Kaid Benfield Archive


Some of my favorites write (very good) open letters to Barack

Kaid Benfield

Posted December 11, 2008 at 1:22PM

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The new issue of New Urban News has a great feature in which six leaders of smart growth and new urbanism express their wishes for the new administration.  Excerpts from some of my favorites below, with links:

John Norquist:

"The design of our built environment leaves millions of Americans with no choice but to use their cars to get everywhere. When prices spiked, some families took food off their tables or clothes off their backs in order to put gas in their tanks. Others lost the roofs over their heads. The Driven to the Brink report by Joe Cortright for CEOS for Cities concluded that pressures of this type burst the housing bubble and set off a wave of exurban foreclosures.

"As you have noted in your energy platform, too many of our land-use decisions and development patterns 'are organized around the principle of cheap gasoline.' Too many of our transportation dollars go to 'serving drivers' alone instead of making it 'easier for us to walk, bicycle and access transportation alternatives.' If we wind up in this same vulnerable position when fuel prices soar again, we will fail at one of the biggest challenges before us.

"The good news is that there are policies that will address our nation's short-term needs while advancing our long-term competitiveness and national well-being. Replacing federal practices and policies that promote inefficient sprawl will actually save tax dollars by redirecting investments in far more strategic ways . . ."

Peter Calthorpe:

"Sprawl is increasingly out of sync with today's culture and demographics. It is out of sync with our most profound economic and environmental challenges . . .

" The alternative to sprawl is simple and timely: compact neighborhoods of housing, parks, and schools placed within walking distance of shops, civic services, jobs, and transit - a modern version of the traditional town. This is a strategy that could preserve open space, support transit, reduce auto traffic, and create affordable neighborhoods.

"Applied at the regional scale, a network of such mixed-use neighborhoods could create order in our balkanized metropolis. It could balance inner-city development with suburban investment by organizing growth around expanding transit systems and setting defensible urban limit lines and greenbelts. The increments of infill in each neighborhood would be small, but the aggregate could accommodate regional growth with minimal land consumption, pollution, and traffic . . ."

Shelley Poticha:

"The crises in personal financial security and national economic security, instability in the Middle East, the foreclosure crisis and increasing evidence of climate change - all suggest it's not our parents' reality anymore. And the effect of this new reality, combined with changing demographics and a changing real estate market, is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the northern part of Virginia, the state that for the first time in 44 years helped elect a Democrat as president.

"The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in northern Virginia's Arlington County is transit-oriented development's mother ship, and it illustrates the next iteration of the American dream. Once a declining suburban retail corridor, the neighborhood has densified and urbanized around five closely spaced subway stations, becoming the neighborhood of choice for the young renters and homebuyers who helped turn the state blue. Perhaps no other place illustrates so clearly that the American dream is alive and well but that it's evolving, and that many more changes are in store.

"If the single-family house in the suburbs was the American dream of yore, the loft or townhouse in a walkable neighborhood near high-quality transit responds to today's new reality. More economically and environmentally sustainable, more diverse and lively, neighborhoods like Arlington will go a long way toward setting America on the path to fiscal and environmental sustainability and security . . ."

Other entries are by Geoff Anderson, Chris Leinberger, and Liz Moule, and they are all great.  They come in both short and long versions, too, depending on your preference.  Kudos to Rob Steuteville and his colleagues at NUN for a great feature.  Rob also has his own very pertinent article ("Smart growth agenda may mesh with Obama's"), and I'm not just saying that because I'm quoted in it which, by the way, I just learned when I came to writing this paragraph.  Yes, I'm pleased, thank you very much.

No pictures today.  I've been on deadline and crunched.  But I have some good ones for tomorrow.