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  • J.H. Crawford
    ... http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/14/national/14RAN.html A Development Fuels a Debate on Urbanism By TIMOTHY EGAN HULA VISTA, Calif. — Otay Ranch would seem
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 16, 2002
      No idea is so good that it can't be co-opted and wrecked:

      -----------------------------


      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/14/national/14RAN.html



      A Development Fuels a Debate on Urbanism
      By TIMOTHY EGAN


      HULA VISTA, Calif. — Otay Ranch would seem to have everything the back-to-the-future movement in American town-planning could ask for: front porches, back alleys, a network of paths, all built around a park with a barn-style community center and little hub called Heritage Towne Center. It's a village, the developers say, not another sea of stucco rising at the urban edge of San Diego.

      But look again, say the proponents of new-style suburbs, and you see things they have long criticized. Otay Ranch is protected by guarded entrance gates, which limit the kind of random encounters so cherished in older communities. A six-lane road as wide as a freeway leads into the development, making it a challenge to cross the street on foot. Cul de sacs, little different than those in the far exurbs of Los Angeles, fill the development.

      As the largest single subdivision in California history, Otay Ranch is at the center of a fight among people who plan and build new communities in the fastest-growing states.

      To hear some developers talk, a person would think they would not be caught dead building a traditional suburb, or what is known in shorthand sneer as a csd, for conventional suburban development. They build places where people live in "sustainable communities" around "towne squares," where the three-car garage has been banished.

      But just as these developers have seemingly embraced this design style known as New Urbanism, many planners and architects say that the movement has been co-opted and that many of the neo-villages appearing in Southern California, as well as in the exurbs of New Jersey and on the shoreline of the Florida Panhandle, are impostors.

      "More and more, we're seeing places where people just take the label of New Urbanism and slap it on a development as a way to get around political or environmental concerns," said Steven Bodzin, spokesman for the Congress for the New Urbanism, a loose-knit group of planners and architects. "It's designed to fool consumers and to fool the political process."

      Otay Ranch is a kind of Levittown West, though for a slightly higher income bracket. The houses are affordable, by California standards, ranging from $250,000 to $500,000; the racial mix is diverse, by suburban standards; half the land has been set aside for nature; and homes are selling faster than any other big development in San Diego County. Developers of the 6,000-acre ranch have gone out of their way to distance themselves from the suburbia of old.

      "The most visible difference is our village concept, which encourages people to once again meet neighbors, walk to nearby parks, and sit on front porches," the developers proclaim in brochures and on their Web site.

      The small, nontraditional parks in the development "are the kind of places where kids go after school to count clouds or play Frisbee until their mom calls them in for dinner," said Kim Kelkenny, executive vice president of Otay Ranch.

      One afternoon here in the center of the village, very little front-porch sitting or cloud-counting was evident. But children actually walked home from school, and enough people were out strolling or bike-riding to give the sense that the S.U.V.'s were on a leash.

      Still, Otay Ranch is a gated community, one that has many elements heretical to the New Urbanism.

      "The gates resemble New Jersey toll booths and the cul de sacs are wide enough to park a trailer," said Rob Steuteville, editor of New Urban News, who toured the development earlier this year and was highly critical. "It is so over-engineered for traffic that it's just off the charts."

      Another critic, a transportation planner from Palo Alto, Calif., Patrick Siegman, said Otay Ranch was an example of an old-style suburb with a few changes that were largely cosmetic. Mr. Siegman called for a process in which developments would have to be certified "to keep the marketers from appropriating New Urbanist language."

      Of course, hyperbole is not new to the business of selling real estate. The joke about new developments being named after whatever it is they displace — Elk View Heights — is often true. But only recently have marketers started to use the language of New Urbanism, language that was traditionally used against their developments.

      It used to be fairly easy to define a New Urbanist development because there just were not that many of them. Nearly 20 years ago, when the town of Seaside was planted as a village-style development on the Florida Panhandle, it was thought to be an anomaly.

      But then the Disney Corporation built a town of its own in Celebration, Fla., and others soon followed.

      Now developments that claim to be New Urbanist are finding themselves the object of criticism. For example, Laguna West, a development near Sacramento, was initially hailed as a pioneering example of how to build a community that was not overly dependent on the automobile. But it has since gone through changes that have led critics to label it as classic urban sprawl, though with porches and alleys.

      "Laguna West is one of the most pitiful examples of a so-called New Urbanist community that in reality is little different than a 1970's-era development in Los Angeles," said Wendell Cox, a design consultant who has written critically of recent subdivisions.

