Friday, February 8, 2008

United We Plan, Divided We Sprawl

Why do we have sprawl?

Simply put, sprawl represents raw agnostic capitalism in its most expedient form.

Sprawl is easy for the developer as long as there are no rules, no oversight, and no planning. Scroll down to the January 23rd post - Strip Tease - to find the formula.

A laissez-faire attitude about the value of planning gives sprawl free reign, and we are paying the price in America with traffic jams, obesity, and an increasingly divided culture.

But what about the inhabitants? Shouldn't the people who live and work and learn and play in this country have a say? Why must we accept that sprawl as the only option? The whole thing seems out of balance, some how.

Is there a more humane way to grow?

The answer is a resounding yes! But it takes coordination and planning by all stakeholders on a city-wide, even region-wide basis with a conscious goal of creating livable environments. "Regulation" has been the boogie man of development for eternity and a day, but without thoughtful vision, we are destined to forever more have sprawl.

Developers will adapt - they always do - to targeted growth. Developers are not the culprits here, they're only doing what the system we've imposed requires them to do.

I've put together a matrix of Livable Community design. Comments?


L I V A B L E vs U N B E A R A B L E

"We're All In This Together" vs "Every Man For Himself"
the Village vs the Strip
Centralized Plan vs Linear by Default
Connected vs Disconnected
Green vs Gray
Stimulating vs Exhausted
Empathetic vs Apathetic
Logical vs Manic
Transportation Options vs Traffic Jams
Abundance vs Raw Capitalism
Nature is Beautiful vs Clear-Cut and Flatten
Considered Acquisitions vs Conspicuous Consumption
Right Size vs Bigger is Better
Respectful vs In Your Face
Know Your Neighbor vs Who's Your Neighbor?
Connected Green Space vs Asphalt Jungles
Three Dimensional vs Two Dimensional
Unique vs Pretentious
Communicate vs "I Don't Want To Hear It!"
Community vs Isolation
Culture vs Ignorance
A Connected Series of Villages vs Sprawl

In an effort to equitably and fairly address issues affecting the whole of a local population, some metropolitan areas have opted for a city/county combined government. This approach is a proactive attempt to bring all parties together to make decisions affecting everyone.

Combining city and county evens out tax receipt discrepancies between affluent suburbs and poverty stricken inner city neighborhoods, allowing for infrastructure improvements and comprehensive planning that mitigates blight and sprawl.

Some examples of city/county governments are:

Athens - Clarke County, Georgia
Louisville - Jefferson County, Kentucky
Nashville - Davidson County, Tennessee
Butte - Silver Bow County, Montana
Indianapolis - Marion County, Indiana

Anyone have an opinion on this? Some examples of comprehensive planning successes?

1 comment:

Greener Building . blogspot said...

Greater Vancouver's regional growth strategy is called "The Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP)."

Sure they have their act together, but what I noticed more than beautiful buildings, parks, and green infrastructure was the uncommon CIVILITY.

Vancouver is an ethnic melting pot of color and class yet it is the everyday interactions which reflect their respect for each other. I saw a mother pushing a child in a stroller and she stopped to give food to a homeless man. I asked her about her actions. She explained he was a regular part of her community and she shared food with him in a dignified manner.