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.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Electing a Federal Attorney General and a Chief Inspector General | Expanding Democracy

Today's Washington Post reports ("DHS watchdog declined to pursue investigations into Secret Service during Trump administration, documents show") that the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security rejected calls for some investigations of the US Secret Service.  

While the IG said they had limited resources and other priorities, it is also alleged that they didn't want to do the investigations because it would implicate the Trump Administration.

A big problem with the Inspector General process, and this is true of both Democratic and Republican administrations, although Trump took the abuse to new heights ("The internal watchdogs Trump has fired or replaced," CBS News) is that the positions are appointed by the President and the Executive Branch isn't fond of criticism and investigations of what it does ("Congress may not like when Trump fires an inspector general — but it can’t stop him," Federal Times).

Actually this is true at all levels of government.  They don't like oversight.  In fact I wrote about this wrt education test scandals in DC in 2013:

-- "Why inspector generals often don't seek the whole truth..."

For than a decade, I've argued that the Federal Attorney General, to whom reports the Department of Justice, including the FBI, should be popularly elected, because the law and criminal justice system belongs to and derives from "the people," not the President.

-- "Ideally, the Federal Attorney General would be separately elected," 2017

Note though in response, some people argue with justification that this could politicize the legal process and the Department of Justice even more than can occur currently.  

Again, Trump took the politicization of the Department of Justice to new heights, with his chief henchman William Barr, who has always pushed an "Executive Power" agenda ("What to do with an attorney general who disdains justice?," Washington Post).

I have to believe my alternative would be better.  The campaign would definitely raise the profile of law, Constitutional Law, and the federal criminal justice system.

My concept, although just like with locally and state elected Attorney Generals, it's possible this wouldn't work out the way I want it to, is that this would provide an independent check on the abuse of Executive power of the President and the Executive Branch.

What I would do is have this position elected in the off Presidential election cycle, with the idea that this could boost voter turnout in the election cycle that usually suffers a reduction in voting.

Like with the President, there should be a two term limit.

2.  Federal Inspector Generals.  After reading today's article, it occurs to me the same thing should happen with the Inspector General position.  Create a Chief Inspector General and directorate.  Have that person popularly elected, in the off-year election cycle, with a two term limit.

And have all the various Inspector Generals report to the Chief Inspector General, not to their specific agency, and by extension, the President.

-- Association of Inspectors General
-- Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency

The model of oversight would be the various cities that have Public Advocate or Comptroller or similar positions that take their responsibilities for oversight super seriously.

Another model is the California Civil Grand Jury process, where county-specific civil grand juries are appointed for a one year term to investigate local government functioning.  This is a process different from the grand juries convened to consider criminal matters.

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Papers from online conference, "Economists and cities," University of Cambridge

 From the Humanities and Social Change Center, "Economists and Cities", papers thus far:

-- "Economists in the City: Reconsidering the History of Urban Policy Expertise: An Introduction," by Mike Kenny & Cléo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche 

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Philly DA: Independent Lens series, premieres on PBS tonight

One of the post-Michael Brown/Ferguson, Missouri initiatives has been a focus on local prosecution, and the process of criminal justice at the local level.  

In a number of cities, more "progressive" district/prosecuting attorneys have been elected, to reform the criminal justice prosecution system, to make it "more fair," to address "over policing," to reduce the number of prosecutions for low level crimes, to reduce or eliminate the need for bail, to limit the use of policing and criminal justice as a form of "racialized social control," etc.

-- "The New Reformer DAs," American Prospect
-- "The Facts on Progressive Prosecutors," Center for American Progress
-- "With push for progressive D.A.s, elected prosecutors feel the pressure of a changing profession," Los Angeles Times
-- "The progressive prosecutors blazing a new path for the US justice system," Guardian
-- Prosecutors Alliance, association for progressive DAs

Philadelphia, with the election of Larry Krasner as DA in 2017, has been at the forefront of this change ("Larry Krasner’s Campaign to End Mass Incarceration," New Yorker).

And in cities like Philadelphia, New York City ("New York Tried to Get Rid of Bail. Then the Backlash Came," Politico), and San Francisco, there have been serious hiccups, with people released pending trial going on to commit heinous crimes ("Parolee accused of killing 2 pedestrians in S.F. allegedly stole car from date he met on app," San Francisco Chronicle).

Police unions have been vocal opponents, as was the Trump Administration ("The Trump Justice Department’s war on progressive prosecutors, explained," Vox).

The Independent Lens documentary program is featuring an 8-part look, titled "Philly DA," at the changes in Philadelphia under Krasner, which have been met with a fair amount of controversy and opposition.  It happens that he is up for re-election, and he is facing a primary challenge ("Philly DA Larry Krasner and challenger Carlos Vega enter election homestretch as gun violence surges,").

-- "PBS's Fascinating Philly D.A. Poses a Crucial, Timely Question: Can Our Broken Criminal Justice System Really Be Fixed?," Time Magazine

Like with "defund the police," I think the problem is what we might call an "all or nothing" stance.  The reality is that there is crime, and dangerous people.  

The challenge is to limit "mass incarceration" and the criminalization of people by hoovering them up into the criminal justice system through "gateway" crimes like marijuana use (I personally don't favor marijuana use but think that its criminalization has been incredibly harmful, especially to minorities and minority communities), while still aiming for public safety.

But "no bail," a preference for pre-trial release, decriminalization of certain types of nuisance crimes which do have deleterious impact on specific communities ("After crime plummeted in 2020, Baltimore will stop drug, sex prosecutions," Washington Post) can be problematic.

So far we haven't been able as yet to achieve a middle ground.  I guess you could argue that this is the "teething process" and that the process of change is always difficult and sometimes problematic.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

United Mineworkers Union calls for a revitalization/economic development/mitigation program in response to the decline of the coal industry

The Washington Post reports ("Surprise news from the miners union gives Democrats an opening against Trumpism" ) that the United Mine Workers Union, recognizing the decline of fossil fuel production and coal mining specifically, has released a policy paper, Preserving Coal Country, recommending: 
tax credits to incentivize manufacturers to make things like solar panels and wind turbines in areas long dominated by coal. It calls for more federal money to be spent on retraining dislocated miners. 

