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Thread: Infusing "commons thinking" to change public participation?

  1. #26
    Cyburbian
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    Aloha!

    I've only been on cyburbia for a very short time, and I am not a frequent visitor to other similar sites in cyberspace (so I admit that I am not good or experienced at this) but I have been truly amazed at how these discussions just sort of spin into their own orbits based on whatever baggage each of us happen to bring at the moment that we visit.

    While I have really appreciated some of the feedback I have received in threads that I have started, or threads I have visited - in general, I have not found the site to be as useful to me as I had hoped. Instead, I think that most people are visiting the site in order to simply vent (might say a lot about the planning profession?), or worse, to prove just how brilliant they are! Interesting that the most viewed and commented threads are usually some sort of humorous idea (LOVED the zombie invasion thread!) - perhaps the real purpose of the site is simply to let off steam?

    And doing so anonymously, without the need to ever have to face those we are speaking to has certainly resulted in some nasty, sometimes dismissive repartee. In the real world, people will at least wait until you are out of earshot, make all their snarky witticisms among their like-minded friends, and the attacked person can likely continue blissfully unaware - something I personally, prefer. And for those of you who will now respond to this post with some sort of "at least it is better to air differences" defense - all I can say is "Airing differences is only productive when you are trying to figure out a way to work with those differences!"

    All the best with any ensuing responses to this post - Tell me how ignorant I am, roll out all the authors and recent books you've read, cite examples from your own individual experience, and remind me that I am not looking at the big picture (because I am not as smart, well-read, or experienced as you) - and enjoy your virtual primal scream. I shall go off and enjoy my uninformed bliss. Aloha!
    (Absolutely no irony was intended in the preceding post)

  2. #27
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post
    I've only been on cyburbia for a very short time, and I am not a frequent visitor to other similar sites in cyberspace (so I admit that I am not good or experienced at this) but I have been truly amazed at how these discussions just sort of spin into their own orbits based on whatever baggage each of us happen to bring at the moment that we visit.
    MCasey, the problem with on-line forums such as this is that they are sometimes used by anonymous persons (and institutions) to manipulate the opinion of certain publics, especially those that are among the most influential, like city planners. So, every thread that gets started becomes another opportunity to remind the planners here that "Americans" don't want land-use intensification. If that statement gets said often enough, planners start accepting it as fact, and they increase their doubts about whether or not their respective jurisdictions can move in positive directions by breaking the addictions to oil and by solving all the attendant problems.

    To your original point, the public design charrette coupled with crowd-sourced place-making is incredibly important because they can be ways for residents to exercise their creativity in determining an environment that is truly unique and authentic, that belongs to them, and that expresses a shared identity. The planners can, then, facilitate that process by showing, for example, what is required to get a Trader Joe's placed within walking distance of existing homes. Presented with facts, people will make the right decisions that will improve their neighborhoods.

  3. #28
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Apologies. Apparently I needed to turn on the [irony] tag as well as the smiley.
    mea culpa as I should have caught that.



    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Your mileage varies. It is not for everybody, nor is a McSuburb what everyone wants. Humans are not homogeneous in their wants.
    I understand that and I argue for that. My point, though, is that I don't think advocates for high density development (or even just higher density development in some cases) make good arguments for it, both on this MB and in the "real world". That's a big reason why their proposals/projects frequently face so much opposition from those who have not been trained to accept the urban planning gospel according to academicians and other assorted "gurus".

  4. #29
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    mea culpa as I should have caught that.





