Share Your Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! First, I want to make sure that you take a moment to share some love with your sweetheart. Your local drug store will continue to have Valentine’s Day’s candies and gifts through the day if you forgot to get the most basic memento for you love. No matter what your sweetheart says, they want some level of acknowledgment of your love.

The Restless Urbanist wants you to share your love today. Just like your sweetheart, your community wants to know you love it. Take a moment and share the places you love. Share your pictures and stories of the places that you love. Lets celebrate the great places we live, play, and work.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and share your love for your favorite places.

Posted in Advocacy, Holiday, Pride | Leave a comment

Diplomatic ties with Cuba

This month, President Obama announced that he would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba. This is a significant change in foreign policy, and is part of many heated conversations throughout Florida.

I want to step back from the political ramifications and the emotional strain that this change in United States Policy has on so many people in both Cuba and the United States. I recognize the complexity of the situation.

I want to talk about the architectural and urban ramifications of this change in policy. These political changes will begin to open the door for American influence and exposure to Cuba. The America spirit was forged by pioneers, and this spirit will be carried to Cuba.

Last year, I wrote the post “Is Detroit the Testing Ground for Havana?” In this post I compared these two cities based on the recent planning work underway in Detroit. I want to share this post again.

The United States and Cuba have a lot architectural and urban lessons to offer each other. We need to explore each of these lessons so that we do not repeat our mistakes of the past.

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Merry Christmas

imageI would like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas. This is a special time of year to celebrate joy and to prepare for the coming new year.

Have a very merry and safe Christmas.

Posted in Holiday | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Urban Details

The devil is in the details. Our work in urban environments require us to work in inches and and feet. When we lose track of the little details, terrible things can happen. Here is a picture I took showing one of these mistakes.

Steps

In an urban environment, we need to look beyond project boundaries and work between building faces. Every community requires the finished floor of buildings to be placed above the level of the street to protect buildings from flooding. In every community, including Florida, architects and planners must deal with topography. It is possible that one side of a building may be higher then the other side.

This picture shows a building where the street corner, is lower then the rest of the building. The architects or street designers have had to add a gauntlet of ramps and railings to match these grades, and meet federal accessibility requirements. During this design, I am sure that that architect and engineer spent hours cursing each other while sitting in their professional silos. This picture and built result also shows that these two never talked.

Urban conditions requires professionals to interact with the Urbs. These professionals may need to look beyond the property boundary or edge of the right of way to seamlessly  integrate these projects.

After having experienced this fail in my own work, I have had to change my scope for urban projects. When I am working on a roadway project, I request two things.

First, I request that the scope and project survey extend to the adjacent building faces. This allows for me to understand the adjacent conditions, and how the new streetscape will tie back into the adjacent properties. This broader scope also provides me the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with property owners. I can discuss ways to transform parking areas or layouts, organize driveway access, and generally resolve the transition to the property.

Secondly, I request the existing finished floor elevation for every adjacent property. This is the only way that I can prevent steps or flooding on existing properties. I can build trust with my adjacent property owners because I can show that I have thought about their property. This not only builds support for the project, it generates a better project.

My photo example could have been prevented. As we move from suburban development to urban infill, we need to retool our craft. These projects are more complex, and require more information to get it right.

Posted in building, communities, Design, Infrastructure, The Profession, Urban Design | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Black Friday: Too Much Parking

imageHow was your Black Friday? Most of America’s asphalt fields were missing something: cars. This year our friends at Strong Towns documented the over parking of our country.

Black Friday is the marker our communities use to calibrate their parking rates. This is an exaggerated peak that is used as the base line. I need to state this again: The parking demands during the Walmart 1 Hour Guarantee on Black Friday is the standard that communities use for their parking requirements for the rest of the year.

For a second year in a row, citizens from across the country documented how this applies to retail locations across the country. I went to several locations throughout the day in my pursuit of holiday sales. I was not only able to find parking at every retailer, I had a choice of spaces.

I really enjoyed the recap from Walkable West Palm Beach. Jessie Bailey did a great job of documenting the the parking reality and called to task the local paper that over exaggerated the parking at the new Outlet Mall. West Palm Beach has a parking problem: they do not allow the context to influence the decision making. Developers have to beg for a lower rate in the walkable downtown, and the city has to beg to introduce the public trolley to the sea of asphalt on the edge of the city.

We all need to demand a complete rethink on our community policies on required parking.

 

Posted in Advocacy, Colleagues, Florida, Parking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Friday Parking Event

Black Friday Parking Day

My friends at Strong Towns have just announced their annual Black Friday Parking Event. I encourage all of you to join in this annual event. Join Strong Towns this Friday for #blackfridayparking, a nationwide event to draw attention to the ridiculousness of minimum parking requirements.

