Skip to main content

I've been meaning to write this diary for awhile now. Even though we're eyebrows deep in the Silly Season, we should take the time to take a look at other issues that affect us. I hope you'll give my diary and observations a read and offer me some thoughts.

New Urbanism is:

is an American urban design movement that arose in the early 1980s. Its goal is to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning, from urban retrofits to suburban infill. New urbanist neighborhoods are designed to contain a diverse range of housing and jobs, and to be walkable.

New Urbanism is also known as traditional neighborhood design, neotraditional neighborhood design, and transit-oriented development.

I of course think this is a great thing. It's a return to the past where we didn't live in sprawling suburbs and we didn't have hour long commutes to jobsites.

The principles are:

  1. Walkability

Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work
Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)
Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases

  1. Connectivity

Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys
High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable

  1. Mixed-Use & Diversity

A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings
Diversity of people - of ages, income levels, cultures, and races

  1. Mixed Housing

A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity

  1. Quality Architecture & Urban Design

Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit

  1. Traditional Neighborhood Structure

Discernable center and edge
Public space at center
Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings.  The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design.  The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to assess the
design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.

  1. Increased Density

More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities

  1. Smart Transportation

A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation

  1. Sustainability

Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
Energy efficiency
Less use of finite fuels
More local production
More walking, less driving

  1. Quality of Life

Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.

This is great of course. It's how we should have designed everything after World War II to basically now. I am positive there are more then a few who will disagree with me and I'm not here to tell people suburbs suck or cities rule or cities suck or we should all be small-towners on our bikes. Clearly, that's not feasible in America. However, I do think a lot of angst and thensome would have been alleviated if we chose some of the principles of new urbanism in our planning back then. I mean, have you ever noticed that movies set in the suburbs always seem so negative and full of angst, yet the vast majority of us live there? It's an odd observation.

However I'm going to drop a mild bombshell. There's facets of new urbanism that I don't like.

Here in Harrisburg we have a new development named Capitol Heights. It's an infill project that is aiding in revitilizing the city. There's a mix of home styles but most are 3-story townhouses with garages in the back. Most don't have basements. The houses themselves are modest size which is unusual for new builds. The largest model is 1600 square feet, 500 square feet smaller then the 1920 duplex I grew up in. They're not McMansions on a rowhouse footprint like we see in so many other areas of infill (although there is a builder building those a few blocks away. I actually do like those houses too, but they lack yards.)

I like riding my bike and the bus through this neighborhood. You move through older neighborhoods with large older townhomes, and some blight, and all of a sudden you're in this new development. It bears a high resemblance to Seaside FL, where they filmed The Truman Show. I looked at one a year ago and found they weren't that bad, despite their lack of basements and the high ceilings that seemed to be wasted space.

Neighbors don't like them as they say they changed the demographics of the neighborhood, plus their tax abatement makes older homes harder to sell. Their aesthetics don't fit the historic character of Midtown. And my main criticism of them is their owners are still dependent on their cars. The developer could encourage the addition of a grocery store but has not. Granted, there IS a farmers market about 6 blocks away though but there isn't a lot of mixed use development in the neighborhood or good transit opportunities. Their price is also prohibitive for much of the city's population. When I moved here they started at $140k. They now go somewhere in the $180k range, although the builder is offering fun discounts like TVs and granite countertops for free.

Should sustainability, a big principle of New Urbanism, be only for those who can afford it? I think this seems to be the biggest criticism. I've looked at similar movements that I think are cool, like co-housing, and found they are really more expensive for the average person. Also, the fact that many of the walkable suburbs and transit-oriented development are now hot commodities tells me a lot that we still have a ways to go in the logic of how we zone and develop and lay transit lines. Also, many of these new developments still are greenfield projects, even if the sprawl is controlled--it's still sprawl, especially if the residents need their cars to leave their walkable towns for anything else like work or groceries or whatever.

I don't know, what do you think?

Originally posted to #WELLACTUALLY on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:47 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I live in the sort-of country (5+ / 0-)

    because I like it more, just being able to walk out into the quiet, animals running around, dark(ish) at night... but always think it would be really fun to live in the city, and be able to walk/bike to so many things.

    maybe, some day, no kids, no pets, lots of money...

    not effing likely, now that I think on it.


    but I really support thoughtful, human-oriented planning, oh, my, yes.

