The San Francisco Chronicle reported this month that the City, while considered one of the most walkable City’s in the nation, also has one of the highest rates of pedestrian deaths. [Read more…] about San Francisco’s Street Grid Plan Killing People?
One of the lesser known Brazilian cities, at least internationally, Curitiba, is an urban planning gem. We’ve heard it all before, prioritizing pedestrians before people, urban parks, good mass transit, etc. In reality, it rarely gets done in modern cities. However, in Curitiba, it did and it worked. This circumstance exists in large part due to the progressive ideas and strength of conviction of Jaime Lerner. Please click on this link for an interesting and enjoyable video . . .
Recent statistics indicate that suburban commercial centers were hit harder by the recession and are recovering more slowly than their urban counterparts. This circumstance is the opposite of prior recessions in the last half century, even as recently as the 2003 – 2004 dot com bubble recession, according to the Wallstreet Journal. During the current recession, the urban core of nearly every major city in the Country suffered substantially less loss of office and retail space than the suburbs surrounding them – including hard hit Detroit. [Read more…] about Recession Reveals that Suburbs Losing Their Appeal.
“Smart growth,” i.e. the densification of development in both new and established communities, especially along transportation corridors, is not only a worthy objective, it’s a necessity. Sprawling development has many established negative impacts. The infrastructure to support it is disproportionately expensive to build and maintain. Its environmental footprint is disproportionately large and wasteful. It has been shown to create negative impacts on the social and physical quality of people’s lives. [Read more…] about When Smart Growth is Not and the NIMBY Is
Turn the freeways into solar collectors and at the same time mitigate noise, pollution, blight, and open space encroachment. This is a fascinating idea from architect Måns Tham of Sweden. He also proposes that the solar canopy capture auto exhaust for feeding algae ponds to create bio fuel. While it seems at first glance to be ‘pie in the sky,’ upon further reflection it may not be so far fetched. It could help resolve the controversy regarding solar arrays in the desert and possible effects on fauna such as the desert tortoise. Freeways typically involve vast sun exposed stretches of real estate that would seem ideally suited for solar panels. Read more on the architect’s blog.
There are many academic lists regarding the principles of urban planning, a sampling of which is included below. However, I’ve put together my own list about what creates a pleasant place in the built environment. Its based on nothing more than my personal observations.
1) Narrow streets make nicer neighborhoods and shopping districts.
2) Setbacks suck. (Compare all the places we are attracted to for vacations.)
3) Great cities happen at the street level, not the skyline.
4) Preserve the old buildings not just for architectural significance, but for diversity of architecture.
5) Small lot development is smarter development. (i.e. large master planned developments lack soul) [Read more…] about 10 Principles of Planning Pleasant Places
This post is the first of a multi-part (but irregular) series about the conflicting relationship between U.S. transportation policy and urban renewal efforts, and what some communities are doing to “take back the streets” from cars for people. This post features a video by COAnews (published on YouTube), which gives a little history of the rectangular or square street grid patterns so common in U.S. cities, especially in the west. Then it goes on to talk about a project in Portland, frequently a leader in urban planning, to make neighborhood intersections more community oriented.
What is the right balance between freedom and safety (as in regulations) in an urban land use setting? We travel to see cities with unique and exotic features such as rickshaws, street vendors, open air market places, sidewalk cafes, and so on. We even think fondly of the cacophony of signage in places like Hong Kong and Times Square. Yet the U.S., ‘freedom central,’ is relatively restrictive when it comes to municipal ordinances. Perhaps its not so much that we are ‘freedom central’ but that our democracy allows us rather, than a king, the freedom to issue restrictions. That’s a lot of people creating a lot of restrictions. As a result, U.S. cities often lean towards uniformity rather than diversity or uniqueness. [Read more…] about Of Bikes and Men