Saturday, April 16, 2005

Two Views from Planners

A couple of interesting essays of interest from planners recently, expressing some divergent views.

The first is "Taking a Lesson in Math to Limit Urban Sprawl," by Chris Fiscelli, a Senior Fellow at the Reason Public Policy Institute's Urban Futures Program.

Chris opines that building transit and instituting urban growth boundaries is more like treating the symptoms of sprawl rather than the root causes. He says, "A host of policies contribute to our sprawling urban regions such as zoning, revenue-raising land use decisions by cities, (etc.).. . Without first addressing these fundamental policy flaws in our urban regions, building shiny, new public works projects and drawing lines around cities is likely to have little positive effect."

"Without a fundamental shift by state and local governments to address the fundamental policies that exacerbate urban sprawl, building new light rail systems and subsidizing select projects alone will have no major impact on urban growth patterns or environmental preservation."

The second is a column in the New Urban News by Philip Langdon questioning APA's "need" to claim authorship of New Urbanism. Langdon writes, "A curious thing happened to the planning profession on its long road to recovery. The American Planning Association came closer than ever to endorsing New Urbanism's principles, but displayed a surprising lack of respect for many of the people who put those principles into practice."

"A significant number of planners have started to see themselves once more as advocates for good principles of community design, drawing on New Urbanism, regionalism, and environmental conservation. This is a welcome change. ... Some planners also quickly joined the movement, but the profession as a whole went on permitting single-purpose tract housing developments, shopping centers with awful pedestrian access, and isolated business 'parks.' Too much of the profession continues to do that."

Interesting stuff, though Langdon maybe forgets that planners usually are not the final approvers of the development plans that go forward, our planning commissions and governing bodies are, and they are sometimes even slower to change course than planners.

Worth the read, take a look.


At 3:12 PM, Blogger Planner Perplexed said...

Excellent observations by both Wilf and the author. I think Wilf is right in that planners do not have as much control as they would like and therefore are not to blame for much of the sprawl as some planning critics lay at our feet. However, how many planners have truly stuck their necks out and pushed for new urbanist planning techinques here in the state? Very few I imagine and some of those who have, have been cruxified for it by elected officials.

Ultimately, both planners and councils/mayors are to blame. Planners need to quit wimping out and open their mouths about how important many of the NU concepts are. C'mon Utah APA, get with it and put your energy into ugrading the profession here in Utah. I thought we had an obligation as planners to stand for something.
A lot of planning I see in the state is awful, mundane and plain thoughtless. Do we really believe in "planning" or are we just content to keep our jobs and maintain the "status quo"?

I remember when the first New Urbanist articles were published in the APA Magazine and how critical Duany was of planners and the profession as a whole. He was/is right.

It seems to me at the time there were many indignant planner responses to his specific criticims of planning and its love affair with arcane, byzantine code books and planning by numbers schemes. Again, he was/is right.

I agree that planners by and large should walk away from taking credit for embracing NU. Its hypocritical. I hate to admit it, but I was not a believer at the beginning either.

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At 2:48 AM, Blogger Mie Helal said...

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