    I understand that and I argue for that. My point, though, is that I don't think advocates for high density development (or even just higher density development in some cases) make good arguments for it, both on this MB and in the "real world". That's a big reason why their proposals/projects frequently face so much opposition from those who have not been trained to accept the urban planning gospel according to academicians and other assorted "gurus".
    Been biting my tongue on this thread, but no longer. Personal lifestyle preferences aside, I think the most effective advocates for density simply ask that those who desire low density living find a way to pay for it without asking the rest of us to subsidize it. My downstate tax dollars are part of this subsidy. Think about the region that you yourself live in - you have so much in the way of sunk infrastructure costs built to support your low density lifestyle that your municipalities in that part of the state are going broke trying to keep it all going.

    http://joeplanner.blogspot.com/2010/...gara-case.html

  5. #30
    Cyburbian
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    Here's an interesting presentation from Neil Takemoto regarding "crowd-sourced" place-making:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go35xBlxTio

    He makes mention of "The Better Block Project" in a Dallas neighborhood:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdZpJ5MwbqA

    And, he's started a Web site to help facilitate this process:

    www.crowdsourceplacemaking.com

  6. #31
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I understand that and I argue for that. My point, though, is that I don't think advocates for high density development (or even just higher density development in some cases) make good arguments for it, both on this MB and in the "real world". ...
    De nada Linda. I agree that advocates don't make good arguments, and pretty much what he said:

    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    I think the most effective advocates for density simply ask that those who desire low density living find a way to pay for it without asking the rest of us to subsidize it. My downstate tax dollars are part of this subsidy.
    I'd add one thing further, on another thread recently someone said something to the effect of "all front yards should be eliminated". That's another poor way of putting it. I'm not a CNU and SmartCode guy, but form-based code would allow those who don't want a lawn to choose to eschew one, and those that want one to have one. The durable built environment will adapt to our decreasing wealth in such a scheme.

    Such solutions would eliminate all this "more zoning!" "Less forcing" argy-bargy. IMHO. I like the older built environments best, back before widespread Euclidean zoning and all these "specialists" "designing" "high quality" "immersive environments" and all that hokum.

  7. #32
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Been biting my tongue on this thread, but no longer. Personal lifestyle preferences aside, I think the most effective advocates for density simply ask that those who desire low density living find a way to pay for it without asking the rest of us to subsidize it. My downstate tax dollars are part of this subsidy. Think about the region that you yourself live in - you have so much in the way of sunk infrastructure costs built to support your low density lifestyle that your municipalities in that part of the state are going broke trying to keep it all going.
    I've watched two SmartCodes get adopted in my region in the last year, both of which called for densification. Four things were key in getting them passed:
    • the cost of low-density development compared to high-density
    • the tax production of high-density development (buildings versus asphalt)
    • that the code makes ease of redevelopment and infill closer to that of greenfield
    • that the code is about housing choice: it acknowledges that there is a place/roll for suburban development
    This, plus strong community education and getting people in the community to take ownership/lead the adoption were critical.

    Walkability, sense of place, etc. are touchy-feely things not embraced by all elected officials. We planners love densification for those reasons, but those reasons don't always get broad support. The financial benefit of densification seems to get more traction across the political spectrum.

    "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 GŲring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  8. #33
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post

    Walkability, sense of place, etc. are touchy-feely things not embraced by all elected officials. We planners love densification for those reasons, but those reasons don't always get broad support. The financial benefit of densification seems to get more traction across the political spectrum.
    This is generally what my work is about at a particular level. You cannot have one message and must have several that appeal to different groups (plus some broad-spectrum messages that helps folks understand broad appeal).

  9. #34
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Been biting my tongue on this thread, but no longer. Personal lifestyle preferences aside, I think the most effective advocates for density simply ask that those who desire low density living find a way to pay for it without asking the rest of us to subsidize it. My downstate tax dollars are part of this subsidy. Think about the region that you yourself live in - you have so much in the way of sunk infrastructure costs built to support your low density lifestyle that your municipalities in that part of the state are going broke trying to keep it all going.

    http://joeplanner.blogspot.com/2010/...gara-case.html
    The upsate municipalities are sinking because of the local share of Medicaid costs, courtesy of the governors and state legislature who want to provide the poor with unlimited medical care but don't want to raise state taxes to do it not because of infrastructure costs. The local share of Medicaid sucks up 95-100% of the property tax levy in every upstate county. Most of the downstate counties are in the same boat. That means that county governments have to fund every government service and responsibility on what they get from the local share of the sales tax. When county governments cut services, these get pushed down on the towns and villages.