And it outlines plans for research and development funding to make coal cleaner, facilitate carbon capture and storage, and explore other ways to slow the transition to a decarbonized future, while acknowledging that this transition will happen no matter what.
It's in line with the op-ed written last November by a number of Coal Country mayors, suggesting a midwest Marshall Plan ("Eight mayors: We need a Marshall Plan for Middle America," Washington Post), which led me to write the post, "What should a domestic Marshall Plan/21st Century New Deal look like?," which was nationally focused.

Even if I thought that we need a nation-wide program, that just focusing on coal country isn't enough, it's impressive that these mayors are trying to get federal, state, and local governments focused on planning somewhat proactively to mitigate decline.


The alternative is what happened to cities like Detroit, Flint, and Pittsburgh after economic dislocation in response to industrial closure on a massive scale (although Pittsburgh is reviving because of universities and medical care, but after decades of wrenching change and decline, "For Pittsburgh, There’s Life After Steel," New York Times).

Basically while it is economic-based devastation, it's as if these cities were destroyed by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions -- natural disasters -- the devastation is so severe, long lasting, and has reshaped the community in deep ways.

Interestingly, interests in the steel industry produced a similar paper in 1980, but when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter, the federal government evinced no interest ("Carter's Steel Plan Faces A Dim Future," Washington Post, 1980).  

But even the Carter Administration wasn't prepared to go as far as some of the recommendations ("Lessons from the steel crisis of the 1980s," Conversation).

A train carries coal to Basin Electric Power Co-Op Laramie River Station in Wheatland on Thursday. After a devastating year for the industry, some believe coal could bounce back somewhat in 2021. Cayla Nimmo, Star-Tribune.

Note that the issue isn't just one for miners, but also coal-fired power plants and the surrounding communities, which also suffer economic devastation when the plants close.

Ironically, after I wrote this, there was an episode of "Connected: A Search for Unity" on the PBS World channel, about McDowell County, West Virginia, a once super thriving county when its coal mines were operating, and now pretty destitute, since those mines closed in 1985 ("McDowell County’s grit, camaraderie profiled in nationwide documentary," WVNS-TV).

Interestingly, the mines in McDowell County produced coking coal, which is used as a component of the steel making process, to remove impurities and improve hardness.  So the story of the McDowell County's decline is more part of the story of the steel industry and its decline, more than it is of the coal industry.  To improve its profits, US Steel created an integrated coking coal production operation in the County, which operated until the mid 1980s.

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Housing supply gap for owner occupied houses: 4 million, says Freddie Mac

Recent related entry:

-- "Understanding the DC housing market: demand for urban living, not the construction of new housing, is the driving force"

Again, there's nothing particularly unique about the US "housing crisis."  The problem comes down to not enough housing relative to demand, which is exacerbated by various factors including the fact that the most desirable places are already, for the most part, built out.

And that the preference for single family housing is increasingly difficult to satisfy in the core of metropolitan areas, especially center cities, which have been pretty much built out for decades:

The Wall Street Journal reported ("U.S. Housing Market Is Nearly 4 Million Homes Short of Buyer Demand") on a study ("One of the Most Important Challenges our Industry will Face: The Significant Shortage of Starter Homes") by the mortgage financing entity Freddie Mac estimating the gap in housing supply, which they discuss in two reports:

-- The Housing Supply Shortage: State of the States
-- The Major Challenge of Inadequate U.S. Housing Supply

From the second report: 

... we discussed two main reasons for the lower levels of housing production (relative to population): increase in development costs and shortage of skilled labor. 

 Home building costs encompass the cost of land and regulatory costs. Since 2010, the cost of land has averaged about 23 percent of total home building expenses.1 But in some markets like San Jose, Santa Ana, Oakland, and Los Angeles, land can cost upward of 70 percent of the cost of building a home. Laws and regulations such as local zoning restrictions on lot sizes and building height and open space designations also increase the cost of building a home, in turn reducing the supply of new homes. Regulatory costs increased 29 percent between 2011 and 2016, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates.

The problem of "development costs" is somewhat subtle.  First has to do with the predominate preference.  People want single family houses, ideally centrally located.

Second, in the core of a region, those locations are already built out, usually in ways that didn't use land in efficient ways, at least in terms of having to house a population 1.5 times larger than when most of those places were developed.

Since there isn't much land available, except in commercial areas, and so when it is developed, it is developed primarily as multiunit, and outside of the core of major metropolitan areas, there is still reticence to live in such a housing type.

This produces sprawl, because to buy a single family house, for the most part it is only on the edges of a metropolitan area where the land costs are low enough to build such housing.

Depending on the market, like here in Salt Lake, there is a variant, of jamming in rowhouse type houses in on odd bits of land, often perpendicular to the street, in a way to maximize the number of units that can be produced ("Gentle Infill: Boomtowns Are Making Room for Skinny Homes, Granny Flats, and Other Affordable Housing," Lincoln Land Institute, Infill Design Toolkit, City of Portland).

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National Library Week should probably be National Library Month

I discussed this year's National Library Month last week ("National Library Week, April 4th-10th, 2021").

Vartan Gregorian, the scholar who moved from academic administration to the Presidency of the New York City Public Library (technical it runs the system in Manhattan, Bronx, and Staten Island, while the Queens and Brooklyn library systems are independent), and revitalized it after a long period of decline, died last week ("Vartan Gregorian, Savior of the New York Public Library, Dies at 87," New York Times).  From the article:

... The library faced a $50 million deficit and had no political clout. Its constituencies were scholars, children and citizens who liked to read. The city had cut back so hard that the main branch was closed on Thursdays, and some branches were open only eight hours a week. 

To Dr. Gregorian, the challenge was irresistible. The library was, like him, a victim of insult and humiliation. The problem, as he saw it, was that the institution, headquartered in the magnificent Carrère and Hastings Beaux-Arts pile dedicated by President William Howard Taft in 1911, had come to be seen by New York City’s leaders, and even its citizens, as a dispensable frivolity.

He seemed a dubious savior: a short, pudgy scholar who had spent his entire professional life in academic circles. On the day he met the board, he was a half-hour late, and the trustees were talking about selling prized collections, cutting hours of service and closing some branches. He asked only for time, and offered in return a new vision. 

