The awesome quote machine otherwise known as Andrés Duany just did a charrette in California, and I tweet-casted several of his presentations and conversations. It's a private project, but because so much of what he says is about principles rather than particulars, it wasn't so hard to filter out the things that were project-specific and possibly undisclosed publicly at this point. Here are the tweets:
• The environmental ideal worldwide is humans behaving well with nature except in the US, where it's the absence of humans in nature. This is because popular US environmentalism began with the national parks program.
• If you only address objections, you always lose. You must shift discussion to a larger ideal that also solves the objection. <this one got a ton of re-tweets>
• The hippies of the '60s won't be content with retirement institutions. They need cool town centers where they can kick back.
• <my comment> Andrés explains the rationale of a charrette, purportedly for client, but it's of great value to design team as well for two reasons: it's good to be reminded what's important about what you're doing, and because he's always re-stating things different rather than just parroting a tired old line, I always get something new.
• You cannot choose whether to have traffic congestion, only the # of lanes. Do you want 2, 4, 6, or 8 lanes of congestion? <this one also got a ton of re-tweets>
• Most transportation engineers only know how to add trips, but mixed-use places diminish trips. The engineers need to learn subtraction… it's a useful mathematical tool.
• <overheard from an environmental regulator at the charrette> "You can't build a road where the road is because the wheel ruts are now habitat to the shrimp." My question is probably obvious: "so what happens to the shrimp when a vehicle drives down those existing wheel ruts?"
• Always point out problems with your design before your opponents do. At the very least they concede you're honest.
• <from Howard Blackson upon seeing a building in the San Diego harbor with a sawtooth roof as if it had solar panels (but it doesn't)> "People pay a premium in California for fauxstainable architecture. <Awesome term, Howard… thanks so much!>
• The world has had a traffic problem since Pompeii. Build a lane and it fills up.
• In most places in California, if you don't drive, you die. Literally. Driving is essential to remaining alive. But we can build places here where that's not true.
• Downtown San Diego has the highest density in the region but the least congestion because of connectivity. People think that more density means more congestion but that simply is not true.
• People say "we will reduce traffic by clipping grids" but that's exactly backward. The more you connect the less you congest. <this one got a lot of re-tweets as well>
• The lousiest conceivable plan is one that reduces units and occupies more of the land.
• A smaller human footprint makes retail work much better because more people are within walking distance of Main Street.
• Some of the most-loved towns in Italy occupy less than 50 acres. You can't even build a shopping center that small in the US.
• I have a dream that there will someday be a healthy balance between the rights of humans and the rights of the rest of nature.
• The only reason to build on a hill in our day is to get the view. So why are lots and houses so deep, where only back rooms get views? We saw houses where you had to march through four or five rooms to get to the back room, where you could finally find the view.
• Houses on hillsides that are thin down the slope but long down the street sit lightly on the land. This is exactly the opposite of the types of houses we've designed within the New Urbanism for over thirty years, but it's what you need if you want to build a hill town because most of the town is built on hillsides, not the hilltop.
• As a general rule, the more you spend on infrastructure and development regulations the worse the places are that get built.
• The most wonderful places are the ones we're not allowed to do anymore.
• Recreation centers are usually mega-structures, and are so 20th centuries. But if you take them apart into individual buildings, then their parts can be used to help build a town center.
• Water doesn't mind running a mile in a pipe, especially if it's for a good cause like a great town center.
• There's a great fear of townhouses in California because most townhouses here don't have towns. But if you build them in towns, they can be fabulous.
• People think 6-plex apartments are horrible. They can be, if you design them conventionally where there's only light on one side of each unit. But if you design them so that each apartment gets light from three sides, they can be fabulous.
• People who clip roads are those who want traffic congestion. You can't cul-de-sac your way out of congestion. <here's another one with lots of re-tweets>
• Standard-issue collectors are begging for more traffic, but a winding road through several hamlets won't be crowded because it takes a long time to stop at all those little hamlet squares and through the neighborhoods.
• America needs many more 1-bedroom houses.
• You don't have to rotate the entire house because the solar panels don't usually need to be much larger than the garage. So just rotate the garage, but let the house follow the land.
• Long thin houses cross-ventilate and daylight beautifully.
• Garages are very useful things, not only for catching the sun but also for blocking your neighbor's view of your back yard.
• Unlike developer ranchers which are horrible, the original Cliff May ranch houses were fabulous.
• Idea houses don't usually rise above the level of decorator ideas. What matters now is leaner Original Green living. We need an idea house with Original Green ideas. <no, I didn't editorialize… that's what he said>
• You don't reduce traffic with lower density and larger lots because everyone has to drive everywhere.
• This isn't the old environmentalism where the granola broke your teeth, or where you got splinters from all the rough wood. Lean urbanism is smarter than that.
• Great urbanism takes pressure off the houses, allowing them to be calmer.
• The only parking break we ask for is to count the parking that's on the street.
• The bad thing about great urbanism is that it takes about 10 years to really get there. It doesn't get built overnight.
• It's easier to get people out of their cars if it's a bit of a pain to get in your car. Production-built houses actually give the cars a room to stay in within the house, almost like bedrooms for children.
• Great places have a wider range of unit sizes, but a smaller range of architectural style. The reason builders have to use several styles is because their houses are so similar.
• Alys Beach is so beautiful precisely because the architecture is so harmonious.
• If you have flexible guidelines like in Britain rather than codes, everything about the development process is negotiation and it takes longer. You're also subject to the whims of the regulator. When you enter a meeting, you need to come in stooped over, like a supplicant. But at the end of the day, the regulator of a guideline can't actually turn you down… they can only make the process last much longer.
• Urbanism adds the greatest value when the site is poor. When the site is an awesome piece of land, urbanism doesn't add as much value.
• When I was young I could do great things because there was no bureaucracy in many places. The young people today have never known this great freedom.
• The dinosaurs of the CNU work to resolve the world's problems from the top down. I want to institutionalize the bypasses around the dinosaur codes. I do this by daylighting the mitigating language of codes. These are the secret keys that let you do good things when the code itself appears to ban what's good. These keys act as patches.
