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Thread: Do you practice what you plan?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Do you practice what you plan?

    Not intended to be an intellectual exercise here, but:

    A planner at the office wanted group input on an amendment to a plan that would take the only alley loaded homes in a development (the single family development itself was only 5% alley loaded to begin with) and convert them to front loaded. Her concern was:

    "Would we want to urge the applicant to keep the alley to prevent the streetscape from being further dominated by garage doors?"

    Fair enough question I guess, keeping in mind that our front loaded garages are already required to be recessed behind the house itself to prevent the "snoot-houses" effect.

    A couple days later on Facebook, the planner posted a picture of the house she was buying -- not only is it front loaded, it's a snoot house, with the garage being the closest part of the house to the street that doesn't meet our front loaded requirements today.

    Maybe it's just me, but as an engineer, I wouldn't buy a house that lacked sidewalk, was non-ADA compliant, etc. I wouldn't want someone to say I didn't practice what I preached.

    Should you/do you practice what you plan?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Yes... I live in a 122 year old Victorian house in a historic district that is walking distance to the core of a medium size city that offers almost everything I need, with the exception of a grocery store. It is a front loading as alleys were not common... But then again, when my house was built, cars were not common. It does have a 2 door garage but it is detached and in the back yard with a driveway running along the site of the house, where the carriage house portico was located.

    And no...
    Working as a consultant, the client that I work with the most is a 45 mile drive, 3 days a week.
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  3. #3
    It's hard to think anyone can live as perfectly as they think they should. There are far too many compromises in life. So we should be nice to those who live in situations that we believe are not optimal.

    I live in the middle of the city in a new urbanist style, 6 story, mixed income development. I walk, or use a bike share, most days. But I do use a car from time to time (we have an underground parking space).

  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Working in a politically conservative environment, I often use the phrase "planning is not about telling people what they can or cannot do, but giving them the freedom of choice". Not everyone wants to live, or can afford a 2000 sq ft house, not everyone wants to have to drive everywhere, etc. Ill admit I drive more than I should, even with so much within walking distance of my apartment, but I can walk if I want and I don't drive far when I do.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    grid/block neighborhood - side loaded garage - can bike to downtown - as much as I can in this little 'burg.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planit View post
    grid/block neighborhood - side loaded garage - can bike to downtown - as much as I can in this little 'burg.
    Minor snout house, in a dicsonnected suburban subdivision. But my drive to work is only 8 minutes.

    I never understood the "practice what you plan" bull shit. Not everyone will be able to, or want to, live in a dense urban neighborhood.

    Should every doctor be the picture of health?

    I'm in the camp of "do as I say, not as I do".

    Call me a hypocrite if you will, but that's human nature.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    I try. We live 1 mile from my work and less than 1 mile to the grocery store, restaurants, pharmacy, hospital, elementary school, park(s), dry cleaner, and some very limited retail. Our house was built in the 1920s and is a small city lot. We've done some energy efficiency updates to our house and conserve water. We belong to a CSA and try to eat local when possible. But Hubby works 60 miles away and has to be on campus 3x/wk. He does carpool and drives a Honda Civic and has been known to hypermile.

    I do suck because I frequently drive to work, mostly because when Hubby is at campus I need to come home at lunch to let the doggies out for a potty break and 1 hour does not leave me quite enough time to walk home, take care of the dogs, eat lunch, and walk back. And when he isn't at campus I enjoy sleeping in an extra 15 minutes.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I never understood the "practice what you plan" bull shit. Not everyone will be able to, or want to, live in a dense urban neighborhood.

    Should every doctor be the picture of health?

    I'm in the camp of "do as I say, not as I do".

    Call me a hypocrite if you will, but that's human nature.
    I wouldn't call someone a hypocrite for it. It might be my human nature though to question credibility, especially if it's someone in a government regulatory role. I could care less if an employee of Duany lived on 30 acres in the woods.

    This actually came up here when codes were being implemented banning snoot-houses -- a citizen showed to council, photos of the garages/houses of the higher-ups in planning, showing how most lived in what they wanted to regulate against. Awkwardly funny.

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by beach_bum View post
    Working in a politically conservative environment, I often use the phrase "planning is not about telling people what they can or cannot do, but giving them the freedom of choice". Not everyone wants to live, or can afford a 2000 sq ft house, not everyone wants to have to drive everywhere, etc. Ill admit I drive more than I should, even with so much within walking distance of my apartment, but I can walk if I want and I don't drive far when I do.
    Somewhat off-topic: I'm beginning to think that planning in politically conservative and politically liberal environments have more similarities than differences. We're making the same case of "choice" in defending our draft comprehensive plan. There's a very idealistic and vocal crowd here that believes "green sprawl" is the ideal lifestyle for all; a house in the woods with an organic garden and some goats, clustered ecovillages, and the like. Our argument; not any more. It's something much fewer people want or can afford. We have to reassure those living in large lot subdivisions that the plan doesn't advocate taking away what they have; it's just not going to be the model for development in the future.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    Should every doctor be the picture of health?
    If a doctor is going to talk to me about my health choices, then yes.

