Tag Archives: News

Planning Naked | July 2015

planning0715Observations on the July 2015 issue of Planning Magazine.

1. Some will be disappointed this month’s issue (“Pot Report”) did not come with any free samples; maybe for only APA-CA or APA-CO chapter members, perhaps.

2. APA appears to have suddenly realized (or, maybe, finally remembered) the importance of water in community planning (“From the Desk of APA’s Executive Director”, pp. 3). Well, that partially explains the existence of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, etc. in their current conglomeration. I hope APA appreciates the irony that the next APA national conference is being held in Phoenix… but hey, I hear it’s a dry heat.

3. The biggest news gets a brief mention (“News Briefs”, pp. 7) about the halting of a highway project in Wisconsin because travel forecasts failed to show the road widening was actually needed, and projects in other states are stalled for the same reason. You mean agencies are actually building highways only for the sake of building highways?!?! Eureka! Alleluia! Hosanna! However, APA’s anti-fracking agenda (what a lot of us view as “energy independence”) gets eight times the number of words on the exact, same page. Ahem.

4. Lots of scare-mongering about the Koontz decision in this month’s “Legal Lessons” (pp. 9). However, the sidebar about “climate exactions” is interesting. I would like to see this tested out in the courts to see if any such ‘climate exaction’ could really bear the burden of legal scrutiny.

5. “New-Age Central Parks” (pp. 14-23) is interesting but I’m beginning to think a lot of planners are afraid of buildings. Kyle Warren Park in Dallas is OK but is a park really needed across the street from another park? And nobody walks in a curve like the way the paths are laid out in this park. At least, not by choice… are park designers practicing some insidious form of architectural determinism?

6. The “Pot Report” (pp.24-29) is oddly disappointing, lots of questions, no answers, very little really added to the debate or issue.

7. Excellent article on Tactical Urbanism “(We Own This City”, pp. 30-34).

8. “Research You Can Use” discusses the AARP’s new Livability Index. Handle with caution. I inputted the address of one of the worst suburban sprawl areas in Jacksonville, Florida and AARP’s site gave the neighborhood an ‘average’ score of 50. No way! So, either the site is wrong or we have officially crossed the threshold into way, way too much suburban sprawl in this country so it’s skewing the percentages. It’s probably both, now that I think about it.

9. I mention planners are afraid of buildings in #5 above and Peter Gisolfi, AIA addresses this very issue in the Viewpoint editorial on the back page (“A Plea for Buildings that Fit In”). I suspect most planners will discount what he has to say because he does not have an AICP credential. A shame.

Planning Naked is an article with observations and comments about a recent issue of Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association.

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Author Spotlight | AiA | July 2015

mark_v3The Outlaw Urbanist founder, Mark David Major, is featured in the “Author Spotlight” on the Association of Independent Authors (AiA) during the month of July. The Association of Independent Authors (AiA) represents, advances, promotes and supports independent authors globally.

Excerpt:

Mark David Major is the author of several titles – fiction and nonfiction, literature, poetry and plays – including Mars Rising (science fiction) and The Persistence of Memory and Other Plays.

Mark’s latest titles – Poor Richard, An Almanac for Architects and Planners (I & II) – are a testament to his 20 years’ experience and professional background as an architect and urban planner. Mark is currently Vice President, Business & Planning at Starr Sanford Design and Chief Operating Officer of Starr Style. He is also the founder of the architecture and urbanism blog, The Outlaw Urbanist.

You can visit the AiA website to read the Author Spotlight here.

You can download a PDF to read the Author Spotlight here.

PoorRichardv2_FrCoverPoor Richard, Another Almanac for Architects and Planners by Mark David Major
Foreword by Steve Mouzon, AIA
Paperback, 140 pages (5″ x 0.3″ x 8″, 7.4 ounces)
Forum Books (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; First edition)
November 30, 2014
English
ISBN-10: 150290182X
ISBN-13: 978-1502901828

Poor Richard, Another Almanac for Architects and Planners (Volume 2 of the Poor Richard series) is available for purchase from CreateSpace, Amazon, iBooks, and other online retailers around the world. Be sure to check the online store in your country/currency (USA stores available below).