    "So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we'll be called a democracy." -Roger Baldwin

    by voila on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:51:42 AM PDT

    •  :) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      droogie6655321, voila

      i like wild animals and stars

      Central PA Kossacks"Obama can hope all over me!" Si se fucking puede!

      by terrypinder on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:52:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A friend nearby... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... had a pecan pie on the kitchen counter.  Bear tore out an open casement window, and ate the pie.  Friend heard the noise, took a look.  Ran and locked himself in the bathroom till it left.  No arguing with a bear in the house.  (Or a skunk either, for that matter.)

        Which all is to say, there's a limit to how much wildlife one wants around.  Especially if you are growing food - something we all really should be doing more of.

        "You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus."
        . . . . . . . . . Mark Twain

        by Land of Enchantment on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:25:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  i suggested this to my parents (0+ / 0-)

          but they get tons of animals in the suburb they're in--deer (a 5 point buck apparently!), skunks, rabbits, groundhogs, hawks, any songbird you can think of, and apparently coyotes and foxes.

          so no homegrown tomatoes. the deer will walk right up to the front door and eat them, as they did to the sweet potato vines.

          the neighbors hate this as they're cityfolk but my parents love it.

          Central PA Kossacks"Obama can hope all over me!" Si se fucking puede!

          by terrypinder on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:28:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  well, shoot (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            you can get all kinds of wildlife in the big city.

            Just the other day, the Chicago Police shot and killed a mountain lion that made its way into a neighborhood near Wrigley Field.  Not an escapee from the zoo either.  

            Then there was the Quizno's Coyote...

            "The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma." - Abraham Lincoln

            by Jerry 101 on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:57:41 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  People put up deer fences for... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ... that sort of thing.  Who knows why, but neither deer nor elk come to this area.  Just bears.  And, of course, coyotes.  That's life in the real world - all kinds of critters we share it with.  Reports of mountain lion tracks within a mile or so of here.  But I'm not sure I trust the guy who says he saw it - don't consider him entirely reliable.

            "You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus."
            . . . . . . . . . Mark Twain

            by Land of Enchantment on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 12:54:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Well I'm not sure that it's a feature (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LtdEdishn, terrypinder

    of New Urbanism for the architecture to clash with the surrounding environs.  Sure, you can just look at the development in South Flordia to see that, but it's apparently not the case at Prarie Crossing or in some other New Urbanist communities.

    The last 100 years of architecture has been, if anything, characteristic of oblivious, unincorporated design.  New Urbanists are a newer, subordinate trend and it seems plain that some architects and developers will be a wash between different styles.

    Republicans believe in gvmt. intervention for bankers and investors, I believe in intervention for the meek and lowly -- Nulwee.

    by Nulwee on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:52:13 AM PDT

    •  and actually (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      although the developments in the Pearl and the South Waterfront, Portland, OR received a fair bit of local activist criticism, they certainly don't have the same attributes you're talking about in your area.  The Pearl District has a Whole Foods in the new development, is only a few blocks from a Fred Meyer (Kroger) grocery story, and a similar new, mixed-use development in the Hollywood District of Portland will have a Trader Joe's or some such thing.

      And for scale, the development you're talking about doesn't sound nearly as horrendous as what Jorge Perez did to Miami.

      Republicans believe in gvmt. intervention for bankers and investors, I believe in intervention for the meek and lowly -- Nulwee.

      by Nulwee on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:55:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  capitol heights isn't too bad (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        if I could afford it, I'd buy one. A lot of the criticism toward new urbanism seems directed toward places like Kentlands in Maryland. I saw a program on it awhile ago--I think Kentlands is great but it has its flaws such as people still have to drive to get anywhere. They're lucky though as they do have a Metro stop.

        Central PA Kossacks"Obama can hope all over me!" Si se fucking puede!

        by terrypinder on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:57:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Beltway (2+ / 0-)

          including Northern Virginia--doesn't seem in for effective sprawl relief any time soon.

          Republicans believe in gvmt. intervention for bankers and investors, I believe in intervention for the meek and lowly -- Nulwee.

          by Nulwee on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:59:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I Used To live On Capital Hill In DC (2+ / 0-)

          gosh do I miss it. Everything I could ever want was within walking distance. I mean everything. Now I live in a place I have to drive 40 miles round trip just to workout.

          Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

          by webranding on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:59:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I wish I could afford to move to D.C. (0+ / 0-)

            I lived there for a few months when I was in college, and I was doing the Washington Semester program through American University.

            The fact that the city has so much to offer in the way of museums and culture was nice enough.  However, I don't have a driver's license, and I loved being able to take the Metro almost anywhere I needed to go.  Since I normally attended college in a rural area, not far from where I grew up, it was really the first time in my life I had that sort of freedom.