• "This is the problem. This is the patch. And this is the attack on the patch." We need to have this entire conversation.
• City administrators must take away the bureaucrats' liability if they hope to move sensible things forward because every bureaucrat is afraid of being held liable for what they allow.
• <from Bill Fulton> Urbanists are just people who don't want to go home.
• <also from Bill Fulton> If the process were easy, consultants' income would plummet. This is the hidden driver of red tape… it supports many consulting jobs.
• The point of having a meeting in the US is to get stuff done; in Latin America, the point is to have a great meeting.
• The American Dream is not just the cabin in the woods, it's being your own boss. It's the live-work unit, not the McMansion.
"Lean Urbanism" is a new term that attempts to make sense of how we should be building sustainable places today, but the term "lean" runs the risk of getting described in very non-lean ways. So what does "lean" really mean? There's a #LeanMeans hashtag on Twitter where you can join the ongoing discussion. In the meantime, here's my take on what "lean" means:
Lean means communicating leanly, so your message travels far without you having to carry it to all those places yourself.
Lean means having lean diagrams that are quickly comprehensible.
Lean means aspiring to self-evident terms such as “buron” which to the public at large obviously means “bureaucratic moron” no matter what the inner circle says it means.
Lean means embedding wisdom in simple words that test complex systems with plain-spoken questions, such as…
Lean means living where you can walk to the grocery. Because we know that if there's a grocery there, it's highly likely that there are other daily necessities there as well. But we don't need to ask about each necessity; we merely need to know if there's a grocery there. And it doesn't have to be the big mega-stores, either. There are four groceries within two blocks of my office. All are tiny, and carry just commodities like cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, etc. plus one or two brands of things like hot sauce, rather than dozens. But we eat many meals bought entirely from these grocery stores.
Lean means making a living where you're living. If you do this, then you avoid commuting and many other related burdens, but we don't have to discuss those burdens if you make a living where you're living. Again, it's a simple test that probes many attached complexities without having to discuss the complexities… which is also very lean because it doesn't tax your bandwidth, either!
Lean means using things with double-duty, triple-duty or more, not redundant things. This general principle covers so many things in life.
Lean is what people do when they realize that help definitely is not on the way!
Lean means doing more things for yourself when you have more time than money.
Lean means less of clients hiring expensive experts to do things for them.
On the other hand, lean means more of coaches helping people do more for themselves. So if you were one of those expensive experts in the old days, you should be re-making yourself as more of a coach today.
Lean means not needing to lawyer up to get the job done.
Lean means not needing gifts from governments to get the job done.
Lean means decisions should be made by those affected by those decisions, not a larger group. The inner circle talks a lot about "subsidiarity." But that's for the 1% of America who know what subsidiarity means.
Lean means not needing to see the end from the beginning ...because this is a task humans are spectacularly bad at.
As this principle applies to the development of sustainable places, lean means not needing to build the climax condition at the beginning. Cities never sprang like today's Manhattan from green fields or forests. They began humbly, then matured over time. See the Sky Method for my best take on how to accomplish natural growth today. And I'll soon be illustrating how the Sky Method can be used to recover from the addiction of sprawl.
Lean means many things are possible at small scales that are impossible at large scales.
Lean means building single-crew workplaces at the beginning …because you can get many tiny businesses started when there are only a few customers, whereas if you wait until there are enough customers to build the super-center, you might be building it for your kids or grandkids. And the tiny shops make for far better Walk Appeal than the super-center. So get services today that create a better environment, rather than maybe waiting decades for places that aren't nearly so good.
Lean means measuring impacts across the scale of time. Something with a high initial impact that lasts for a thousand years is much better than something with less initial impact that gets torn down in a decade.
Lean means not growing regulatory "scar tissue" the first time something unpredicted goes wrong. It might be decades before it goes wrong again. Do we really need a law against it?
Lean means that a tiny house inhabitable by one person shouldn't be regulated like a building inhabited by thousands.
Lean means that a food truck that feeds a few dozen people a day shouldn’t be regulated like an egg factory that produces 80% of the eggs eaten in the USA.
Lean means setting up self-regulating systems instead of systems that require lots of energy perpetually.
Buildings & Land
Lean means conditioning the people first, so they can cut off the equipment most days of the year and “live in season.”
We can do this by building outdoor rooms, not lawns, to entice people outdoors so that conditioned space can be smaller. In most places, great outdoor rooms can be built for about 1/5 the cost of interior space. So if the outdoor rooms are good enough to serve well enough as living space that you need 20% less indoor space, then the savings on indoor space can pay for the entire cost of the outdoor rooms.
Lean means using every possible cubic inch of space, even the space within the walls. We do this by eliminating drywall and carving into interior walls so that almost all interior walls become shelving units. All of these ideals and more are bound up in Project:SmartDwelling.
New Virtues & Ethics
Lean means adopting new virtues and ethics, not holding onto the old ones that lead to obesity. For 250 years, the prime virtues of business have been "better, faster, cheaper," and the measuring-stick has been the Consuming Economy, which values things by how quickly they're used up. I believe we're entering an age where the three prime virtues of business will become patience, generosity, and connectedness, and where the barometer will be the Sustaining Economy that guided economic activity for almost all of human history, and which values things by how far they're handed down, not how quickly they're used up.
These new virtues may lead us back to some very old ethics: Waste Not. Want Not. Source Closely. Nurture Wellness. And maybe others as well: "a stitch in time saves nine," "a penny saved is a penny earned," "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and lots of other solid wisdom upon which this country and others were built that we've let slip in recent decades.
What are we missing here? What does Lean mean to you?
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Lean means graceful, common sense living. It means maximizing resources - or more simply, making the most of what you have. "Buronics" invades our lives - it exists in government, in corporate capitalism, in community NIMBYism and most profoundly in the media where it invades everyday life. Lean would capture the lost, wasted capital of communities - our natural, social, economic and built assets. Being Lean professionally means leaning how to be more effective with human resources and project management.
