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.Unlike in the US, the UK doesn't require sprinklers in residential tower buildings.
-- Ronnie King, Member of Parliament, a former chief fire officer and secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety
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.So the point about evidence and experience mattering but being ignored resonates.
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.
This was the cover page of yesterday's edition of Canada's National Post.