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Thread: Why do we bother with planning and community development

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Why do we bother with planning and community development

    Why do we bother with planning and community development? I just returned from looking at a property that the county is taking down. That was the least of the problems on that block. The city that I live in does have some nice areas, but so much is such a ghetto slum now, that the neighbors are afraid to talk to the building inspector and myself. They are terrified that if some one finds out, they will jeopardy. It is to the point that much of this city is in such bad shape… I do not know if it is possible to rehab some of these neighborhoods. The only thing I can think of is level sections and start over.

    I know many of you share in my frustration. What has your city done when these neighborhoods get to the point when you can not comprehend people living in those conditions?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Re: why do we bother

    Originally posted by michaelskis
    The only thing I can think of is level sections and start over.
    That was tried once. Didnt work too well

    I do hear your frustations, it like hitting a brick wall sometimes, but even though you know the wall will win you still break your fist trying.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    In my experience absentee ownership is a big problem in these areas. Even poor folk have some pride and dont want to be the worst house on the block. Programs which promote home ownership can make a huge difference, then let the rehab programs fall in afterwards. If thats not possible, aggressive CE works wonders, but it has to have political support or it will fail.

    EDIT: Then again, my experience is limited to midwest cities of 12,000 10,000 and 22,000 populationn respectively so what the hell do I know about it.

  4. #4
    Luckily we haven't had such deterioration. We have a code compliance program wherby a property must be brought into compliance with all of the City ordinances and state building codes before it can sell. This includes things such as reparing roofs, re-painting, etc. It has helped mainting quality housing stock. What seems to happen a lot is that elderly people just can't maintain their homes and they fall into disrepair.

    I drive through areas in Milwaukee where I think the City just needs to buy buildings and demolish them. because they are beyond repair.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  5. #5
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I could answer this question with so many cultural stereotypes I'd offend most of the people here.

    Unfortunately, in my community the lack of an educated work force who make way too much money and have very poor aesthetics has lead to the deterioration of great historic properties and the development of really rotten trailer parks.

    I have pretty much given up here, where else would digging a shale pit next to a residnetial neighbourhood, without a permit be tolerated, or where would Council once a court order has been issued decide to allow a person to stay in contempt of court?

    Anyone hiring right now?

    Sorry not to be able to give you some suggestions. I commiserate with your problems. Matches and a bouncing burning tire on halloween do work wonders.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Gentrification is the answer. Replace the current owners and "those people" living there with more affluent people, especially gays.


    Seriously, I think it can be done, but it takes a huge effort. I have also come to think that large-scale programs do not work. Concentrate resources in a small area to help establish a market, then gradually spread out from those centers.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    The one downtown, the one without side walks, has been trying to gentrify for almost 25 years, no real steps forward.

    Most days I think everyone should just pack up and leave the "city" I live in.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  8. #8
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Revive Urban Renewal??

    Maybe reviving the theory behind urban renewal is not a bad idea. It seems the theory for doing it in the past may have been okay, but the practice and method was tragically flawed.

    Since history is known, and hindsight is 20/20, why can't we perform the same type of eminent domain clearance of certain well-located, but derelict areas? When there is enough contiguous, unencumbered land, we rebuild the neighborhood as it was, but modified to meet current social/market demands, while trying to avoid social/market engineering.

    Discuss
    Last edited by mendelman; 22 Jul 2003 at 12:46 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    Gentrification is the answer. Replace the current owners and "those people" living there with more affluent people, especially gays.


    Seriously, I think it can be done, but it takes a huge effort. I have also come to think that large-scale programs do not work. Concentrate resources in a small area to help establish a market, then gradually spread out from those centers.
    [/QUOTE/]

    How would I start with a Gentrification project? We have an overwhelmingly increasing population of Latino's coming from New York City. It is to the point some think that they are now the majority. I do not have a problem with most of them, but several think that they can just come here, and do what ever they would like. If many of them where educated in matters of zoning, property maintenance, and maybe teach them to speak English, I am sure that many of them would be a good thing for the city. But too many now buy a place, (or rent) and a few years later, it becomes inhabitable for humans... *but many, I would not want to see rats living in them.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    On a more educated and less lout like vein

    What are the amenities to make people want to gentrify or improve neighbourhoods in your community?

    what are the pulls to an area and the pushes from teh areas you are talking about?

