Overview

Planetizen's Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning is a fascinating review of major topics and issues discussed in the field of urban planning, assembled by editors at Planetizen, the leading source of news and information for the planning and development community on the web. The book brings together a wide range of editorial and discussion topics, coupled with commentary and overviews to create an enlightening record of the continuously evolving philosophy of building and ...
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Planetizen's Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning

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Overview

Planetizen's Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning is a fascinating review of major topics and issues discussed in the field of urban planning, assembled by editors at Planetizen, the leading source of news and information for the planning and development community on the web. The book brings together a wide range of editorial and discussion topics, coupled with commentary and overviews to create an enlightening record of the continuously evolving philosophy of building and managing cities.
The book's contributors include the most well-known experts in the planning and design fields, among them James Howard Kunstler, Alex Garvin, Andres Duany, Joel Kotkin, and Wendell Cox. These and other prominent thinkers offer passionate debates and thought-provoking commentary on the most important and controversial topics in the field of urban planning and design: gentrification, eminent domain, the philosophical divide between the Smart Growth community, libertarians and New Urbanists, regional growth patterns, urban design trends, transportation systems, and reaction to disasters such as Katrina and 9/11 that changed the way we look at cities and security.
Planetizen's Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning provides readers with a unique and accessible introduction to a broad array of ideas and perspectives. With the increasing awareness of the need for sound urban planning to ensure the economic, environmental, and social health of modern society, Planetizen's Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning gives professionals in the field and concerned citizens alike a deeper understanding of the critical, complex issues that continue to challenge urban planners, designers, and developers.
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Editorial Reviews

Conscious Choice

"Planetizen, the popular online Planning and Develoment Network (Planetizen.com) has just released Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning (Island Press, 2007), which, in great and passionate detail, tackles the most controversial topics in urban planning. Contributors include well-known experts in the planning and design fields"
New Urban News

"The essayists include a number of individuals who have played prominent roles in New Urbanism and Smart Growth or who have interesting perspectives on the potential of these closely aligned movements...I wish the editors had identified the readers whose responses appear in this slim volume. Some of them are very astute, and it would be useful to know who they are and where they come from. Despite its defects, Planetizen's book does provide insights into some of the great urban design andplanning issues of this decade."
California Bookwatch

"College-level collections strong in urban planning and land use issues need this collection, which outlines issues in urban planning and comes from Planetizen, the web's source of news and details for the planning community. Experts in the field offer debates and arguments on some of the most controversial issues facing modern urban designers, making for a particularly valuable guide for classroom study and debate."
Professor and Chair, Department of City &d Regional Planning, School of Design, Univ. Pennsylvania - Dr. Eugenie L. Birch

"This splendid collection lays out today's planning issues with startling clarity. It is a joy to read, a testimony to free speech and a test of your beliefs. Read it!"
from his foreword - Neal Peirce

"This book…provides a rich array of competing, clashing, and on occasion surprisingly compatible prescriptions and predictions on how the country's growing, its real choices, the ideological and economic choices it faces."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597269247
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2007
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author


Planetizen is a public-interest information exchange for the urban planning, design and development community.planetizen.org


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Read an Excerpt

Planetizen Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning


By Abhijeet Chavan, Christian Peralta, Christopher Steins

ISLAND PRESS

Copyright © 2007 Urban Insight Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59726-924-7



CHAPTER 1

A TIPPING POINT—BUT NOW THE HARD PART

Anthony Flint


Smart growth is clearly making headway in urban areas across the country, but much remains to be done if the trend is to be sustained. Housing affordability ranks first among the challenges waiting to be tackled.


A funny thing has happened on the way to the revolution. Smart growth, New Urbanism, green building, and more sustainable development have all been trying to push their way into the American consciousness. Now that energy and transportation costs have soared, and the realities of global warming and energy dependence have truly sunk in, these practices are rather in vogue as a matter of consumer preference.

Leave it to the American consumer to snap to attention: understanding the real costs of living in sprawl, appreciating a more "right-sized" life in which it's possible to walk to a corner store or hop on a trolley, and grasping how a good city park can be just as good as, or better than, a football field–size backyard. Now the builders of mixed-use, more concentrated, transit-oriented, and sustainable communities are rushing to meet a new demand, and single-family homes in subdivisions are not quite so popular. Toll Brothers and KB Homes, for example, saw massive earnings declines—and many of the large corporate homebuilders hastily established higher-density units. Owners of McMansions slashed prices and tossed in flat-screen TVs. A shift is clearly underway, as projects from Atlantic Station in Atlanta to warehouse renovations in downtown Minneapolis have filled up.