    But, back on topic, I try not to be a hypocrite. I will confess to putting up an illegal temporary sign last summer to advertise our rummage sale though, even though I wrote the sign code that prohibited it and was a code enforement officer. However, as a former transportation planner and a voting member of my MPO, my 125 mile daily commute is just fine.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Coragus View post
    If a doctor is going to talk to me about my health choices, then yes.
    Perhaps my ananlogy was a bit off, since medicine is a science. But a doctor can be unhealthy, and when he tells you how to be healthy, he can still speak the truth.

    City planning is not a science, as much as that might make people cringe. We're all still guessing at what the right thing to do is.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  12. #12
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I live in the country. I still am a advocate for cities. I am not a crazy CNU advocate, but I am an advocate for more dense design than where I live. Do I find this hypocritical? Nope.

    I think that good planning does not always equate to the best situation for everyone. We all know that each situation is unique. I always find it frustrating when someone gets on Cyburbia and talks down to those who don't think suburbs are bad and people should only live in cities. Generally I agree that cities are wonderful, and the planning I do supports that.

    I also think that people don't have to want to live in that dynamic. I like land. I like having no neighbors.

    So I guess that answer is I don't exactly live what I advocate for all the time. But I don't think that is a bad thing or hypocritical.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  13. #13
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    I think what we truly advocate for is variety. I don't really preach that there is one way to live and that it is the urban way. What I "preach" is that (in my town right now, for example) we have all the typical suburban development we need and then some. To preach mixed use and transit oriented for other folks to come in and inhabit and not necessarily live in those environs myself to me is not hypocrisy; it's recognizing and convincing others that there are other desirable land use forms as well and they can and should be explored if you want a vibrant, diverse and good place to live and work. Even if that place is a suburb.

    Full disclosure: I live in Salt Lake's original street-car suburb, I drive an old truck 28 miles to work in another suburb, my house was built in '64 with a side loaded garage and an illegal mother in law apartment (which I don't rent out). My family of 6 children is hauled around in our beloved "Big Red", (Expedition) which gets probably all of 10 miles to the gallon. We are able to walk to schools and stores and the world's best snow cone shack (God bless you, Johnny-K's).
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  14. #14
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I live in town. My house is weirdly configured. The "front door" actually faces the back yard but it rarely used. The main entrance is the kitchen door, which is on the long street side of our corner lot. The garage is on the short street side of the lot. We do not have sidewalks.

    We do live in a mixed use neighborhood. There is an Oriental medicine clinic and an insurance office down the street. There are a mixture of rental and owner-occupied homes. Within a several block radius are a grocery store, two drug stores, Section 8 housing, medical clinics, a family-style restaurant, two convenience stores selling gas, a tire store, an eye care clinic (there used to be a Pearl Vision too but it has been replaced by a Jimmy Johns sandwich shop), a Great Clips, a health club, a middle school and a high school.

    Since I am a rural planner, I guess I don't exactly practice what I plan, but as a planner I guess I do.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  15. #15
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Somewhat off-topic: I'm beginning to think that planning in politically conservative and politically liberal environments have more similarities than differences. We're making the same case of "choice" in defending our draft comprehensive plan. There's a very idealistic and vocal crowd here that believes "green sprawl" is the ideal lifestyle for all; a house in the woods with an organic garden and some goats, clustered ecovillages, and the like. Our argument; not any more. It's something much fewer people want or can afford. We have to reassure those living in large lot subdivisions that the plan doesn't advocate taking away what they have; it's just not going to be the model for development in the future.
    Off-topic:
    Isn't providing choice in any community the essense of what planning is and what we do? I think that is the a not-often made enough connection between planning for the public good and promoting the private sector. We have a council member who frustrates our department often because he often advocates mixed use, ped connections, commercial development, but will applaud large lot residential, low density and demands larger than necessary buffers between compatible uses. Having individual choices for housing, commercial, transportation, etc is what America is all about


    Second request, American flag emoticon!
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Living in Phoenix, there isn't really a whole lot of choice in housing types. Not nearly as much as in other cities of similar size. Most of what you have was built in the past 20-30 years and thus is mainly smaller lot subdivisions with attached garages in front, no alleys or sidewalks. Apartments are generally garden style low-rise. Mixed-use is limited to in and right around downtown Phoenix, a few areas in Tempe near ASU campus, and right near Old Town Scottsdale. I live in one of those aforementioned subdivisions in a "snout house" with two-car garage, but my commute is less than 20 minutes and my fiancee's commute is literally less than a mile. We are very centrally located to the metro area and can find everything we'd ever need and more within a 5 minute drive. Once it cools off she'll be riding her bike to work. For Phoenix, I'd say we live about as sustainably as it gets minus our backyard that requires some pretty good watering (hey, at least we have the realistic looking fake grass nad desert landscaping in the front!).
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  17. #17
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I partially practice what I preach.

