Wednesday, April 7

What is centralized planning anyway?

According to Carrión, smart planning involves a combination of walkable communities, mass transit, and bicycle paths, and who could argue with that, except that in the last 40 years, our faith in centralized city planning has changed radically. In short, we've lost it."
Planning as a discipline is used to shouldering frequent attacks from libertarians and property rights activists, but

Bus Images used from DragoArt

Our success will be that we encourage local communities to steer their way into the future in smarter ways, that local municipalities understand that they are part of a new complex of regional economies or metropolitan areas, and that they have shared destinies."
I don't see any muscular nationalism here at all, at least nothing reminiscent of the disastrous urban renewal days. All I see is a national interest in strong cities and the goal to help facilitate smart planning among communities.
"The purpose is to go and identify and amplify those creative solutions that communities have come up with."
Sounds more like a cheerleader than the quarterback. Characterizing this posture as too strong of a federal role is simply swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction.

Rob Goodspeed redirects question in more fruitful direction,
"The more interesting and accurate conclusion to draw from the failures of modernist city planning is to consider which forms of government planning are still active and desirable. In this sense, Rybczynski’s article is a bit behind the times. The tremendous interest in high speed rail, urban transit, green building codes, the government’s role in wind power and broadband, and housing finance regulation has reminded us of the central role of government in shaping our cities."

1 comment:

epar said...

I too was frustrated by Rybczynski's article. Yet I think you're being a little to charitable when you say he's confused about possible interpretations of his writing and not about his own thinking per se. His "important lesson" that urban development should not be implemented by the public sector alone isn't helpful at all. For example, lots of urban renewal era commercial buildings were privately financed and developed with land publicly acquired and cleared. I'm sure Rybczynski would rail against that type of process today, but it certainly represented a collaboration between public agencies and private developers. Nor does he explain how the process of HOPE VI development is any different than traditional public housing - only that the outcome is more in line with in vogue planning principles. He never points out how his list of successful approaches to city building conflict with what the Administration is proposing. But why would he, when he only spends three sentences attempting to describe the new federal policy to begin with! It's really disappointing to see such lazy writing come from the author of The Last Harvest.