    As for the fiscal problems in Erie County in the blog you cited, the author is clueless. Joel Giambra was a crooked Buffalo politician who filled the county payroll with "friends and family" who were generally unqualified and frequently incompetent. He also spent like a drunken sailor on projects big and small that benefitted his "friends and family". His plan for merging the City of Buffalo and Erie County was nothing more than an attempt to gain control of Buffalo's patronage jobs and to limit the political power of Buffalo's African American community -- and everybody, especially Buffalo residents, recognized it for what it was.

  10. #35
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    The upsate municipalities are sinking because of the local share of Medicaid costs, courtesy of the governors and state legislature who want to provide the poor with unlimited medical care but don't want to raise state taxes to do it not because of infrastructure costs.
    No such thing as a free lunch.

    This is another persistent theme that has come up, lots of people seem to believe that the American Dream is something that they are entitled to. This isn't the case. The housing derailment has shown us in a nutshell that mass subsidy of suburbia is not sustainable, and the paradigm must change.

    Like I was trying to say before, I do not feel that this (as well as other stuff) is being communicated clearly to the public. My experiences seem to be the opposite of those of other members in the sense that most right wingers (and yes, Tea Party proper) seem to oppose the idea of smart growth/New Urbanism as it has only been expressed in terms of environmental benefits. If the social and economic aspects are not made clear, expect this to remain a primarily liberal effort in the eyes of the public.

  11. #36
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bsteckler View post
    Like I was trying to say before, I do not feel that this (as well as other stuff) is being communicated clearly to the public. My experiences seem to be the opposite of those of other members in the sense that most right wingers (and yes, Tea Party proper) seem to oppose the idea of smart growth/New Urbanism as it has only been expressed in terms of environmental benefits. If the social and economic aspects are not made clear, expect this to remain a primarily liberal effort in the eyes of the public.
    I think this is absolutely correct. I think Mike Gurnee mentioned using "land stewardship" instead of "sustainability" is more effective and Colo GI (and others I think) mentioned tailoring the message to the audience. You aren't going to convince people who are suspicous of smart growth/New Urbanism to accept it by reciting the ideology you learned in school or denigrating those people's politics, beliefs or lifestyles.

  12. #37
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    You aren't going to convince people who are suspicous of smart growth/New Urbanism to accept it by reciting the ideology you learned in school or denigrating those people's politics, beliefs or lifestyles.
    We are starting to find more and more evidence that people are both hard-wired and programmed into their tendencies - e.g. 'self-regarding' vs 'other-regarding'.

    You aren't going to implement a program in your town to get people to change their minds about 'the commons' or 'golly more people should live sustainably, even right-wingers!!!!' That is: you aren't going to change someone's mind via some pamphlets and an open house. Srsly. You're not.

  13. #38
    Cyburbian
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    Why should we shill for new architectural and urban design paradigms like Smartgrowth or New Urbanism at all? I refuse to turn our profession into a spokesplatform for a couple of architects like Duany and Calthorpe.

    There are three things going on, the way I see it:

    1. what people can afford. the market dictates this so long as we stop with the stupid notion that government subsidies can continue to provide submarket financing terms to a majority of homebuyers. fiscal realities are taking care of this one by itself, for the moment, and frankly I don't see how things are going to get better for the GSEs in the future. Nobody has the trillions needed to "fix" the system and get it back to what it was prior to the collapse, when it was already a dead man walking, financially speaking, going back 20 years or so. If people can only afford smaller homes built at higher densities, then that's what developers will build for them. if they have to rent them instead of buying them, so be it.

