First off: Andres Duany is on a tear against NIMBYs, and suggests making decisions via “juries.” There’s lots to like in that proposal.
From the links provided by the Lincoln Institute’s article, a couple of choice extracts for your immediate enjoyment:
One, from Planetizen:
“It’s so out of control,” said Duany, referring to the current state of public participation in planning decisions in the United States. “It’s an absolute orgy of public process… basically, we can’t get anything done.”
Charrettes – intensive design meetings where planners and architects work alongside the public to educate them on the city’s proposals and coax out their own ideas on how their cities should be formed – have been a mainstay of Duany’s practice for years, so he’s no stranger to public engagement. But now he is saying what many involved in land use have come to believe but can’t really say – that the process of soliciting the public’s opinion has gotten out of hand and needs to be reformed.
The central problem, according to Duany, is that the immediate neighbors to a proposed development are brought in to speak on behalf of the whole community. These neighbors obviously have a vested interest in what happens in their backyard, and an emotional connection to their space. They also often have a financial stake in what happens, with their life’s savings tied up in their home. “We’ve tainted the process by not understanding that the neighbors are a special interest,” says Duany. “They are not the community.” [amen.]
Duany’s proposed solution? A randomly-chosen group of citizens, brought in to represent the community similar to the jury system. Evidently such a system is alive and well in Perth, Australia, where a group of community members is chosen randomly, brought up to speed on the issues, and asked to give input on how development should occur. Without such a process, Duany says, the process is taken over by “a bunch of little mobs, invited in by idiot public planners.”
Alternative energy projects are particularly at risk, according to Duany. The public at large sees the growing need for turbines and solar panels, but locals are fighting to keep them out of their neighborhoods. Is this the goal of city planners, who for the last couple of decades have worked passionately to create systems of bottom-up urbanism? Or is Duany right- is it time to create new models of public participation? (source)
Note that last bit, re. alternative energy – I blogged about this (Windspill), inspired by an article (From Oil Spills to Wind Farms, From NIMBY to BANANA) that made the same point: NIMBYs in Massachusetts miring an off-shore windfarm proposal, while at the same time we get this oil clusterfuck-disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Two, from Building Blocks (St. Louis Today):
Duany insisted that the future of development is mixed use: jobs, homes and leisure opportunities clustered in sufficiently dense ways to allow people to walk more, take public transit more and drive less. Driving equals unhappiness, Duany indicated, adding, “New Urbanism is all about making people happy.”
After no one stood up to denounce happiness, Duany went on to be a bit provacative. Forget the NIMBYs who try to kill almost any endeavor, he said. NIMBYs comprise nothing more than a special interest group that should be ignored when, say, a new power line is needed to link a windfarm to customers. Such infrastructure should be built because its clear advantage to a region outweighs the opposition of the few who would live near the wires, Duany said.
“You can’t have tiny tiny special interests block the big infrastructural needs,” he said.
A good way to get approval of what gets built where could be to turn over the job to juries whose members are randomly selected from across a region. That way, projects pushed by professionals would get done quickly, Duany said. (source)
From the same article, further down, a discussion of complaints from mayors about mingy state funding. Sound familiar? How many more times do we have to listen to our mayors complain about the lousy 8-cents to every 1-dollar municipalities in Canada collect?
Two former mayors–Manny Diaz of Miami and Greg Nickels of Seattle–also were on the bill. After touting their efforts to make their cities greener and more sustainable, they voiced some frustrations in tones familiar to those that emanate from St. Louis City Hall. Nickels and Diaz said their state legislatures simply don’t get it. Too often they deprive cities of money and fail to understand that metropolitan areas are the main drivers of the nation’s economy. Diaz said too many states would rather add unneeded lanes to rural highways than help build urban transit lines. (source)
And, from the same post, urban growth will be in suburbs. That’s another reason why Victoria, the city I currently live in, better get its ass in gear, before its downtown deteriorates beyond the point of no return:
Experts agree that over the coming decades, most urban growth will be in suburbs, which need to adapt by replacing featureless sprawl with inviting, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes. June Williamson, associate professor of architecture at the City College of New York, gave a shout out to Crestwood Plaza on Watson Road, holding it up as a suburban mall re-inventing itself–at least for now–as an arts center.
Duany, in his characteristally blunt way, said a day earlier that while small shops at outdated malls are “junk,” the malls are ideal “holding tanks” for 21st century mixed-use town centers. Malls are typically located on main streets or even transit lines. The big-box anchors can be converted to offices or call centers, he said. Williamson said the United States is seriously over stored. The U.S. has 20 square feet of retail space for each citizen while Europeans get by with 3 square feet each, she said.
Over and over, speakers pointed out that while cities are efficient, many of their urban centers are losing population. One city discussed has lost half its population since 1950, is a declining center of corporate headquarters, has thousands of acres of largely vacant land despite the presence of a renowned children’s hospital, a famed symphony and a lively downtown restaurant scene. St Louis? No, Cleveland. (source)
Three, from California Planning and Development Report blog:
Last year shopping mall giant Westfield floated a proposal for a 49-story tower in Century City, part of a master plan to reinvent one of the great prototypical edge cities. The problem, though, is that Century City is no longer on the edge of anything. It’s smack in the middle of some of the most congested streets and expensive residential real estate east of the Ginza District.
The city Planning Department liked the project. But, naturally, the neighbors got involved, and some, you know, hemming and hawing ensued. When the metaphorical dust settled and the City Council approved the $800 million project, the building had lost ten floors and four local homeowners associations called off their lawyers. Of course, the “project” existed only on paper in the first place; critics say that the developer drew the extra ten stories only so they could be lopped off as an expendable peace offering.
A triumph for the little guy? Not so much. Borderline extortion and bribery? Perhaps. Several of the four homeowners associations paid for their petitions with war chests won from agreements with other developers; no word on whether Westfield paid them off in this case. (source)
Good grief, does that ever sound familiar…
Back to matter of juries, here’s another description of that system:
Duany proposes that cities adopt a hybrid of a grand jury and an electorate: 200 (or however many) ordinary citizens randomly sampled and empanelled to learn about, deliberate on, and render a decision on proposed projects. He notes that the wisdom of democracy does not lie in participation — which depends simply on who shows up — but rather on sampling.
The recommendation of that random sample would stand for the interests of the entire community and be balanced against those of the other two parties. Though public officials would typically have the final say, the panel would give them cover to make decisions that might enrage the neighbors. (source)
Note: “200 (or however many) ordinary citizens” is not a tiny hand-picked crew, which is what we’re seeing in Victoria, where the political leadership has taken to hand-selecting without any sort of process a tiny group of people to act as “citizen advisors.” It’s a highly flawed process – and the advisory panels or committees (the designation keeps changing) meet behind closed doors, no agenda is posted in advance, and minutes consist of skimpy notes available months later. #fail
I prefer this (VOTERS are on top):