Unrequired Reading: Dec. 22, 2006

It’s a short Unrequired Reading session this week, since I’m still getting over the year-end issue blowout, and I’m trying to take it easy during this little holiday trip to Louisiana.

Here’s a neat interview with William T. Bogart on redefining sprawl and tossing out “planning”:

Why is it that we have single-use zoning that’s very restrictive? Because that’s what planners told us was the right way to do things. Now they’ve said that’s not such a good idea after all — that it’s a good idea to allow some types of small retail scattered in and amongst retail areas on major streets. Well, if you go to Houston you find that: On the major streets you have retail, and on the side streets and back areas you have the housing developments. Sometimes people in Houston can in fact walk to shop. And they did it without some planner in the city government telling them, “Oh, you should put some stores close to the houses.” It turns out that’s such a good idea that a developer got rich doing that. So what’s ironic is that some of the current, cutting-edge New Urbanist ideas have been in place in Houston for years without the intervention of the planning profession.

The other thing that’s frustrating is, if you read a lot of planners’ critiques of what they refer to as urban sprawl, they’re completely focused on the present. You would think a profession called planning would be concerned with the evolution and transition of areas. But they aren’t. They’ll look at a situation where a few houses have been built, and they’ll say that’s sprawl. Well, perhaps. Or perhaps over the next 10 or 20 years there’s going to be further infill development there — if it’s allowed by the local land-use controls — and in fact what they’re seeing is a city in construction. As a country, we’re growing in population. Those people have to go someplace. And they’re not all going to go there at once.

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Along those lines, here’s another article on why the Atlantic Yards project sucks.

(If that subject interests you, you really need to make a point of reading Atlantic Yards Report, which broke the story about the 50% ($456 million) drop in projected tax revenues from the project)

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As the late Reggie White once put it, “Hispanics were gifted in family structure, and you can see a Hispanic person, and they can put 20, 30 people in one home.” Or, in this case, a strip mall parking lot.

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Someday, I’ll write my epic novel about the lifespan of a mall. Till then, here’s a bunch of articles about malls.

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And after all those urban/suburban posts, I offer you the artistic vision of the Pet Shop Boys.

As ever, thanks for putting up with me. Check out the Unrequired Reading archives if you’re bored.

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