    2. what communities are willing to accept. if surburban communities are willing to accept at last some infill density, then they will densify (at least a bit) to the point required by housing economics. This is, of course (perhaps), the best outcome but it isn't the only posisble one

    3. what communities aren't willing to accept. if suburban communities dig in their heels against sufficient new infill density, then new TODs and stuff will get built beyond the current suburban belt, corridors controlled by transit agencies, and inner city areas will see, perhjaps, more of a renaissance than they otherwise would and will densify, while the autonomous suburban belts in between will stagnate and eventually lose fiscal sustainainability. The reality is, though, that while communities will resist infilling in their centers, they are not in a fiscal position to refuse opportunities for tax-base expansion at their peripheries, on marginal sites, etc, so a measure of densificaton WILL occur anyway.. it'll be a shame if community centers can't densify because of political resistence, and all growth is banished to brownfield sites and areas "on the other side of the tracks" so to speak, but c'est al vie.

    Any way, we'll get dense, compact communities one way or another. The only question is, how painful this process will be and for whom and whether existing towns, villages and small cities will harm themselves by banishing this denser development to the edges or whether they'll accept it in their centers. From a homebuyer's perspective, it's a bit irrelevant which option they choose.

    No amount of regulation (or regulatory paradigms) can survive contact with market realities, absent government subsidization of sufficient magnitude to challenge the market. Since we can no longer afford the latter, the former will become the new normal. In the big picture, what we "want" is probably irrelevant. All we can do is push for the best possible policies within our own spheres of influence, but the end game is probably going to be determined well beyond our control.Personally, I don't hold much with "paradigms"... the last big paradigm we tried to institutionalize was Euclidean zoning and GSE-funded housing, and look at the mess that led us to. Maybe what we really need is no more big paradigms. New Urbanism is, to my mind, overthought and overdesigned, and also unnecessary. It just provides a big target for people to take potshots at. I would argue that more dense infill projects would get approved if they weren't championed under an NU branding strategy than if they were. NU just provides a political rallying point for the anti-new paradigm crowd, when market realities are what they are.

    Sustainability is another matter altogether. Encouraging people to think about the resource and ecological footprint implications of their actions IS legitimately part of an educational process, but it is a process that is at least a few steps removed from land-use in the first instance. NU has, I believe, harmed this process more than it is helped by trying to absorb it. "Sustainability" does not have a preferred urban form. Believe it or not, it is much easier to achieve both baseline reductions and operational carbon neutrality with a single family home than it is with a multi-unit apartment complex, even though total energy demanded per unit (as opposed to per unit area) is lower for the multi-unit building. The reason is that the single family home provides more mass and surface area per unit and per person for sustainable technologies like PVs, ground source systems and so forth and because single family unit sizes are bigger, leading to less area as opposed to unit intensity. Of course, transit access would be lower for single family homes, but remember that car use, in the worst cases, is probably only around 30-35% of energy use and 25-30% of carbon emissions, so there's s trade-off between high density (and thus more transit potential) and lower density (and thus more building energy savings relative to baseline and more potential for carbon neutrality per unit). In any event, trying to tie sustainablity targets and outcomes to a particular type of urban form is a soft science at best and witch doctory at worst.

    Sustainability education is absolutely critical and we must have more of it - along with sustainablity considerations in building codes, but it does not have to do so piggy-packed onto New Urbanism. I will always make the best possible (economic) case for sustainability with or without density and irrespective of a particular type of urban form. In any case, sustainability in building systems is, IMO, more something that's suitable for building codes than for planning ordinances, for the most part. And unless it's in the code and a requirement, no developer will pay extra for it. In any event, a lot of the problem with a lack of sustainablity in building design is really due to commissioning and performance issues rather than with urban design. Sustainablity for disaster resilience and climate change adaptation IS, on the other hand, appropriate for planning ordinances, but then again, there's no point in pretending that such measures have anything to do with NU and other "paradigms" of design at all.

    I understand sustainablity. That's what I do for a living. Seriously, folks, it has nothing to with the NU or Smartgrowth or any other particular "paradigm" or ideology, other than it's own.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 24 May 2011 at 12:44 PM.