Great line: "Lean means not growing regulatory "scar tissue" the first time something unpredicted goes wrong."
Let's extend your idea of "generosity and connectedness" in business to every aspect in life: Lean means leaning on our own capabilities and leaning on each other when that's what's needed.
The Lean Council of the CNU took place over the weekend of October 12-13, 2013 in Detroit. These are the first day's proceedings. Text <like this> is my commentary.
• Rip Rapson leads off the morning telling a fascinating story of private-sector-funded transit system being built in Detroit.
• <I still say that the broad understanding of "buron" will be "bureaucratic moron.">
• Rip: There has always been great vibrancy in the Detroit cultural scene.
• Rip: The Kresge foundation can't run all the things we're starting in the long run; our role is to get them going.
• Rip: Philanthropy serves well as a table-setter. Philanthropy can also serve as the seller of a great project.
• Rip: 30 people don't change the world.
• <They may not finish the job, but they can certainly start it!>
• Rip: Arts & culture are crying out for Lean! Opportunities are endless.
• Rip: Maker spaces thrive in a Lean environment. We need more of them!
• Rip: 1. Nestle Lean with intensely local community. 2. Integrate the arts. 3. Adapt our physical heritage. 4. Leverage creative potential that's already there. 5. Recover natural resources. 6. Adapt to climate change. 8. Acknowledge interdependence of urban systems. <I missed Rip's #7. Did anyone else get it? If so, please leave a comment below.>
• Anonymous: The Health Department is Killing Me!!
• <Scale is the best determinant of Lean. Where mega-projects are impossible, single-crew workplaces can still thrive.>
• <Lean is what people do when they realize that help definitely is not on the way!>
• Hank Dittmar: Millennials, immigrants, and small businesses are the biggest Lean market segments.
• Hank: We will act as coaches more than experts to foster a Lean future.
• Andrés Duany: I have been trying to unpack Lean so that we can all work on it in parallel.
• Andrés: I think it is very early in Lean. We are still piling things into the soup.
• Andrés: Phil Bess has a great quote which I believe characterizes what we are doing: "Twirling… twirling… twirling toward freedom."
• Andrés: It is very important that Lean not overlap either CNU or Tactical Urbanism. Lean should be the seam between.
• Andrés: If you don't want it repeated, don't say it because it will enter the collective conversation quickly.
• Andrés: One of the things that must be broken to achieve Lean is old thinking.
• Andrés: The 21st Century actually started in 2008. 2000-2007 were the last years of the 20th.
• Andrés: The 3 Great Crises of 2008 were the broad recognition of Climate Change and Peak Oil, and the real estate bubble. These things did not have to happen all at once. But they did.
• Andrés: It is a common misconception that our society is based on energy. Our society isn't based on energy, but on cheap energy.
• Andrés: The real estate bubble revealed problems that began years earlier.
• Andrés: The Continental Disadvantage: America's sprawl pattern is more difficult to fix than Europe's because they've built compactly for almost all of their history whereas much of the US is sprawl.
• Andrés: 3 Overlaid Crises of 2008 are all caused by suburban sprawl.
• Andrés: The Great Pall is in danger of occurring when it finally sinks in with the public at large that the things we've enjoyed since WWII aren't coming back the way they were. But the Great Pall is something we cannot allow, because people will give up. So we must be able to show them better things to go on to, rather than waiting for what will never come back again.
• Andrés: Worldwide mitigation becomes regional adaptation in Lean.
• Andrés: Regional adaptation. Local self-sufficiency. Many small projects. All three of these are components of Lean.
• Andrés: The focus on the present has been a distortion field, and so has the focus on the too-distant future. We need to be solving things for the middle distance, before the silver bullets of some far-distant future emerge. It may be easy then, but we can't just wait for the easy.
• Andrés: Global economy gives way to local self-sufficiency in Lean.
• Andrés: In a Lean future, there will be few large projects, but many small projects.
• Andrés: The real estate bubble revealed a permanent impoverishment that is likely to be with us for a few generations. Governments can no longer do what they once could.
• Andrés: We absolutely will find new oil & new energy sources, but they aren't cheap anymore.
• Andrés: If you only pay attention to the present, you cannot have many ideas that are compelling.
• Andrés: Anywhere built on low land is a future slum because insurance will get withdrawn years before anything gets wet. The insurance companies are already pulling out of the lowest-lying areas because of flooding that hadn't even happened yet. The revocation of insurance is years, or maybe even decades, closer than the actual floods.
• Andrés: Let CNU be in charge of the long vision and the large scale, Tactical Urbanism can handle the smallest-scale issues, and Lean Urbanism can handle the seam in between.
• Robert Orr: "Climate Change & Risk", was the scariest conference I ever attended.
• Douglas Duany: Adaptation is the only answer.
• Doug Kelbaugh: If you don't attend to the long-range stuff, you won't be able to adapt to the near-term stuff.
• Karja Hansen: Projections have to do with averages, and with politics.
• Sandy Sorlien: We should focus on adaptation that also mitigates.
• Andrés: What happens with the depression that occurs when people say "whoa… it's hopeless!"
• Hank: I'm no Al Gore, but I know Al Gore, and a big mistake he made was not allowing any discussion of adaptation.
• Doug: Adaptation and mitigation are both essential to climate change.
• Andrés: Our diminished circumstances call for a return to common sense.
• Andrés: At the beginning, there is ignorance, then avoidance, then alleviation, then reform.
• Andrés: Lean operates at the scale of the household, block, and neighborhood, but not city, region, state, or nation.
• Andrés: These are the important Lean dates: 1874, 1924, 1984, and 2014.
• Andrés: The last quarter of the 19th century should be very interesting to Lean, and the Mormons were America's stars. Do you have any idea how many towns they founded during this time? During the last quarter of the 19th century, people with no computers or electricity got amazing things done.
• Robert: What you're proposing is much like a garage-cleaning: taking everything out and throwing away what you don't need.
