Sunday, January 15, 2006

New Urbanism Debated

Pretty good discussion about what New Urbanism is and how it works (or should work) in rapidly growing communities on the blog The Naked City, by Mary Newsome. Newsome is an associate editor of the Charlotte (NC) Observer who writes frequently on urban growth topics.

The blog entry begins with a discussion about a NU development on the fringes of the Charlotte suburbs, which reminds me a lot of Daybreak. Newsome's entry lays out some good thoughts, like the fact that New Urbanist principles of mixed-use and walkablitity should be included in suburban developments as well. One of the commenters says what I've been thinking for some time, "How can something several miles outside a city center be called 'new urbanism?' Shouldn't those developments be called 'new suburbanism?' It would be much more accurate, but alas, not have the same panache..."

It doesn't really matter what you call it, it's the ideas that are important. Be sure to read all the comments, there's lots of good back and forth about new urbanism (or suburbanism, if you will). The discussion is about everything from whether NU is "elitist" to whether density and diminishing oil are just red herrings (sorry, Google Peak Oil).

Worth a read. It's my opinion that at the rate we are growing, there is some infill and redevelopment we can do, but the vast majority of new development will be out on the urban fringes. We should do what we can to make that new fringe development the best, most walkable, mixed-use, employment mixed that we can.


At 7:33 PM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

In the comments Ben Arnold implies that since James Kunstler was a social critic of postwar auto-dependent suburban sprawl before he became an activist for peak oil awareness, his energy awareness activism is motivated by his hatred of suburbia. Kunstler is the first to point out in his radio interviews (such as the one he gave to KUER's Radio West program) that in the beginning his criticisms of suburbia were for social reasons.
I do not doubt Kunstler's sincere concern for our coming energy difficulties. Nor do I doubt the concerns of numerous geologists, physicists, congressmen, wealthy energy investors, former energy secretaries, or former heads of the CIA. None of whom have voiced any personal opinions about whether modern suburbia is a desirable living arrangement.

We should take note that our major oil companies, including Chevron and ExxonMobil, are beginning to state publicly that we may be reaching peak oil.- Senator Orrin Hatch

At 8:08 PM, Blogger Former Centerville Citizen said...

Pardon my cynicism, but people don't like to hear that there will likely be an energy crisis within their lifetime. You can show them the geological data about oil production, tell them that most alternative energy ideas are either not workable (ethanol production requires more energy than it puts off) or require an underlying petroleum economy themselves (you can't manufacture wind turbines with wind energy), and so on and so forth, and they just stick their heads in the sand.

We've all grown up with the wonders of technological innovation, communication and transportation, and we can't fathom that our lifestyles could be significantly altered with energy becoming scarce.

And no, I'm not an environmentalist or a doomsdayer. But when you think about how much energy from fossil fuels goes into what you eat (the petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, the fuel for the tractors, the energy to run the processing plants, and the fuel it takes to transport the food), it's really quite humbling.

Maybe improved technology will be able to save us, but if not, we could be in for some hard years ahead. But only time will tell.

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting discussion, I must say. There are so many misconceptions about NU in their discussion, it would be nearly impossible to dissect them all. However, a few general observations:

1 - I don't believe NU is inherently elitist by any means. If it has become less affordable in some (or even many) instances, it is a result of simple supply/demand forces.

2 - I find the discussion of aesthetics very interesting. Maybe I'm reading the into discussion incorrectly (so feel free to correct me), but it seems as though aesthetics are often viewed as a naive and even trite approach to solving urban problems.

I believe there is a great deal of untapped power in proper design to build communties that inspire healthier lifestyles in every sense of the word. (and no, I don't believe that just means slapping porches on every home).

Ok, so I'm on an aesthetics rant now, but I find it interesting that in many cases, the only places you could identify really good design or aesthetics are called "tourist destinations." Think Disneyland, Park City's Main Street, and to a lesser degree places like the Gateway.

Do too many land use planners overlook the importance of design and how it affects us? I believe they do.


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