Yet, advocates of smart growth, New Urbanism, and sustainable development face new and greater challenges. The work that remains to be done includes convincing more local and state governments to tackle zoning and code reform and to shift investments and policies to support transit, more concentrated development, and revitalization in cities, town centers, and older suburbs. Now is also the time for more thoughtful long- range and regional planning in the arrangement of housing and jobs. Perhaps most important of all, these new, more sustainable patterns must be made affordable to the widest range of American families.

Affordability is a big part of the engine that drove sprawl in the first place, along with a quest for wide-open spaces, backyards and patios, good schools, and especially since September 11, a sense of safety and security to raise our families. In researching my book, This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), I visited Little Elm, Texas, a boomtown north of Dallas, where the homes started at $100,000. Across the country, home buyers "drive to qualify"—driving as far as needed to get to the subdivision house they can afford, even if it's two hours from where they work. This dynamic is at work in West Virginia, the new bedroom community for the Washington, D.C., area; in California's Central Valley, the new commuter shed for San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco; and in Worcester County in my home state of Massachusetts, where Christmas tree farms and summer camps are being turned into subdivisions. As one woman told a Boston Globe real estate reporter recently, she's willing to drive three hours a day "if I can come home to a castle" (Joan Axelrod-Contrada, "Westward Home; Buyers Find a Price They Can Pay and Some Breathing Room, if They Can Bear the Commute," The Boston Globe, April 9, 2006).

But affordability is also going to be a major force behind the new paradigm—the shift to more concentrated settlement patterns. With the cost of energy and transportation factored in, sprawl isn't the bargain it's cracked up to be. Those long commutes mean $70 or $100 a week to fill up the tank. Annually, the cost of owning and operating a car is creeping up to $10,000 a year—easily worth $100,000 on a mortgage. The bills for heating and cooling large homes are also weighing heavily on the family budget.

It's no mystery, then, why demand is increasing for alternatives. The big question is whether government is ready to smooth the way for these alternatives, by overhauling the system of rules, subsidies, and investment needs, starting with zoning. The current rules make it difficult to build compact, concentrated, and urban infill redevelopment. Eighty-year-old zoning requires dispersal and forbids mixed use. It actually limits housing choices.

Zoning and code reform is at the top of the to-do list, but other policies and incentives also need to change. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts have instituted a "Fix It First" policy that prioritizes the repair of existing transportation infrastructure, whether roads or transit, before any new sprawl-enabling highways are built.

Massachusetts, while under Republican Governor Mitt Romney, also changed the way state funding for local infrastructure is distributed, through a smart growth "scorecard" that rewards communities that increase housing production in smart locations. Cities and towns get cash incentives for dense residential development in town centers and downtowns, on vacant industrial land, or near transit. About $30 million was made available for transit-oriented development, supporting some eighty projects representing twenty-five thousand new homes that are proposed, under construction, or already built. A smart growth tool kit helped cities and towns use different techniques to change local land use policy, whether the transfer of development rights or new bylaws to legalize accessory apartments. A new highway design manual jettisons minimum width and design requirements and instead encourages attractive, multiuse, traffic-calmed main streets for town centers and downtowns. New standards for energy efficiency through green building practices, starting with school buildings and public libraries, are also on the way.

All of these policies changed the DNA of development. But the work doesn't end there. Arguably the hardest task ahead is to make sure all of this new growth, as well as revitalized cities and older suburbs, is affordable.

The worst possible outcome would be for middle-class families to be squeezed from both ends—in other words, when they look for alternatives to increasingly budget-busting sprawl, they find only gentrified urban neighborhoods or pricey transit- oriented or New Urbanist developments. There is a ready audience here. Of all of life's challenges, human habitat in the U.S. today is driving the middle class crazy.

Zoning reform and new development policies will help solve part of this problem by increasing supply. Compared to the amount of sprawl, very few revitalized urban neighborhoods or New Urbanist project exist. If there could be more of them—if smart growth could be as ubiquitous as sprawl—the laws of supply and demand would take over and they wouldn't be so expensive. The range of housing types that smart growth provides is also, by definition, an expansion of affordability.

Other interventions and techniques also address affordability, however, and that's where much of the ferment and energy and experimentation is today. Inclusionary zoning requires 10 or 15 percent of new development to be affordable, either on-site or off-site. Linkage programs establish affordable housing trust funds to which developers contribute. Under the density bonus model, developers can build more homes if they provide a larger affordable component. Increasingly popular community benefit agreements, in which developers negotiate a package of neighborhood amenities and benefits that accompany projects, invariably include an affordability component.

Community land trusts—where the cost of the land is taken out of the home-buying equation—are catching on across the country, from Irvine, California, to Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Texas; and Delray Beach, Florida. The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is doing extensive research on community land trusts, and what works and what doesn't.

The design world is pitching in as well. We're finally paying attention to well- designed, affordable housing the way we once figured out how to make a sleek, inexpensive car. For example, the hurricanes of 2005 produced the Katrina cottage, which can be built inexpensively (and added on to) to replace FEMA trailers.