      Mr. Cox pointed to houses with three- and four-car garages, "liberal use of cul de sacs" and the fact that the development pushed the edge of the city into the countryside.

      The designer of Laguna West, Peter Calthorpe of Berkeley, Calif., who has been a leading opponent of old-style suburbs, said the project was changed after it was sold in the California recession of the mid-1990's.

      "There are compromises," Mr. Calthorpe said, "but all in all I think it's a great success. The reality of America is that some people want three cars."

      For some people, though, the compromises go too far.

      "I give these developments like Otay Ranch credit for trying something different," Mr. Siegman said. "The problem is when a project takes one or two elements, and leaves out all the others."

      Here at Otay Ranch, the main designer, Kent Aden, said he tried to build with narrow streets, fewer cul de sacs and more intentional congestion, but met resistance from buyers and code enforcers. The master plan calls for several villages, each about one square mile, with a school and several small parks, surrounded by arterial highways. Two villages have been built.

      "We want congestion inside the villages," Mr. Aden said. "We're trying to break the mold. People aren't necessarily ready for it, and the engineers don't get it yet."

      He called the architecture "California heritage," yet lamented that some intersections were too big and busy to walk across and that people seemed to ignore one of his favorite pocket parks.

      "But if you compare us to California subdivisions of the 1980's," Mr. Aden said, "we're leaps and bounds ahead of what they did."
















      -- ### --

      J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
      mailbox@... Carfree.com
    • enjax
      ... I couldn t help but notice that our old friend Wendell Cox got a blurb in. Apparently now he s a critic of recent subdivisions as well. New subdivisions
      Message 2 of 7 , Jun 17, 2002
        --- In carfree_cities@y..., "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...> wrote:
        >
        > No idea is so good that it can't be co-opted and wrecked:
        >

        I couldn't help but notice that our old friend Wendell Cox got a
        blurb in. Apparently now he's a critic of "recent subdivisions" as
        well.

        New subdivisions such as Otay Ranch clearly use 'New Urbanism'
        and 'Smart Growth' as a selling point to differentiate their product
        from the competition, though in reality it isn't that different from
        1970s era master planned communities such as 'The Woodlands' in
        suburban Houston, TX. Short of educating the public or having CNU
        stamp their mark of approval on true New Urbanist developments, there
        really isn't anything that can be done to prevent this.

        Incidentally there's an excellent Op-Ed piece on Planetizen today
        dealing with this very marginalization of the Smart Growth/New
        Urbanism movement, specifically why the movement as a whole might
        fail. The article makes some excellent points about the weaknesses
        of the movement, particularly our bad habit of preaching to the choir
        and how we fail to 'sell' the movement to the public as a whole.

        I thoroughly agree with the criticisms and applaud Mr. Hirschhorn for
        saying what needed to be said.

        -Matt Lyons


        http://www.planetizen.com/oped/item.php?id=58

        Why The Smart Growth Movement Will Fail
        Proponents have a lot of work to do if they want smart growth to move
        from the margin into the mainstream.

        By Joel Hirschhorn
        Jun 17, 2002

        The smart growth movement is more than alive and well -- it is
        bursting with energy and receiving increasing support in both the
        public and private sectors. Yet most movements do not fail by totally
        disappearing. The more American style of failure is marginalization.
        In particular, smart growth may not produce a solid displacement of
        the sprawl culture, either in the near or long-term. If sprawl with
        its single land use development remains the dominant form of the
        built environment, and smart growth places satisfy only a niche
        market, then the smart growth movement has failed to fulfill its
        promise.

        Here are some weaknesses in the smart growth movement that if given
        more attention could be addressed to better ensure longer term
        success.

        We Need To Engage Our Opponents

        Smart growth advocates all too often preach to the choir, seek out
        like-minded persons and groups, and do not effectively address the
        issues and concerns of opponents. At the endless stream of smart
        growth conferences there rarely is a speaker that is truly an
        opponent to the core principles of smart growth. Nor is there any
        session where smart growth advocates seriously examine what the
        opposition prefers and what strategies might be used to directly
        address opposing viewpoints, data, and arguments.

