Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Highlights from 3/31 CNU-NTX Seminar

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be at the Belo Mansion for the CNU-NTX day-long seminar with speakers including Andres Duany founder of the Congress of New Urbanism, Ellen Dunham-Jones (director of Georgia Tech's architecture program), Bill Lucy (urban economist and UVa planning professor), Shelly Poticha (CEO of Reconnecting America), and David Goldberg (Communications Director for Smart Growth America).

Anyways, here are the highlights from my notes as they affect, refer, or apply to Dallas:

Andres Duany:
"I love Texans. But, I hate Texas cities."
Can't blame him. That's precisely why I moved here, because there is an opportunity/need for improvement. From hearing him discuss this previously, he is referring to the 'can do' attitude of Texans. For better or worse, they/we(?) tend to jump into trends with both feet don't we, i.e. building towers and highway in the name of Corbusien progress and tearing out existing/historic fabric to do so?
"What won't revitalize this city (meaning Dallas)...three Calatrava Bridges."
To his point, the number three is irrelevant. He is echoing things I have said before on this blog (here in The Challenge of Downtown Dallas and also here in ToonTown: Dallas Arts District, that we have to get the livability right before the attempts at Memorability are effective or even broached. Anybody ready to listen to me yet now that I've quoted Andres Duany and Alex Krieger visiting the city to say the same things that I have been?
"Dallas exists b/c of oil. You were lucky. What makes Portland so lucky? The trees!? The weather? Nooo. The opera house? It's not a very good one. They have urbanism. You are going to be losing the talented young people that are choosing urbanism."
I have often said in meetings and otherwise a similar statement (particularly in reference to opportunity areas around the metroplex and TODs). That the first best thing that ever happened to Dallas was striking oil. The next best thing for the real estate of the City was DART. Also, see what I said about Portland's initial efforts in No. 2 in DTD's cavities.
"You have been subsidizing a privilege for those that live outside the city."
[Now paraphrasing] Why build a parking facility for every new building so that patrons can go from their den, to their garage, to their range rover, to the parking garage, to the opera house without ever stepping foot outside.
"Make use of the underutilized parking garage two blocks away."
Amen. I have discussed all the empty parking garages at night that litter this city, here in DTD's Cavities, Get Out the Drill and here in Parking Supply/Demand: The Vicious Circle.
"Take out a lane of traffic, inconvenience them and make the people adapt."
Also, he cited the difference in lane and parking widths between New York and Dallas streets. NYC 10' for travel lanes, 7' for parking. Dallas, 12' and 8' respectively. Let's tighten those streets up and add some more sidewalk space given how tight sidewalks are in both downtown and much of uptown (I'm looking at you McKinney Ave.) See my rant regarding pedestrians vs. automobiles in Hooked on Phonics did not work for me.

Perhaps my favorite line of the day:
"Under what theology does this work?! Where is the empirical evidence that these street designs make for a better place."
Referring to engineering manuals and the goal for level of service "A" streets.

"Retail only works on two-way streets. Use this crisis. Take the money [from Washington], take the time, and retrofit all the streets to two-ways. Otherwise, the only retail that will work on the morning drive streets are donut shops."

See number 3 on my DTD's Cavities post. My quote:
Notice that I didn't say Main Street. They couldn't get away with driving fast on Main Street if they tried. It has on-street parking, is two-way, and is too narrow (oh, and the valets themselves must hang out on them). Exactly the reasons why there is a four-block stretch of Main Street in Downtown that actually works.
His most important point of the day was Dallas's need for a new development code, one that is clear, predictable, and less onerous than the 6-12 month negotiation process that is every PDD. The current code is one that builds suburban-style development because that was the ultimate goal or end-game when it was adopted, which is why every good project has to establish its own planned-development district that amends the development code. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I personally can't wait for the day, where we aren't sitting at a table with lawyers for the duration of the entitlement process going thru every line of a PD amending previous boiler plate, tailoring it to the subtleties of the new site/project.

See the SmartCode. Subsidize the type of high quality development we want by removing that entitlement process without money that we, the city, do not have. Meet the code, start building.


I will cite additionally in later posts as the information is relevant to the larger point of a particular future post.

Also, kudos to the Dallas Fire Chief for attending. Emergency services demands are also liabilities to urbanism. They have adapted their practices to the current suburban building code and we need them at the table as well b/c well, 1) they're absolutely vital public services and 2) we believe good urbanism is ultimately safer than suburbia as Bill Lucy pointed out yesterday.

Also also, I will be at the ULI event with Chris Leinberger and will update the blog with the high points from that as well.