All across the country, Americans are turning from sprawl and discovering the benefits of living in walkable, mixed-use environments, close to parks, stores, and transit. Urbanism is being recognized as an amenity—something that adds value for everybody. It's better for the planet to live this way, but it's also more satisfying at a personal level. That's a powerful combination.

The smart growth movement has gone from preaching about the wastefulness of sprawl to simply providing what more people want. The rules need to be changed so that alternatives to sprawl can exist. And affordability can't be an add-on—it has to be part and parcel of this new paradigm. If such implementation can be done right, this could be smart growth's finest hour.

CHAPTER 2

THE ARGUMENT AGAINST SMART GROWTH

Wendell Cox


Does smart growth result in more traffic congestion and air pollution? Wendell Cox presents the argument against smart growth.


Over the past sixty years, America's suburbs have grown to contain most urban residents. As the nation has become more affluent, people have chosen to live in single-family dwellings on individual lots and have also obtained automobiles to provide unprecedented mobility.

As the population has continued to grow, the amount of new roadway constructed has fallen far short of the rise in automobile use. As a result, American urban areas are experiencing increased traffic congestion. The good news is that improved vehicle technology has made the air cleaner in many cities than it has been in decades.

Low-density suburbanization is perceived by the antisprawl movement as inefficiently using land by consuming open space and valuable agricultural land. The antisprawl movement believes that suburbanization has resulted in an inappropriate amount of automobile use and highway construction and favors public transit and walking as alternatives. Moreover, it blames suburbanization for the decline of the nation's central cities.

The antisprawl movement has embraced "smart growth" policies. In general, smart growth would increase urban population densities, especially in corridors served by rail transit. Development would be corralled within urban growth boundaries. There would be little or no highway construction, replaced instead by construction of urban rail systems. Attempts would be made to steer development toward patterns that would reduce home-to-work travel distances, making transit and walking more feasible. The antisprawl movement suggests that these policies would improve quality of life while reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.

But the antisprawl diagnosis is flawed.

• Urbanization does not threaten agricultural land. Since 1950, urban areas of more than 1 million in population have consumed an amount of new land equal to barely one-tenth of the area taken out of agricultural production. The culprit is improved agricultural productivity, not development.

• Only 15 percent of suburban growth has come from declining central cities. Most growth is simple population gain and the movement of people from rural to suburban areas. The same process is occurring throughout affluent nations of Europe, Asia, and Australia. In these regions, virtually all urban growth in recent decades has been suburban, while central cities have lost population. Since 1950, Copenhagen has lost 40 percent of its population and Paris 25 percent.

• There is no practical way for low-density urban areas to be redesigned to significantly increase transit and walking. Whether in the United States or Europe, most urban destinations are reasonably accessible only by automobile. Transit can be an effective alternative to the automobile only to dense core areas, such as the nation's largest downtowns.

• Large expanses of land are already protected as open space. All of the nation's urban development, in small towns and major metropolitan areas, accounts for approximately 4 percent of land (excluding Alaska).

Ironically, smart growth will bring more traffic congestion and air pollution because it will concentrate automobile traffic in a smaller geographical space. International and U.S. data show that

• higher population densities are associated with greater traffic congestion

• the slower, more stop-and-go traffic caused by higher densities increases air pollution.


Further, urban growth boundaries ration land for development. Rationing, whether of gasoline or land, drives prices up. For example, in smart growth–oriented Portland, Oregon, housing affordability has declined considerably more than in any other major metropolitan area. This makes it unnecessarily difficult for low-income and many minority citizens to purchase their own homes.

The antisprawl movement has not identified any threat that warrants its Draconian policies. As the "Lone Mountain Compact" (see chapter 5.5) puts it, people should be allowed to live and work where and how they like, absent a material threat to others.

As urban areas continue to expand—which they must do in a growing affluent nation—sufficient street and highway capacity should be provided so that traffic congestion and air pollution are minimized.


This article was originally published by Planetizen on January 22, 2001.


RESPONSES FROM READERS

Missing the Bigger Picture

Mr. Cox's arguments against the antisprawl movement (anti-antisprawl) hold on a macro level but miss the point overall.

Yes, agricultural yields have increased, but sprawl consumes prime farmland. Many major urban areas developed around farming centers; the loss of prime land means agriculture requires more artificial means to sustain increasing yields. The United States is a huge landmass, so any measure of gain or loss of lands to various uses appears insignificant when taken as a whole. A city-by-city analysis reveals a much different picture. Metropolitan Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and other cities lost population for decades after 1950, while their suburban areas expanded. Metro population growth resulted more from the shift from city to suburb than from real growth. Sprawl and growth are not synonymous.