    The Good:
    • location of neighborhood is such that my wife & I carpool to work about 80% of the time.
    • 3 blocks to an elementary school
    • 2 blocks to a large regional park on a river
    • not a snout house
    • excellent sidewalks, bike facilities, etc.
    • surprisingly good cultural diversity
    • short commute
    • biking distance to downtown (about 4 miles)

    The Not-So-Good:
    • front-loaded garage, but it is setback from the front of the house and the house has a large, usable front porch
    • admittedly suburban location that is primarily single-family detached and not in a grid (but not overwhelmed with cul-de-sacs either)
    • our neighborhood is new construction and still developing
    • no commercial uses nearby, although a vacant property about 2 blocks from us is reserved for commercial/mixed use
    • streets are too wide
    • don't live in the cities we each work in

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

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

  18. #18
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I try but there are some things that we had to trade in to get some of the other things we wanted when we bought our house.

    We really wanted to be in one of two specific school districts and wanted to be as close to the downtown as possible. We were able to get our preferred district but were unable to get a neighborhood with sidewalks. Had we moved a half mile east or a half mile north, it would have cost us nearly triple to get the size of house and lot that we did but we would have had sidewalks. That didn't seem worth it to me. Besides, our community is slowly putting sidewalks in all the residential neighborhoods and I have a feeling that our area will be a priority because of the density, the fact that there are quite a few schools (public/private) in a very tight radius, and the two small shopping centers nearby. We can still walk to downtown which has everything we need (15 or 20 minutes pushing a stroller) but we can make a shorter walk the other direction (5 minutes) where we have two grocery stores, banks, restaurants, a bakery, Starbucks, a drug store, etc. On the weekend, our cars very rarely leave the garage.

    We were able to get a side-entry garage and a neighborhood with mature trees. We also didn't want a cookie cutter house in a brand new subdivision. Our neighborhood is about 50 - 60 years old, so while it may have been cookie cutter at one point, many of the houses have had enough renovations and additions to them that it isn't cookie cutter anymore. We don't have a grid layout, which I would have liked, but we have what I've heard described as a "modified grid". Most of the streets go through but there is a bit of a curve to some of them. There's also a river running through our neighborhood, so again, it's a trade-off.

    My drive to work is only about 15 minutes, all on surface streets, no highways (when I used to come in an hour earlier than I do now, it was only about a 10 minute drive). My wife doesn't work but she did when we bought the house. Her office was about 6 minutes away but she drove all over the place for work anyway so we didn't really think that much about her commute when shopping. If I could find a job in the little downtown near us that would allow me to walk or ride a bike to work, I would take a slight pay cut in order to do so.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  19. #19
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by beach_bum View post
    Second request, American flag emoticon!
    Off-topic:
    Like this?








    You estupide Americains and your obsession with a piece of cloth! You even pray to it! Just like measurements based on the appendages of kings, low-denomination paper currency, and diesel-powered trains, we have moved beyond such ostentatious displays of patriotism, or should I say, nationalism? What unites us now is not love for some banner, but our solidarity as Europeans, and our hatred towards your automatic transmissions, bleach blonde starlets, and George Bush imperialist hegemony.

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  20. #20
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I try to when feasible. I live in a nice 70s subdivision that is walking distance to the commercial strip 1/2 mile to the north. We can walk the boys to school (3/4 mile away) and I seldom drive my car on the weekends. I would love to live in walking distance to the office. I had that two jobs ago - the office was 3/4 mile from the house. I loved it and would go for it again, provided the details work (good schools, nice pedestrian oriented neighborhood, etc.).
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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

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  21. #21
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Coragus View post
    If a doctor is going to talk to me about my health choices, then yes.
    One of my responsibilities falls under the "Healthy Cities" movement, which requires me to work with alot of the public health advocacy groups. The information and guidance they provide is amazing, but a disturbing majority of the people that work for these groups are anything but healthy.

