Gentle density: Making neighborhoods transit-ready

A recently built accessory dwelling in a new urban subdivision in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Source: Mission Heights development. ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    AUG. 30, 2018 Fayetteville, Arkansas, is a rapidly growing city—the largest in Northwest Arkansas, a region with major corporate headquarters including Walmart, and a major research university in the University of Arkansas. Fayetteville is a low-density city with a large supply of single-family houses from the middle of the 20thCentury. Fayetteville has a lot in common, geographically and demographically, with many suburbs nationwide and many other Sunbelt cities. How can Fayetteville become more pedestrian-friendly and mixed-use, and appeal to a growing number … Read more

Housing and Oxnard

Oxnard has a severe housing shortage. Earlier this year SB 827 attempted to help communities build more housing. If the direction of SB 827 is correct the “fixes” relate mostly to zoning that incentives sprawl and makes it almost impossible to build in city cores. I will not go into the failure of SB 827 here but making zoning changes that incentivize the building, making the building of housing easy instead of almost impossible, housing in downtown (Oxnard) was the main thrust of the legislation. Housing will happen eventually. Oxnard is working on Development Standards and Design Guidelines that, if … Read more

Barcelona’s Superblocks: Change the Grid, Change your Neighborhood

Over two years ago, Barcelona set the transportation world aflutter when it announced it would be attempting to reinvent parts of its city by developing a Superblock system by transforming targeted street grids to prioritize people over cars. On selected small street networks large parts of intersections and roadways would be taken back for parks and community gathering. Vehicles would not be banned, but it would redesign the grids so that fast thru-traffic was discouraged thru a series of driving direction changes, street narrowing and speed limits. Thus, almost all vehicles present would be either local residents or people with … Read more

From Vision to Policy, Making New Urbanism Work

“Brilliant podcast on placemaking, public policy, planning departments and the public. I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough.” Editor.   JULY 26, 2018   BY STRONG TOWNS This is our sixth dispatch from the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), which took place in Savannah, Georgia in May. Chuck Marohn attended CNU and hosted a series of in-depth podcast conversations about some of the most pressing topics for cities today, with leaders, thinkers, and activists in a whole range of fields. Now we’re bringing those podcasts to your ears throughout the summer. In this episode, Susan Henderson (principal and director of design at Placemakers), Hazel Borys … Read more

The Copious Capacity of Street Grids

The Commons in Downtown Ithaca. Wikimedia Commons Historic street grids can handle greater traffic of all kinds—so why aren’t we building more of them? ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    JUN. 28, 2018 As far as I have been able to determine, no one has ever scientifically compared the capacity of historic street grids with modern road systems. If they did, this comparison is well hidden—which is amazing because the US has invested trillions of dollars on automobile-oriented street networks on the principle that these networks have greater ability to handle motor vehicles. On the contrary, I propose that historic street grids have greater capacity … Read more

Why Street Grids Have More Capacity

The greater choice offered by well-connected street networks leads to more capacity and efficiency, according to pioneering smart growth engineer Walter Kulash. ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    JUL. 31, 2018 I recently posted “The copious capacity of street grids” making the case that traditional street networks are not just better for walking, biking, and livability, but also offer far greater vehicle capacity. In the comment section, somebody posted a link to a long-forgotten talk by Walter Kulash. Walter Kulash was the original traffic engineer who promoted walkable urbanism. In a presentation to the “Annual Pedestrian Conference” in 1990, Kulash explains the virtues of “Traditional Neighborhood Development,” then a nascent … Read more

Mapping The Effects Of California’s Prop 13

JULY 23, 2018  BY CONNOR NIELSEN 40 years ago this summer, voters in California approved Proposition 13, a law that initiated sweeping changes to the California property tax system and permanently re-shaped the dynamics of property ownership in the state. Prop 13 is known in California and beyond as the rule that protects low-income, elderly property owners from being priced out of their own neighborhoods. It also means that recent home buyers provide an outsized proportion of local taxes, often paying taxes magnitudes higher than their neighbor for almost the exact same house. These effects are well known. But given the complexity and … Read more

Making Cities More Dense Always Sparks Resistance. Here’s How To Overcome It.

“NIMBYs are not necessarily the problem. They are behaving normally for humans. The problem is politicians and other decision-makers who know better, who don’t do the right thing because of NIMBY fear. If you’ve had a long process, heard from thousands of people, investigated and understood the technical issues, know your aspirations as a city, and you let 10 or 15 individuals at the last minute show up at council and turn it down? I don’t blame those 15 individuals, I blame the leaders.”   Urbanist Brent Toderian on how to deal with NIMBY [Not In My Backyard]. By David Roberts@drvoxdavid@vox.com  Updated May … Read more

What Does It Mean To Build A Vibrant Community?

JULY 12, 2018  BY STRONG TOWNS “Our country was built on place, built on neighbors, built on people helping each other… I think people are yearning for that again and that’s what a downtown does.”— Quint Studer Quint Studer is the founder of the Studer Community Institute, a nonprofit organization in Pensacola, FL focused on improving the community’s quality of life and moving Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties forward. He is a businessman, visionary, entrepreneur and Strong Towns member. His new book is Building A Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America. In this engaging conversation, Chuck Marohn and Quint Studer discuss: … Read more

Twelve Steps of Sprawl Recovery

Image courtesy of the Village of Providence Twelve steps of sprawl recovery In communities across America sprawl is giving way to more diverse places. Here are a dozen keys to that trend. STEVE MOUZON    FEB. 13, 2018 The storm clouds of sprawl addiction had been gathering for years, but it took the Meltdown and the ensuing Great Recession to make it clear just how damaging that addiction had been to the health of cities across the US and abroad. Sprawl has two really big things going for it, but three even bigger things now going against it which are poised to … Read more