“The New York Public Library is a New York and national treasure,” he said. “The branch libraries have made lives and saved lives. The New York Public Library is not a luxury. It is an integral part of New York’s social fabric, its culture, its institutions, its media and its scholarly, artistic and ethnic communities. It deserves the city’s respect, appreciation and support. No, the library is not a cost center! It is an investment in the city’s past and future!”

He left that position to become president of Brown University, and later the president of the philanthropic organization, the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The revitalization of the library system and the central library on Bryant Park also set the stage for the resuscitation of Bryant Park.  

I am very much delayed on reviewing the book by Andrew Manshel, Learning from Bryant Park: Revitalizing Cities, Towns, and Public Spaces, on that separate but related process.  Andrew Heiskell, a top official at Time Life, was involved in both.

All hasn't been smooth sailing since he left.  The Library's plans for changes at the central library caused advocates to push back ("Overdue Decision: The New York Public Library shelves a controversial renovation plan," City Journal), and the original plan was changed ("The New York Public Library Unveils Master Plan for Its Iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building," press release).

And the city needs to be pushed to maintain and increase funding ("In Win for Advocates, New York City Libraries Secure $33 Million Funding for FY20," Library Journal).

And a story about the former Mayor of Braddock, John Futterman in Politico ("The Democrats’ Giant Dilemma"), there was a photo of this hand painted sign for Library Street in that community.  
The sign was designed and painted by Anthony Purcell.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

President Biden's Infrastructure Program: Part 1: Homelessness

A few months back, I wrote "What should a domestic Marshall Plan/21st Century New Deal look like?," suggesting a bunch of sectors where focused federal government investment could make a big difference.  

Charlie commented that a key element of the New Deal was moving capital from Wall Street to the nation's interior, which was starved of investment capital in general.  This is a huge point.

So I have started reading some books on the New Deal, right now I'm reading The New Deal: A Modern History by LA Times journalist Michael Hiltzik, and The New Deal and the American West.  

There are plenty of journal and other articles as well, both old and new ("Learning From the New Deal—For the Next Recovery," Atlantic Monthly).

There is a lot of criticism of President Biden's proposed program ("Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan to Rebuild Infrastructure and Reshape the Economy," New York Times, "White House Issues State Infrastructure Grades," US News & World Report), and the planner in me would say that there needs to be more serious planning before moving forward, and innovation.

For example, I wrote a bunch of pieces after Obama was elected, suggesting reorganizing federal agencies to better address urban and rural development issues.

-- "How will Obama relate to the District?"

But reading about the New Deal and taking into account the reality of the Republican response to government generally and Democratic proposals specifically: in effect -- "Can't do.  Won't do.  F*** you" -- it's not possible to do this kind of planning because all it does is provide more time for the opposition to organize.

In such cases, planning makes it easier to stymie.  See various writings on the concept of "vetocracy", e.g., "A few steps to overcome American 'vetocracy"," San Francisco Chronicle.

(Which is tragic because it makes it difficult to develop the necessary support base to help ensure ultimate success for the program.)

And sadly, the way that government works now, it's so hard to create a program to begin with, that there isn't the concept that programs can be improved over time, with experience, because it's almost impossible to get enough votes for a "technical modifications" bill.

The process is very bad.

The Interstate Highway System as a counter example.  By contrast, the process by which the federal government "created" the Interstate Highway system took more than 20 years, and it wasn't because of President Eisenhower's experience as a young military officer.

First, there was the development of technical ideas and a campaign for the idea of highways, in part spurred on by the example of Germany.  For example I have a copy of an issue of Fortune Magazine from 1936, with graphics showing how freeways can be designed.

Second, building on such efforts, and Congressional mandates, in 1939, the Bureau of Public Roads released a plan, Toll Roads and Free Roads, for the Interstate Highway System.

Third, in 1944, Congress authorized but did not appropriate funding for the proposed system subsequently refined (Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944).

Fourth, in 1956, Congress appropriated money to build the system ("Congress Approves the Federal Highway Act," US Senate), recognizing that in those 12 years between authorization and appropriation of funds there was plenty of organizing and lobbying ("Origins of the Interstate System," FHWA).

And this doesn't even count the 25 or so years it took to build the bulk of that system, and funding its maintenance, which is an issue now, both with the failure to increase gasoline excise taxes very much, the effect of inflation on maintenance, funding new projects, and the transition from fossil fuel powered motor vehicles to electric vehicles that don't pay excise taxes on motor fuels.

Biden doesn't have 20+ years to pass an infrastructure bill.  At most he might only have two years.


Homelessness and affordable housing as infrastructure.  So, WRT "homelessness," last week a HUD press release stated that "HUD ANNOUNCES $5 BILLION TO INCREASE AFFORDABLE HOUSING TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS."

But for me, speaking of planning, it sounds more like "same old, same old."  This is the downside of not being able to plan, and having to develop consensus on what to do, when so many different interests have such vastly different opinions and approaches to dealing with the problem.

One key element that is needed is a massive program to build single room occupancy housing in major metropolitan areas, ideally in places with high quality transportation.  At the very least, most major cities need thousands of units of this type of housing, not a few dozen or even hundreds of units,  but thousands.

-- "One of the "solutions" to the crisis of homelessness is a lot more SRO housing," 2017
-- "Another example of the need for social housing organizations to construct social housing at scale," 2019

Granted, I often criticize people for believing the solution to complicated problems is "this one thing."  

I don't believe that building SRO housing is "the one solution that will end homelessness," but lack of such housing, at scale, is a significant reason we have the problem we have.

For the most part, post-war housing and zoning policies made such housing illegal.  Without the right type of housing for a significant segment of the homeless population, obviously it becomes a serious problem.

It will only get worse, because housing will only get more expensive, making it that much more difficult for people on society's margins to be able to get and pay for housing without extranormal public support.

But note, it's not cheap.  

For example, the 148 unit Mark Twain Hotel in Chicago cost $23 million to buy and $20 million to renovate, and ongoing operating subsidies because most of the tenants are extremely low income ("Iconic Mark Twain Hotel Converting to Affordable Housing in Chicago's Gold Coast Historic District," Multifamilybiz, "After nearly $20 million facelift, Near North Side SRO unveiled as affordable housing ‘done right’" Chicago Sun-Times). 