• Andrés: The codes were very light in 1874 in the US because the risks imposed by any single building were small.
• Andrés: The New Urbanism was largely based on things built in the 1920s. Lean should be based more on 1874.
• Andrés: In the absence of regulation, the Town Founder and planners of Seaside found no impediments to building. What we owe the 30-year-olds is a permitting environment like the one we found at the founding of Seaside. 30-year-olds with the same skill sets that designed Seaside are doing little more than chair-bombing today. We owe them the ability to do what we did.
• Andrés: You can't fix 2014 Detroit with 2008 tools.
• Andrés: We've forgotten the original ways of doing things; even the New Urbanists conceive New Urbanism as the only way of doing things.
• Andrés: We're drawing high rises today, in a time when millions of people are barely avoiding shacks.
• Andrés: You can't think anything like 1990 if you want to fix Detroit.
• Andrés: Mizner Park should now look very archaic, like something out of prehistory. We should look at Mizner Park and say "isn't that quaint?" It was a good time, but it's over… you have to be more wily now.
• Andrés: The Original Green is actually the normative human condition. Recent times are the anomalies.
• Andrés: There is nothing dishonorable about 1874, 1924, or 1984... it's just not now.
• Andrés: The $100 million project is still viable. it's the middle that's falling out.
• Andrés: The first phase of Lean is created by the Risk Oblivious, who are the Bohemians. The Bohemians didn't get loans or permits, but have created value for 150 years.
• Andrés: The second phase of Lean is built by risk-aware developers like Tony Goldman.
• Andrés: The third phase is when the risk-averse (like dentists from New Jersey) move in and spoil the Cool Factor. When the risk-averse move in, the risk-oblivious leave.
• Andrés: It is absolutely crucial for Lean to allow the Bohemians to act.
• Andrés: When the Cool Factor fades, the value eventually fades as well, resulting in collapse and re-emergence of Bohemians.
• Andrés: The Cutting Tools of Lean are Subsidiarity, the Transect, Succession, and the Charter.
• Andrés: The ethics of Lean are the ethics of the Charter of the New Urbanism.
• Andrés: "Lean Alignment" may be a better term than "Lean Team"… we're aligned, but often work independently.
• Andrés: The glacier of regulation is receding from Detroit, and opening things up to happen.
• Sara Hines: Buildings in 19th century camp communities like Chautauqua were essentially "tents made solid."
• Sara: Neshoba County Fairgrounds is unique in that it's built around the county fair, not church-sponsored.
• Sara: Almost all camp buildings were handmade, and self-built. The scale of camp cottages were often tiny.
• Sara: The Park Model of manufactured house is up to 500 SF and avoids most regulations imposed on HUD Code trailers.
• Sara: Dan Camp has done a great job building Lean housing in the Cotton District.
• Sara: Boats can be great Lean housing.
Medians are a terrible idea on Main Street because they don't let you turn into a business across the street, right? Not so fast… It turns out that the best Main Streets are those with parking continuous along the street, wide sidewalks to accomodate vibrant street life, and no parking lot entrances. If there are parking lots, they should be in the middle of the block, accessible from the alley. As we discussed in the Walk Appeal series, the worst thing you could possibly do is to put a parking lot right behind the sidewalk. Even a driveway to a parking lot in the middle of the block is a tremendous disruption to walking because it's a place you could get run over by a car entering the street with limited sight distance if you're walking down the sidewalk.
We talked about the Alton Road battle on South Beach recently, and amazingly, the DOT ended up agreeing in the end to do what the Flamingo Park neighborhood asked for. But now there are special interests weighing in, many of whom never showed up at the years of meetings while the design was being hammered out, and they threaten to wreck the entire agreement. One is a small but loud bike lobby, but that's a story for another day. Let's talk instead about the anti-median guys.
The final DOT design was largely patterned from lessons learned on Washington Avenue, which is just a few blocks away and pictured above. It is a vibrant commercial street, with street life that most of Alton Road could only dream of. The tree-filled median does several good things, including slowing down the heavy traffic, shading and therefore cooling the street, creating street proportions that are more than twice as good, providing a place of refuge in the middle to people crossing the street, and inserting lush planting material in what would otherwise be a broad river of asphalt. Medians enhance Walk Appeal, which is the best predictor of survival and success of neighborhood businesses. And Walk Appeal is what creates scenes like this, with sidewalks filled with people out enjoying the day (and who are likely shopping in the stores along the way). All of this means that the new Alton Road design is much better than what currently exists.
Today, much of Alton Road is downright scary. The lanes are much too wide and fast, so you're taking your life in your own hands if you try to get across. The new design, while unfortunately leaving the design speed too high, will nonetheless markedly improve the likelihood that you can walk or bike on the new Alton Road and return home unscathed. And for a place like South Beach where almost half of the residents don't even own a car (because the rest of South Beach is so walkable) that's a really big deal.
This is also a tale of two Alton Roads. The North end was built mostly according to the old South Beach pattern with buildings pulled right up to the sidewalk like they do on good Main Streets. I call this "Good Alton." It is here that you can find people on the streets, out enjoying themselves much as they do on Washington, even if there are somewhat fewer of them. Most of the buildings along Good Alton don't need major surgery, but rather a nip or a tuck here or there. The streetscape is similar, with relatively wide sidewalks and palm trees along the street, sheltering the sidewalks to the point that you'll find street cafes scattered along the way. Because Good Alton is as healthy as it is, it's the part of Alton Road where it's most important to keep the details good and really get stuff right. There is a group of merchants on Good Alton who are opposing the median. They're in the building with the parking lot out front that you see here:
They have a curb cut on Alton, but as you can see, it lines up almost perfectly with 15th Terrace. And they're on a really long block that's over twice as long as Portland's great blocks, so there really should be a break in the median at 15th Terrace, treating this like the two blocks it is on the West side rather than the one block it is on the East side. Eventually, if the city enacts a SmartCode, the building owner(s) will have the incentive to do a more profitable building that pulls right up to the sidewalk rather than having the regrettable parking lot in front. But for now, break the median there and don't lose the Walk Appeal of the new streetscape.
