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