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Baltimore unveils neighborhood-centric pilot cleanup program in Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello | Cleanliness is very important, but not a program in and of itself

from the article in the Baltimore Sun:

Baltimore’s Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhood will be the site of a new pilot program to combat illegal dumping in the city, Mayor Brandon Scott announced Monday. 

The program will use $70,000 in grant money from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and the Department of Housing and Community Development to fund three city positions dedicated to cleaning streets and alleys in the East Baltimore neighborhood. 

The employees, who will be residents of the neighborhood, will also be trained to continue work for the city’s Department of Public Works, Scott said Monday. The program will initially focus on the Tivoly Redevelopment Area and is expected to last for one year. If successful, Scott said, he hopes to deploy it in other city neighborhoods.

Photo from community Facebook page.

Program need and likelihood of success varies according to the state of a neighborhood as a weak or strong market.  When I write entries, I don't always adequately differentiate policy and practice proscriptions according to the state of a community/ neighborhood in terms of it being "distressed, emerging, transitioning, or healthy," which is a form of categorization first outlined by HUD in the 1970s.  

I prefer a seven stage model, with "high" and "low" for the emerging, transitioning, and healthy categories.

I first discussed this in 2007.  The entry "Systematic Neighborhood Engagement" aimed to figure out why streetscape improvements on 8th Street SE in the Barracks Row commercial district on Capitol Hill seem to have extranormal velocity in sparking improvement.

I figured out it was because the commercial district might have lagged, but the residential neighborhood surrounding it was extremely "healthy."  And that the city shouldn't believe that by itself, investments in streetscape would always have the same effect, especially in more distressed neighborhoods.

Systematic neighborhood revitalization planning and programming.  In any case, from the standpoint of both "Broken Windows" theory and systematic programs for neighborhood improvement, 

I think street cleaning programs are find, but they need to be integrated in a broader set of programs and initiatives, as outlined in this series from last summer: -- "The need for a "national" neighborhood stabilization program comparable to the Main Street program for commercial districts: Part I (Overall)"
-- "To be successful, local neighborhood stabilization programs need a packaged set of robust remedies: Part 2"
-- "Creating 'community safety partnership neighborhood management programs as a management and mitigation strategy for public nuisance programs: Part 3 (like homeless shelters)"
-- "A case in Gloucester, Massachusetts as an illustration of the need for systematic neighborhood monitoring and stabilization initiatives: Part 4 (the Curcuru Family)"

If not part of a larger program, it's not likely to have much effect in stoking new residential recruitment and business development, because community cleanliness is a basic expectation.

Although Baltimore has a number of community support programs that are overarching, including Healthy Neighborhoods and the Live Baltimore residential recruitment program.

Granted, Baltimore has plenty of active and engaged community organizations, but maybe they need to be better integrated with more focused revitalization programming.\

WRT dealing with dumping, etc., St. Louis uses CCTV ("Focused ways to deal with illegal dumping: camera-based enforcement"), which if dumping is a severe problem, needs to be part of the response.

Systematic commercial district revitalization planning and programming for small commercial districts.  Note that DC has done a lot of this kind of funding regular street cleanup in commercial districts around the city, outside of areas that are part of business improvement districts.

But I don't think they've been particularly successful, because keeping streets clean is only one element of commercial district revitalization.

I happened to write about that about a year ago, as well:

-- "Basic planning building blocks for urban commercial district revitalization programs that most cities haven't packaged: Part 1 | The first six"
-- "Basic planning building blocks for urban commercial district revitalization programs that most cities haven't packaged: Part 2 |  A neighborhood identity and marketing toolkit (kit of parts)"
-- "Basic planning building blocks for urban commercial district revitalization programs that most cities haven't packaged: Part 3 | The overarching approach, destination development/branding and identity, layering and daypart planning"
-- "Basic planning building blocks for "community" revitalization programs that most cities haven't packaged: Part 4 | Place evaluation tools"

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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Orange County Register coronavirus tracker graphic is a great model

Showing the value of local media in communicating locally important information, the newspaper is focused on only the one county, but it's a big county in population, more than 3 million residents.

It's also a decent example, in the vein of the work on graphical illustration of information by Edward Tufte, showing the power of multimedia to communicate.

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Monday, April 05, 2021

National Library Week, April 4th-10th, 2021

What a year it's been for civic assets, "social infrastructure", like libraries.  For much of the last year, public libraries in most cities have been closed, and university libraries have restricted access to students and faculty.

Slowly, libraries have been re-opening, usually with restrictions in terms of the number of patrons at any one time, eliminating most seating, putting computer terminals out of service so that a minimum 6 foot distance between stations can be maintained, etc.

In the interim period, most libraries offered curbside services and vastly expanded online programming.

Unfortunately my County Library system, as a protection measure, stopped subscribing to newspapers, which is a pain.  I don't know if this was a common practice across the nation.

This year, National Library Week, with the theme "Welcome to the Library," reminds us how important libraries are and can be to our cities, counties, and neighborhoods.

Past blog entries discussing libraries as civic assets, nodes in a network of civic assets, and as community cultural centers

-- "Boston Athenaeum as a model for what central libraries should strive to be: Culture Centers with lots of books and other resources," 2019
-- "The DC Central Library, the Civic identity and the public realm," 2011
-- "The Salt Lake City Central Library is absolutely incredible," 2013
-- "Civic assets and mixed use: Central Library edition," 2013
-- "The Central Library planning process in DC as another example of gaming the capital improvements planning and budgeting process," 2013
-- "A follow up point about "local" library planning and "access to knowledge," 2013
-- "National Library Week," 2015
-- "National Libraries Week, April 19th-25th," 2020

Issues for me going forward with regard to libraries include:

1.  Repositioning libraries as a key element of networks of civic assets as discussed in "Update: Neighborhood libraries as nodes in a neighborhood and city-wide network of cultural assets"".  

For this to work there also needs to be an overarching cultural plan for the community, including a "knowledge and media" element ("What would be a "Transformational Projects Action Plan" for DC's cultural ecosystem").

Along these lines, the suburban city of Laval outside of Montreal aims to develop a central library and cultural center in part as a way to anchor arts and arts organizations, probably modeled in part on Montreal ("City moves ahead on cultural center, library," The Suburban).