  14. #39
    Cyburbian
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    How does one reduce car dependency without a methodology?

    Planners should not force the citizenry to own and use cars. Period.

    As someone who is not a planner, I don't really understand the complaints. It seems as if everyone agrees with the goals and with the design principles, but the objections to the "New Urbanism" or "Smart Growth" surround the personalities who coined those terms.

  15. #40
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post

    I understand sustainablity. That's what I do for a living. Seriously, folks, it has nothing to with the NU or Smartgrowth or any other particular "paradigm" or ideology, other than it's own.
    Yeah, me too but the thread topic is:
    how do we change the basic hard-wiring and socialization of a community to change its (almost certainly) unsustainable direction, then scale that up - almost a "Sociology Apollo Project" in less than a generation, as we see early indicators of ecosystem regime shifts? (reworded a bit for recent thread direction and ColoGI proclivities)
    That's the issue in this thread. How do we change the basic nature of people so we can get some of that sustainability stuff?

  16. #41
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    That's the issue in this thread. How do we change the basic nature of people so we can get some of that sustainability stuff?
    I guess I'm saying that, besides education, I don't get why we have to change the basic nature of people at all. If your goal is density, the market (and population growth) will take care of that. If your goal is more sustainable buildings, lobbying for changes in the building code is more important than lobbying for changes to planning policy or urban design.. because no developer will pay extra for sustainability unless the building code tells him to and, ultimately, very few of these greenbuilding issues amount to changes in zoning or land-use. Basically, you want your city to adopt ASHRAE 90.1 or Calgreen (CA building code) compliant codes. Generally, voters seem to be willing to let your leaders change building codes even where they're resistent to changes in land-use/zoning/urban design policy. That's a good thing from my point of view.

    The generational change stuff you're talking about applies primarily to auto dependence and to NU. My point is, auto dependence is often a trade-off with building energy efficiency gains, since it's much cheaper to achieve building efficiency gains in many cases with single family detached homes than it is with higher energy intensity per unit area multi-unit buildings. And NU is only an issue if you actually like NU, aesthetically speaking. Neither necessarily have to be priorities on their own right (although I suspect auto dependence will decrease as densities go up and as the economics of car ownership deteriorate.. but that's something else entirely). The real issues here go back to government handouts.. in this case to the energy industry. If you really want to reduce auto dependence, get the government to stop subsidizing fuel costs and car ownership. If people had to pay a real price for fuel, they'll drive a lot less. This change WILL require a generational paradigm shift of types because unlike the property finance system that subsidized sprawl for 60 years, the fuel subsidy system is still financially solvent.

    Of course I will always push for codes and land-use controls that facilitate best practices and allow for higher density development, because I believe that such things lead to beneficial outcomes for all, but that's not a paradigm shift.. it's just favoring one thing over another and then explaining your reasons why to the public. What I don't get is why I need to sign up to a paradigm shift to be able to do this effectively.

    I guess I just have more confidence in free markets (absent grotesque government manipulation of it) than most here do.

  17. #42
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    I guess I'm saying that, besides education, I don't get why we have to change the basic nature of people at all.
    Um, because only a few % of the population care about sustainability, and our current population and consumption levels are clearly and unarguably unsustainable?

    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    I guess I just have more confidence in free markets (absent grotesque government manipulation of it) than most here do.
    Markets don't procure non-rival and non-excludable goods.

  18. #43
    Cyburbian
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    Cismontane, there appears to be a discrepancy because attached residences I've always heard are more energy-efficient since there are fewer surfaces from which to leak air conditioning and heating and since solar gain can be designed-out of a taller structure.

    Market failures and inefficiencies abound currently, so I'm also not as amenable to laissez-faire as you may be. Some developers and financiers just prefer the simplicity and familiarity of greenfield development, for example. These people would ravage the landscape like locusts without intervention, and you know that the interstate highway system, the biggest government intervention of them all, isn't going away any time soon.