Further South, the situation on much of Alton is bleak. Parking lots to the left and right, curb cuts all along the way, and a flyover that dumps out right down the middle make "Bad Alton" a place where you rarely see anyone walking. Landowners just north of 5th Street represent the bulk of the opposition to the median, I'm told. But without a SmartCode and a lot of major surgery, there's little hope that the last couple blocks of Alton north of 5th are going to be places anyone wants to be anyway, so eliminating the median there won't hurt anyone since nobody's there.
Just don't screw up all of Alton Road because of one stretch that doesn't matter today and another single instance where the median should be broken anyway. Let's get the bulk of Alton right… not only for the neighbors, but for all of South Beach!
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People have been confused about neighborhood centers and edges for decades, and that confusion leads to bad decisions. "Neighborhood center" and especially "town center" are broadly used to mean commercial centers. At the beginning, when a hamlet composed of a single neighborhood in the landscape is built (like the one shown on the left), the commercial center that springs up at the crossroads around which the hamlet is constructed is the center of the neighborhood of which the hamlet is composed.
But when the hamlet grows into a village (like the one shown on the right), it reorganizes itself into multiple neighborhoods that are bounded by the main streets leading to the village center. From that point forward, as the village grows to a town and then to a city, each neighborhood has civic spaces and uses (like parks, religious buildings, and the like) at their centers and commercial uses at their corners. Confusing neighborhood centers with neighborhood corners sets a series of errors in motion:
The Single Circle Fallacy
The core error is our simplistic view of the 1/4 mile radius that most people choose to walk instead of drive. Actually, the 1/4 mile radius itself is a fallacy, as we discussed in Walk Appeal… but that's another story. Whether the walking radius is fixed at 1/4 mile or a variable, I propose two overlapping layers of circles, which combine to weave the city together. The first layer is the neighborhood, which is bounded by the busiest thoroughfares, not centered on them. If you doubt that, talk to any mother of a small child. The child is inevitably forbidden to cross the busy thoroughfares, but is given free rein over larger areas of the neighborhood within as they grow. To ignore this fact is to miss something that is fundamentally understood by hundreds of millions of non-planners.
So what's the other layer? The second layer of 1/4 mile radii offsets 1/2 neighborhood in each direction to center on the retail at the intersections of the busiest thoroughfares. In other words, each quarter of a neighborhood probably shops at different corners of the neighborhood. In doing so, they meet people from quarters of neighboring neighborhoods. Those people, in turn, know others from their neighborhood centers, who know others from their retail intersections... weaving a web of relationships clear across the city.
The Ghetto Mistake
The "commercial center as neighborhood center" mistake is actually the prescription for a ghetto. There, a neighborhood is self-contained with little reason to enter or leave. The history of ghettos is spotty at best, of course. I maintain that the two-layer model is actually much more similar to the way that most traditional American towns once worked, and should be the strongly preferred model for a legion of reasons.
The Transect of Risk
Does this mean that the arterial can be left uncivilized? Not at all. I agree that context-sensitive arterials are the preferred model. But even if thoroughly civilized, let's face the fact that the risk to a pedestrian on an arterial will always be somewhat more than their risk on an alley or lane. Is it not possible to see the city as an ocean of waves of risk, undulating between higher risk and lower risk? Must we force everything to the same level of risk? Isn't that exceptionally boring? What I'm really talking about here is a transect of risk, which ought to be a natural part of life. Let's just make sure that the waves peak at an acceptable level.
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Steve, I remember when we discovered this. Both this and the Walk Appeal posts are excellent. I do have one quibble... The "general" 1/4 Mile walking radius is a real factor and is evident in neighborhoods everywhere (and this is key) that were developed pre-auto dominance and according to human physical limitations of time and space and within their context. That's primarly why the "overlap" is so effective, as it increases daily opportunities. Of course people will walk further if the walk is nice. However, if one had no other option but to walk, it would be as routine as hopping in a car. Those who have spent lots of time in a walkable environments know that despite the pleasure factor, distance to daily needs (which equals time) is a real determining factor giving schedules of everyday life.
I'd like to see these concepts diagramed over real places.
In Tokyo and much of Japan, much of the commerce is on narrow streets near rapid transit stations. http://goo.gl/maps/5xX13
Sometimes more bustling neighbourhoods can support retail on all the arterials plus more minor streets in American style cities too.
I think this could become relatively common in American cities with a sufficient degree of revitalization/intensification. For instance, Philadelphia's core has few arterial roads so much of the retail could be on smaller streets, as is already somewhat the case for South Street or 9th street.
Low risk commercial streets are common in many Europe city centres, and even beyond them sometimes.
I agree that what you describe is true for most American inner cities though. I think retail should generally be near transit, and surface transit should usually go in more or less straight lines, so usually along long streets that because of their length also end up being arterials for cars. At that point, it makes sense to place amenities for children like schools and playgrounds away from the arterials (one thing Canadian planning has gotten right, even post-WWII). http://goo.gl/maps/zIMzB
If there's already retail on these arterials though, additional retail needed to support intensification could go on smaller low risk streets. Here in Toronto, examples would be Argyle, Robinson, Niagara, Logan, Wallace, Sorauren, Hillcrest and Northland.
This started out as just another shameful story of a Department of Transportation ramming their over-engineered highway through a neighborhood, but the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association just might be turning the tables on them in South Beach. Alton Road, on the West side of Miami Beach, is the battleground.
The Florida DOT decided to "improve" Alton Road, already the least walking- and bike-friendly thoroughfare on South Beach so that it can carry even more cars, and that they could travel faster. The design speed will be 40 miles/hour, but two of the lanes are wider than Interstate lanes, so you know how people will drive. And at 40 miles per hour, your changes of surviving if you're walking and get hit by a car are about 10%. The design speed of 30 miles per hour that the neighborhood is asking for reduces your chance of getting killed to about 50%. Which would you prefer?