    I think the reality is that the professionals cannot always be the shining example of what one should do. Rather, you need to understand what the issues are, and then try and present a solution to those problems. As stated before, we are advocating choices in our built environment. At the same time, our advice is to reduce the tradeoffs that result from our personal choices (e.g. how can we have our cake and eat it too). We don't work in absolutes. I think that there is a balance between one's ideals and the reality of the situation they were faced with.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dw914er View post
    One of my responsibilities falls under the "Healthy Cities" movement, which requires me to work with alot of the public health advocacy groups. The information and guidance they provide is amazing, but a disturbing majority of the people that work for these groups are anything but healthy.

    I think the reality is that the professionals cannot always be the shining example of what one should do. Rather, you need to understand what the issues are, and then try and present a solution to those problems. As stated before, we are advocating choices in our built environment. At the same time, our advice is to reduce the tradeoffs that result from our personal choices (e.g. how can we have our cake and eat it too). We don't work in absolutes. I think that there is a balance between one's ideals and the reality of the situation they were faced with.
    I work a lot with the local public health officials and healthy living groups and have found the same thing. For instance, it is hard for me not to feel that we are being hypocritical when then "experts" (not me, though I could stand to lose are few pounds) are talking about the obesity epidemic in our community and they themselves are certainly contributing to our higher numbers.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Practice what you preach or is it vice versa?

    I'm not sure what the hullabaloo is all about with regard to urban planners practicing what they preach. For me it boiled down to what I could afford on my planner's salary that wasn't a complete craphole and was reasonably close to work. So I have a 50-year old house, no garage (closed in in the 80s according to my neighbor two doors down who did the work - a fine job, too) but if it did have a garage it'd be a front load little snoot. We're lucky in that about 99% of what we need is within a 10 mile round trip of our house and 75% within a five mile round trip.

    Now, if I were to truely practice what I preach I'd have an apartment, townhome, duplex, triplex, quadplex, highrise, lowrise, estate, bungalow. I'd also own a convenience store, laundromat, doctors office, nursing home, problematic use (meeting all the distance and road access requirements, of course), nightclub, restaurant, bar, office place of worship, adult use, parks and recreation facility.

    For some reason I have Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time" humming in my head right now.

    Anyway, I happen to preach quite a bit of things so which one do I pick? I guess the one I can afford and that also works (at least reasonably) well for me.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Tobinn View post
    For me it boiled down to what I could afford on my planner's salary that wasn't a complete craphole and was reasonably close to work.
    It is ironic that planner's salaries are not sufficient to afford housing in the types of communities that many planners advocate for (particularly the historical examples that serve as inspiration).

    Many of us got into this profession because we wanted to see a change in our community - so it makes perfect sense if we are not already living what we are planning for.

    Here in the Bay Area, the type of neighborhood that I would like to see more of - walkable, safe, good schools, not right next to a freeway, convenient access by foot to useful stores and high quality transit - is so exceedingly rare that the tiny slivers of it that exist command extreme price premiums. So I view my role as attempting to correct that imbalance by streamlining regulations, advocating urbanism, and trying to undistort our extremely distorted development process to produce more of what people clearly want (and not coincidentally, what I want).

  25. #25
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I do live a very compact life in the downtown core and just 1.5 miles from my work, which I bike to every day. There is a grocery within walking distance, a brew pub within biking distance, our car mechanic is also close as is one of the children’s schools (the older kid is about to go to middle school and there are none in our area). My wife works largely from home but is about to take on a position that will allow mostly working from home but also require some in-office hours. That is up the hill, a 15 minute bike ride away.

    So, I guess I do live a life that reflects many of the planning principles and development trends I think are the most responsible. BUT, I am loathe to be self-righteous about it. I mean, there’s not much that’s more off-putting than that. In fact, I had not really thought about it in these terms – that I am practicing what I preach – until this thread. It just seemed to make sense. I really really dislike spending time driving around town in a car (I love a road trip, though!) and we used to live at the rural/urban edge south of town on ½ acre. But the driving back and forth for school, shopping, work, etc. was overwhelmingly annoying. Especially with two kids. Once I started adding up the ours I spent driving every week that could have been spent being with the family, it didn’t seem like a hard decision. Making more time available for enjoyment and the chores of living (other than work) seems to be one of the only variables I have some control over. So, after 9 years, we made the move into the urban core. Its been overall pretty great and the right decision for this phase in our lives.

    I will admit that, though. someday, when the kids are a little older, I fantasize about living somewhere with a bigger yard where I can keep chickens and maybe event goats (I’m fascinated with goats!) but right now our yard is just too small for such things. Legally we could have chickens, but its really not a good fit for our space. We have a rabbit, a dog, a cat and fish instead…
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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