    Without a clear understanding of these items, it is a rotten job trying to improve a community. Sometimes it is a rotten job when you understand these items too. (lout voice coming back on)
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Philly is bulldozing most of the undesirable neighborhoods now. The city is actually attempting to get control of alot of the vacant/absentee owned properties through the use of windows.

    They recently passed an ordinance requireing all window panes to have, guess what? Windows. Not boards, sheet metal, etc. It is anticipated that owners will be fined daily until compliance is met or the city will take control of the property and do as it sees fit with it.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Coincidence? I was thinking about an area in my city. Property values from about $60,000 to $120,000, where the average sale in the city is $130,000. Typical home maybe 800 square feet. This is an area that should be cleared and redeveloped with a different mix of uses, and much higher residential densities. It would be an improvement in itself, but also have a positive impact on the downtown.

    I have another building for which we will soon issue an RFP. Despite some structural problems, and extensive cosmetic ones, it should be preserved. It was built in 1892 and has historic value, except for the siding has not changed much from its original design, and the economics (availability of tax credits and subordinated low-interest loans) favor renovation over redevelopment.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    How would I start with a Gentrification project? We have an overwhelmingly increasing population of Latino's coming from New York City. It is to the point some think that they are now the majority. I do not have a problem with most of them, but several think that they can just come here, and do what ever they would like. If many of them where educated in matters of zoning, property maintenance, and maybe teach them to speak English, I am sure that many of them would be a good thing for the city. But too many now buy a place, (or rent) and a few years later, it becomes inhabitable for humans... *but many, I would not want to see rats living in them. [/B]
    First question to answer is - what happened to all the (i'm presuming) white people who used to live there?

    Where did they go and why?

    Do they still own most of the renter-occupied houses?

    When families have lived in rental units for several generations -or perhaps all the way down their lineage - as is probably the case for a lot of recently immigrated Puerto Ricans it shouldn't be of any surprise to any planner that they won't know the first thing about home maintenance. I know how to take care of a house because I grew up listening to my dad cursing every saturday morning because something else was wrong with the house and I usually had to help fix it.

    So - like they do in Camden - offer classes for first-time home buyers. It works. Teach them about water damage and tell them who to call or what to do. Explain what attracts rodents and the dangers they pose. Teach them how to spot problems with their foundations, etc. Offer the class in spanish! Claro?

    After people take the class they can be eligible for other grants/loans. Make the class a prerequisite to your city's home-ownership program. Offer more specialized classes every few months or so for people doing rehabs.

    No nosense CE. Plan your enforcement program for 3-5 years out before it gets reviewed. Work with owner-occupant, give them the advice they need to get up to code.

    Figure out who the absentee landlords are and "out" them. Publish their names somewhere after you fine them for code violations. List the violations.

    If you really want to gentrify a neighborhood it's not hard with the right incentives. Target artists, gays, and college/post-college kids. If students at Temple will set up camp at 15th&Diamond in North Philly they'll live in Reading. Cheap properties are your first incentive. Do like Philly and offer 5 or 10 year tax abatements to people who rehab particular properties. Perhaps prospective middle and upper-income homebuyers could pick from the city's inventory of "coincidentally proximate" properties. Offer rehab loans like Camden County where they target specific neighborhoods and the loan is a zero interest lien on the property. It doesn't get paid back until the house changes hands.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Re: Revive Urban Renewal??

    Originally posted by mendelman
    Maybe reviving the theory behind urban renewal is not a bad idea. It seems the theory for doing it in the past may have been okay, but the practice and method was tragically flawed.

    Since history is known, and hindsight is 20/20, why can't we perform the same type of eminent domain clearance of certain well-located, but derelict areas? When there is enough contiguous, unencumbered land, we rebuild the neighborhood as it was, but modified to meet current social/market demands, while trying to avoid social/market engineering.

    Discuss
    sorry but urban renewal was fundamentally flawed. The problem with places like Philly and Camden and Reading was/is a tremendous loss of jobs and a large influx of unskilled, uneducated workers. You're not going to solve a poverty problem by knocking houses down - you're just moving it somewhere else. In the 50's and 60's they were moved into high-rise projects (deliberately concentrating poverty is always a brilliant idea) and now those being displaced by HOPE IV projects are being moved to Section 8 houses in the inner-ring suburbs.