Purchase from CreateSpace here.
Purchase from Amazon here.
Purchase from Kindle Store here.
Purchase from iBooks Store here.

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Planning Naked | June 2015

PlanningJun15Observations on the June 2015 issue of Planning Magazine.

Cover: An indication arrow on the cover (see below)? Seriously? How can APA be trusted to design our communities when they don’t even know how to design a magazine cover?

Having said that, this is really one of the best Planning Magazine issues in a long time, for the most part.

1.    “Walking in Jacob’s Footsteps” (page 4): I wholeheartedly approve of the concept behind the Jane’s Walk organization (www.JanesWalk.org) and I’m pleased to see Planning Magazine feature a prominent news piece about it.

2.    “AARP Tool Quantifies Livability” (page 5): The goals of AARP’s Livability Index appear commendable (the devil is, of course, in the details of the data input) but the reliance on census blocks indicates an inherently insensitivity to urban block-to-block and street segment-to-segment variations commonplace in traditional urbanism. I’m also tied of this faux affordability debate (“At 2.5 times the U.S. median cost, the housing is not very affordable, but you can’t have it all”). At its core, this is a simple supply and demand question. After 60 years of suburban sprawl in the USA, there is an insufficient supply of walkable, traditional neighborhoods so demand is high, hence it costs more. And the U.S. median housing cost figure does not factor in associated costs of living in one particular type of area compared to others (owning multiple cars, gas and insurance costs, cost of time cost to commute, HOA costs, etc.).

3.    “Michigan Ups Investment with Crowdfunding” (page 6): “This investment strategy allows businesses to publicly recruit all investors, not just the several million or so defined as accredited investors by the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.” Think about that sentence for a moment. If people are developing innovative investment solutions to get around Federal regulators, then there is something fundamentally wrong with those regulations as written and/or enforced. The potential of crowdfunding is exciting as long as our political leaders don’t poison the well.

4.    “Great Park Audit Exposes Problems” (page 7): So this is what a planning quagmire looks like! “The master plan was killed… by its own hubris.” That should be on the planning profession’s epithet.  It seems like the design and financing concept was flawed from the beginning; corruption thrives under such circumstances. I suspects there’s more to this story.

5.    Interesting series of articles on beach access/erosion issues (“A Line in the Sand” by Heather Boerner, page 8-15 including related articles). Highlights: “This fictional line (mean high- and low-tide lines) has only created trouble between private land owners and the public” (Jennifer Sullivan, FSU College of Law, now Florida House of Representatives member for the 31st District, perhaps someone to watch in the futre?). “The city, along with the stakeholders, will need to work to preserve the beach forever” (Linda Tucker, Isle of Palms, SC City Administrator)…. compared that impossible, static view of the world to a dynamic, realistic one… “or they retreat from the coastline” (i.e. the standard human solution to ecological changes for thousands of years)… “erosion can’t be avoided.”

6.    Excellent article by Rebecca Leonard of Design Workshop about Green Infrastructure and Tactical Urbanism (“Green Infrastructure Grows Up”, page 16-21). However, I am quickly getting tired of the practice of acronym listings in these Planning Magazine articles for public and non-profit agencies, organizations, and programs. Poor Richard: It isn’t the quantity of the acronyms that matter but the quality of their (letter) characters.

7.    Interesting how Chuck Ware of Design Workshop inserts a (admittedly striking) graphic on worldwide energy depletion into an article principally about affordable housing in Saudi Arabia to make the link between ecological challenges and development patterns (“Saudi Arabia’s Quest for Affordable Housing, page 22-27).

