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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Quote of the day: on what compels changes in law and regulation

From "Revealed: the tower block fire warnings that ministers ignored," a Guardian story about the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea:
“They seem to need a disaster to change regulations, rather than evidence and experience.

-- Ronnie King, Member of Parliament, a former chief fire officer and secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety
Unlike in the US, the UK doesn't require sprinklers in residential tower buildings.

Interestingly/1, I happened to come across a recent issue of Fire Protection, the magazine of the National Fire Protection Association, the professional standards and training organization. There are interesting articles there, including about how various incidents identify gaps in regulation and practice.

Interestingly/2, yesterday morning I got into an private email debate related to a historic preservation matter and the reality that individual houses under threat of demolition generally don't rise to the level of a historic landmark, so filing a nomination ultimately won't save such properties.

Someone sent me an email, criticizing me for being negative--I had responded on the HistoricWashington e-list concerning a matter in Bloomingdale. I responded to the email thusly:
It's not negative, it's focused on achieving the outcome you desire. If you submit a landmark nomination and lose, and knowing going in you have a less than 20% chance of winning, you've wasted hundreds of hours of time.

Better to focus your energies on ways you can win and achieve the outcomes you want.

Better to identify the need for remedies when they don't exist, as a way to move necessary structural changes forward.

It's also based on experience, going through a similar process -- trying to save pre-1877 frame rowhouses in the H St. neighborhood, filing a landmark nomination, and losing, because the houses didn't rise to the level of significance of an individual landmark, despite some famous associations [...].

Based on that experience, I (1) focus on identifying the structural changes necessary to achieve the outcomes we want and (2) don't file individual nominations for "single houses" when hundreds of other examples exist.

You can read the staff report on that particular case, but they use comparable language in other such cases. E.g. the Grant Circle house matter ("Historic Preservation Tuesday: 16 Grant Circle and the landscape of DC's avenues and circles as an element of the city's identity" and "Historic Preservation Tuesday: Grant Circle Historic District nomination, Thursday April 2nd").

They lost. So they moved to landmark a district, with all the buildings facing the circle.

You may recall I said the same thing then, that the individual landmark nomination wouldn't be sustained, and they followed my recommendation of seeking a district nomination, for which they were successful. But at the cost of the first house.

FWIW/1: there is the line that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

FWIW/2, there is the line from Bismarck -- fools learn from experience, I prefer to profit from the experience of others.

Learn from the experience of people like me in failing to achieve landmark status for individual houses threatened by developers "arbitraging" the mass and density maximums that are allowable which differ from those typical of the time when the houses were constructed.

If we know that an individual landmark nomination won't sustain, then we need other options, which we currently do not have.

Which is why I'll be submitting some comp plan amendments, which won't pass but need to be out there, on mandatory design review and demolition protection.

... issues I've been raising for more than 10 years.
So the point about evidence and experience mattering but being ignored resonates.

This was the cover page of yesterday's edition of Canada's National Post.
National Post (Canada) Front Page, 6/17/2017, on the Grenfell Tower fire

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At 11:37 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I'd just point out the horrible fire on Riggs place off of 16th in DC, two people died.

As I keep on saying, the problem with "affordability" isn't price. People with no incomes shouldn't be living in expensive cities. People with moderate incomes can be by here but not in the more expensive areas.

The real scandal is how bad market rate units are. The riggs place was an example. zero outrage.

Being renovated as luxury condos as we speak.

The various "sustainability" goals being favored by a global class clearly a role in London.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

the rough equivalent of the Riggs Place housing is lean to's, sheds, etc. in the backyards of London lots.

Yes, interesting point about "sustainability." Interesting that they'd focus on that and not safety from fire (i.e., no sprinklers, one exit stairway, that ended up getting compromised by other changes, etc.).

It's interesting that smaller towns like Hyattsville and Royal Oak Michigan have a serious code/inspection regime for rental housing.

Years ago I was at my brother's in Royal Oak, when the inspector came by.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt the cited blog entry, yep. I wrote about that sort of when Trump got elected, how it would enable the Republicans in both houses to do terrible things, which they are doing, with health care, environmental regulations, financial regulations, etc.

There was an op ed by a Heritage Action person about how the ACA isn't mean, that it enables states rights. Why is it they are for states rights to do terrible things and not to do "good" things like regulation, expanding health care access, etc.?

2. wrt the entry, I was surprised that Corbyn was "in your face" during the election with the impact of Home Office cuts on police vis a vis "terrorism."

It really hit home that austerity budgeting cutbacks on the localities had serious consequences.

