Public Engagement

 Public involvement in cities comes in many forms. You can attend meetings, talk to your nieghbors, or email your elected officials.

I was recently in Dallas, Texas, where a civic activist took a different approach. With a sharpie marker, they shared thier concern with this missing tree. It caught my attention, so it worked. 

I do not advocate defacing public property, but this raises is a moral  dilemma. What is actaully being defaced? 

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Memorial Day: Never Forget

Today is Memorial Day. This is an important day to pause and remember all of those who have died in military service. This is a very somber holiday, focused on remembering those he made the ultimate sacrifce. We must never forget the lives lost in the service to our Nation.

Every community has a different way to memorialize and remember the loss of these brave service men and women. These are not flamboyant parades, or elaborate pyrotechnic displays. Memorial Day events include processions or parades into the cemeteries or pass the memorials of our fallen veterans. They include adorning the graves and memorials of our veterans. We must never forget these men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday. Take a moment today to put out a flag, join a parade, or just take a moment of silence for these fallen soldiers.

Here is a great video that has been shared around social media.

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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.

 

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.

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