Smart Design = Smart Policy: Eezy-Peezy? Not so fast

See if this sounds familiar:
The city planning staff, maybe working with an expert team of design consultants, comes up with what they think is a no-brainer solution to a high-profile problem. Say, a proposal for much-needed multifamily development to address workforce housing demand. Or a plan to fix a blighted block with a mixed-use project that checks all the Smart Growth boxes. Or perhaps a senior-friendly cottage court adjacent to an existing single-family neighborhood of larger lots and homes.

Retail Parking: A View from Google Earth

Last year I shared how Google Earth can be used to understand parking utilization. In response, readers suggested that Google Earth can be used for walking audits and offered that Remote Sensing Metrics is another resources for parking utilization data. Patrick Holland, a Master’s in City and Regional Planning student at Ohio State University, Gala Korniyenko, a Master’s of Urban Planning student at the University of Kansas, and Brittany Port, an Ohio State University graduate of the Master’s in City and Regional Planning program, along with myself, looked at Google Earth image after Google Earth image to understand parking utilization at large scale retailers.

Charrette: A Social Innovation Lab

When you think social innovation, you might think micro loans in developing countries, or hand-ups to help people in from the fringes here at home. Or a wide range of ways to build social capital or how charitable institutions backstop community with philanthropy. But for those of you who are working in the city planning trenches every day, using collaborative design workshops to engage the people, you’re really running a form of social innovation lab.

Four types of sprawl

Drivable suburbia, or sprawl, also is not just one, big, lumpy “thing.” It’s fine to use the basic term as a starting point, but it’s important to also see the nuance that is found in the typical suburban environment.

Beyond the white picket fence

With more people gravitating toward cities than ever before, new urban morphologies are proliferating throughout the developed and developing worlds. Roger Keil, a professor at Toronto’s York University, has spent his career thinking about the implications of this process. I spoke with him about Suburban Governance: A Global View, a newly released book he co-edited with University of Montreal professor Pierre Hamel.

Putting People First: 10 Steps Toward Pedestrian-Friendly Suburbs

The University of Utah estimates that 2.8 million acres of parking lots and other greyfield areas are ripe for redevelopment, and 1.1 million acres are available in underutilized shopping areas, such as strip malls and vacant storefronts (Dunham Jones and Williamson 2009). Transforming these landscapes will be a 21st-century planning and development priority in the United States.

Lifelong Communities: A Framework for Planning

In June, 2014, ARC, joined by community and tactical urbanism partners, created a temporary Lifelong Community on two-blocks of Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn Avenue. Over a period of three days, The “Sweet Auburn Living Beyond Expectations” project demonstrated many of the elements that help create a Lifelong Community.

Lean Sprawl Repair – Mall Retrofit

As a comprehensive method for transforming car-dependent environments into walkable, diverse communities, Sprawl Repair includes small-scale and inexpensive interventions. Sprawl Repair works at multiple scales, from the region to the neighborhood and the building, and utilizes a variety of tools that are cost-effective, incremental, and can be quickly implemented. This paper will demonstrate how a mall, the most promising contender for Sprawl Repair, can be retrofitted in small, efficient steps, creating much-needed, cheap space for incubating new businesses and artisan uses, as well as providing affordable student housing.

Getting to know LEED: Neighborhood Development

Is your local grocery store within walking distance…and is there a sidewalk for you to trek there safely? Does your neighborhood boast high-performing green buildings, parks and green space? Do bikes, pedestrians and vehicles play nicely together on the road? LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) was engineered to inspire and help create better, more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods. It looks beyond the scale of buildings to consider entire communities. Why? Because sprawl is a scary thing. Here’s the antidote.

Picturing Smart Growth – Visions for Sustainable Communities Across America

Cities and towns across the country are embracing smart growth as a better solution to meet the needs of their growing populations. Smart growth principles accommodate growth and development while saving open space, revitalizing neighborhoods and helping cool the planet. Just look at this vision of how smart growth concepts could help give a lifeless street new vitality in the town of Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Rotunda owners right to turn the mall inside-out

While I greatly respect the views of the city officials who think otherwise, their position in favor of a more traditional, inward-facing mall are not in sync with well established community development best-practices.

