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.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Feedspot ranks Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space blog a Top 100 Urban Planning Blog/Website

While my writing production is down significantly compared to earlier times--

(1) I figure a lot of the time I've already written about particular topics and as the Talking Heads sang in the song "Psychokiller," "say something once, why say it again?"

(the crazy thing is sometimes when I am looking up backfile pieces and I come across stuff I have no recollection of writing and I am surprised at how good some of the writing is)

(2) because of that I set a much higher expectation for what I write now, and so each piece typically is much more involved and detailed and takes a lot longer to research and write

(3) meaning I write less and/or have many many unfinished written or outlined pieces

I have been blogging regularly since February 2005 (I started the blog in November 2004 but then I didn't write anything) and have more than 10,000 entries, with thousands of photos--many not my own--and millions of words.

It's always nice to be recognized, which the aggregator Feedspot does, in naming this blog one of the Top 100 Urban Planning blogs and websites.

Since many of the blogs/websites listed are produced by organizations and/or more than one person, it's heady company.

Plus the list is somewhat international, not limited to the United States or the English language.

Being ranked #64 isn't so bad.

Jarrett Walker/Human Transit is ranked #12; Aaron Renn/Urbanophile is ranked #19, and Gordon Price/Price Tags #43.

It's definitely august company!



At 2:11 PM, Anonymous charlie said...


GGwash not on the list at all.

What I really hate is when I'm looking at some issue and realize that this is what Richard has been harping on for years.

For instance I often criticize your best practices model, but am realizing the problem at the ANC level is lack of best practices.

really annoying.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

the lack of best practices or my being "ahead of the curve."

... it's very frustrating for me when I suggest doing something, and then 6-8 years later, DC does it.

Should I be critical that it took so long, or happy that they are doing it.

wrt GGW, I think it's a great accomplishment achieving a group blog. And before the comments change, the comments were really useful as a majority of the people have great insights, etc.

But I don't think the writing pushes the envelope very much. And they definitely aren't interested or clued into the need for building robust frameworks for practice.

I say there is a fine line between whining and critical analysis.

I don't think that people have to be able to offer a solution in order to have "the privilege" to criticize. Identifying problems is a separate skill from identifying solutions.

But constantly describing the same kinds of problems over and over again, or discussing something without putting it in its proper context (e.g., that there is a climbing lane on 14th St. towards Columbia Heights but not a lane westbound shows ignorance of why you have climbing lanes) gets tiresome.

So when it is put out there/positioned as the region's "go to" blog on urbanism, I find it disappointing, since it doesn't do a good job of moving discourse and practice forward.

Not that I can expect the average person to want the high level approach that I offer instead.

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Well that is my critique of best practices -- urban planning seems a highly derivative field where everyone just copies each other -- let's build a Guggenheim ! -- rather than thinking about frameworks.

So people 6-7 years ahead of the curve isn't so helpful.

There is a great reward in creating shared spaces (Creative Class! New Urbanism! Smart Growth!) but not sure how much value in any of those frameworks.

(So run with the Big Hairy Project thing!)

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

f*ing disappointed there. Had a meeting in MoCo... it didn't go the way I would have liked. Still will get to push, maybe, one of the elements.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

the thing though about being 6-8 years ahead, there is value, because most people instead are 5-15 years behind.

+ those kinds of understandings end up seeding deeper understandings and conceptual breakthroughs too.

E.g. the "sustainable mobility platform" I've finally made congruent (Monday's bike riding contributed...). The transit shed is the organizing framework for the transit mode, while the mobility shed, focused around transit stations, is cross-cutting across modes.

But each mode/sub-component (e.g., railroad, heavy rail, long range bus, streetcar, local bus, shuttle) has its shed and organizing framework too.

The value in sustainable mobility is in "the network of the services" or the "product-service chain." (Unfortunately each provider tends to not look at the world like this.)

But all that thinking started with my reading the definition of the primary and secondary transit network in the Arlington Master Transportation Plan, and I just kept building on it, first in the concept of mass transit planning at the metropolitan scale and then taking it outward, then adding modes.

When you think about it, it's been developing over 12-13 years.

While some of the comments in GGW (not just yours there, others too) have seeded new understandings for me in transformational ways, I don't feel that way very often about reading a piece there, except that a lot of my writing is reactive, reacting "against" someone else's argument that I disagree with or find wanting, so there is value to that.

5:31 PM Delete

At 4:39 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Speaking of "a" Guggenheim... in the series of pieces I did on EU cities, people from Bilbao said I really captured their revitalization process. It was a lot more than getting a Guggenheim. For them, the opportunity fit into a framework and process and vision that they had already created. Although getting the Guggenheim accelerated the velocity and took them to another level.

(In a local example, not unlike how Joe Englert choosing to "pioneer and homestead" H Street NE significantly repositioned the street and its commercial opportunities while accelerating by 5-10 years its improvement.)

But yes, the other cities that aimed to create the equivalent of a Guggenheim didn't really understand at a deep level what happened in Bilbao was part of a bigger, deeper process and commitment, and how it was part of a series of infrastructural and cultural improvements.

Ah, it was a "Transformational Projects Action Plan" too.

At 4:40 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

But they did one offs and then wondered why it didn't work "like it did in Bilbao."

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous rg said...

Congratulations! Well deserved.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

yes, or your purple line framework.

(Not really DC as we are very much a beta-world city, but suggestive).

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... um, about ANCs and best practice, if anything that's a dependent variable, a symptom.

There are three main failures: (1) not providing significant infrastructure -- technical assistance, training, other support; (2) minimal funds and generally no office support or space; and (3) failing to consider ANCs as a network at the ward and city-wide scale, and sharing and building knowledge across the whole.

One of the things cool about testifying at Council hearings is meeting "other activists" that you've heard of/come across, etc. over the years, and talking with them.

That should be happening with ANCs.

So without all that, no wonder so many Commissioners and ANCs don't function that well.

2. Then there is the issue of time required. I think many ANCs probably should meet twice a month, plus be on at least one committee.

That's a lot of time. I think they should get small stipends, depending on how many main meetings, maybe $500/month or a little more.

3. Speaking of ANCs as a network, the same thing goes for the city and basic operational functions of ANCs. E.g., each ANC shouldn't have to create a bank account at a local bank, the city should be providing that function, with each ANC treasurer etc. responsible for dealing with the actual transactions.

You've suggested adding community service functions to ANCs.

That's another element, but there would need to be way more capacity and technical assistance than currently exists.

In my hopper of pieces to write is a rearticulation of the tax stream in four tranches: general; transportation; parks; and neighborhoods.

The neighborhood tranche would function in part like a neighborhood residential main street program (like Pennsylvania's "Elm Street" program) and the "Green Benefits District" model from SF. A focus on placemaking, community development, clean and safe (public space management).

... alternatively, Montreal and other cities in Europe are organized as center city + boroughs and the boroughs (not unlike our wards) provide sub-city services, run local transportation policy at the borough scale, etc.

I don't think that level of subsidiarity would work in DC. We're small already as we've discussed.

But putting some responsibilities on ANCs could be a good thing.


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