    It's the car that, ultimately, puts the "New" in the New Urbanism of Jacobs and Mumford and Duany and Calthorpe. Rural-to-urban transects with walkable and human-scaled places would form naturally in the absence of cars, oil , and freeways. So, now, restoring and achieving these transects requires regulation.

    You mention the "aesthetics" of the New Urbanism. To what exactly are you referring? Do you find fenestration codes to be onerous? Are the provisions for awnings, colonnades, and arcades wearisome? The public realm, many times, is formed by the exteriors of the private. Walking in these places is affected by the quality of the street walls, as well as their CPTED features. Moreover, property owners can have their property values adversely impacted by the actions of their neighbors in the absence of controls, while positive externalities, a market inefficiency, are also possible. The "Urbanism" in the New Urbanism refers to the urban fabric that is created by a collection of private buildings that fit together in a denser environment. Country estates don't need as much discipline. Only as an urbanism forms are regulations truly necessary.

    Getting back to the topic of the thread, this opportunity to determine aesthetics is the area where residents can be empowered to reshape their neighborhoods in the way these citizens see fit. That ability to be creative through public design charrettes and crowd-sourced place-making will naturally lead them to make good decisions that reduce car dependence and that achieve biological, ecological, and economic sustainability.
    Last edited by Pragmatic Idealist; 25 May 2011 at 7:19 AM.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Cismontane, there appears to be a discrepancy because attached residences I've always heard are more energy-efficient since there are fewer surfaces from which to leak air conditioning and heating and since solar gain can be designed-out of a taller structure.
    PI, it depends on how you measure. Basically, a multi-unit apartment is smaller than a single family home. This means that each person has less space, which in turn means that the energy intensity per m2 is higher. As it turns out, at some densities, this swamps any benefit from higher single family home energy use per person. We were shocked to find this was the case, based on actual data from Toronto and NY. The other issue just it's easy to achieve conservation-related gains on single family homes, both administratively and from a cost/technical perspective. There's also more surface and land area for renewables. So, the developer Minto, in Ottawa, has been able to roll out an economic operationally carbon neutral SFD product, with only a 12% construction cost per unit area premium, while nobody has even come close to being able to do that with multi-unit product in North America, economically or not. It is also far easier to commission SFD product to perform better vis-a-vis code than it is a multi-unit building. Can you think of a single multi-unit project anywhere that successfully commissioned at or better than the prevailing ASHRAE standard the first time around? SFDs do that all the time. Frankly, I'm shocked, but the numbers are what they are, and nobody's been able to come up with empirical data that contradicts the data points we have from the midwest, Canada and the Northeast.. and believe me, I've been looking desperately, since I believe in density for other reasons.

    My point on transport is a different one. I agree with you that it'll be good to get people out of their cars, and that higher densities will be required to do that, but there is a trade-off between decreasing car use and other economic measures of building performance. I don't know what the answer to this problem is, but it certainly isn't dogmatic adherance to NU. A better and more direct way to impact car use may be to reduce fuel subsidies (which also fits with my less interventionist government meme). Sometimes establishing the economic incentives for people to carpool or just buy more fuel efficient vehicles helps more than expensive transit investment and the correspondingly expensive adjustments to land-use that would be required.

    I don't want to get into a debate on aesthetics, precisely because I'm a laissez-faire advocate, as you put it. I believe, for the most part, that aesthetic regulation runs counter to my open-markets perspective on the world. But yes, I'm uncertain how much say people should have in the look and feel of private property in their communities. To be simplistic about it, if one buys a piece of land, one should have some discretion about what can do with it. My opinion of land use regulation goes back to the basics: health, safety, public services. As resources become more scarce, there is probably justification to extend that legal rationale to mandating measures to decrease energy use, water use, waste to landfill and so forth, because excessive behavior on the part of one community member might very well mean damage to the health and safety of others, somewhere else. That's what justifies application of the police power of zoning and land-use reegulation, IMO, not the color with which one should mandate people to paint their picket fences. There is some justification for historical preservation and for quality of life issues like view corridor protection, but those are quite different than mandating the facade integrity of streetwalls or the sizes of one's porches or the slope of one's roof gables. That's not sustainability. That's NIMBYism. There is a difference.