Transect for Sprawl Repair

Human settlements are resilient and successional in nature. They change, going through cycles of regression, deterioration and advancement. Even the most cosmopolitan cities started as meager hamlets on crossroads, but then grew and matured, while regenerating their physical environment multiple times throughout their histories. Today’s image of American urbanism is inseparable from the image of sprawl: endless, soulless, wasteful, but most importantly, malfunctioning. This predicament may signal a pivotal point, as has happened in previous civilizations, when quantitative and qualitative changes converge and the paradigm shifts towards better human habitats.

The Sprawl Repair Method – How to Transform Sprawl into Complete, Balanced Communities

In 1963 Constantinos Doxiadis published the book Architecture in Transition. No mere contemplation on architecture, the book boldly called for a transition from traditional urbanism to new settlement patterns that would accommodate the car, its movement, and its speed. Doxiadis recognized the contrast between human-scaled and automobile-scaled development.

The opportunity that Apple is missing to build a better neighborhood

I never intended to become so knowledgeable about Apple, Inc.’s new “spaceship” headquarters being developed in Cupertino, California. Really, I didn’t. But the design seemed to me to be way overscaled for humans and particularly wrong for a classic slice of California sprawl that is begging to be retrofitted into a more walkable and people-oriented environment. Apple is already a world leader in consumer technology; this was its chance to be a world leader also for community-oriented sustainability.

My big fat New Urbanism conference rundown

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) – probably the most significant urban design movement in North America since Levittown and the rise of suburbia – turned 20 in West Palm Beach last week. CNU20 was my first congress, and it was by turns amazing, amusing and a bit dull, and overall it’s probably the most important conference I’ve attended since this convergence-of-climate-change-and-energy-scarcity thing I went to in 2006. Let me explain why.

First Suburbs Coalition

The First Suburbs Coalition has formed a partnership with KC Communities for All Ages, a regional initiative to help communities prepare for the large increase in older adults that will occur over the next two decades achat 10 viagra. The partnership hosted a kickoff for the regional initiative with a focus on what local governments can do to start preparing for the aging boom. News media around town has been reporting on the initiative:
Mission preparing for surge of aging citizens
Gladstone, other suburbs examine what’s needed to be a community for all ages

Gated Communities, Civility and Crime

Among Florida cities, Sanford has a remarkable amount of green space. As WMFE reporter Matthew Peddie noted for WNYC’s Transportation Nation blog, Sanford has spent more than $20 million in the last two decades creating more than 30 parks and green spaces. However, Sanford is also notable for being home to numerous gated communities — like The Retreat at Twin Lakes, the neighborhood where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked back from 7-Eleven.
One of the questions that Trayvon’s death has raised is the issue of who or what makes a community or a neighborhood seem “safe” or “unsafe.” Elijah Anderson, professor of sociology at Yale and the author of “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life” writes about the kind of spaces where civil, harmonious interactions between people can emerge. Galina Tachieva, an expert in sustainable planning and community development, is the author of the “Sprawl Repair Manual.”

If you care about cities, return that new iPad

If you care about cities, about walkable communities, about healing the crappy environment thrust upon us for the last four decades in the form of suburban sprawl, then get a refund on that new iPad 3. Take your iPhone back, too. Because its manufacturer, oh-so-hip Apple, Inc., is betting that the company is cool enough to get away with violating even the most basic tenets of smart growth and walkability in the sprawling, car-dependent design of its new headquarters. Don’t let them collect on that bet.

Fixing suburbs with green streets that accommodate everyone

We’ve made such a mess of the suburbs we constructed in the last fifty or so years that one wonders whether they can ever be made into something more sustainable. Strip malls, traffic jams, cookie-cutter subdivisions, diminished nature, almost no sense of outdoor community. We all know the drill: there are nice places to be in America’s recently built suburbs, but we have to know where they are and drive to them through a visual and environmental mess to get there.
One of the most challenging aspects of suburbs, and of the prescriptions for improving them, is the character of their roadways. Most of us take the poor design of our streets – the most visible part of most suburban communities, if you think about it – so much for granted that it never occurs to us that they actually could be made better for the community and for the environment. Consider, for example, main “arterial” streets so wide that pedestrians can’t cross them, even if there is a reason to; little if any greenery to absorb water, heat, or provide a calming influence; or residential streets with no sidewalks.