8.     Another excellent article on modeling the long-term costs of alternative planning strategies in Belize (“A ‘Blue Economy’ for Belize by Ilima Loomis, page 28-32). That these modeling techniques with a  “robust scientific basis” emerge from a consortium of environmental groups and academic departments – and not the planning profession or its academic departments – speaks volumes.

9.    “Out of the Box, into the Scenario” (page 33-35): Article on voodoo science (“decreasing ability of traditional modeling techniques to forecast future traffic accurately”). Maybe that’s because it never did accurately forecast to begin with? Just spit-balling here.

10.    “Senior-Friendly Transportation Options (page 36-37) kinda misses the larger point (“There’s also a focus on how to keep older drivers in their cars longer.”). We need to get everyone – regardless of age – out of their cars more frequently.

11.    “Simplify That Code!” by Randall Arendt (page 38-41) on pared-down Form-Based Codes is another excellent article, adapted from Rural by Design (2015) by the same author.

I’m going to cut off this article here because this is a really good issue of Planning Magazine with a dense amount of useful material. I could easily list another 10 observations. As always, read with a critical eye to understand the underlying assumptions of the author(s) but this month’s issue somewhat helps to make up for disaster of the Special Issue on Transportation last month. Do we dare hope this represents progress?

Planning Naked is an article with observations and comments about a recent issue of Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association.

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Planning Naked | May 2015

Planning_May2015Observations on the May 2015 issue of Planning Magazine.

1.  I cannot believe the cover of this Special Issue on Transportation from Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association. The message could not be any clearer:

Transportation=Road Building=Moving Cars=Money $$$

At first, I thought – finally – APA has developed a satirical perspective on its own profession. Yeah, that was wishful thinking. The cover is insidious, especially given the contrary content of this month’s issue on road design, reduced parking requirements, etc. Let’s ‘fix’ this cover.

Planning_May2015 revise

2.  “The Mathematics of Urban Productivity” (pp. 9) has an exciting and really important finding buried in the text. “Human settlements are, first and foremost, social networks embedded in space (our emphasis),” wrote Scott Ortman, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado-Boulder in a paper published in Science Advances about a study of productivity in the Aztec city Teōtīhuacān (modern day Mexico City), “the productivity of cities depends… on their role as containers for social interaction.”

3.  Despite (seemingly) editorial efforts to change the emphasis to police enforcement from road design, the message of “The Safest Streets: Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities” by Jay Walljasper (pp. 14) still comes through loud and clear. “Research shows that lowering a speed limit without other improvements like road design changes or improved police enforcement doesn’t work to slow traffc – it’s the roadway design (our emphasis) that affects the speed” (Charlie Zegger, UNC Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center). It’s not an enforcement problem, it’s a design problem. This provides an especially galling contrast compared to the “pro-car, make money” message of this month’s Planning Magazine cover. Two steps forward, one step back.

4.  Another good article “Releasing the Parking Brake on Economic Development” by Brian Canepa and Joshua Karlin-Resnick (pp. 22). “A recent study by the Transportation Research Board found that parking was oversupplied in mixed use district by an average of 65 percent.” It’s not only in mixed use districts and you don’t really need a study to see the obvious, just open your eyes and look. Accommodating parking for 2-3 days of the year (shopping days before Christmas) is just stupid. The example cited in Sacramento makes a clearcut case of how the real problem is created and perpetuated by the regulatory regime itself.

5.  The logical conclusion of the above article and Donald Shoup’s excellent “Putting the Cap on Parking Requirements” article is the Buffalo model: complete eradication of minimum parking requirements in regulatory codes and allowing the market to determine what is needed on a case-by-case basis. The planning profession is not ready to adopt such a radical approach but they better start getting ready.

6.  “Road (Funding) Rage” by Jon Davis – in combination with the insidious cover – reveals the real agenda of the American Planning Association and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which is organizations greedily sucking at the teat of the government (preferably Federal but State and local will do as well). Approximately one-third on the content (excluding advertisements) in this special issue is dedicated to funding, taxes, and cars.