The DOT is removing about 40% of the on-street parking. Problem is, on-street parking is what makes sidewalk cafes possible because you'd be insane to sit right next to speeding traffic without parked cars to protect you. And every car parked on the street is worth roughly $250,000 in sales each year to the merchants on that street. Force parking off the street, and bad things happen. If it's behind the building, it's a big heat island and you have to provide not only the parking spaces, but also the aisles in between, so it takes nearly twice as much asphalt. Move it to the side of the building and things get worse because now you have gaps in the urbanism, which is ugly and boring. Move it to the front of the building for the worst possible condition because a sidewalk running between a speedy thoroughfare completely kills Walk Appeal, meaning that almost nobody will walk there.
This isn't just theory… we now know both the measurable things and the ones that can't be measured which encourage or discourage walking. And walkability is the biggest single predictor of the chance of success and risk of failure of neighborhood businesses.
Walk Appeal is an even bigger problem than normal on Alton Road because almost half of South Beach residents don't own a car. They don't need them because South Beach is so walkable. So if you make Alton Road unfriendly to walkers and cyclists, you're cutting out almost half of the customers to Alton Road's businesses. For most businesses, losing almost half of your customers is the equivalent of a death warrant.
The Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, and the Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition it spawned have been fighting the DOT's auto-dominant design every step of the way, and not just as NIMBYs. Some really serious New Urbanist planners live on South Beach. Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, two of the founders of the New Urbanism, have a condo there as well. The New Urbanists have therefore put out many excellent design counter-proposals along the way. The designers include Matt Lambert, Jason King, and Pam Stacy, all partners or employees at two of the most famous planning firms in the world: DPZ and Dover-Kohl. My wife Wanda is one of the core group of neighbors leading the charge, which also includes the designers plus Aaron Sugarman, Ben Batchelder, Ken Bereski, Mark Needle, Ron Starkman, and Tammy Tibbles, under the leadership of longtime neighborhood activist Denis Russ. Others have weighed in as well, such as nationally-known cycling expert Mike Lydon and blogger Kaid Benfield on Atlantic Cities, saying "this is what a Complete Streets campaign should look like."
But even with all of the excellent counter-proposals, the DOT did what the DOT always does: they rammed their design down the throats of the neighborhood, and in a particularly nefarious way that was downright dishonest: The DOT showed several options, and after literally years of negotiation with Flamingo Park, both sides (plus the city of Miami Beach) agreed on what is known as the "locally-approved option." But when they signed the contract to begin construction a couple months ago, it was with a design that nobody had even seen. And that design was worse than any of the options that they had shown. That's downright fraudulent and disgraceful.
So it seemed that all was lost. But Tammy just wouldn't let it go. She did a lot of research, and then put together a very effective case that the Bait-And-Switch the DOT pulled simply isn't right, and finally got the City Commission's ear. The stakes weren't as big as all of East Village, but this story is bracingly similar to Jane Jacobs' legendary fight against Robert Moses in the 1960s.
Now, the design of Alton Road is back in play. Part of the job is reworking the storm drainage, so it will be 2015 before the street-level work is done. The Miami Beach City Commission is holding hearings, and appears firmly on the side of the Coalition, with one commissioner noting that "the Commission should prepare for litigation if necessary."
So join the fight! This campaign just might set the pattern for other victories over tyrannical DOT's elsewhere. America was founded to put down tyranny, but DOTs across America act with complete impunity. The time has come for this to end. They can build highways in the country if they like because that's where highways belong, but when a state route enters town, it needs to behave in civilized fashion. For far too long, we've paid a price now totaling over a trillion dollars by letting highways ruin our cities and towns by being too big and fast. When they come into town, they should act like boulevards, avenues, and main streets, not country highways.
We need your help… please join us! Please sign the petition. Facebook it. Tweet it. Here's the Facebook page… please like it. Please follow their new Twitter stream. Please blog about it. Please tweet the blog posts. Matter of fact, I've started an Alton Road BlogOff, so let me know when you blog and I'll put it there. Right now is the crucial time, so please act!
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The Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition always faced an uphill battle against the Florida DOT in the redesign of Alton Road in South Beach (Miami Beach), but Tammy Tibbles, a modern-day Jane Jacobs, pulled off the impossible after the DOT did a disgraceful and dishonest last-minute bait-and-switch to a much worse design that nobody had ever seen... and then immediately put the job under contract. Even though construction is ongoing, Tammy actually managed to get the street-level design back on the table! But she and the Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition need your help. Read about it here.
Can you help by talking about it somewhere? (Facebook, blog, twitter, etc.) We need precedents for how to stop bad DOT design in our day.
Build More roads. Widen the lanes. I have no sympathy for those who willingly lives on a major thoroughfare. You are like the jerks who move next to an airport then complain about the noise.
Steve, thank you for shining a spotlight on our quest. We'd like to mention several people that have been instrumental in the Coalition: Michael Grieco.
Also, we have received tremendous support for Representative David Richardson and Senator Gwen Margolis. The City of Miami Beach Commission has recently joined us, after they discovered that the $11 MM they agreed to spend to move the bike lanes to West Ave (a safer place for cyclists) did not regain sidewalk space or recover lost parking spaces, nor has FDOT actually created a safer condition for cyclists.
The quest continues.
Schooner Bay is a new DPZ-designed town in the Bahamas where you can look out onto the fields and onto the waters from which much of your food comes. It is a real fishing village, with a boat that goes out in the morning to catch the evening meals at the Black Fly Lodge. As the town grows, there will be more fishing boats. You enter town skirting the edge of Lightbourn Farm, which produces organic fare that feeds more than the town's inhabitants. Delivering food from the surrounding land and waters assures that Schooner Bay will remain a nourishable place. And these are two of the many things that Schooner Bay is doing to become the most complete Original Green place built in our time.