    If you want to increase the stability of a neighborhood you have to be in it for the long haul. 30 years or more. What disturbs urban neighborhoods more than board-ups and vacant lots is transience. You have to firmly establish homeownership in the area and make people stake-holders in their neighborhood. If you want the neighborhood to have some long-term viability, beyond 20-year market cycles it's going to take generations of families living in the same neighborhood and you're not going to get that by knocking houses down and replacing them with wooden boxes with a 20 year design life
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I was being somewhat facetious with my "gentrification" quote. Gentrification is a way to retore the physical fabric of a neighborhood, but often at the expense of forcing out the long-term, poorer residents already there. Where do they then go? The solution has to deal as much with people as it does with the housing stock. Grants, loans, educational programs, code enforcement, and new residents have to go hand-in-hand with new businesses, good jobs, stable incomes, police enforcement, and a good educational system. Economic development, housing, and welfare programs most often fail because they only treat a small piece of the problem.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Re: Re: Revive Urban Renewal??

    oops
    Last edited by boiker; 29 Jul 2003 at 9:16 AM.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  17. #17
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Re: Re: Revive Urban Renewal??

    Originally posted by jresta
    sorry but urban renewal was fundamentally flawed. The problem with places like Philly and Camden and Reading was/is a tremendous loss of jobs and a large influx of unskilled, uneducated workers.
    I agree with you about the social aspect of derelict neighborhoods. "The built environment doesn't make a neighborhood bad, the people do". Homeownership certainly helps maintain a stable neighborhood.

    I was talking specifically about the problem of the built environment, and ways to make redevelopment less expensive and more desirable.
    Last edited by mendelman; 29 Jul 2003 at 10:05 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  18. #18
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Part of the problem here is condition of the homes, but what makes it worse is the crap people leave laying around ALL OVER. Most of the time, the excuse is "we don't have much money, blah blah blah". Sorry, but it doesn't take money to keep your &*$ picked up and have pride in your home.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Re: Re: Re: Revive Urban Renewal??

    Originally posted by mendelman
    I agree with you about the social aspect of derelict neighborhoods. "The built environment doesn't make a neighborhood bad, the people do". Homeownership certainly helps maintain a stable neighborhood.

    I was talking specifically about the problem of the built environment, and ways to make redevelopment less expensive and more desirable.
    I thought long and hard about this, rode my bike around the neighborhood and observed the following and it may raise more questions than it answers -

    South Philly, east of Broad St., is home to several ethnic groups that settled in linear neighborhoods along the trolley lines. From Front to 4th St. It's mostly Irish. From 5th to 9th, from what i hear, used to be mostly Jewish but later became mostly black and later Cambodian. From 9th to Broad (14th) is a mix of Italian and Vietnamese with the Vietnamese concentrated in the northern end of the neighborhood and further south between 9th and 11th.

    In my immediate neighborhood it seems that the old Italian ladies hung on until just about the time the Vietnamese started arriving. There are very few vacant buildings and even fewer houses that appear abandoned. Empty lots are likewise scarce and those that are are normally well cared for. A few of these lots have 'for sale' signs on them with developers plans and "starting at $339k". Vietnamese and Italian construction crews work furiously on rehabs often across the street from one another in a race, it seems, to see who can move on to the next house first. Needless to say this is some of the most expensive real estate in South Philly.

    Over in Pennsport - the area between Front and Fourth the board-ups are more frequent, the abandonment a little more apparent and the ubiquitous Irish flag seems to hang more as a warning sign than an expression of ethnic pride. Some say the intimidation is the only thing that's kept ethnic minorities out of the neighborhood in large numbers (even though there is no ethnic majority in this city). Rehabs are extensive while new construction takes up a much smaller piece of the pie. Houses are much cheaper than those centered around 11th St. I attribute part of this to the distance from any subway (at least 12 blocks in any direction)

    The area between 5th & 9th is a DMZ. The whole length of these streets is full of empty lots and abandoned houses. Single rowhomes can be seen standing solo in what used to be a full block. It appears as though the city or some other developer is buying up the lots and demolishing the houses as people sell. The effect is the same as urban renewal. Large swaths of neighborhoods are leveled to make room for new development. The problem is that this neighborhood has been in such bad shape for so long that new construction is unlikely to fetch the prices of rehabs on 11th St. With or without a garage. A developer is going to cut corners to save on cost and in the end build garbage houses. If they don't depreciate they will appreciate much slower than the houses around them and in the end are much more likely to (taking liberties with the word here) re-ghetto-fy. The difference with the surrounding neighborhoods being there was never any large scale demolition, the character of the neighborhoods are largely intact, the homes are 100-200 years old but are solid and brick - meaning they can be rehabed over and over again with few problems.