            I can't get a job in D.C., though, and I doubt I could afford to live there even if I could.  So, that's out.  As much as I hate driving, I'm going to have to put a real effort into getting a license, because the public transit here just sucks, and I'm tired of not being mobile or having any sort of real freedom of movement.

  •  Well If You Look At "Planned" Communities (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theran, LtdEdishn, terrypinder, Nulwee

    in the burbs they are going for what you are talking about. Look at a place like Herndon, VA and they actually have what they call the city center. All shopping is based there and the houses are built in a circle around the area. It was way to "cookie cutter" for me, but many places are trying.

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:53:31 AM PDT

    •  Yeah (4+ / 0-)

      If New Urbanism is going to last, a lot of the initiators are only stepping their toes int he water so far, trying to minimalize risk as much as possible.  Let's face it, this industry is not run by artists but by developers with heavy costs to recoup in risky time-frame few people can afford or will try.

      As time goes on the more grand but ineffective gestures like needless gravel/riverrock trenches that do little to reduce runoff and even less to detoxify runoff will give way to better green design.

      Republicans believe in gvmt. intervention for bankers and investors, I believe in intervention for the meek and lowly -- Nulwee.

      by Nulwee on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 10:57:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not many places to walk, esp. betw. shopping ctrs (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder, webranding

      in Herndon, IIRC.

      Lots of these VA developments seem built around getting around by car.

      Just an observation.

      •  No I Don't Disagree (2+ / 0-)

        I used to do the "reverse commute." Meaning I lived in DC but worked in either Falls Church, Tyson Corner, or Herndon. I only lived one block from Union Station but it was beyond reason to attempt to get to Tyson Corner with public transportation. Never made any sense to me they just didn't build a metro line (have they?) right down the middle of the toll road.

        Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

        by webranding on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:04:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm fortunate (6+ / 0-)

    I'm close enough to everything (downtown, shopping centers, work, the foothills, etc.) that I don't own a car and don't suffer for it. I walk, bike, or bus it.  

    I'm also in a quiet neighborhood, in spite of how close to downtown I am.

    Sadly, it is for these reasons that I will never be able to afford to own a home in the neighborhood that I'm in.

  •  So far new urbanism... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    has not worked out so well in my county.  The largest negative seems to be not enough jobs are created within these communities, or not enough businesses can stay open long enough for steady employment.

    Personally, I think infill development and urban redevelopment can be a good thing in the right areas.  Living in a rural area, I don't want nor desire new urbanism in my community, replacing the farms as is the trend.  County planners continue to try to shove the new urbanism idea for the rural areas, and I have been fighting back on these issues since 2004.

    One of the negatives I see with the new urbanism as it relates to the downtown areas is that it is actually driving the poorest out of their communities.  The developers will build mixed used but sell them at prices the average person cannot afford, not to mention the poor who were subjected to eminent domain proceedings.

    •  right i agree with you there (3+ / 0-)

      i'd rather see old factory brownfield sites developed first before any new sprawl is built.

      and while gentrification can be good for cities it does displace people, and then the trendiness of the neighborhood makes it unaffordible for those who may simply want to live in a walkable community.

      Central PA Kossacks"Obama can hope all over me!" Si se fucking puede!

      by terrypinder on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:05:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Since This Is A Topic You Know More About Then (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        myself I might suggest you do some research into St. Louis (where I live now). Once or twice a year I'll have to put attend a conference or two. When folks see I am from the area they'll ask me to show them around. They are freaking stunned that nobody, and I mean nobody actually lives downtown. I am not sure if there is another major city that has less people living downtown.

        And IMHO it is a chicken or egg issue. The folks I'll show around say, where is the dry cleaner? Or how about the grocery store. They just don't exist. So people don't move there.

        Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

        by webranding on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:08:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think what is missing from... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the downtown area here is actually a requirement for affordable housing.  The county will give bonus density for. affordable housing, but it just isn't working.  Besides, affordable housing in my county is now defined as between $150,000 and $250,000.  With high taxes and high homeowners insurance costs (I live in Palm Beach County) people just cannot afford to live here.  We are seeing a decline in population, which for South Florida is not a terrible thing <g>

  •  Too easy to have fake it..... (3+ / 0-)

    I live in a northern suburb of San Diego.  I actually moved from a sub division that was ostensibly what you describe, complete with required porches.

    Problem is a porch only has meaning if people sit outside on them.  No one did.  We can't create a society that existed before TV, Internet and air conditioning, when talking to a neighbor was a connection not available elsewhere.

