Get dense – Conurbate!

30 12 2009

At Texas Christian University’s Tracks to the Future in Fort Worth, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (a conservative) had this to say: “Have a vision…Show them pictures of what it can look like once you start planning…Avoid the word density…Don’t talk like a planner and don’t use your lingo because politicians don’t understand it and the constituency gets real turned off by the word density. But if you show them a picture of a well-planned development…they’ll say you know what, that’s pretty nice.”

John Stillich: “North American cities and towns will face very serious issues that cannot be addressed using 20th century city-building traditions. A critical issue will be the cost and availability of energy resources for transportation and for indoor heating and cooling. Households, commerce, and the economy as a whole can expect to be hard hit, especially in energy-intensive suburban environments. Linked to the use of energy is its impact on the natural environment: energy production from oil, gas, and coal will produce more pollutants and greenhouse gases per unit of energy delivered as easily-extractable sources dry up, further destabilizing our climate. 20th century land-use practices are also eating away at the agricultural lands that feed us. Population growth, the risk of lower agricultural productivity from climate destabilization and rising energy costs make preserving agricultural lands around cities a key requirement for sustainability and well-being. High urban densities and an intensive mixing of uses are essential for environmental and economic sustainability of residents and local business. Unfortunately, no suburban municipality today is remotely close to achieving sustainability.”

Newburg: Embracing High Density at the Urban Fringe

asladirt: “In 1895, Vandergrift, a western Pennsylvanian town, was created by a steel magnate who wanted a place where his steel workers could ‘work, play and live.’ The steel company owner hired Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s central park and master landscape architect, to make this vision a reality and create a ‘livable community.’ Now, more than 110 years later, the residents of Vandergrift are returning to the original Olmsted plan in their efforts to create a sustainable community for the 21st century.”

Anthony Flint (director of public affairs at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy): “You can’t feel good about driving a Prius and be a NIMBY, proclaiming ‘not in my backyard’ anytime a proposal comes along for a little additional density in the neighborhood. Well-designed, walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented development is more important than all the hybrid taxis and green roofs the city could require. The urban fabric is a key weapon against climate change. Cities allow us to walk, ride a bike, and take transit. “Growing Cooler” showed that compact development – basically, being able to live, work, and shop within a 20-minute radius – can reduce vehicle miles traveled by as much as 30 percent…walking to the corner store for a gallon of milk is one of the greenest contributions any of us can make. Our cities provide that opportunity. But we need more city. That’s where infill redevelopment comes in…But building at these sites is much more difficult than starting from scratch in a cornfield outside the urban periphery. Outdated codes and requirements are among the barriers.”

Andres Duany(What is the biggest impediment to smart growth?) Citizen participation in the planning process is probably the biggest roadblock. If you ask people what they want, they don’t want density. They don’t want mixed use. They don’t want transit. They don’t even want a bike path in their back yard. They don’t want a grid that connects, they want cul-de-sacs. They can’t see the long term benefits of walkable neighborhoods with a greater diversity of housing types…(The Smart Growth Manual) is a response to the empowerment of citizens in planning. The public process has become very broadly based—it’s expected now [that citizens will participate in charettes] and often the outcome is questionable. That has to do with expertise. So this manual is for elected officials and for citizens who participate in the [planning] process.”

Jay Walljasper: “The year 2010 may be remembered as a turning point in many American cities, towns and suburbs. It could be the moment when citizens say ‘enough is enough’ and rally to save essential public services from the chopping block, even if it means paying higher local taxes. Or it could be time when deep gashes in funding for parks, libraries, education, public safety, transit, health and other cornerstones of the commons good bring many communities to their knees, ushering in age of reckless privatization and steep decline in quality of life as local governments are unable to provide for the basic needs of their citizens.”

John Gurda: “The day may come when librarians have to leave a key under the doormat at each neighborhood branch, when homicides are reported to a call center in Bangalore, when every household is expected to bury its own garbage and to keep its own fire bucket at the front door.”

Luther Propst: “Ten years ago, a small group of citizens concerned about the growing impact of poorly planned growth created the Montana Smart Growth Coalition to help preserve the high quality of life in the state. The Coalition, now with over 40 member groups, advocates for laws and regulations that will lead to sustainable, affordable, and attractive community growth patterns while also protecting open spaces in a rapidly developing Montana. Their passion, commitment, and hard work have paid off (…when) the Montana Legislature enacted seven new smart growth statutes…The Act will improve the public notice process for development proposals and zoning changes, opening the door for more public participation. The Act also allows counties to use ‘interim zoning’ as an effective tool to give communities the time they need to plan for unexpected growth.”


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