    I should clarify that I don't object to all government engagement in our lives. I'm certainly not a tea partyer. I believe in national healthcare of some type because of the peculiar structure of price elasticity of demand in healthcare (people are willing to pay any cost to stay healthy, leading to a lack of market-effective controls on cost inflation). I also believe in publicly financing a first-rate education system for all, and in caring for those unable to care for themselves. I believe in Medicare and Social Security. And I believe in transit infrastructre investment where it's justified and affordable. But I don't like interventionalist policies on areas that the free market CAN legitimately take care of, such as housing and transportation choice. If you get the government out of housing and fuel costs.. and excessive regulatory compliance and licensing costs (including such costs as would be imposed should NU become thje law of the land), I think you'll find that densities will continue to go up and alternative transportation use will go up. Stop subsidizing mortgages and gas, and we'll be the better off for it. And we don't need NUists to tell us by dictat what such a better world SHOULD (in their opinions) look like architecturally speaking. There's a joke that NU is really employment protection for planners and architects. That's exactly the type of economically costly "license raj" that this country doesn't need.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 25 May 2011 at 1:07 PM.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by bsteckler View post
    No such thing as a free lunch.

    This is another persistent theme that has come up, lots of people seem to believe that the American Dream is something that they are entitled to. This isn't the case. The housing derailment has shown us in a nutshell that mass subsidy of suburbia is not sustainable, and the paradigm must change.

    Like I was trying to say before, I do not feel that this (as well as other stuff) is being communicated clearly to the public. My experiences seem to be the opposite of those of other members in the sense that most right wingers (and yes, Tea Party proper) seem to oppose the idea of smart growth/New Urbanism as it has only been expressed in terms of environmental benefits. If the social and economic aspects are not made clear, expect this to remain a primarily liberal effort in the eyes of the public.
    I think this statement sums up what is wrong with America (and to some extent the entire western world) today. Sustainability isnít some airy-fairy greenwashing concept Ė it is based on real economic realities. If your environmental and economic models arenít sustainable then eventually you will run out resources and fall hard. The economic might of the USA from the 1950 to today was based on an un-sustainable economic model. People have gotten used to living at a certain standard-of-living that is well above what the rest of the world expects. That standard isnít justified or economically sustainable any longer.

    The irony is the Tea-partiers, who champion the American way of life, are also championing a smaller government and fewer government subsidies. That means they will eventually have to pay the full cost for their suburban dream, which likely means skyrocketing fuel prices and huge property taxes. At the same time people will be facing flat or even reduced wages, and higher unemployment rates.

  21. #46
    Cyburbian
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    As a place becomes more urban with buildings situated closer together, owners of private property need to think of themselves as belonging increasingly to a larger community. Land is a unique resource, and the effects of one property on another can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. So, the kind of laissez-faire approach that one finds in a metropolitan place like Houston will invariably create a city that is objectively seen as crappy.

    I think that, as long as the community members are the ones making the aesthetic decisions, these residents and business-owners should be allowed to be as creative as they want so that they actually make one-of-a-kind places with distinctive and unified personalities. These regulations needn't come from proverbial ivory towers. Instead, the citizens can choose the rules by which said citizens, themselves, would like to governed. Municipal codes that work like H.O.A. rules are not necessarily bad if the community is leading the process and if the recommendations of the SmartCode (or some other standardized set of form-based codes that are conceived by observing best practices) serve as a template that, at the very least, gives the citizenry a starting point.

