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, August 04, 2019

WTF? Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton

I just got a review copy of the second edition of the Project for Public Spaces publication How to Turn a Place Around: A Placemaking Handbook which is about making great places where people want to be -- to live, work, play, visit, etc.

The book is all the more timely given how there have been three mass killings in about a week -- 3 people dead and 13 injured at the Gilroy California Garlic Festival, 20 people dead and 26 injured at a Walmart connected to a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, and 9 dead and 27 injured in a shooting at the Oregon arts district in Dayton, Ohio ("A week of bloodshed underscores a spate of mass shootings," New York Times).

Being afraid to congregate in public spaces defeats urban and community revitalization.

It defeats community.

The Second Amendment and the right to bear arms
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. 
-- The Second Amendment to the US Constitution
It's so obvious that the conservative refashioning of the Second Amendment as an individual right to bear arms as opposed to a community right embodied within the organization of community protection forces ("militias") isn't working so long not only do people have the right to own guns, but there are few restrictions on such ownership, such as concerning assault weapons, etc.

-- "So You Think You Know the Second Amendment?," The New Yorker, 2012
-- "How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment," POLITICO Magazine
-- "The Heller Decision and What It Means, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Fifth Street is the heart of the Oregon Historic District in Dayton and in 2015 the street was desigated a "Great Place" by the American Planning Association.

What's crazy about this week's killings in Gilroy and Dayton is how quickly the police took down the perpetrator, in both cases in about one minute, and yet there were so many casualties.  Why?  Because they used powerful assault weapons capable of firing many bullets in extremely short periods of time.

Speaking of the imbalance in US political structures, including the Supreme Court, decisions in Citizens United, Heller concerning gun ownership, the recent decision saying federal courts had no standing to hear cases concerning gerrymandering of political districts have had incredibly deleterious impacts on democracy.

Killings in public spaces or near public spaces like a food festival (Gilroy), a retail store (El Paso), or a commercial retail and entertainment district (Dayton) remind me of the status of public spaces in the bad days of cities, including DC in the 1980s and 1990s.

One of the ways to prevent people from using public spaces was to vandalize them. If you break lots of glass bottles on playgrounds, if playground equipment and benches are broken, you can be assured kids won't play there, their parents won't come out, and you can use the spaces for drug dealing and other illicit activities.

Mass killings in public places could have an incredibly negative impact on people's willingness to live in cities and to go out in public.

For a project I hope to work on, yesterday I went to some competitive destinations: DC's Navy Yard; DC's renewed Southwest Waterfront, now called the Wharf District, and the Alexandria Waterfront, where they held a pizza and craft beer festival (although by the time I got there most vendors had sold out and they were pretty much packed up, even though the festival had almost two hours to go).

I can't imagine these spaces full of people if they were fearful of being shot.

But I guess making people afraid as a way to reduce a concern for "community" may be a key Republican political strategy. Fearful people support ideologically charged positions.

Children's play area at the Waterfront Park, Alexandria, Virginia.

Children's play area at the Waterfront Park, Alexandria, Virginia


Alexandria Waterfront boardwalk

I told these people their crabfeast looked awesome and they invited me to join them (District Wharf).

I told these people their crabfeast looked awesome and they invited me to join them

Making s'mores at the outdoor fire pit at District Wharf/Southwest Waterfront, DC

Boardwalk, District Wharf/Southwest Waterfront, DC

Wading pool, Yards Park/Southeast Waterfront/Navy Yard, DC

Wading pool, Yards Park/Southeast Waterfront/Navy Yard, DC

Hanging out at Meridian Hill Park, DC

Hanging out at Meridian Hill Park, DC

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