2.  Repositioning libraries in part as "community cultural centers," not just community hubs.  The example that first shaped me on this is Montreal, and how a number of the borough libraries have been repositioned as joint library-community cultural centers.  Modeled after France's "Culture Houses" which aimed to  democratize and increase access to arts and culture, Montreal began their program in 1979.  

-- "Colourful new library enlivens a Montreal neighbourhood," Toronto Globe and Mail (also discusses how the library is proximate to other civic assets)

The article "The Library and Its Place in Cultural Memory: The Grande Bibliothèque du Québec in the Construction of Social and Cultural Identity,"( Libraries & the Cultural Record, 42:4 2007) discusses the creation of the "state/national" Library of Quebec in Montreal, which became the first of a network of 10 National libraries across Quebec.   

After writing about this concept for awhile, I then found out Dayton, Ohio has been doing this too, although less about democratizing culture, as they use the idea of "community hub" ("Dayton Is Making the Library a Must-Visit Destination," NextCity).

But I just learned about the "School for Living" program as part of the community library in Frankfort, Indiana, which has been around for some time, having won an IMLS award in 2006 for the strength and originality of the program.

Inspired by a local artist, Harlan Hubbard, who called for making life "a work of art," eventually the library created the "Hubbard School of Living," starting with a broad range of community education programs focused on art, performance, and creativity.  

This expanded to a separate wing of the library, with a 200-seat theater, galleries, classrooms, anchored by partnerships with the local art guild, quilt guild, and children's theater and other community organizations.  

-- "Libraries and innovation: 21st century themes," Jerry Stein, University of Minnesota

In "Outline for a proposed Ward-focused (DC) Councilmember campaign platform and agenda" I discuss the idea of councilmanic district offices as hubs for democracy.  This idea can be equally extended to library branches.  From the article:

Create a “Democracy House," a center for involvement in public and civic life in the ward. If the city provided ward council offices, such a facility could also offer space for community organizations, meeting space, etc., but space would be managed using participatory techniques independently of the Councilmember/Ward office.

3.  Better facilities and programming planning approaches.  I'm surprised to see how many cities doing library planning contract with planning consulting firms that have little experience specifically with libraries, and the concept of knowledge and innovation organizations.

I don't think planning consulting firms have glommed onto concepts I lay out about civic assets as networks nor what I call "transformational projects action planning" ("Downtown Edmonton cultural facilities development as an example of "Transformational Projects Action Planning"").

4.  More creative thinking about co-location of major cultural facilities especially in situations across systems, for example I've suggested that the Trump Administration's decision to eliminate regional installations for the National Archives ("Judge blocks sale and closure of National Archives in Seattle; notes ‘public relations disaster’ by feds," Seattle Times) could be addressed by creating joint libraries between the National Archives and local systems, the way that the Canadian National Archives is building a library jointly with the City of Ottawa ("Modern concept signals next chapter for Ottawa ‘super library," Toronto Globe & Mail).

Besides the forthcoming Canadian example, the classic example of co-location heretofore is in San Jose, California, where the city library's central library and the San Jose State University campus share libraries. Although in Montreal, the provincial library simultaneously serves as the city's central library.  I don't know if the city provides some of the operating funds for the facility.

 And the State of Maine has a combined archives, library, and museum.  More recently, the Brooklyn Historical Society announced it is merging with the Brooklyn Public Library.

A silicone pumpkin cake mold is part of the kitchen loan program are displayed at Guilderland Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 in Guilderland, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

5.  Continuing to broaden the definition of what the library "collects" and makes available for check out, for example I learned last week that some libraries maintain collections of kitchen implements which you can check out ("You can now check out cooking supplies at libraries," Albany Times-Union).  

This is commonly referred to as a "Library of Things" ("The library of things: could borrowing everything from drills to disco balls cut waste and save money?," Guardian) and was pre-dated by the creation of Tool Libraries.

6.  Libraries as places to provide spaces for community use.  Not just maker spaces, which is a big thing, but more freeform space that can be used by community organizations, and various groups, including music practice ("Libraries with Music Practice Rooms," Public Libraries News) etc.

-- "The Library as a Meeting Space," Model Programme for Public Libraries, Denmark Agency for Culture and Palaces

"Integrated café at Tårnby Main Library," Model Programme for Libraries

7.  Libraries as opportunities for civic social enterprise.  Friends of the library bookshops are one element.  In San Juan Capistrano, California, the bookshop at the library is the only bookstore in the city, and the city markets it as a bookstore in its promotional materials.

A library in London rented space to a used book store.  Another is food service run as a workforce training enterprise, such as the Skid Row Cafe at the Central Library in Los Angeles, and The Kitchen at the Hartford Connecticut Central Library.

8.  Figuring out how to expand access to "professional books" as part of collections (university library collections tend to be quite different from public libraries on this score).  I know that the California State Library in the past has paid for master subscriptions to online periodicals, which local library systems then had access to.  But now that I no longer have access to the Library of Congress, I'm hurting for access to specialized publications.  My idea is that state libraries should maintain a professional collection of books and periodicals that is then made available to patrons of the various city and county library systems as part of a shared lending system.

The Linden New Jersey Public Library subscribes to more than 100 periodicals.  The Woodridge branch of the DC Public Library, in a less well off section of the city, has fewer than 30.

9.  Maintaining and expanding periodicals collections. As part of my development of a checklist for evaluating libraries, something that is in process, I've come to realize that periodicals collections need to be evaluated both for breadth, but also specialization.  And libraries can introduce people to publications they wouldn't have heard of otherwise. 

Out here in Salt Lake City and County, the local libraries do a much better job than the DC public libraries on this score.  Although even here, I find there to be a need to expand the variety of specialty publications carried, and to not retreat on newspaper subscriptions.

Here, the Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake Deseret News have shifted to one day per week publication, but they produce a digital newspaper five days.  I believe the libraries should print off a copy of the digital newspaper each day and put it out for reading.

10.  Making school libraries more of a community resource and increasing access when the school is normally closed.  Many school systems are de-emphasizing the provision of school libraries, arguing that digital access to materials suffices.  But as the public service ads used to say 40+ years ago, "Reading is Fundamental" and the reading habit needs to be developed early and stoked regularly.