        Smart Growth Is Becoming Dilluted

        The smart growth community has not focused enough attention on
        inauthentic actions of those who seek the benefits of smart growth
        but do not deliver the real thing. These include some developers,
        builders, trade associations, and government officials. The desire
        for building broad support and partnerships can undermine the
        integrity of the smart growth movement. Flexibility is fine. But when
        the fundamentals of smart growth get muddied or distorted, then the
        movement is sliding down the slippery slope into sprawl. Everyone
        does not have to use the term smart growth. But not all things
        labeled smart growth, sustainable, livable, mixed use, or new
        urbanism are necessarily consistent with the original principles of
        smart growth. Smart growth police should not deny the right of others
        to build or choose sprawl. But the public should not be taken
        advantage of through deceptive actions masquerading as smart growth
        or low quality attempts that fail to deliver high performance.

        Help The Public Understand The Tradeoffs

        The smart growth movement has not focused enough on a message to the
        general public that informs consumers about the fundamental tradeoff
        between private and public space that is at the core of the sprawl
        versus smart growth choice. The sprawl culture that has evolved over
        some 50 years has caused a fundamental societal preference for
        private space over public space. This can be related to lots of
        things, like social capital, alienation, high resource consumption,
        social exclusion and segregation. For people to choose smart growth
        places and style of living it is necessary to understand the many
        benefits of neighborhood and community public places over the private
        space within and around homes. Sprawl will prevail if Americans do
        not value public places of all sorts much more than they do now. The
        public realm must be a place that people want to go to and be in, not
        places to fear or use as quickly as possible, usually in a vehicle.

        Connect Smart Growth To Schools

        The smart growth movement has not connected enough to the issue of
        large schools that students must get to in vehicles versus small
        schools that not only students can walk to, but that also have been
        consistently proven to offer higher quality education and social
        experiences. Sprawl could not have succeeded without the construction
        of mega-schools. It is not enough to advance arguments about
        infrastructure costs. Smart growth advocates need to build a solid
        substantive connection with school and educational quality that
        resonates with parents. School boards must become advocates of smart
        growth.

        As long as the sprawl industry can make money it is not likely to
        restructure itself. Ultimately, consumer demand will determine the
        degree of success for smart growth, not conferences nor books. The
        smart growth movement needs to focus more on markets, housing
        consumers, and the supply-demand equation, and less on noble big-
        picture benefits. When smart growth serves selfish interests it will
        succeed on a large scale. And it can do this. It is not about saving
        the environment or the planet. It must be about giving people some
        very tangible benefits, not the least of which is better personal
        health.

        Of course, these are just my opinions and I could be wrong. All too
        often, however, the high-energy, creative spirits of a fast-paced
        successful movement fail to appreciate their opposition and the
        incredible forces at work to maintain the status quo. Status quo and
        arrogance, more than sprawl itself, may undermine smart growth.


        ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        ----------

        Joel Hirschhorn lives in an old neighborhood near Rock Creek Park in
        Chevy Chase, Maryland, very close to Washington, D.C., and likes it
        much more than the suburban sprawl subdivision he once lived in. He
        has worked in the environmental and policy areas for many years and
        is currently Director of the Natural Resources Policy Studies of the
        National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. The views
        expressed here are solely those of the author.
      • Chris Bradshaw
        If we want to overcome the problem of developers misusing a concept in their new-project blurbs, we should apply ourselves to the development of a clear,
        Message 3 of 7 , Jul 7, 2002
          If we want to overcome the problem of developers misusing a concept in
          their new-project blurbs, we should apply ourselves to the development
          of a
          clear, measurable definition of the ideal living environment.

          Ideally, it would be accompanied by a way to measure the degree of
          conformity a particular project achieved.

          It could measure one or more of the following (perhaps resorting to
          models to _predict_ performance before the project is built):

          - energy use per adult and per child resident, both for living space and
          for transportation

          - air pollution emitted per adult/child

          - fitness level of each resident (related to the amount of physcial
          exertion they will get in everyday activities).

          - street social contacts to be experienced by the average household

          - expected morbidity levels resulting from crime and from collisions for
          each household

          - amount of property taxes and total transportation expenses per
          adult/child.

          The computer model would allow its owner to run a particular subdivision
          design against the standards, to give it a rating that would be used by
          consumers (and perhaps town councils) in making decisions. Sort of a
          standards laboratory with an ISO number.

          Chris Bradshaw
          Ottawa
        • mountainsport500
          Chris, You Wrote: If we want to overcome the problem of developers misusing a concept in their new-project blurbs, we should apply ourselves to the development
          Message 4 of 7 , Jul 14, 2002
            Chris, You Wrote:

            If we want to overcome the problem of developers misusing a concept in
            their new-project blurbs, we should apply ourselves to the development
            of a
            clear, measurable definition of the ideal living environment.

