Planners Network

My interest in the Planners Network ADPSR. ACD, SFI/Design Corps, and OAC in a brief who am I introduction with a plan of action seeking coordination with others on strategy.


Most of my city planning experience was about creating new land uses and changing the rules if needed. I helped to design and build many vest-pocket parks when Lindsay was mayor. (Yes, that old.) The city was littered with demolished building sites. Mostly, I remember the lawsuits paved with that good intention.

I also sustained old land uses. My favorite was writing the first historic structures report that contributed to the Weeksville Society’s preservation of three historic structures and constructing a multi-million dollar cultural center. Over the years, and with CDBG funding, I learned a great deal and wound up teaching a Historic Preservation Planning studio with former Landmarks Commissioner, Gene Norman.

The Brooklyn Sports Study resulted in the Cyclone minor league baseball stadium and significant new investment in Coney Island, a good place to play. It also left one of the sites I identified wide open for the rusty toaster, aka the Barclay Arena.

From major league sports to neighborhood commercial centers, the small business world contributes a source of community leadership that is naturally conservative and a source for gaining important perceptions. I enjoyed my predictive analysis of Myrtle Avenue’s future hugely as most of it came true. My last market analysis project on Malcolm X Avenue in Bed-Stuy is still dead because CPC’s zoning work ignored the miracle occurring on Throop. Access to more of my general BS is here

Resistance to change from communities is one of NYC’s most creative forces, perhaps the world. It helps create a basis for negotiations. A good example is when homes were taken in Brooklyn’s Northside for the “promise of” jobs, the fight was about replacing the homes lost. Replacing non-conforming but continuous use structures was a difficult argument. The mixed-use zoning law solution that came of it made Coney Island Mixed-Use District easy. Resistance in one community can contribute to many others’ success, but the jobs-housing ratio issue is the major lesson. The homes leveraged in Northside are still there, the jobs promised have come and gone, but new jobs are there, and the nondisplaced remain with equity to take them with a history of the power of resistance.

Network Regionally

I want to enjoy some added national and regional reflection on housing with Planners’ Network, ADPSR, ACD, and SFI because they are national membership organizations with a long history. The transformation of AFH into an Open Architecture Collaborative to sustain its global “open license” environment is another important institutional membership lesson. Social change movements see success when system change principles sharpen them. The measure for success was written best in the Port Heron Manifesto a half-century ago. It is a statement about the values and principles of participatory democracy (my take is here).

All these groups can do a much better job of communicating on common ground issues. I think a strong focus on the jobs/housing contract by region is the way to get that ball rolling. It is either that or a sad response to the only higher priority — food and water.

This is because of one thing Conor Dougherty said. His book Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, where the housing shortage is dire makes a great point that stuck with me — “Every problem is a housing problem.” I understand why this mild exaggeration makes a great point. Even though his stories are about the Bay Area Renter’s Foundation (BARF) he describes a national problem. We need local, state, and federal initiatives to create lots and lots of housing, with a strategy for affordability and in that order. You can’t make the fight for an affordable apartment/condo until it exists and it will not exist until there are lots at a market rate documented (here) in the German study. This ain’t the USA, but new housing supply developers there, lower rents throughout the rent distribution, shortly after the new units are completed. After that, and everyone should know this, it only about the cost of money.

I connected this to the “insights” outlined in the Geography of Jobs by the CPC metro office (here), to his jobs per housing unit observations in San Francisco at four to one. View and download the Geography of Jobs data (here). Sample charts below.

Every problem is a housing problem

The tri-state metropolitan region is covered in layers of governance. The region’s 3E growth problems have divided the management of shared natural resources and infrastructure into political chunks. Not good. The regional planning environment needs new and aggressive leadership to search for a more equitable metropolitan, multi-state future by untangling these layers and borders.

  1. Planners Network is Regional
    1. City Planning Metro Office
    2. Furman Center on Regional Displacement
    3. Community Land Trusts (here)
  2. Zoning GHG/NYC Energy Conservation Code
    1. Green Zone PDF (here)
    1. Ten years since the council approved
    2. Find reports measure progress
  3. Biden’s $640 billion housing plan was dropped in February – why?
    1. It is well-established community development legislation.
    2. Provides for financial assistance to buy or rent w/down payment assistance
    3. It had refundable and advanceable tax credits & full funding of federal rental assistance

The above is how I would write the PN four-year action plan (Biden and NYC) tuned regionally to the job/unit relationship. I am not in the position to do that, and I will have to wait to see if one. I will also do the same for the other membership organizations with a social justice agenda. The assumption is I will find common ground and that I will be able to compare things like mission statements and multiple year goal/action plans that reflect their memberships. I could be wrong, but wtf – won’t know until I look.