Some school libraries open in the summer, even when school is closed, to provide access to media in communities that are under-resourced.  For example, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the high school libraries open once/month in the summer ("Sioux Falls students nudged toward summer books," Sioux Falls Argus-Leader).  And the school library at Meadowlark Elementary in Salt Lake City opens up in the summers.  This needs to happen more regularly ("Trend Alert: More School Libraries Staying Open all Summer," School Library Journal)., "School libraries open for summer," Albany Democrat-Herald).  

Years ago, I came across a mention that the school libraries in Helsinki are run by the city library system, but I haven't been able to confirm this.  In any case, perhaps this should become a standard practice everywhere.

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Study: Republican control of state government is bad for democracy

Vox reports on a study by a political science professor at the University of Washington, with the findings that state governments run by Republicans restrict democracy and are less well run compared to states run by Democrats.

-- "Laboratories of Democratic Backsliding," Jacob Grumbach, Department of Political Science, University of Washington

That doesn't surprise me.  Minoritarian government benefits from voter suppression and other manipulation, and a party that in general denigrates government ends up performing badly when in power, "proving" that government failures.

Examples include:

Professor Grumbach's extends the work by the Vdem Institute, which looks at how parties function at the national level, to the sub-nation level within the US.  (The Vdem study finds that the US Republican Party is amongst the most authoritarian in the West, "Republicans closely resemble autocratic parties in Hungary and Turkey – study," Guardian.)

From Vox:

The paper, by University of Washington professor Jake Grumbach, constructs a quantitative measure of democratic health at the state level in the US. He looked at all 50 states between 2000 and 2018 to figure out why some states got more democratic over this period and others less. The conclusions were clear: The GOP is the problem. ... 

Grumbach’s State Democracy Index (SDI) is the first attempt to use a V-Dem-style approach to measure the more subtle ailments afflicting democracy in the United States. Metrics include the extent to which a state is gerrymandered at the federal level, whether it permits same-day voter registration, and whether felons are permitted to vote. He also includes criminal justice indicators, like a state’s Black incarceration rate, that are designed to measure state coercion. 

I would add pre-emption as a factor in the index, definitely.

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Thursday, April 01, 2021

(Not) April Fools: Architectural Digest article lauding examples of modernist additions to stellar historic buildings + comments on brutalism

 -- "14 Beautiful Examples of When Historic and Modern Architecture Come Together," Architectural Digest, June 2020

Most are pretty discordant.

Port Authority Building, Antwerp
Zaha Hadid Architects
Photo: Ross Helen, Getty Images

I was thinking about this in response to a recent article in the Washington Post, "Brutalist buildings aren’t unlovable. You’re looking at them wrong," about how people are looking "wrong" at brutalist architecture and that's why it's not appreciated.

It comes down to "discordance" in relationship "to the ensemble."  

Using the point made by Stephen Semes in The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation, most of the time, new construction in historic areas should aim to preserve the "architecture of the ensemble," the gestalt of the whole.  That the coherence of the ensemble is more important than a building showing off the "architecture of its time."

In the context of DC's historic building stock, where the city is dominated by federal style and Victorian architecture in neighborhoods, and the Beaux Arts style of "City Beautiful" for federal buildings, brutalism sticks out like a sore thumb.  It doesn't fit.  It is out of place in terms of the "ensemble."

City Hall, Marl, Germany.  By Johannes VanDenBroek, 1959-1967.  The city center, on a lake (comparable to Reston, Virginia's "town center" and Lake Anna) is a complex of brutalist architecture, from the city hall, to corporate headquaters, shopping malls and office and apartment buildings.

I came to understand this in a more nuanced way a few years ago, visiting Marl, Germany and the Ruhr University campus at Bochum (RUB), where the city center of the former and the campus of the latter were built during the period where brutalist architecture was a dominant style.  

There the ensemble is comprised of brutalist architecture.  It may be that there, Victorian or Beaux Arts styles would stick out.

It's not just that there is a lot of it, that it dominates its respective landscapes.  The architecture was designed with a lot of verve.  It wasn't rote or value engineered.  It was creative.  Not pictured, the RUB university library has an amazing central staircase, etc.  The buildings are delightful.  And that's me saying this, someone who has almost categorically criticized modern and brutalist buildings constructed in DC.

Audimax campus auditorium and central plaza

Ruhr University Bochum

While I have only seen photos and video, the same is true of national capital cities constructed during the same period, like Canberra, Australia but especially Brasilia in Brazil.  The ensemble is brutalist and modernist, and it works.

Even if the architecture comprises an ensemble of its time, these cities have other urban design problems.  They are somewhat disconnected from the country as a whole, the scale is massive, and the buildings aren't constructed in a manner that accommodate pedestrians, etc.


Another example is the Barbican Estate development in London.  

It is a complete "work", the redevelopment of a section of the City in the 1960s, using the brutalist style.  I didn't get to spend a lot of time there.  

Wikipedia photo by Riodamascus 

There is no question that the Barbican Estate is an organic whole, an ensemble.  Unlike Marl and RUB, it doesn't work as well.  

Those places were able to spread out, while the Barbican is hemmed in by traditional architecture and even if at its own scale it comprises the ensemble, in the broader context of "The City" or London more generally, it doesn't fit.

In those places, the ensemble is not Victorian architecture or Beaux Arts but brutalism, and at the scale of the ensemble, especially because it wasn't just value engineered, but in parts quite forward and innovative, it works quite well.  The architectural "terroir" supports brutalism.

OTOH, brutalism doesn't work so well in DC, or with one off buildings more generally, because it is out of sorts with the ensemble.

Headquarters building for the Department of Housing and Urban Development

There's a reason "we're looking at it wrong."  Subconsciously, we are comparing buildings to the architecture of the ensemble, and in the context of DC, brutalism sticks out in a negative way.  (Plus, compared to other examples, it doesn't seem to have been constructed that well.)

Another negative example is the state government center, Empire State Plaza, in Albany, New York.  It sticks out, comparable to the Barbican Estate, in the context of the city as a whole, and it doesn't build connection between the "Old City" and the government complex, nor does it promote access and walkability.

