Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sacramento neighborhood fights approval of a McDonalds: historical antecedents

The modern historic preservation movement, focused on neighborhood and community stabilization and revitalization as opposed to the preservation of buildings and sites associated with highly significant events and people (like the preservation of Mount Vernon, the estate of the nation's first president, or Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson), actually started in part as a response to the insertion of gasoline service stations into neighborhoods.

Sure, these days we think those stations are cool, but in the late 1920s, at least some people in Charleston, SC, including Susan Pringle Frost, didn't feel similarly.

I argue that the point of planning and zoning is to generate outcomes that improve quality of life, and when those outcomes are not in fact positive (especially routinely), it's an indicator that the planning processes and regulations are flawed.

More and more lately, I have come to the realization that many planning processes (we could call them "unplanning" processes) and zoning regulations aren't in fact centered upon maintaining quality of life in neighborhoods.  Certainly, if you want to preserve walkable neighborhoods, you ought to not ever approve drive-in retail and restaurant facilities, because drive-ins are one more instance of shifting the mobility paradigm to the automobile and away from walking.

Photo: José Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee.
The vacant lot where a McDonald's restaurant could be built in Oak Park is across from the UC Davis Obesity Clinic.

Read more here:
Residents in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood, a place that has revitalization and health, wellness, and obesity issues, is fighting the potential approval for a drive in McDonalds.  See "Oak Park neighbors fight City Hall -- and fast-food franchise" from the Sacramento Bee.

Neighborhood stabilization objectives ought to shape local planning and zoning regulations in ways that support rather than hinder revitalization.  

It makes sense that residents concerned about the stability of their neighborhood, physically in terms of the built environment, spatially in terms of how people get around, as well as in terms of individual health and well being, are likely to be opposed to both drive-ins (although again, like we think old gas stations are cool, this can also be the case for "historic" drive ins, like the old Hot Shoppes or Dick's Drive Ins in Seattle, or the Daly Drive Ins in suburban Detroit, etc.) and fast food restaurants.

We could think of this as an extension of the planning principles that have undergirded the preservation movement for more than 80 years.

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