I was at Schooner Bay recently with my friends and colleagues Eric Moser and Julie Sanford, and we ate at Black Fly on Friday night. If you choose to eat indoors, the kitchen and the dining room are completely open to each other, so it's like eating at the "chef's table" inside the kitchen of a fine restaurant. But this was the Bahamas in late spring, so we ate out on the verandah instead. Black Fly caters to fishermen looking for the blazing-fast bonefish that populate nearby waters. That night, there was one fisherman at the lodge with no other plans, so we invited him to have dinner with us, along with Clint Kemp, Black Fly's general manager. The meal was nothing short of exquisite; the best I've experienced in a very long time. The fish had been caught just a few hours before, and the rest of the meal (except the wine) came from the organic farm. And chef Devon Roker's culinary craftsmanship is of the highest order.
The farm is a fascinating place, with about half of it devoted to a type of vertical farming I hadn't seen before. Row after row of poles are strung like a string of beads with lightweight pots, and then topped with irrigation hoses. The space between the rows is covered with landscape fabric to eliminate weed growth. This biointensive trick allows Lightbourn to raise far more produce than would be possible if it all grew on the ground. It's a hybrid hydroponic system, with water and nutrients delivered through the hoses to drip down through each pot, but the pots contain soil, not just water. So it's the best of both worlds, in my opinion: preserving the complexity of interactions (many of which we don't yet fully understand) that occur with roots in soil while retaining the effectiveness of hydroponics.
Until recently, Lightbourn Farm grew only vegetables. They are now beginning to branch out, as you can see from the free-range chicken I found exploring one of the Lightbourn buildings.
There are many more great stories to tell about Schooner Bay, and I'll be posting some of them over the next days and weeks. But for starters, check out The Schooner Bay Miracle, which chronicles the shocking lack of damage after the eye of Hurricane Irene hit Schooner Bay at her strongest point, with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. Also, have a look at The Ecological Dividend, which lays out the millions of dollars of benefits that are accruing by building this town in an Original Green way. Be sure to check out Mainsheet as well… it's Schooner Bay's excellent quarterly publication that's mainly cultural reporting and articles on ideals of community-building. And then, do yourself a favor and make a reservation for one of the cottages… you really need to see this place.
Have a look at this post about a new town in the Bahamas that's raising enough food to feed more than just the townspeople. It's also turning into a great place for a summer getaway, IMO... I'm hoping to go back in July.
Rouse's Grocery Store in New Orleans has a hydroponic garden on the roof of the downtown Baronne Street store which was originally was a automobile dealership that was converted into a grocery store last year. The hydroponic rooftop garden grows herbs that are used in prepared meals sold in the store.
Chuck Marohn keynoted the closing plenary of CNU21 in Salt Lake City. The following are his comments:
• Industrial park infrastructure is almost always a horrible investment because of subsidies of industries.
• It is beyond our ability to fathom the magnitude of our public debt.
• We have transformed ourselves from an economy based on savings and work to an economy based on debt accumulation.
• The mechanisms of growth we have become accustomed to are waning.
• Local governments are going to be forced to absorb the local costs of the current development pattern.
• The current pattern of development cannot be maintained without large tax increases and/or large cuts in services.
• The suburban pattern has built-in and fundamental insolvency.
• The old cities were financially resilient. If not, they would have gone away.
• Pre-sprawl development is the culmination of thousands of years of experience in development of the human environment.
• Pre-sprawl, everyone knew how to build great places. If you doubt this, look at old pictures of ordinary towns. The best we build today is scarcely as good as what everyone built everywhere before sprawl. My own hometown was fabulous by today's standards, but we largely demolished it.
• Every city today has miles and miles of streets with negative return on investment.
• We need to relentlessly prove New Urbanism as a high return public investment.
• We're missing the bazooka in our argument: the ROI of New Urbanism versus sprawl.
• The tax base of the worst historic traditional development pattern overvalues the best of the shiny and new solely because of the pattern of development. We illustrated this by looking at the ROI of a ratty section of traditional commercial versus new sprawl development just down the street.
• The auto-oriented pattern is very fragile, with limited upside and huge downside. Traditional development patterns are opposite. That's why the traditional patterns of development could be sustained so long, and why sprawl might very well bankrupt us.
• If our cities are going broke, doesn't it make sense to use the traditional pattern that, even at its worst, out-performs the best of sprawl?
• We need to champion an incremental approach to development.
• "Build it and they will come" is a brilliant plot for a movie, but it is a horrible development strategy.
• Our ancestors always built incrementally; it's only recently that we've started trying to build the end from the beginning.
• When an incremental project fails, the entire place doesn't collapse because the project is only a small part of the entire place, and therefore easy to fix.
• The way we got wealthy as a country was by building incrementally over time.
• I don't care if you like to play dice or cards, but it's still gambling to "build it and they will come."
• We need to put an end to top-down planning.
• Innovation from the top down is orderly and dumb. innovation from the bottom up is chaotic but smart.
• Replacing dumb with smart means replacing orderly with chaotic.
• As New Urbanists, we have to resist the trend to become more top-down.
• Memphis has done everything the professionals told them to do, but their wealth and prosperity has remained elusive.
• Orderly but dumb gets you downtown Memphis.
• A lot of chaotic but smart projects will fail, or be messy, but we must embrace it because overall, it's what works.
• It's not about well-informed or not. It's systemic. The "orderly but dumb" guys are the ones who are educated.
• Many minds thinking, even if uneducated in planning, will inevitably get better results than a few administrators. It's the Internet versus a mainframe. Wikipedia versus Encyclopedia Britannica.
Agrarian Urbanism and the Mormon Block
I had the pleasure of doing this session with Susan Finlayson of Wasatch Community Gardens and Sharon Leopardi of BUG Farms, both of Salt Lake City. Here's my tweet-cast of their comments, followed by a few comments on my presentation:
• Susan: A community garden is a place, an activity, and an idea.
• Susan: A community garden is 10% garden and 90% community.
• Susan: At the heart of every community garden is an engaged community.
• Susan: To engage the garden's community you need a community organizer.
• Susan: We have workshops through the year on gardening and cooking.
• Sharon: I never grew food or even liked vegetables growing up.
• Sharon: I came to realize that the food industry is one of our biggest problems, and that gardening is a great way to help.