            Ideally, it would be accompanied by a way to measure the degree of
            conformity a particular project achieved. .................
            .........................

            The computer model would allow its owner to run a particular
            subdivision
            design against the standards, to give it a rating that would be used
            by
            consumers (and perhaps town councils) in making decisions. Sort of a
            standards laboratory with an ISO number.

            --------------------------------------------------------------------


            I really like this idea and have been thinking along similar lines.
            Are you interested in collaborating to develop such a system?

            As a practicing engineer and an architecture student I consider the
            develpment of a sustainability measurement system for new development
            to be necessary if we are to create anything approaching car free
            cities. The results of New Urbanism to date have been disapointing
            regarding transit and sustainability issues and could have been
            predicted if a model had been available. It is highly unlikely the
            present New Urbanist communities will ever evolve into pedestrian
            oriented, transit supported communities given their established
            relatively low densities and disregard for transit planning.


            My thoughts:

            1. The measurement system should be conceptually simple and easy to
            use.
            2. The system should predict a sustainabilty measure at project
            completion when in the planning stages so that plans can be improved
            to meet desired goals.
            3. While a computer model would certainly be useful, a simplified
            hand calculated model may have greater utility and could be produced
            quicker.
            4. I propose a simplified hand calculated system be developed first
            and then a more fully developed computer model be developed as
            resources allow.


            I would be interested in hearing from anyone interested in developing
            such a system.


            Tim Prescott
          • cndpandit
            ... in ... development ... used ... development ... improved ... produced ... developing ... I wrote this in detail but my server droped me and I lost it all
            Message 5 of 7 , Jul 14, 2002
              --- In carfree_cities@y..., "mountainsport500" <tjordanprescott@h...>
              wrote:
              >
              > Chris, You Wrote:
              >
              > If we want to overcome the problem of developers misusing a concept
              in
              > their new-project blurbs, we should apply ourselves to the
              development
              > of a
              > clear, measurable definition of the ideal living environment.
              >
              > Ideally, it would be accompanied by a way to measure the degree of
              > conformity a particular project achieved. .................
              > .........................
              >
              > The computer model would allow its owner to run a particular
              > subdivision
              > design against the standards, to give it a rating that would be
              used
              > by
              > consumers (and perhaps town councils) in making decisions. Sort of a
              > standards laboratory with an ISO number.
              >
              > --------------------------------------------------------------------
              >
              >
              > I really like this idea and have been thinking along similar lines.
              > Are you interested in collaborating to develop such a system?
              >
              > As a practicing engineer and an architecture student I consider the
              > develpment of a sustainability measurement system for new
              development
              > to be necessary if we are to create anything approaching car free
              > cities. The results of New Urbanism to date have been disapointing
              > regarding transit and sustainability issues and could have been
              > predicted if a model had been available. It is highly unlikely the
              > present New Urbanist communities will ever evolve into pedestrian
              > oriented, transit supported communities given their established
              > relatively low densities and disregard for transit planning.
              >
              >
              > My thoughts:
              >
              > 1. The measurement system should be conceptually simple and easy to
              > use.
              > 2. The system should predict a sustainabilty measure at project
              > completion when in the planning stages so that plans can be
              improved
              > to meet desired goals.
              > 3. While a computer model would certainly be useful, a simplified
              > hand calculated model may have greater utility and could be
              produced
              > quicker.
              > 4. I propose a simplified hand calculated system be developed first
              > and then a more fully developed computer model be developed as
              > resources allow.
              >
              >
              > I would be interested in hearing from anyone interested in
              developing
              > such a system.
              >
              >
              > Tim Prescott