ADPSR continues to succeed on moral issues with the national AIA and it is growing in membership. ACD has its roots in a 1968 national conference of the AIA and has now become an empowerment vehicle for women-owned architecture firms with an interest in public service. Structures for Inclusion, Design Corps, SEED exhibit the power of networks in Public Interest Architecture training and accountability to social, environmental and economic change. One could say Sambo Mockbee’s Auburn University Rural Studio program in Hale County, Alabama is why it all came to be. Great design comes from a large heart, not a big bank account.

The final group of some interest (Architecture for Humanity) is a study in the pain involved in the attempt to produce a nonprofit architecture program. Health professionals have them, lawyers do, but engineers and architects remain closed to the idea of a national progressive movement in place making. Desipie basic mistakes in fund management Humanity became the Open Architecture Collaborative and continue to develop educational programming for designers and architects.

The placemaking idea by planners, designers and architects remains strong in the desire to inspire ownership and civic engagement by providing design leadership to traditionally marginalized communities as well as the 98% of the population that are held at arms length in the shaping of the places where they will live and work. It seems to a growing number of professionals that there is something wrong in sustaining a system that encourages place-ignorance.

Vote Splitting

There are so many political scientists around lately that I asked a friend if they ever manage to amass a small fortune. He said, “Well, you have to start with a large one and know when to stop. That said, if you ever must get rid of one at your door, just pay for the pizza.” Still, I have decided to command everyone near and far to do one thing despite all this silliness. STOP SPLITTING YOUR VOTE! If you need persuasion, I suggest reading:

  1. Why Americans Split Their Tickets, Barry C. Burden and David C. Kimbal and
  2. No Middle Ground How, Seth E. Masket

Why?

Political scientists determined to address election problems afflicting Americans give three points of view. First, the preference of Americans for a divided government is no longer a mandate for compromise. Second, the modern-media age falsely sharpens or intentionally blurs party differences to sustain the incumbency advantage. Third, this leaves one and only one thing of concern — the Benjamins for the next election. You can already sense the good and bad of these conditions concerning lections. However, it is time for one party to rise or fall on the vote, and that option alone. The “split tickets” book referenced above is about California. One about New York would be interesting – their methods are transparent. “No Middle” is scary.

Of course, other factors are in a vote for democracy. The main one is how partisanship is thrust on political leaders by actors outside the government to manipulate elections, especially primaries. The number of informal party-based organizations also contribute to polarized legislatures. I believe political leaders would prefer pragmatism to partisanship if voters had a way to give them that opportunity – ranked-choice voting is one. Maybe it solves the “split” problem in every election. Similar sophistication is needed to re-establish the vote as a device that reduces conflict. The interest now seems to create conflict. I am all ears on adding ideas there. See voting reform story (here) from City & State New York

Of course, the ideological positions of candidates still matter in American elections. Political parties have gained strength in state and national governments. Still, due to the false premise of compromise, the harmful effects remain among the three equal branches in local, state, and federal governments. It is time to say, “I solemnly affirm to pick one party, and only one party, so help me, God.” This leaves one central question.

I would leave a final judgment to historians. Yet, when this control occurs across the three-branch system, I see a thriving belief in Democracy because things can get done and evaluated. I offer the following modern examples:

  • 1927-1933, Republicans controlled all three branches of the government when Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the White House.
  • 1937-1945, Democrats controlled all three government branches during the administrations of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
  • 1953-1955, Republicans held all three branches during the presidency of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, nine senators died, and one resigned. These changes shifted the balance of power in the Senate with each new replacement, according to the U.S. Senate website.
  • 1961-1969, Democrats controlled all three branches during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Then it gets politically complicated, and not in a good way. During the last half-century, wealth has flowed exponentially to the top, leading to a growing sense of irresponsibility, if not outright confusion in their use of that power. The last time one party held all the chambers.

  • 2001-2007, Republicans held all three with interruptions. From 2001-2003 the Senate flipped to Democrats as one senator switched party affiliation, and one senator died. The 2002 midterm elections shifted control of the upper chamber to Republicans.

My taxi drove by the U.S. Congress in D.C. and I said, “I wonder how many people work there?” The driver said, “I’d say, less than half.” It was fun to laugh because it reflected a truth about recent political behavior that erodes American belief in its basic institutions. That will be the next post, researching the positions, opinions, and actions.

This post was stimulated by a recent ask of people on the “Indivisible” Map in BK and SI to exchange a few words.

  • Liat Olenick & Lisa Raymond-Tolan – Indivisible Nation BK (Indivisible)
  • Mustafa – Staten Island Women Who March (Facebook)
  • Nidhi Kanna – Staten Island 4 Change (Young Democrats)
  • Adelle McElveen – Indivisible Brooklyn (medium.com)
  • Janet Cardone – Indivisible North Brooklyn (Facebook)
  • Sally McMahon – Fight Back Bay Bridge (Facebook)
  • Reid Curry – New York Congressional Delegation (Facebook)
  • Saul Austerlitz – Brooklyn Resisters (Get Well Saul)
  • Celeste Wright – Indivisible Brooklyn Do or Die (Facebook)