Tools and strategies for transition
In a sometimes provocative presentation, Andres Duany, cofounder of the Congress for New Urbanism, told a local audience that to prepare for a better future, we need to go back to the old way of doing things.
"Our wealth as a nation allowed us to become stupid in planning and we separated everything – residential areas, commercial, industrial. Our wealth allowed us to do that for 50 years – but those days are over." Faced with the rising cost of petroleum, climate change and the declining wealth of the country, Duany asserted that we need to go back to walkable communities that don't rely exclusively on the automobile to get around.
Duany proposed two key principles for local planners. First, he recommended developing a "co-design" involvement process – establishing a "sophisticated democracy" through random samples of the community as a whole, rather than participation primarily by interested parties. Part of the process also involves empowering participants through education, he said, stating that "you need to establish and demand a level of expertise among participants." Second, Duany noted that it is almost impossible to change existing code. He advocates developing a parallel system of codes that are optional but highly incentivized. In other words, make it easier for developers to choose new ways of building that are more conducive to good urban planning.
Duany followed opening comments by local experts Laurence Qamar and Michael Mehaffy, members of a joint venture with Duany Plater Zyberk & Co. called DPZ Cascadia Group. Pointing to case studies showing a higher foreclosure rate in suburban areas around the country, Mehaffy stated that the quality and efficiency of development is a key economic issue. Denser development is more sustainable economically and also produces less carbon emissions. Mehaffy pointed to a recent study of centers and corridors by an expert advisory group appointed by Metro that found that national trends favor inner city urban development as more walkable, convenient and affordable, due to reduced transportation costs.
The May 12 event at Metro was the first in a four-part series of presentations.
The series is sponsored by DPZ Cascadia Group: Qamar Architecture and Town Planning, Inc., Structura Naturalis, Inc. and Patrick Condon, senior researcher with the University of British Columbia's Design Centre for Sustainability.