / neighborhood conservation [Was: Student with two planning questions

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    Balancing economic development / neighborhood conservation [Was: Student with two planning questions

    Hello everyone,

    I am new to this forum and am loving it so far. I have two questions which I have an idea on how to answer but would appreciate some input on.

    1. How can a city balance goals for encouraging economic development and goals for neighborhood conservation?

    I have a good understanding of how to pursue each of the two goals but am having trouble on how to balance them from a city's perspective. I think they are usually tied together and that economic development should lead the way because revenue would better allow a city to pursue its goals. Any other thoughts or ideas?


    2. What role does the municipal zoning ordinance play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

    With zoning, a city can decide which uses are allowed in what areas. Thus a city could restrict or disapprove of uses which would create said emissions. Of course, increasing the number of mixed use zones would also help in allowing people to live, work, and shop in a smaller area, and essentially reducing automobile usage.


    How do these sound so far? Any input shared would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help!

    -plannersc

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I will address your first question since it is one that often comes up in my work. It typically applies when you have a very desirable neighborhood. Developers are looking for ways to build housing there, perhaps the residents want more neighborhood shopping, or maybe the city sees an opportunity to enhance the tax base. The problem can be summed up in a single word - density. New commercial will have a larger footprint. New housing will be larger (tear down two small homes and put up a McMansion) or will be multifamily. This often gets neighbors upset, as they usually do not want to see the neighborhood scale change. They bought the small bungalow for a reason, and do not want the ostentatious home, tall apartment/condo building, or Walgreens next door.

    The spectrum runs from complete redevelopment of the neighborhood (think of the Cherry Creek area of Denver) to simply preserving a stable neighborhood with higher square foot property values than elsewhere in the community (as in many historic districts). There really is no such thing as "balance" since any such judgement would depend on the criteria you use. On the other hand, you might get lucky enough to develop some level of consensus through a good deal of listening to, and negotiating with the area residents and other stakeholders.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plannersc View post


    2. What role does the municipal zoning ordinance play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

    With zoning, a city can decide which uses are allowed in what areas. Thus a city could restrict or disapprove of uses which would create said emissions. Of course, increasing the number of mixed use zones would also help in allowing people to live, work, and shop in a smaller area, and essentially reducing automobile usage.
    Welcome.

    Zoning can play a role, but is problematic in many respects in that it doesn't necessarily de facto change wasteful behaviors, but you also need efficient building envelopes as well and residents who don't waste the savings. The built environment can change behavior.

    You may want to look at Sacramento's Blueprint work for how a scenario analysis looked at an aspect of this. There is also a spate of recent papers that teased out details of sprawl-city energy use, and found that cities are more efficient, but richer lifestyles wasted much of the energy savings (merely the latest). We know that shared walls are more efficient, but are they preferred and attainable? We know that large-lot single-fam contributes more to the urban heat island - but how do you regulate environmental psychology to change innate preferences of the rich?

    I think general statements like increasing DU/ac and providing walkable services are great and may work if people who sort to such areas choose to reduce their polluting travel and change their wasteful behaviors. And maybe you will practice in a city that will allow you to do such things and you may get an application that will build it on the ground. But such things do not work in cities that aren't ready to accept such things.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plannersc View post
    I think...that economic development should lead the way because revenue would better allow a city to pursue its goals.
    Not sure about this. Jaime Lerner of Brazil has said that creativity begins when you knock a few zeroes off your budget. Of course the US has strangling federal urban policies that prevent much innovation, but it's not necessarily true that money is a prerequisite for getting things done.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    creativity begins when you knock a few zeroes off your budget. Of course the US has strangling federal urban policies that prevent much innovation, but it's not necessarily true that money is a prerequisite for getting things done.
    If true, we must be in very, muchly, incredibly richly creative times.

  6. #6
    Moderator note:
    ~Gedunker

    Welcome to the Cyb plannersc! Glad you could join us! I've edited the thread title to reflect the specific question you posed, which is one of our rules. Thanks and carry on!

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    Cyburbian
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    On your first question, Cardinal's last sentence hit the first key point--you have to talk and listen (mostly listen) to the people and businesses already there to find out what they want, what they're willing to accept, and what they'll flip out over and scare their elected officials into quashing. You also have to go to the neighborhood itself, inspect it thoroughly on foot and on the maps (zoning, topographical, etc.), to find out what new development can be squeezed in and where with a minimum of disruption to the folks already there--Kelo notwithstanding, people still have rights and deserve some respect.

    Here's some questions to think about along the way, not in any particular order of importance:
    1) Are there many vacant lots, lots with large unused open space, large parking lots, or derelict buildings, any of which can be redeveloped?
    2) Are there many basically sound but unoccupied buildings that can be spruced up and sold/rented to new businesses or residents?
    3) Are unused/underused properties clustered together in one or a few locations in the neighborhood, or are they scattered singly here and there?
    4) What kinds of jobs, businesses, housing options, amenities do the neighbors say are lacking/desired in or near the neighborhood?
    5) What does the town/city as a whole (either local government, or public survey of some sort) say is lacking, desired, or needed economically--i.e. vat do ze people want?
    6) What infrastructure is already available to work with in and around the neighborhood as a whole, the town as a whole, and properties you've identified as promising for redevelopment? What new infrastructure would be needed?
    7) Do the streets those promising properties are located on have a history of diverse uses, or of the types of uses you and the neighborhood have in mind?
    8) How densely built and densely populated* are the neighborhood as a whole and the promising-for-development streets in particular?
    *Not the same thing--one refers to buildings, the other to people using those buildings, which brings me to...
    9) What are the likely, predictable impacts of the new buildings, people, activities you and the neighborhood are discussing--not just the usual negative objections (noise, traffic, building scale, the oft-exaggerated fear of crime sparked by the prospect of new strangers showing up) but also positive impacts (jobs, shopping options, housing options, tax revenues, etc.
    10) What ideas can you and the neighborhood come up with to maximize good impacts and minimize bad ones--without piling on so many restrictions that development is strangled or priced out?

    Also, I sometimes wonder how historic neighborhoods should handle growth and development. Does it have to be a black and white choice between preserving the whole neighborhood in formaldehyde forever or calling in the bulldozers? I've read and heard (from sources like Richard Layman down in DC) suggestions for a more flexible spectrum of preservation options, from full preservation (no change without Historic District approval, no approval forthcoming if the change is significant) to a fairly loose, developer friendly design code that boils to down to "no strip-mall neon fugly or freeways allowed", and maybe two or three levels in between. Maybe in many historic neighborhoods, a handful of streets or blocks that best showcase the history in question, and a handful of the most significant other buildings, should be strictly preserved, and the rest of the neighborhood can be covered by more flexible rules.

    Not a planner here, just an interested layman (outsider's perspective I guess?)...

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