In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy Man
I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball…
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man’s world
– ABBA

7.  “Towards a grounded theory of sustainable zoning” by Reid Ewing from the University of Utah in the Research You Can Use section advocates the concept of grounded or qualitative theory, which is really just normative theory because it is not testable or refutable, meaning it’s not theory at all in the scientific sense of the word. For normative theory, see Modernism planning.

8.  It’s hard to know where to begin with Elizabeth Wood’s Viewpoint Article, “Celebrity Culture Meets Planning Culture”. I am guessing People Magazine passed on this article. According to Wood, Idina Menzel (the “the one and only, Adele Dazeem”, per John Travolta) plays a planner in the Broadway musical If/Then, she sang on Disney’s Frozen and has “millions of young Frozen fans”, ergo we can expect a “bumper crop of new planners” in the next generation. I guess I can see her point. I mean Madonna did play Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita in 1996, Madonna had millions of young fans at the time, and now we are inundated with a bumper crop of ambitious young women who want to be the second wife of South American oligarchs… And that is how you do satire, APA *mic drop*.

Planning Naked is an article with observations and comments about a recent issue of Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association.

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Planning Naked | April 2015

scanObservations on the April 2015 issue of Planning Magazine.

1. APA President William Anderson in the Guest Column on page 5 says “that planning is relevant, alive, and needed now more than ever.” Planning, generic? Instead, what about saying we need good planning now more than ever? Bad planning is a waste of time and effort. The good intentions of “dedicated and earnest planners” are not enough. The road is Hell is paved with good intentions. Leadership is about setting a high standard for the profession and advocating to achieve that standard. Planners should always lead, not only “sometimes”. Let’s stop playing small ball with our language.

2. Man, there are a LOT of advertisements in this month’s issue. It’s like flipping through pages and pages of Cosmopolitan in search of  that interview with Anna Kendrick, which is the only reason you bought the issue…. oh, OK… and the quiz about improving your sex life.

3. Zones for Economic Development and Employment (ZEDEs) are discussed in the article “Honduras Tries Charter Cities”. This is an intriguing concept that appears to merge early 20th century New Towns in the UK with 19th century company town models in the USA into a new 21st century application. The article admits the track record of ZEDEs around the world is a mixed bag. Like everything else, the devil is in the details.

4. Pamela Ko and Patricia Salkin discuss incorporating the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) into land-use planning decisions in the “Legal Lessons” article. The word ‘walking’ is oddly absent from their article, which suggests HIAs (and the authors do discuss in terms of) are really a tool of exclusionary zoning. Let the buyer beware.

5. Goodness, that looks like a space syntax model of Portland, Oregon on page 27 in the “Big Data” article!!! I don’t think it is but it looks like someone has been reading about space syntax.

6. Any article that starts off with a rhetorical “what is planning?” question from The Editors (!)  of Planning Magazine (page 36, 2015 National Planning Awards), I’m inclined to immediately skip. However, I glanced through the award winners and found them – for the most part – underwhelming.

7. C. Gregory Dale’s “Findings of Fact for Planning Commissioners” article presents an off-putting straw man public hearing scenario to jump into some otherwise good points. A good planning staff writes the finding of facts for approval AND denial on behalf of the Planning Commission. It’s the single most important tool that planning staffs have in their toolkit to guide their commissions to the best planning decisions.

8. Review of Poor Richard: Another Almanac for Architects and Planners by Mark David Major on page 69-70. Awesome sauce! This review is decidedly neutral but that’s OK since Volume 2 has more content about architects, architecture, and building than urban planning compared to Volume 1.

9. Jon Arason’s Viewpoint article about “The Planner’s Lament: Night Meetings” is only funny because it is true! I once did the same calculation about the amount of additional hours of unpaid work at night meetings while serving as a Senior Planner for a local Florida county. The revelation sent me straight into the private sector for good!

Planning Naked is an article with observations and comments about a recent issue of Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association.

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