Further, while higher densities are required to support transit and offer choices of how and where to work and live, smart growth does not suggest that all development be of equal density. The highest densities should focus on the one-quarter- to one-half-mile radii surrounding transit stops. At three-quarters of a mile, few people will walk to a station, suggesting a lowering of densities with distance from a station.

Transit can reduce automobile trips, as confirmed by conservative writers Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind (Does Transit Work? A Conservative Reappraisal, Free Congress Foundation, October 2003). Whereas only 3 to 4 percent of all trips are by transit nationally, approximately 50 percent of trips into Chicago's Loop occur by transit, with higher figures for New York, of course. Safe, convenient public transit to a central location works; if more jobs returned to central cities, transit would be even more effective.

But what amount of street/highway construction would be effective? The Surface Transportation Policy Project reported in 1999 that regions where road building kept pace with population growth experienced just as much congestion as did regions where road building declined on a per capita basis. This suggests that regions cannot build their way out of congestion; in fact, new roads lead to induced demand.

One should also note that very few states or regions have adopted or will adopt urban growth boundaries. Most smart growth policy initiatives simply call for focusing infrastructure spending in existing communities, rather than reaching out to foster further sprawl. We are in little danger of running out of land available for development or growth.

Finally, housing costs have increased in Portland, yes, but also in sprawling areas such as Salt Lake City. Portland attracts new employment, and along with its new employees, some of whom aren't yet ready to buy housing: of course, homeownership will decline as a percentage ... but providing low-income housing requires a number of approaches, none of which requires sprawl as an outcome.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Planetizen Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning by Abhijeet Chavan, Christian Peralta, Christopher Steins. Copyright © 2007 Urban Insight Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

ABOUT ISLAND PRESS,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
FOREWORD - Neal Peirce,
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS,
INTRODUCTION,
SECTION 1 - SPRAWL VS. SMART GROWTH,
CHAPTER 1.1 - A TIPPING POINT-BUT NOW THE HARD PART,
CHAPTER 1.2 - THE ARGUMENT AGAINST SMART GROWTH,
CHAPTER 1.3 - PRESCRIPTION FOR URBAN SPRAWL: ADAPTING SMART GROWTH STRATEGIES TO A BIG CITY,
CHAPTER 1.4 - HOW WE PAY FOR GROWTH,
CHAPTER 1.5 - WHAT IS THE NEW SUBURBANISM?,
CHAPTER 1.6 - PRESERVING THE AMERICAN DREAM BY COST, NOT COERCION,
CHAPTER 1.7 - ZONING IN A TIME WARP: THE COMING "OVERSUPPLY" OF SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES,
SECTION 2 - TRANSPORTATION,
CHAPTER 2.1 - TEN KEYS TO WALKABLE COMMUNITIES,
CHAPTER 2.2 - THE PRICE OF PARKING ON GREAT STREETS,
CHAPTER 2.3 - THE PRICING REVOLUTION ON THE ROADS,
CHAPTER 2.4 - A CELEBRATION OF INDEPENDENCE: HOW TEMPORAL USE OF STREETS CAN BE A CATALYST FOR CHANGE,
CHAPTER 2.5 - MAKING TODS WORK: LESSONS FROM PORTLAND'S ORENCO STATION,
SECTION 3 - URBAN DESIGN,
CHAPTER 3.1 - PLANNING FOR THE PUBLIC REALM,
CHAPTER 3.2 - MAKING BETTER PLACES: TEN CITY DESIGN RESOLUTIONS,
CHAPTER 3.3 - PRINCIPLES ESSENTIAL TO THE RENEWAL OF ARCHITECTURE,
CHAPTER 3.4 - WHY NEW URBANISM FAILS,
CHAPTER 3.5 - URBAN PARKS: INNOVATE OR STAGNATE,
SECTION 4 - DISASTER PLANNING,
CHAPTER 4.1 - RECOVERING NEW ORLEANS,
CHAPTER 4.2 - THE END OF TALL BUILDINGS,
CHAPTER 4.3 - FORTIFYING AMERICA: PLANNING FOR FEAR,
CHAPTER 4.4 - PLANNING FOR POST-DISASTER RECOVERY,
SECTION 5 - SOCIETY AND PLANNING,
CHAPTER 5.1 - IS GENTRIFICATION REALLY A THREAT?,
CHAPTER 5.2 - GENTRIFICATION REALITY TOUR: NEITHER BENIGN NOR BENEVOLENT,
CHAPTER 5.3 - IS KELO GOOD FOR URBAN PLANNING?,
CHAPTER 5.4 - BRING SCHOOLS BACK INTO WALKABLE NEIGHBORHOODS,
CHAPTER 5.5 - THE LONE MOUNTAIN COMPACT: A DEBATE ON LIBERTARIAN PLANNING PRINCIPLES,
INDEX,
ISLAND PRESS BOARD OF DIRECTORS,

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