              I wrote this in detail but my server droped me and I lost it all so
              Ill make this fast. My name is Chris David and hey Im from Ottawa
              also. In creating your system of measureing the efficiency, comfort
              and lifestyle derived from a project. I feel that unless a project
              encomposes work, shelter and play. (ie it must have a predetermined
              industry.) You must measure the efficiency of the entire city. If its
              a car free project, the public transportation system of the entire
              city must be measured. Now it gets fun can you imagine the kinds of
              industry that can shape diffrent communities.
            • bill norman
              We seem to give developers carte blanche, they should be required to help with roads as well as schools. Perhaps, they could help with input through careful
              Message 6 of 7 , Jul 14, 2002
                We seem to give developers carte blanche, they should be required to help with roads as well as schools. Perhaps, they could help with input through careful design to limit traffic. What about the maglev train concept?
                Bill Norman
                cndpandit <nimaid@...> wrote: --- In carfree_cities@y..., "mountainsport500"
                wrote:
                >
                > Chris, You Wrote:
                >
                > If we want to overcome the problem of developers misusing a concept
                in
                > their new-project blurbs, we should apply ourselves to the
                development
                > of a
                > clear, measurable definition of the ideal living environment.
                >
                > Ideally, it would be accompanied by a way to measure the degree of
                > conformity a particular project achieved. .................
                > .........................
                >
                > The computer model would allow its owner to run a particular
                > subdivision
                > design against the standards, to give it a rating that would be
                used
                > by
                > consumers (and perhaps town councils) in making decisions. Sort of a
                > standards laboratory with an ISO number.
                >
                > --------------------------------------------------------------------
                >
                >
                > I really like this idea and have been thinking along similar lines.
                > Are you interested in collaborating to develop such a system?
                >
                > As a practicing engineer and an architecture student I consider the
                > develpment of a sustainability measurement system for new
                development
                > to be necessary if we are to create anything approaching car free
                > cities. The results of New Urbanism to date have been disapointing
                > regarding transit and sustainability issues and could have been
                > predicted if a model had been available. It is highly unlikely the
                > present New Urbanist communities will ever evolve into pedestrian
                > oriented, transit supported communities given their established
                > relatively low densities and disregard for transit planning.
                >
                >
                > My thoughts:
                >
                > 1. The measurement system should be conceptually simple and easy to
                > use.
                > 2. The system should predict a sustainabilty measure at project
                > completion when in the planning stages so that plans can be
                improved
                > to meet desired goals.
                > 3. While a computer model would certainly be useful, a simplified
                > hand calculated model may have greater utility and could be
                produced
                > quicker.
                > 4. I propose a simplified hand calculated system be developed first
                > and then a more fully developed computer model be developed as
                > resources allow.
                >
                >
                > I would be interested in hearing from anyone interested in
                developing
                > such a system.
                >
                >
                > Tim Prescott

                I wrote this in detail but my server droped me and I lost it all so
                Ill make this fast. My name is Chris David and hey Im from Ottawa
                also. In creating your system of measureing the efficiency, comfort
                and lifestyle derived from a project. I feel that unless a project
                encomposes work, shelter and play. (ie it must have a predetermined
                industry.) You must measure the efficiency of the entire city. If its
                a car free project, the public transportation system of the entire
                city must be measured. Now it gets fun can you imagine the kinds of
                industry that can shape diffrent communities.


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              • cndpandit
                ... in ... development ... Hello Chris David here from Hull. This I believe would be invaluable because far too many developers, even high end, opt for cheaper
                Message 7 of 7 , Jul 15, 2002
                  --- In carfree_cities@y..., Chris Bradshaw <chris@t...> wrote:
                  > If we want to overcome the problem of developers misusing a concept
                  in
                  > their new-project blurbs, we should apply ourselves to the
                  development
                  > of a
                  > clear, measurable definition of the ideal living environment.
                  >
                  > Ideally, it would be accompanied by a way to measure the degree of
                  > conformity a particular project achieved.
                  >
                  > It could measure one or more of the following (perhaps resorting to
                  > models to _predict_ performance before the project is built):
                  >
                  > - energy use per adult and per child resident, both for living
                  >space and for transportation


                  Hello Chris David here from Hull. This I believe would be invaluable
                  because far too many developers, even high end, opt for cheaper
                  building practices which in the end only transfer larger energy bills
                  to the home owner. Do you think that is advertised, lol I think not.
                  In the realm of energy efficiency there are absolutely incredible
                  options, upwards to a 75% reduction in energy use just in building
                  materials and methods. However, these options sometimes cost more and
                  well because people are unaware there is no demand. This model must
                  be made, just the implication on bids for civic buildings, ie; I can
                  make you that building and it will only consume this much power. WoW



                  > - air pollution emitted per adult/child
                  >
                  > - fitness level of each resident (related to the amount of physcial
                  > exertion they will get in everyday activities).
                  >
                  > - street social contacts to be experienced by the average household
                  >
                  > - expected morbidity levels resulting from crime and from
                  collisions for
                  > each household
                  >
                  > - amount of property taxes and total transportation expenses per
                  > adult/child.
                  >
                  > The computer model would allow its owner to run a particular
                  subdivision
                  > design against the standards, to give it a rating that would be
                  used by
                  > consumers (and perhaps town councils) in making decisions. Sort of
                  a
                  > standards laboratory with an ISO number.
                  >
                  > Chris Bradshaw
                  > Ottawa
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