  22. #47
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Municipal codes that work like H.O.A. rules are not necessarily bad if the community is leading the process and if the recommendations of the SmartCode (or some other standardized set of form-based codes that are conceived by observing best practices) serve as a template that, at the very least, gives the citizenry a starting point.
    No offense PI, but this to me is absolutely horrifying. HOA rules as the law? Seriously? This is precisely the problem I have with the Smartcode.. it seeks to micromanage the built environment and human behavior, just like HOA codes. You end up with atrocities like the City of Orange, CA, which sought to arrest somebody because he didn't keep his grass green, or the Florida town seeking to ban children from playing outside. The tyranny of the majority is NOT democracy.

    Remember, constitutionally speaking, land use regulatory authority as delegated to US municipalities arises only as a police power for health and safety protection, not as a means of optimizing urban design or property values from a particular ideological perspective. When it overreaches (applies that police power to issues beyond health and safety and, I believe, resource mgmt of the commons as a function of health) - as you appear to be proposing - it becomes HOA-like, arguably unconstitutional, and an oppression for any who do not agree with your particular vision.

    And, by the way, Houstonians don't have a big problem with Houston, at the neighborhood level.

  23. #48
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    As a place becomes more urban with buildings situated closer together, owners of private property need to think of themselves as belonging increasingly to a larger community. .
    And I need a pony for my daughter. One with blue ribbons in its mane. Because that's how the world should work.

  24. #49
    Cyburbian
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    It's probably worth pointing out that in the real world, density appears to have very little to do with adoption of TODs and Smartgrowthish principles. If you take two cities that have 30+ years of commitment to Smartgrowth, Portland's density is 1,655 per square kilometer and San Diego's is 1,612. Denver - more lately on the bandwagon - is 1,507.

    Compare that to the two cities with probably the weakest zoning and land-use controls: Houston at 1,505 per square kilometer and St. Louis at 1,991 per square kilometer. Even LA, which had much of it's growth prior to former zoning, has 3,168. Dallas - decidedly a non-smartgrowth city - is 1,427 per square km, less than Houston.

    Empirically speaking, adoption of Smartgrowth and New Urbanism don't seem to be well correlated to increasing densities at all.. other factors govern the sellability of density (such as land-use economics) and political constraints on its implementability (such as a NIMBYism). SG/NU is just about somebody's idea of a look and a feel. The same economics and the same NIMBYs operate on it, making the likelihood that a pro-SG/NU city will increase density no greater than the chance for a similar increase in a non-SG/NU city.

    By the way, this was very much what was discussed in the development of Stapleton and Lowery in Denver. But are new communities that sought to adopt and implement New Urbanist principles, but both were constrained by NIMBY politics and economics from achieving material gains in density relative to the typical pattern of new development in their area. Their aesthetics and architecture differ, but their density does not. Which comes back to my belief that NU is more about "look" than it is about measurable and quantifiable benefits to sustainability.

  25. #50
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    It's probably worth pointing out that in the real world, density appears to have very little to do with adoption of TODs and Smartgrowthish principles. If you take two cities that have 30+ years of commitment to Smartgrowth, Portland's density is 1,655 per square kilometer and San Diego's is 1,612. Denver - more lately on the bandwagon - is 1,507.

    Compare that to the two cities with probably the weakest zoning and land-use controls: Houston at 1,505 per square kilometer and St. Louis at 1,991 per square kilometer. Even LA, which had much of it's growth prior to former zoning, has 3,168. Dallas - decidedly a non-smartgrowth city - is 1,427 per square km, less than Houston.
    Cis - do you much experience with Canadian cities? I understand that either the national government or the simply the Province of Ontario set actually set pretty high minimum densities for new urban growth, and the development densities are typically much higher than what we have here in the US. Perhaps the process of implementation and execution of it in Canada would give US planners a good model for starting the discussion. Plus, they have a decade(?) of implementation and development to use for case studies.

    And, really, the historically trajectory of our two nations is pretty much the same - from origins to mass immigration to industrial development of economies.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

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