    I actually moved from there to a somewhat older, and poorer development.  There is more diversity, but I won't say it's ideal.

    The world has changed too much.  The goal you describe is worth exploring.  But please, no delusions should be accepted.

    •  I love porches (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And I love it when the area has a culture where people actually use them. It has been an uphill battle to catch them outside their houses, but I know all my neighbors by name and chat them up whenever I can. I'd consider two of them to be friends.

      It's just better when neighbors talk. But you're right, they have to want to.

      Creative Anachronists for Obama: "Yes ye can! Yes ye can!"

      by droogie6655321 on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:33:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think the use of porches (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      might vary from one town (neighborhood, region ... ?) to the next.  In my small city there is one older neighborhood in particular where there are always people sitting on their porches when it's nice outside.  It's obvious that there is a sense of community in that area.

      (At least people aren't sitting in lawn chairs, inside their garage, in lieu of a porch!)

      Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. - Albert Einstein (-6.5/-7.33)

      by pidge not midge on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 12:10:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'd certainly like it... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... If I could walk more places. Since my job moved me downtown, I'm walking an average of maybe 8 blocks a day from the parking lot to the office, and have dropped from 185 to about 173 pounds. ;-)

    However, my grocery store, my drug store and my workplace are not within walking distance.

    I'd like to see less sprawl and more tightly knit communities. Urban sprawl is predicated upon cheap gas, and we may not have access to that for much longer.

    Creative Anachronists for Obama: "Yes ye can! Yes ye can!"

    by droogie6655321 on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:24:25 AM PDT

  •  PS: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I vacationed in Dallas not long ago, and I was REALLY impressed with how walkable it was (which is a good thing, because it was a damn struggle to get my car out of valet).

    We visited an art museum, went shopping, had a nice dinner and saw a movie (then drinks) all without using the car at all. What a great experience.

    The little shopping center and the surrounding housing there felt pretty artificial and trendy, but I can't say it wasn't a nice place to spend an afternoon.

    Creative Anachronists for Obama: "Yes ye can! Yes ye can!"

    by droogie6655321 on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 11:29:10 AM PDT

  •  These problems aren't necessarily a result (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of New Urbanism itself but instead are a result of misunderstanding the concept, in particular in terms of maintaining the character of the neighborhood and what really constitutes affordability.  

    For rural areas, there is a concept called the conservation community that has been established here and there.  The idea is that in a given community, 90% of the land remains pristine and 10% is allocated for homes, businesses, activities, etc.  The remaining land can be used for things such as growing food for profit or offering educational opportunities.  

    I'll readily admit that I've had too much going on to follow the successes and challenges of the conservation community idea, but at least it is a jumping off point for further discussion.

    Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. - Albert Einstein (-6.5/-7.33)

    by pidge not midge on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 12:06:40 PM PDT

  •  Terrypinder, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Have you heard about how the Trollies disappeared?  I just found out that my hometown, little Vincennes, IN, had them until they were removed to make way for cars . . .

    You're my kind of stupid.

    by SteamPunkX on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 12:51:07 PM PDT

  •  LA's "smart growth" plan (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, WayneNight

    is generating a lot of controversy.  Some good links and info can be found here.

    Some of the issues.

    (1) until cars really start going away, it's not clear high density development will help.  Average speed of a bus in LA is 11mph.  Average speed of an express bus in LA is 14mph.  Takes forever to get anywhere.

    (2) stupidity and corruption in the planning arena make substantive change difficult.  Money goes to projects that at best bend the letter of the "smart growth" laws and at worst actually promote suburban sprawl.

    Sustainability has got to be a serious agenda item.  Thinking about global warming, petroleum's decline, agriculture, and local economic survival has to be integrated:  these things are closely connected.  Solutions for one must take into account the others.

    (-8.00,-7.85) "Jesus Christ was the first nonviolent revolutionary." --S. Stills

    by bubbanomics on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 12:54:34 PM PDT

  •  I really don't know enough about... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...urban planning to leave an intelligent comment.  I will say, however, that I wish we had at least continued to invest in public transit after World War II.

    Did you know that, at the start of the 20th century, York County had a trolly system that served not only all of York, but that went into Maryland, all the way to Baltimore?

    You can still find some traces of the old trolly stops around York County.  One is actually right down the street from where I live, and I'm in a VERY rural area.  When my Grandmother was still alive, she used to talk about taking the trolly down to Baltimore to visit relatives when she was in her teens and twenties.

    If you listen to people talk today, any sort of effective public transit in areas like York is "impossible."  I don't understand why its so impossible, when we actually fricking had it a century ago.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site