Check out BLACK FRIDAY PARKING 2014 EVENT and share how ridiculous your community’s minimum parking standards are this holiday season.

 

Posted in Advocacy, Holiday, Parking, Public Policy | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Media Workshop

new-media-cover-416Today I will be attending the New Media Workshop hosted by by friend Steve Mouzon. This workshop will be jam-packed with the latest New Media know-how! Follow my tweets today to see what we are are working on.

I would encourage you to read through my review of Steve’s book New Media for Designers and Builders.

Posted in Blog, Colleagues, Erfurt | Leave a comment

Voting Results

20130416-070526.jpgIt’s November and we are now recovering from the barrage of marketing telling who and how to vote. Over the coming days, there will be an abundance of political pundits who will ad the tea leaves and tell us what to think. As urbanists we need to rise above this.

Urbanism is not a Red or Blue issue. Urbanism is a neighborhood issue. We must remind ourselves as we wade through the political talk that will fill our airways.

Urbanism requires a long term vision that must outlast the changing winds of our legislative branch. Our cities will outlast this month’s vote. Our cities will even outlast all of yesterday’s voters.

Regardless of your political view, urbanists need to focus on a community’s values and not a single issue or politician. Yesterday removed one variable in our work. Now that the votes are counted, we know the name of who we need to work with within our government.

As a Restless Urbanist, there are many issues running through my mind that we must tackle in our cities. In addition to a clear vision, we also need partners. I encourage all of you to reach out to the newly elected.

Take the time to share your passion, and the vision for your neighborhood with the elected. You will be surprised that Politicians are people to, that they also live in your community, and that they want a better future for their constituents. You just might be amazed at how they can help to support your community’s vision.

We watched a tidal wave of red roll across the map last night. It is no surprise that I lean to the right which I promise to share what it means to be a conservative and an Urbanist in a future post. I also work in a Red state in a very conservative community.

Over the past five years working in my community, we have been able to implement a wide variety of projects and policies that support compact, walkable, urban development. This is just one case study that illustrates that Urbanism is not a Red or Blue issue; Urbanism is a neighborhood issue.

I challenge all of you to start knocking on doors and share you passion for your community with the newly elected.

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Trunk or Treat

IMG_2333I love Halloween, and I want to reflect as I pick through Eddie’s holiday spoils. Now that the Son of the Restless Urbanist is old enough to understand that if you put a pumpkin basket in front of an adult you will get candy, the holiday takes on a new meaning. I am already a big fan of the costumes, the candy, the frights, are all great, but this is not why I love this holiday. Halloween is an opportunity to meet your neighbors, and walk your streets.

I know I mention this every year, but this ghoulish ritual cannot be under estimated. It is even more adventurous with a 20 month old that can run is dressed as a monkey. Trick or Treat is a great opportunity for all of us knock on our neighbors’ doors and to take a moment talk to talk to your neighbors.

This year we dressed Eddie up, pulled out the red wagon and went on our way. As we left IMG_0031that house, I am reminded how unfortunate that communication with your neighbor becomes a holiday novelty such as peeps at Easter, or lights at Christmas. This is just one of the results of the great suburban experiment.

Our neighborhood is composed of seasonal retirees. On Halloween, the majority of non-retired are working, and the seasonal have yet to arrive. We also do not have very many children on the community, so we needed to seek an alternative. This is how we were introduced to: Trunk or Treat.

For those of you that do not have kids or live in a walkable neighborhood, let me explain this suburban celebration.

A Trunk or Treat is where people gather and park their cars in a large parking lot. They open their trunks, and pass out candy from their trunks. Many times, people will decorate their cars, or dress up themselves, i believe to conceal the asphalt jungle. Trunk or Treat is promoted as an event that provides a safe family environment for trick or treaters.

Trunk Or Treat is very troubling and on the verge of offensive to me. This new Halloween tradition is used as an alternative to going door to door in your neighborhood trick or treating. Have we really given up on our own neighborhoods, and conceded that it is unsafe to gather with your neighbors?

This year we took Eddie to our first Trunk or Treat. I first want to say that this was a wonderful event hosted by one of the churches in my community. It was safe, full of kids, and packed full of activities. It was also the only activity in walking distance to our house where we could communally celebrate Halloween.

I had to step back and think about this event. As the Restless Urbanist, I am really uncomfortable with this event. Are we really supposed to feel safe in the asphalt playground that we all have to drive to? Are the trunks of our cars more inviting then the front door of our house? Outside of Trunk or Treat, we go to great lengths to keep our kids away from stranger’s vans?

