Tecnology

I wanted to share a quick update with all of you. I recently switched my hosting, and as you may have noticed, 2015 of Restless Urbanism seems to have evaporated. I am working on recovering these posts, so you will see these returning in the near future. I appreciate all of your patience while I work through the technology.

The reason to change this hosting, is that I am also working on a new site www.AmericanUrbanism.com I hope to launch this in the coming weeks.

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Tactical Urbanism

Tactical Urbanism teaches local citizens how to take back their streets, and aspire for better uses of their community’s public spaces. This is not a planning text book, but should be on every reading list of planning and public policy students. Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change shares a new approach to making better cities, utilizing citizens and small scale changes.

In 2011, I was part of a group of young urbanists who met in a small house in New Orleans to discuss the current state of urbanism. We were connected through the Charter of the New Urbanism, but we saw the world differently. Our impression and applicability of the Charter was different then the books and magazines on New Urbanism.

Mike Lydon shared some of his recent successes and his partnership with Tony Garcia. Mike explained something they were undertaking called Tactical Urbanism. Mike explained how they were working with communities through a grass roots approach to planning. He shared countless examples were citizens worked outside the normal formal planning approach to impact a neighborhood at the level of the street. These unsanctioned interventions started a larger conversation, and empowered residents to take action in their community. The following week, Mike published the first edition of Tactical Urbanism.

Since 2011, many have tried to box Tactical Urbanism into a rouge planning practice. They have attempted to place it on a planning spectrum somewhere on the radical left. Communities have used Tactical Urbanism as a noun to justify closing a street for a block party. I have even seen it used as a justification for some guerrilla street action. All of these groups have missed the point. This may be tactical, but it is not Tactical Urbanism.

Mike and Tony, have been on a crusade rising above the planning profession. They share the true meaning and purpose behind this movement. Tactical Urbanism focuses on Short Term Actions that lead to the Long Term Change. Small ideas are tested whether they are building blocks to a bigger project, or temporary in time, these projects provide the catalyst for citizens to wake up to better urbanism.

I love this book because Lydon and Garcia provide a clear understanding of how communities can harness Tactical Urbanism to engage in creating better places. This in-depth study does not jump to solutions. The book Tactical clearly explains the approach, philosophy, and success of Tactical Urbanism. This should be on everyone’s required reading lists.

This is a must read, and I encourage sharing Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change with any residents that want to take real actions to improve their community. Tactical Urbanism is a book that will help your community organize into proactive and lasting changes. Grab a copy and share it with your neighbors. Get inspired to make a change in your community.

Purchase the Book Here

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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