• Sharon: SPIT farming: Small Plot Intensive Farming
• Sharon: One of the most interesting things is knocking on people's doors and saying "hey, can I use your yard for a garden?"
• Sharon: My starting capital was $5,000 from my parents.
• Sharon: When I started, I didn't have a single day off from May to October.
• Sharon: My first year I had 1/8 acre. My second year we upped it to 3/4 acre and I hired 3 people to help me.
• Sharon: Growing vegetables is great but it's hard to make money. I'm looking at expanding into prepared foods as well.
• Sharon: Most of our planting is direct-seeded; all of our planting is in raised beds with closely-spaced plants.
My part in the presentation asked the question: is it possible to .
CNU Open Source
Mike Lydon: Tactical Urbanism: 4 people with shopping carts cross street w/signs: 1-problem 2-what if? 3-rendering 4-if you like, honk
Chuck Marohn: Topic - How to stop soothing the conscience of the privileged and start learning from the public
Chuck: infrastructure projects create lots of support because of jobs, local consultants, etc.
Chuck: the public learns of infrastructure projects at the end of the process. we should start with the public
Chuck: if infrastructure project options are ever shown to the public, they are usually Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest
Michael Mehaffy: Topic - Urban Acupuncture
Michael: great cities are always undergoing transformations that are making them better
Michael: the ability for cities to continually adapt makes them resilient
Michael: great cities are always undergoing transformations that heal and improve them
Michael: top-down and bottom-up in place-making should not be either/or. we need systems capable of being both
Michael: "We need a web way of thinking" - Jane Jacobs
Paul Crabtree: current Saudi water systems run long distances. our proposed system for city expansion is neighborhood-based treatment
Paul: our streets harvest all the rainwater that falls in the community into a French drain in the median
Paul: the French drain was co-located in the trench already being dug for the wastewater line
Paul: our system reduced existing runoff by 75%, while typical practices double or triple undeveloped land runoff
Howard Blackson: Topic - The Decision District
Howard: Decision Districts are one lot deep along two sides of a street
Howard: how do you do standards for an entire cities that allow for the setup of Decision Districts?
Bruce Donnelly: Topic - Urban Tissue and Subsidiarity
Bruce: the idea of subsidiarity came originally from Catholicism
Bruce: Urban tissue formation: 1-connection centers, 2-develop back land, 3-connect backs to make blocks
Bruce: Whose responsibility is it to connect the backs?
Bruce: front street is mainly a public responsibility
Bruce: it is a spiritual responsibility to connect the backs, weaving our cities together
Bruce: Step 4 of urban tissue formation is breaking through the grid as needed
Mark Nickita: the primary city works best if it is well-tied to the metro area
Mark: I'm from the Rust Belt, which is horribly positioned branding-wise with the Sun Belt
Mark: we're re-branding the Rust Belt as the Lake Belt
Mark: water is a significant part of all Lake Belt activities
Mark: you've gotta identify what you have before you can brand and leverage what you have
Mark: the Lake Belt is a network of 50 million people
Mark: old corridors that have been abandoned to rot can be reborn as something new and interesting
Mark: embrace your four seasons. if winters are cold, celebrate with winter festivals
Mark: they're not remaking Buffalo as it was before; they're remaking it as a new place
The New Economy of Sharing
This session practiced what it preached, as it was a swap-fest of sharing ideas. Participants included Eliza Harris, Jen Krouse, Dhiru Thadani, Robert Orr, & Ann Daigle.
• Eliza: Gigwalk is a good site where you can hire people for micro-pay to do micro tasks locally.
• Eliza: oDesk is good for job-sharing graphic design.
• Eliza: TaskRabbit deals with high-level tasks like graphic design, and also grocery shopping, donation pickup, etc.
• Jen: Couch-surfing is a new type of sharing that really is just good old-fashioned hospitality. Couch-surfing is highly dependent on trust. Couch-surfing runs your credit card for verification & there are reviews. You organize your couch-surfing stay through a social network similar to AirB&B.
• Dhiru: We are born to share our ideas and observations.
• Dhiru: Successful Kickstarter campaigns show people what they receive when they pledge.
• Dhiru: Some people have raised more than 10,000 times more than what they asked for on Kickstarter.
• Robert: Our co-working space hosted a hack-a-thon, we have group website critiques, charrettes, a distinguished speaker series.
• Robert: Our co-working hosts Yale Tory Party for their debates, and "cocktails in the cinema" where we serve what the stars drink.
• Ann: There are a tremendous number of sharing events in New Orleans now that are creating great energy.
• Ann: Edible Enterprises provides culinary entrepreneurs with all the tools needed to make & market Louisiana food products.
• Ann: Cafe Reconcile began by getting kids off the street and off drugs and into the kitchen to learn to cook.
• Ann: Hollygrove Farms & Market is a New Orleans CSA. It's an experimental farm in the city.
I was session-surfing late Friday afternoon and happened into a Tactical Urbanism session that was half-over, and wished later that I'd been there all along. Also, later Tactical Urbanism references by Chuck Marohn in the closing plenary prompted this angry exchange on Twitter. In any case, here's what happened once I got to the session:
• Tactical Urbanism is not about the chair-bomb… it's about the community of activists the chair-bomb creates - Aaron Naparstek
• The session's funniest content: the "honku"… like a haiku, but about not honking, posted on phone poles, etc.
• "how do you not get arrested doing these things?" - audience question
• don't go to affluent neighborhoods to do tactical urbanism. go to a bad part of town where nobody cares; you'll make life better.
• The MOOC, by Sebastian Thrun is the next big thing in education - Mike Krusse
• True urbanism has intrinsically better and worse units, creating durable diversity - Andrés Duany
• Classical buildings don't necessarily need straight streets - Douglas Duany
• You can't code until you imagine the city - Douglas Duany
Original Green - Hope for Architecture
Friday evening, I teamed up with Clay Chapman to do a presentation on the theory and practice of the Original Green at CNU21 Unsanctioned. But rather than telling you about it, you could simply watch the video here.