    I guess what i'm trying to get at here - looking at some of the infill projects in other neighborhoods is - in the end rehabs are cheaper and better for the neighborhood. Moving poor people into inferior housing is screwing them in the long run. They're not going to enjoy the same return on investment that their neighbors will and in many cases end up with negative equity. Particle board and vinyl siding doesn't last long. Low income, first time home-buyers don't have what it takes to keep with that kind of maintenance. They're going to dump them as fast as they can.

    A house that can't be saved is a house that can't be saved. New construction should match what was there but that doesn't mean it has to be a carbon copy of the original. This was met with great success in Society Hill.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I agree with much of what you said. On the other hand, in Reading we have a drastic difference between the city and the county. Almost all of the low income housing for Berks County is within the City of Reading. We have problems with squatters in some sections, and even bigger problems with landlords that just do not care.

    Our downtown is falling apart in so many ways. To make things worse, our Administration is more worried about brining in a plant where many of the 200 jobs will be people who do not live in the city, they will not pay taxes for 15 years (KOZ), and they will be giving the company the land. Yet, we do not have any downtown program, and anytime a small business comes in looking for any type of financial help from the city, they are shown the door.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Originally posted by michaelskis

    Our downtown is falling apart in so many ways. To make things worse, our Administration is more worried about brining in a plant where many of the 200 jobs will be people who do not live in the city, they will not pay taxes for 15 years (KOZ), and they will be giving the company the land. Yet, we do not have any downtown program, and anytime a small business comes in looking for any type of financial help from the city, they are shown the door.
    You problem sounds a lot like Camden's. I take it your city doesn't have the LVT? Reading should be big enough to be authorized, right? Do you think this would help a little?

    I think strategic tear downs - and even leveling a whole block can be beneficial when it's used for public parks, plazas, libraries, etc. But rowhomes were built all at once. Knocking down a house in the middle of a row can cause a lot of problems for the houses on either side.

    I've just seen so much crap built here in the last 2 years that large scale demo scares me. What's replacing it is often times identical to what you'd find 20 miles out in the suburbs - and the parking requirements - one off street space per unit are killing me.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  22. #22
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Yes!! I cannot understand the logic of requiring off-street parking. Especially in a pre-automobile developed, urban location. I think it discourages innovative developers and justs adds more unneccessary cars to the streets.

    Back on topic:
    I agree that some of the new infill in cities is horrendous, both architecturally and quality of construction. Check out most of the new three-six flat condos going being built in Lakeview.

    During this whole discussion, the area of Chicago that keeps appears in my mind is the Near South Side. Its the area south of I-55, east of I-90/94, north of 47th street, and west of Lake Michigan. This area is perfectly located for redevelopment as long as people continue to move and stay in the city, and if the area's social stigma can continue to diminish.

    I don't have time to expand on this now, but I will soon.
    Last edited by mendelman; 01 Aug 2003 at 11:08 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by mendelman
    Yes!! I cannot understand the logic of requiring off-street parking. Especially in a pre-automobile developed, urban location. I think it discourages innovative developers and justs adds more unneccessary cars to the streets.

    Back on topic:
    I agree that much of the new infill in cities is horrendous, both architecturally and quality of construction.

    During this whole discussion, the area of Chicago that keeps appears in my mind is the Near South Side. Its the area south of I-55, east of I-90/94, north of 47th street, and west of Lake Michigan. This area is perfectly located for redevelopment as long as people continue to move and stay in the city, and if the area's social stigma can continue to diminish.

    I don't have time to expand on this now, but I will soon.
    On my recent stay in Chicago I did notice some good infill or redevelopment of the old rail yard north of McCorkmick Place, west of Lake Shore Drive and the mess that was Soldier's Field.

  24. #24
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Yeah, they're going nuts around that area.

    As for the architectural quality, it's about half/half. Half is good and half is lame. But it would definitely be nice to live near or in the Historic Prairie Avenue district, around which most of the above mentioned development is being built.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  25. #25
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Gentrification is the answer. Replace the current owners and "those people" living there with more affluent people, especially gays.
    That's exactly what they do here, lol.

    Seriously, though, Austin does a good job of revitalizing the inner-city and many of the old neighborhoods are really changing for the better. There is a lot of new development on the East side of the city which is mostly ghetto/barrio type areas. There is even a great plan to redevelop the 709 acre site of the old airport: http://muelleraustin.com/index.html

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