Similarly, Simon Wren Lewis wrote last year (mainly macro blog) about the flood related deaths and how that was a result of national govt. cuts in flood preparation and response. Again, a result of austerity.

3. Besides the real reality of the Trump victory being a counterattack by white people (like the White Counter Revolution in Russia/Civil War; and the piece I wrote in 2005 about Marion Barry, Kwame Brown, and Vincent Gray getting elected as a kind of black counterattack to the changing political situation), I wonder if the Trump victory was comparable to the Brexit result.

With Brexit, the Conservatives, abetted by conservative media/media owners with another agenda, successfully shifted blame for austerity to the EU, even though it had nothing to do with EU or immigration.

Maybe the recent election, post-Brexit was the beginning of a wake up on austerity and who is to blame.

I have been wondering if part of Trump's victory is a response to US austerity, differentiated benefits from the economy and blaming the Democrats for this, rather than the Republicans, who more than anything helped it along, albeit with plenty of help from market economy-market government (neoliberalism) folks among the Democrats.

... it's just that at the peak of this, people generally did better, even though it was setting the stage for big winners and big losers.

Obama could have done more, but was stymied by the Republicans, which have adopted a serious austerity program not dissimilar from that of the UK.

In the 2015 election, Labour went along with austerity, couldn't get a good message together as the Conservatives successfully positioned austerity as a necessary course correction in response to Labour profligacy.

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

yes, good call on the sprinters vs. insulation issue.

That said, I fall on the insulation issue. Look at the pictures. The fire spread outside.

Stumbling and Mumbling a good source. He is a marxist, for whatever that means these days.

I saw a good quote from Philip K. Dick -- something to the effect that reality is what is left when the dreams go away.

Not sure what you mean by the Riggs example. Solid building -- no fire alarms, no sprinters, no anything. Not a lean to -- a very solid early 20th century stone structure. I was really thinking the "YESISMYBACKYARD" or whatever they called them would jump on it.

No idea on Brexit/Trump; I do know that my five UK relatives -- all Asian Indian voted for it. They are sick of dealing with Romanians at the hospital. They worked hard to be in the UK - the new eastern europeans did not. Not sure if that is racism or not. I'd say, as Dick did, that reality is a bit stranger than we thought.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, yes Riggs Place building different from the shed in a London backyard. I meant more about slapdash ownership, the jury rigging of multiple units, more like a rooming house. Because it was super well located, people were less concerned about things like smoke alarms.

WRT your relatives ... that's a tough one. When I did that series of EU related articles, I was really impressed with the various EU INTERREG programs designed to "improve" eastern areas, with the aim of giving people a sound economy and work opportunities "at home," to "discourage" migration west. It's true that the UK has probably borne the brunt of that kind of migration.

But while it is/was a great program, revitalization works on such long time frames that it hasn't had the intended impact. (E.g., think of the modern wave of H Street improvement as a 15 year process, and that's within an existing development and market context, less than a couple miles from a major Downtown, etc.)

Obviously I am not there but there are at least four things at least going on:

- the destabilization in Africa and in the Slavic countries pushing illegal immigration to Europe

- and the EU's treating that as "regular immigration" not needing special treatment and the overwhelming impact on countries like Italy and Greece where people arrive first (The EU needed to set up and fund an "EU" response).

- immigration from the east to the west of Europe, and the imbalance of it vis a vis the UK

- considering the need for "internal controls," and a differentiation from free movement between the countries vs. free to live anywhere, because of the differentiated impact.

The EU ought to have thought about and wrestled with those issues and didn't really. At the same time the UK was not particularly articulate about its concerns in a way that may have potentially resonated with the other members.

But the UK is complicated too because of the Commonwealth and the rights to immigrate to the UK vs. the EU immigration rights. I could understand why your relatives have some resentment but perhaps it is somewhat misplaced. They are different processes.

- France too has some real issues with immigration from North Africa, it has for a long time, but they have only been accelerated as a result of the Arab Spring destabilization.

The crazy thing is besides global warming impacting middle Africa which is driving destabilization there pushing migration northward, basically the Iraq War brought about most of the destabilization in the Mideast and the EU is bearing the brunt of the impact both through illegal immigration and stressing both the EU and the politics within individual countries.

People are reacting. Maybe the wrong way. But they are reacting. And in part some are overwhelmed.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I guess that calling the eastern countries Slavic isn't exactly right. I was thinking of the former SSRs too.

But then you have the ongoing Islam-Christian battle in some countries (like Bosnia and Serbia) and the Islam- government battles in places like Chechnya. The self-determination "arguments" that become wars.


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