Thinking about this shed lights on one Trump Administration initiative I actually agreed with, an Executive Order to promote "classical architectural design" for new federal buildings ("'Ugly,' 'Discordant': New Executive Order Takes Aim At Modern Architecture," NPR).  

The original design for the Federal Triangle district in Downtown Washington, DC, c. 1930s

As an initiative it wasn't handled well--not that we would ever expect nuance from the Trump Administration, and of course, most of the architectural profession is all in on modern buildings, not acknowledging that too often, from the standpoint of "the ensemble" they are discordant.

They needed to explain so much better the reasoning, that it is about the architecture of the ensemble, rather than one off startling design, that may be the most important issue when it comes to designing and siting new federal buildings ("President Biden Revokes Trump's Controversial Classical Architecture Order," NPR).

It's not that we're looking at them wrong, it's that the buildings are out of sorts with their context.  And there are plenty of other examples of "lack of fit" between brutalist design and urban centers across the country.   

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Framework of characteristics that support successful community development in association with the development of professional sports facilities

Sports stadiums and arenas and public funding is a tough issue.  Generally, based on the economic research, advocates always argue against.  But the reality is that economic interests and elected officials are generally all in.  

So a campaign based on "saying no" is likely to have little impact.

Since the facility is going to get built, with public money, now I argue that we ought to focus on extracting the best possible contract providing the greatest possible community and economic return to the locality, rather than just letting the sports team reap the majority of the benefits.

-- "Baseball World Series in DC as an opportunity for urban planning reflections: #1 | revisiting blog entries from 2005/2006,"
-- "Baseball World Series in DC #2: Eleven urban planning lessons from the Washington Nationals stadium"

Over the years, I've been working on creating an item framework, since my first crack at it in 2014.  The most recent version is from 2019 ("Stadiums and arenas redux: Mayor Bowser still wants the area NFL team to relocate to DC").

But today I am revisiting it, sparked by a community planning effort in Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake planning process is centered around the Ballpark neighborhood-where a classically designed stadium with great views is home to the Salt Lake Bees minor league baseball team.

But the neighborhood around the park hasn't improved much in the 27 years that the stadium first opened in 1994, and it has light rail transit access to boot.

I think the key problem with the dearth of revitalization benefits is the lack of a an overall planning and implementation initiative, although there are other issues--the railroad tracks support industrial development, there aren't a lot of build out opportunities on the east side of the tracks, closer to the stadium, the area is distant from Downtown, where a stadium may have made more sense from a leveraging revitalization opportunities standpoint, etc.

Creating a revitalization program for a stadium, arena, or exposition facility that is outside of a downtown or major activity center is tough.  So Salt Lake has a tough row to hoe.

So I decided to take another look at the framework, and I realized that a specific section on neighborhood benefits, if relevant, needed to be separated out as an element.  

Note that some of these items are less relevant to smaller communities, and those lacking robust transit networks, and with a sprawl development paradigm.  

There is also a difference of opportunities between "big leagues," minor league teams, and college teams ("Economic impact of college football means season cancellation will crush college town economies reliant on sports visitation," 2020, "American City Business Journals calculates the capacity of North American metropolitan areas to support new/additional professional sports teams," 2015).

And practice facilities, which despite all that is touted by teams, seem to have very little economic impact ("Sport team practice facilities and public subsidy (a practice facility for the Washington Wizards)," 2015).  Arguably, baseball training camps are problematic too, in terms of financial subsidies from local governments.

Planning Framework for sports stadiums and arenas

in front of Fenway Park, Boston
Urban Design and Development

  • a publicly produced and robust master plan which isn't a "bag job" produced by sports team interests;
  • size of the facility and its ability to be integrated into the urban fabric (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer), bigger stadiums--football stadiums specifically--are harder to integrate in the urban fabric.
  • isolation or connection: how well is the facility integrated into the urban fabric beyond the stadium site and does it leverage, build upon, and extend the location and the community around it.  The classic example is Wrigley Field in Chicago versus White Sox Stadium.  Wrigley Field is embedded in its neighborhood, while White Sox Stadium is disconnected from its.
  • urban design treatment of the route to the stadium.  Classic examples are Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field, to some extent Camden Yards in Baltimore.  See this discussion ("Sadly, DC won't show so well during the Baseball All-Star Game,") concerning Nationals Stadium.
  • ownership split concerning ancillary development around the facility: is it all controlled by the team?  Again, the White Sox Stadium is a good example of failures in this dimension.
The Georgetown Hoyas play their games at Capital One Arena, which is also home to the Washington Wizards basketball and Washington Capitals hockey teams, maximizing facility utilization.

  • frequency of events held by the primary tenant--baseball has 82 home games/year, football about 10 including pre-season, basketball and hockey have 41, soccer about 17--so football stadiums are very rarely used (according to the Chicago Sun-Times article "Emanuel mulling 5,000-seat expansion to Soldier Field," the facility holds about 22 events including annually, 12 non-football events);
  • how many teams use the facility, maximizing use and utility of the building--for example, Capital One Arena in DC is used by professional men's basketball, hockey, and one college basketball team for more than 100 sports events each year (until recently it also hosted professional women's basketball);
  • are events scheduled in a manner that facilitates attendee patronage of off-site businesses--a business isn't an anchor if it aims to not share its customers; the earlier events are scheduled, the harder it is to patronize retailers and restaurants located off-site, at night during the week, there is limited post-game spending as well, on the weekends it's a different story with more opportunity to patronize off-site establishments--teams manipulate scheduling to reduce spending outside of their on-site and 100% controlled facilities;
  • use of the facility for non-game events drawing additional patrons--such as concerts and other types of programming; 
Photo by Mike Kepika of the San Francisco Chronicle. People leaving the streetcars to see a Giants game at PacBell Park.
  • how people travel to events: automobiles vs. transit--if automobiles are the primary way people get to events, then large amounts of parking usually in surface lots needs to be provided, making it difficult to foster ancillary development because of lack of land and poor quality of the visual environment, whereas if transit is the primary mode, then more land around a facility can be developed in ways that leverage the proximity of the arena. 
  • locating stadiums and arenas in high-capacity transit locations: e.g., Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, and Capital One Arena are served by multiple transit lines, whereas most stadiums and arenas are sited in locations that have single line transit service.
  • transit capacity: subway transit has much greater capacity than light rail, and depending on the schedule, railroad passenger service.  Buses have less capacity too, but depending on the nature of the event, many can be deployed.  Promising high quality service when transit modes lack the throughput and capacity (e.g., World Cup soccer in Dallas, Super Bowl at Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey) creates serious problems.
  • transportation demand management requirements: some teams have TDM plan requirements, in particular the Chicago Cubs, most don't. Some teams provide a great deal of information or support for sustainable mobility, most don't.  Some teams pay for transit services (Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Stadium Authority pay part of the cost of free transit to the light rail stations serving their facilities, called the North Shore Connector).  At least some of the time (the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals) sports teams may pay toward service extended beyond normal hours when games go late, most don't (Washington Nationals).
  • special marketing initiatives/other agreements with transit authorities:  For example, the transit authority in Salt Lake City treats tickets to sports events at the University of Utah as an all-day ticket. Some railroad lines provide special game day service for football games and other events and a wide range of marketing programs (Metrolink, Caltrain, New York MTA).  While it wasn't put into practice, the transit authority in Sacramento proposed providing Sacramento Kings ticket holders with "free transit" in return for certain subsidies. 
  • parking taxes to support community improvements: years ago a neighborhood association in the Hill District of Pittsburgh suggested creating a parking tax that would go towards funding local community projects as a mitigation program ("A dollar a car for the Hill," Hill District Consensus Group).   A parking tax should be assessed in any case.