I want us to start asking some really tough questions. Why are our neighborhoods so unsafe, that our children cannot walk the street or talk to their neighbors? If two hours of community celebration is dangerous, what about the 365 days of time a year you spend in your neighborhood?

I grew up in the suburbs, and Trick or Treating was a special time in my community. All of our neighbors would lock their cars up for two hours in their garages and give the streets over to the children of the neighborhood. Even the police would pull over their cars, and walk with the kids. For over two hours, our neighborhood streets filled with people.

Halloween in my suburban neighborhood was like an Open Streets Project before Open Streets was cool. There are no excuses why we cannot take back out streets and enjoy our communities on Halloween.

My sister has recently moved back into my childhood neighborhood with my niece and nephew. These traditions are occurring still to this day in the neighborhood, and now the Fire Department has joined in. She shared some great pictures showing her children playing on a Fire Truck, and the fire fighters passing out candy.

I share all of this with you because Trick or Treating is not place based. It is people based. My community is the one with the better Walkscore, but the worse Trick or Treating. This celebration takes the whole community to make it successful. It is one of the many layers and markers of a great community.

I trust that all of you had a safe and fun Halloween. Share your stories from the Trick or Treat that took place in your community.

Posted in Advocacy, Children, communities, Erfurt, Holiday, Son of a New Urbanist, Walkability | 3 Comments

Engineers Have Lost Their Purpose

Interchange-1778Engineers enjoy working on unrealistic grand visions. I want to continue to discuss the Myths of Development and Planning. In my first post, I shared the two myths that are commonly at the core of poor development. In the second post, I shared this from the perspective of the planner. Today, I would like to describe these myths through the perspective of the Engineer. More specifically, I want to share this perspective from the transportation engineer.

Every community no matter how large or how small has a transportation engineer, who is advising and directing the future of your community. Your community’s transportation engineer is possibly the most powerful person in you community, and is someone you need to know.

Transportation engineers have the key to the pocket book of our cities. I am amazed at the grand respect that transportation engineers receive in our cities. There is no other profession or government department that can walk into a public meeting, make billion dollar recommendation, and walk out as heroes.

Engineers are also immune to many of the realities the rest of us face in planning cities. They can promote the construction of new bigger and faster roads to justify the transportation model which projects exponential growth in car trips, and at the same time may obliterate walkability. They can gold and platinum plate every pipe or curb, as if this infrastructure will never degrade or become obsolete over time. Finally, the biggest of all is that all of this can be done in the present without ever accounting for the   expense of the maintenance of these projects.

Let me illustrate this in a different way. You own a 1999 Ford Torus with over 150,000 miles on it. Out of the blue, your car’s mechanic calling you up and offering to put the latest seats in your car that offer anti-fatigue features, heat, and lumbar massage. These are great features, and will allow you to drive more miles because you will be so comfortable. The problem is that you really need to replace your ball joints which are at risk of failing on your 1999 Torus. The mechanic explains that even though the seats cost more then the needed ball joint repair, there is a factory rebate on the seats and he will reduce his labor costs to install the seats. You only have enough money for either the seats or the repair. The mechanic Recommends the seats over the repair, because of the rebates and reduced labor costs. You chose the seats at the Recommendation of the professional mechanic.

A day later, you pick up your car. The seats are the best seats you have ever sat in before in your life. You can imagine the hours you can now spend behind the wheel in comfort. As you pull out of the mechanic’s shop, you turn the corner and you hear scraping metal. You pull over and you find that the front ball joint gave out and your car is immobile.

You call your mechanic with great concern. The mechanic responds simply and says,  despite your car not being able to to move, you are siting on the best seats available on the market.

This parable is completely absurd, and you probably said that I know better then this. Unfortunately, we do not know better because this is what is happening everyday in our cities under the direction and advice of our transportation engineers. New, wider, and faster, roads can be funded with federal funds and gas tax dollars. These funds perversely translates to free money through the rose colored glasses of local government.

When we return to the great myth of development and planning, we have to remind ourselves that we cannot build ourselves out of this mess. Engineers are programmed like ants. Given the time, they will construct the greatest structures and systems the world has ever seen. Unlike ants, the engineers can lose sight of the the other important issues like funding, or where these structures are placed.

We also have to recognize that the funding for building and maintaining infrastructure is limited. Our great-grand parents built amazing places without credit, bonds, or debt. They understood that you build what you can, when you can. The development myths would have been easily recognized by our great-grand parents.

There is hope out there once you can recognize these myths. I will continue to share how we can build great cities once we abandon these myths.

Posted in Colleagues, communities, Design, Engineering, Infrastructure, Planning, Transportation | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment