Kaid Benfield Archive


Giving thanks to my fellow smart growth writers and bloggers

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:13PM

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concerned turkey (by: gravityx9, creative commons license)I was going to award another satirical turkey to a deserving entity, as I did last year.  But then I thought better of it:  this is a more optimistic season, and I have decided to go positive and acknowledge some of the great writers and blogs that I read, and turn to for inspiration.  Our format here doesn't allow a sidebar of links for individual posters but, if it did, these are some of the folks who would be on it.

My strongest role models for how I approach writing about this fascinating field of growth, development, and the environment are two newspaper columnists: 

  • First, I have been reading Roger Lewis's "Shaping the City" columns in The Washington Post for over two decades now.  He would probably find the phrase "smart growth" too confining, but he was there way before anyone else I know.  Roger is a bit of a secret, in that his columns appear only biweekly and always on Saturdays, embedded in the middle pages of the Real Estate section.  Readers are unlikely to find them unless they already know about them; so I'm spreading the word.  Roger is always provocative - particularly on regional issues - and is a terrific, amusing illustrator, too.
  • Neal Peirce (by: Citistates)Better known nationally is Neal Peirce, who writes at least weekly and is carried in scores of newspapers across the country.  Neal understands sprawl, urbanism, sustainability and, importantly, politics.  He is with the Citiwire Group, where his columns can be accessed, and lately has begun publishing jointly with other columnists.

Leaving the print media, here are some of my favorite blogs:

  • Rooflines, the blog of the National Housing Institute, which has graciously invited me to post there occasionally.  When I do, I'm in great company, since some of the country's best thinkers on community-building and affordable housing post there.
  • The City Parks Blog, which is co-published by my friends at the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land.  TPL really, really gets the connections between urban places and land, why we need both, and why we need them to be complementary.
  • The amazing Planetizen, sort of a mother lode of high-quality news and commentary about planning.  They just published their list of the year's best planning books, and Neal Peirce is on it.  Last year, I was.  ;)
  • Joe Urban, a self-acknowledged counterpoint to Joe the Plumber.  It is written by the very able Sam Newberg, a frequent writer for the Urban Land Institute and American Planning Association, and he comes up with lots of interesting angles that you might not find on your own.
  • Sprawled Out: The Search for Community in the American Suburb, written by John Michlig.  John explains: "Welcome to Sprawled Out, a blog [that] will accompany my work on a book designed to use my city of Franklin, Wisconsin as an example of the community planning process in modern American cities and towns around the country."  It's a fascinating mixture of the local and the universal.
  • NYC's High Line, as shown by Landscape+Urbanism (by: metropolis, via L&A)Landscape+Urbanism, one of the few blogs that seems just as committed as I am to using images to tell stories.  And their images are frequently spectacular.  The site is beautiful and exceptionally well edited.  As the name implies, it covers trends in landscape architecture and design.  I haven't known this site for long, but I plan to spend much more time with it.
  • Urban Milwaukee, whose Dave Reid has been a frequent commenter here.  (Thanks, Dave.)  The blog gives a great perspective on these issues from the ground up.
  • FourStory, "Fact-based advocacy for affordable housing and accessible transportation."  The blog covers these issues in LA and southern California, yielding another interesting local angle on some of the stories I try to cover from a national perspective.  Tony Chavira of FourStory is an occasional commenter on this blog as well.
  • Two local DC-area blogs, both very good:  Greater Greater Washington, an eclectic take on planning issues in DC, with reference to how developments elsewhere might have an effect on the DC area; and Commuter Page Blog, providing excellent coverage and commentary on transportation issues in the region.
  • I occasionally cruise some green building and sustainable living blogs, too.  Some of the ones I've found and liked, which may be a bit random, include:  Green Building Law, which has occasionally linked to my posts, Dutch EV (via dotcommodity)for which I am grateful; Jetson Green, covering green building products and examples; and dotcommodity, actually more about green technology than green buildings (dotcommodity is another blog with great images).  World Changing is about sustainability writ large, and it is very good.

Finally, I want to salute some of the organizations I am loyal to and whose web sites offer newsy blogs of their own:  These include Smart Growth America, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and Transportation for America.  These guys and women are my everyday professional friends, and they inform my writing in countless ways.

Thanks to all these friends and sources of reflection, commentary, and inspiration.  And Happy Thanksgiving to all.