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.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Open Streets DC as an event versus an agenda

I think Open Streets events are really cool, and I regret not being able to be at DC's, which is going on right now, Saturday October 2nd, on Georgia Avenue NW.

Photos from the Instagram feed.

And while it's great that after many previous tries, DC has finally figured out how to do an Open Streets event successfully ("(More) People on streets and the coronavirus"), it still is an example of silo-ed thinking in that they can do this, but not approach sustainable mobility in a focused way.

In other words it should be about "the overall agenda," and in the case of specific events, how to leverage them to push forward improvements systematically ("Parking Day 2020").

In terms of agenda, I think that the political science theory of the "Urban Regime" is best for understanding how government works, while the "Growth Machine" theory from sociology is best at understanding why local political and economic elites do what they do (""Columbus Way" merely another example of "Growth Machine/Urban Regime" theory").

In the paper, "Now What? The continuing evolution of Urban Regime analysis," now emeritus professor Clarence Stone writes:

An urban regime can be preliminarily defined as the informal arrangements through which a locality is governed (Stone 1989). Because governance is about sustained efforts, it is important to think in agenda terms rather than about stand-alone issues. By agenda I mean the set of challenges which policy makers accord priority. A concern with agendas takes us away from focusing on short-term controversies and instead directs attention to continuing efforts and the level of weight they carry in the political life of a community. Rather than treating issues as if they are disconnected, a governance perspective calls for considering how any given issue fits into a flow of decisions and actions. This approach enlarges the scope of what is being analyzed, looking at the forest not a particular tree here or there. [emphasis added, in this paragraph and below] ...

By looking closely at the policy role of business leaders and how their position in the civic structure of a community enabled that role, he identified connections between Atlanta's governing coalition and the resources it brought to bear, and on to the scheme of cooperation that made this informal system work. In his own way, Hunter had identified the key elements in an urban regime – governing coalitionagendaresources, and mode of cooperation. These elements could be brought into the next debate about analyzing local politics, a debate about structural determinism.

The point about agenda versus discrete acts flows out of my recent writings on planning for mode versus planning for place and community ("Planning for place/urban design/neighborhoods versus planning for transportation modes: new 17th Street NW bike lanes | Walkable community planning versus "pedestrian" planning") and on the failure of a Vision Zero program ("Revisiting Vision Zero in DC and NYC").

Agenda.  Open Streets are great.  A program to promote sustainable mobility in systematic and transformational ways is better.

In "Parking Day 2020" I listed what could be such an agenda, although here #1 is revised:

1.  Shift city transportation departments from planning by mode to planning for place and quality of life, using sustainable mobility and urban design principles to do so ("Extending the "Signature Streets" concept to "Signature Streets and Spaces"," "Planning for place/urban design/neighborhoods versus planning for transportation modes: new 17th Street NW bike lanes | Walkable community planning versus "pedestrian" planning").

-- "50 Reasons Why Everyone Should Want More Walkable Streets: from the Arup report, Cities Alive – Towards a walking world," Arup
-- "How Can I Find and Help Build a Walkable Community?," Dan Burden, Walkable Communities Inc.
-- "A Walkable City is a better city, DeepRoot
D.I.Y. Great Streets: A Community Guide to Creating Great Streets in the City of Los Angeles, LA DOT

2.  Create neighborhood focused urban design and placemaking plans ("Planning urban design improvements at the neighborhood scale: Dupont Circle, DC").

3.  Create an annual program of Open Streets events ("Dare to be great (active transportation): Los Angeles edition," 2012) at the city wide and neighborhood scales.  Maybe incorporate neighborhood street festivals into the program.  And Parking Day events.  And Jane's Walk.  Use these events to promote sustainable mobility more broadly.

-- Open Streets Project

The approach in LA County is county-wide, with events quarterly, throughout the county.

In November 2019, seven cities in nearby Orange County took up the idea, for a multi-city event--La Habra, Buena Park, Anaheim, Stanton, Garden Grove, Westminster, and Huntington Beach--called "Meet on Beach," connecting cities along Beach Boulevard, fronting the Pacific Ocean ("They met (and cycled, walked, bus-hopped) on O.C.’s Beach (Blvd.): For a day, parts of the 21-mile thoroughfare were pedestrian friendly," Orange County Register).

4.  Create a "city-wide" pedestrianized way that can be successful ("Why doesn't every big city in North America have its own Las Ramblas?"). 

For example, I've suggested that the one block Ellsworth Avenue in Montgomery County's Downtown Silver Spring could be significantly extended in both directions, but most significantly, to the Metrorail Station ("items 19-21 in this entry").

5.  Pedestrianize more spaces where it can be successful ("Diversity Plaza, Queens, a pedestrian exclusive block").

6. Expand biking initiatives ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1, leveraging Bike Month") including infrastructure, facilities ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 2, building a network of bike facilities at the regional scale") and support for making the transition to biking as transportation ("Revisiting assistance programs to get people biking: 18 programs"). 

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At 10:21 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

According to this, they are planning events in every ward.


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