Tag Archives: The City

Life, Liberty, Happiness: the need for heroic planning | Blab

CURJCoWWIAAi_Lo.jpg_largeThe Outlaw Urbanist, Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, will participate in online broadcast with Don Kostelec of Kostelec Planning this Monday, November 23, 2015 at 8:00 pm EST titled, “Life, Liberty, Happiness: the need for heroic planning,” hosted by Andy Boreau of Urbanism Speakeasy.

The content is pretty wide open though it will tend to focus on what is wrong with our current development practices. We will be able to answer your questions and, hopefully, have a pretty good debate.

You can subscribe to the broadcast on Blab here.

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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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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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Reimagining the urban | art and public space

A global search to find the planet’s most outstanding public art will culminate in an awards ceremony, exhibition and conference in Auckland in early July.

The 2015 International Award for Public Art (IAPA) seeks to promote and advance culturally diverse, socially responsive public art. An exhibition of case studies featuring the top 32 projects from around the world will be on display at Auckland Art Gallery during the conference, and the 2015 winner will be announced at a prize-giving dinner at the gallery on Wednesday 1 July.

Projects as diverse as a floating school in Nigeria, a restaurant serving cuisine from countries the USA is in conflict with, an experimental sexual politics initiative in India, and a post-earthquake pavilion for the people of Christchurch, represent a selection of the rich, challenging, and divergent practice of public art.

For-homepage

The International Award for Public Art is a biennial search for the most outstanding recent socially-engaged art projects. The inaugural award (2013) was won by Venezuelan artist and architect Alejandro Haiek Coll, co-director of design collective LabProFab, for the Tiuna el Fuerte Cultural Park project, an inventive and community focused redevelopmemt of an abandoned parking lot in Caracas.

The 2015 conference, titled Cities in a Climate of Change: Public Art and Environmental and Social Ecologies, is jointly hosted by Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and Shandong University of Art and Design, China. Held at the University of Auckland from 1-4 July 2015, the event will bring together artists, curators, urban planners, architects and museum directors from around the world to discuss art and its relationship to urban development.

Conflict Kitchen x 4 lr

Cities in a Climate of Change will encourage dialogue about public art and the place-making practices contributing to the formation of ‘liveable cities’. Alongside keynote speakers and the inaugural IAPA winner, creators of six of the finalist projects will present and discuss their work. The conference will also include presentations on the scholarship of studio teaching, focusing on the public dimension of the built, visual, and performing arts.

Chair of the Institute for Public Art, British curator and cultural consultant Lewis Biggs comments: “Congratulations to Auckland for hosting this combined event of a Conference, Exhibition and Awards ceremony – which together focus on the power and flexibility of public art as a rapidly developing area of knowledge and expertise globally. The Institute for Public Art was founded to undertake and share research, to create a supportive network for practitioners, and to advocate public art to decision makers worldwide. Cities in a Climate of Change demonstrates how vital these motives are, and how much there is to celebrate once knowledge starts to flow from continent to continent.”

Alongside the Cities in a Climate of Change conference, Tokyo-based artist Jun Kitazawa will create a socially based public art project in central Auckland during the 2015 IAPA. Kitazawa is a Elam International Artist in Residence who has established a practice working in collaboration with local government, educational institutions, business and local communities to develop projects which relate to everyday life.

The 2015 International Award for Public Art Exhibition and Conference

For more information, visit here.

University_of_Auckland_logo

Conference: The University of Auckland (1-4 July)
Exhibition: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (27 June-6 July).
The University of Auckland’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries comprises the Elam School of Fine Arts, School of Architecture and Planning, the Centre for Art Studies, the School of Music and the Dance Studies Programme.

For more information, contact:

Miranda Playfair
Media Relations Adviser
National Institute of Creative Arts & Industries
The University of Auckland
Phone: +64 (9) 373 7599 ext 85029
Mobile: +64 21 063 8393
Email: m.playfair@auckland.ac.nz

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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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