New York City's arenas and to some extent some baseball stadiums, the Capital One Arena in DC, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and PacBell Park in San Francisco are particularly noteworthy examples of sports facilities well connected by transit, where a majority of attendees get to and from the facility on transit.

As mentioned, some sports teams (and other groups) have paid towards transit stations serving their facilities, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority (but not the Pirates baseball team directly), the New England Patriots ("Commuter rail service to Foxboro to start in October," Quincy Patriot-Ledger, and the New York Islanders ("Islanders arena project at Belmont Park now includes new LIRR station," Newsday).

City-wide Benefits 

  • community benefits agreements that provide additional benefits to the city overall
  • fair lease terms rather than agreements where the team pays little or no rent.  For example, the City of Anaheim has made little net revenue--$50,000/year!--from the Anaheim Angels baseball team ("Stadium maintenance, debt eat into Anaheim's revenue from hosting Angels baseball," Orange County Register) which is why admissions and other taxes can be especially important.
  • profit percentage paid to the local/state governments upon the sale of the team, in recognition of the importance of government funding for the facility and/or support infrastructure (like what was intended for the Miami Marlins stadium) as well as the reality that the facility is the platform for the success of the entire enterprise
  • entrepreneurship and social enterprise opportunities.  Are there programs to support small business operation of concessions and contracting?  Can workforce development and social enterprises be a part of this mix? For example, the West Nest concessions stand in Mercedes-Benz Stadium is operated as a social enterprise by the Westside Works community organization ("At Mercedes-Benz Stadium, West Nest provides a training ground for Westside Works students and grads," Atlanta Magazine).
  • public facilities access and use program, such as how the basketball arena in Bilbao includes a recreation center open to the public, including access to the main court when not in use; while not on-site, the Redskins football team did pay towards a community and recreation center in the area of the stadium
  • admissions taxes and receipts: Prince George's County would make almost zero off the Washington Redskins if it weren't for an admissions tax on each ticket; but many teams argue against imposing such taxes or that they should be the beneficiaries, e.g., the Washington Wizards used admissions tax receipts to pay for interior improvements, "Verizon Center Ticket Tax to Rise to 10%," Washington Post, 2007.
  • as discussed in the previous section, paying towards transit and transportation facilities is another city-wide benefit.
For example, with regard to taxes, as a proto-state, DC keeps the sales, income, and property tax revenue streams associated with real estate development and appreciation and the spending and obligations of residents.  On the other hand, unlike other "states," DC is barred from taxing "day of game" income of professional athletes, a revenue stream enjoyed everywhere else.

Note that New York City's treatment of Madison Square Garden is somewhat unique in that the facility is permitted through a special use permit  that isn't granted in perpetuity but has to be regularly updated, renegotiated and approved every ten years ("Remember, City Council, Forever Is a Really Long Time," New York Times).  Providing stadium/arena use permits for a specific period of time, rather than "forever" gives the locality more leverage.

West Nest concession stand at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Neighborhood benefits
  • development and maintenance of a community plan, focused on neighborhood revitalization in association with the creation of the sports facility.  One example is the plan created for the Aycock neighborhood of Greensboro, North Carolina.  Other examples include plans associated with the development of minor league baseball stadiums in Memphis and Louisville, Kentucky, although these were more focused on downtown revitalization.
  • neighborhood focused community benefits agreements.  The Atlanta Falcons football stadium was developed with such an agreement ("Building a Stadium, Rebuilding a Neighborhood," New York Times, Falcons community impact website) which included job training, employment targets, the creation of social enterprises, etc., although there is criticism of the program.
  • creation of an implementation organization to guide neighborhood improvements.
  • creation of "community safety partnerships" ("Creating 'community safety partnership neighborhood management programs as a management and mitigation strategy for public nuisances: Part 3 ")
  • parking taxes to support community improvements (discussed above): years ago a neighborhood association in the Hill District of Pittsburgh suggested creating a parking tax that would go towards funding local community projects as a mitigation program ("A dollar a car for the Hill," Hill District Consensus Group)
  • admissions taxes: (discussed above).  A portion of admissions taxes should be designated for neighborhood improvement programs.
  • public facilities access and use program (repeated from above).  such as how the basketball arena in Bilbao includes a recreation center open to the public, including access to the main court when not in use; while not on-site, the Redskins football team did pay towards a community and recreation center in the area of the stadium.
Note that there are plenty of examples of the construction of stadiums and arenas at the loss of viable neighborhoods, such as Pittsburgh's Hill District and the creation of the arena for the Penguins hockey team in the late 1950s.  

The arena was demolished a few years ago, and a "restorative revitalization" initiative is underway ("Penguins ‘restorative development’ project aims to repair Pittsburgh’s famed Hill District," The Undefeated, "Not over in the Hill: Neighborhood leaders say the Penguins are coming up short," PublicSource).

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