The Unbearable Cost of Sprawl – How planners can correct some of the worst excesses of the exurbs

It’s no secret that America’s sprawling, car-dependent exurbs were Ground Zero for the economic meltdown. These “drive ’til you qualify” communities were built on risky decisions and over-leveraged debt—buyers betting that the price of gasoline for commuting wouldn’t go up too much, or that they’d be able to sell their pricey McMansions before their artificially low mortgages reset. Millions of homeowners lost that bet, and the entire world paid the economic price.
But we haven’t gotten rid of the danger. In fact, the worst might be yet to come. Energy costs continue to skyrocket, making travel and heating exorbitant. New research suggests sprawl is hurting our health. For example, rates of obesity in unwalkable suburbs are near epidemic levels. And local municipalities that tried to grow their tax base through sprawl may soon be overwhelmed by the extra costs of maintenance.

A Suburban Pilgrimage, Part II: Retrofitting Levittown!

Yesterday I posted the story of my dream urban pilgrimage—a journey I recently made to the first post–World War II American sprawl suburb, Levittown.
I wrote that I was caught off guard by how benevolent the residential sections of Levittown seemed when compared with the modern sprawling suburban neighborhoods that were modeled after it.
It cannot be ignored, however, that the commercial strips within and surrounding Levittown nonetheless suffer from the same problem that sprawling suburban outposts do—the hollow lifelessness of a car-oriented landscape.
Levittown was the first town built entirely upon the assumption of individual automobile use, and the main thoroughfare leading into it presents a harsh, impossible landscape of vast parking lots, distant megastores, and four, six, eight-lane ropes of traffic.

A Suburban Pilgrimage, Part I: Learning to Like Levittown

Almost everyone has a secret pilgrimage destination tucked somewhere in their own personal book of dreams. For many these are, as Ryszard Kapuściński once wrote, “certain magical names with seductive, colorful associations—Timbuktu, Lalibela, Casablanca.”
They are places to which we attach wonder, mystique, and fascination; places that we dream of one day exploring, with the subliminal hope of finding an exotic understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place within it.
My secret place is Levittown. I have always wanted to go to Levittown.

Galina Tachieva: Occupy Wall Street? Occupy the Unoccupied . . . Occupy Sprawl!

As thousands cram into the winding streets and public spaces of lower Manhattan in a revolt against the “corporate forces of the world,” Galina Tachieva would really prefer protesters take over an abandoned Walmart parking lot instead.
She’d really prefer we occupy sprawl viagra paypal.
One of my personal heroes, Tachieva is a partner at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Architects and Town Planners (DPZ), Miami, and author of the Sprawl Repair Manual. She specializes in suburban retrofits—revamping automobile-oriented, sprawling regions into more lively, sustainable, and compact communities.

Sprawl Repair – From Sprawl to Complete Communities

Sprawl is a pattern of growth characterized by an abundance of congested highways, strip shopping centers, big boxes, office parks, and gated cul-de-sac subdivisions—all separated from each other in isolated, single-use pods. This land-use pattern is typically found in suburban areas, but also affects our cities, and is central to our wasteful use of water, energy, land, and time spent in traffic. Sprawl has been linked to increased air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of open space and natural habitat, and the exponential increase in new infrastructure costs. Social problems related to the lack of diversity have been attributed to sprawl, and health problems such as obesity to its auto-dependence.
In contrast, complete communities have a mix of uses and are walkable, with many of a person’s daily need—shops, offices, transit, civic and recreational places—within a short distance of home. They are compact, so they consume less open space and enable multiple modes of transportation, including bicycles, cars, and mass transit. A wide variety of building types provides options to residents and businesses, encouraging diversity in population. This mix of uses, public spaces, transportation, and population makes complete communities economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.