Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving NIMBY Wrap-Up

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here are some exclusion & inclusion-related stories around the news:

From the NYTimes, here's a story about proposed legislation by the Los Angeles City Council that would ban the feeding of homeless people in public spaces. The direct target here is the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, who has been serving free meals to the homeless on a barren corner in Hollywood every night for more than 25 years. One thing that surprised us is how widespread this weapon of exclusion is: according to the NYTimes, more than 30 cities, including Philadelphia, Raleigh, Seattle and Orlando, have adopted or debated some form of legislation intended to restrict the public feeding of the homeless. As the Coalition's Director put it, “It’s a common but misguided tactic to drive homeless people out of downtown areas.”

From Atlantic Cities, here's an interesting article about Vancouver's DOORKNOB BAN. Like the author of the article, we have spent "some time scratching [our heads] trying to anticipate what it will feel like to navigate the cities we've already built with the aging population we're going to have." And like the city of Vancouver, we champion the lever handle, which, as anyone who knows anything about age-friendly design knows, is much easier to operate than the more traditional knob-handle. But kudos to Vancouver for officially phasing it out!

Not being a Braves fan, and having spend very little time in Atlanta, we don't have strong feelings about the Braves' decision to leave the city for the suburbs, but this map essay about "How a Densely Populated Neighborhood Became Turner Field" is pretty good urban renewal porn.

If you haven't seen the NYTimes's "The Real Mayors of New York" yet, see it now.

Austin's Community First Village is a 27-acre development housing over 200 chronically homeless persons. It looks really cool!

Finally, a Bay Area law firm is allegedly offering free workshops on how to evict tenants.

We have been working on a study of the Greenpoint / Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone, and are discovering what this study about Gowanus is discovering, namely, that "industrial and commercial businesses thriving there, even if all the activity isn’t always visible from the street." Read the report and remember: manufacturing still matters!

And read this article and remember that libraries still matter!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

NIMBY wrap-up for the past few weeks

We haven't posed in a while because we have been really busy with this. Sorry!

Anyway, here are some links we bookmarked in the past few weeks.

As part of our research for Rebuild by Design, we recently took a tour of Sandy-damaged Highlands, NJ. Our tour guide showed us a 2.5-mile stretch of the popular Henry Hudson Trail that the storm had damaged, and explained that the restoration of the trail was being held up by adjacent homeowners who were arguing that repairing the trail would increase their vulnerability to future storms. Needless to say, this sounded fishy, and when we looked it up we learned, much to our disappointment, that one of the two adjacent homeowners was Bruce Springsteen's drummer Max Weinberg. 

Fortunately, it looks like a legal threat made by Weinberg and Atlantic Highlands Muncipal Judge Peter Locascio didn't go anywhere, and it looks like the trail will reopen soon.

From Atlantic Cities, here's a very interesting piece about a "gender mainstreaming" initiative of city planners in Vienna, Austria. This sounds a little scary, and there's a good case to be made that it reinforces traditional gender roles, but it appears to have produced some unarguably positive outcomes. According to the article, gender mainstreaming "means city administrators create laws, rules and regulations that benefit men and women equally. The goal is to provide equal access to city resources." What's most interesting is that it is informed by an empirical analysis of everyday life in the city. As one planner put it, "You need to know who is using the space, how many people, and what are their aims. Once you’ve analyzed the patterns of use of public space, you start to define the needs and interests of the people using it. . . Then planning can be used to meet these needs." Sounds simple enough, but this kind of empirical observation is too often lacking in planning, where assumptions are made about how people use space, and where providing equal access usually means merely removing obstacles. Pilot projects include a Women-Work-City, a playground redesign that manipulated landscape, hardscape, and programming as a means of attracting more girls, and streetscape improvements such as increased lighting and widened sidewalks.    

Here's a funny story from the NYTimes about the Preservation Society of Newport's struggle to build an accessible visitor's center on the grounds of the Breakers, a former Vanderbilt family mansion that is open to the public.

Here's a very inspiring story from the NYTimes about Dayton, Ohio's vote to make the city "Immigrant Friendly" as a means of "fighting back from the ravages of industrial decline." (We write about IMMIGRANT RECRUITMENT in our forthcoming book.) The NYTimes article links to Dayton's amazing immigrant-friendly website, Welcome Dayton, which "promotes immigrant integration into the greater Dayton region by encouraging business and economic development; providing access to education, government, health and social services; ensuring equity in the justice system; and promoting an appreciation of arts and culture." Go Dayton!  

Here's a depressing story from Pro Publica about an unfortunate trend, namely, as the headline bluntly puts it, "Public Universities Ramp[ing] Up Aid for the Wealthy, Leaving the Poor Behind."

Here's a picture of Americans and Mexicans playing volleyball over the border in Arizona. That's all.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that we have been doing a lot of research about beach accessibility. Here's a story about the ridiculous practice of hiring beefy bouncers to check for beach badges. The picture at the top of the article is priceless.

From Atlantic Cities, here's a controversial article about a sociologist's "case for culs-de-sac." Our quick take: it's not surprising that, as the sociologist in question claims, people who live in traditional bulb culs-de-sac "have the highest levels of attitudinal and behavioral cohesion," and that "people who live on your average residential through-street have the lowest levels." But this doesn't make a case for the cul-de-sac. The article describes how the sociologist encountered the social cohesion of culs-de-sac when he "wandered into one in Connecticut with his clipboard and polo shirt, and someone called the cops," something that never happened on the other types of streets he was studying, where "it would turn out the neighbors didn't know each other as well, and it was less clear who 'belonged.'" This is the problem! Overfamiliarity can breed exclusion. We're reminded of a line from our pal Jerry Frug's book City Making: "suburb after suburb and neighborhood after neighborhood are organized in terms of a multitude of ‘we’ feelings, each of which defines itself in opposition to outsiders."