Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Morning Reading

Why NYC is 'greener' than Vermont, a TIME interview with the author of Green Metropolis, David Owen:

How has the car changed the way we consume energy?
In 1949 only 3% of American households had more than one car. Now there are more cars on the road than there are licensed drivers. When we think about cars we tend to think only of the energy they consume directly, the gasoline. It's certainly significant, but the truly problematic form of energy consumption related to cars is what they allow us to do, which is spread out. We get oversize houses that require huge inputs of water and energy. They let us live 50 or 100 miles away from the place where we work. They require us to build roads, waterlines, power mains and sewage systems out to all these outposts we've created. We have this extraordinarily redundant infrastructure we've built because cars have let us do it.
Krugman dispairs, money quote:

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.
The sad part is, they aren't working for themselves, but for the machine that pays them, which is the fundamental thesis of The Corporation: good people caught in bad causes in the name of the corporate charter, which is not human and therefore causes inhumane decisions.

A little late on this, but I've heard it coming from reliable sources within the City. Dallas through a grant, establishes an Urban Design Committee, with the unfortunate and hopefully not telling name of, DUDS.

This is a necessary step, because the City lacks a real honest to goodness planning department that actually, ya know, plans. Instead, mostly it has been reduced to zoning review and compliance often allowing private interests to do as they please (no matter their intentions or competence) which has had predictably mixed results. For example, see my comments on Victory.

I'm hoping this is a baby step towards formulating a group that can actually be out in front of the market working on the areas that need the most help, ie Deep Ellum, Fair Park, the Trinity Riverfront, and then building upon successes here to work further South. The City, in some manner, will do much better if they can act as master developer, tying disparate parcels together with improved public infrastructure, readying for development aka "priming the pump" and then allowing the private sector to deliver the vertical development.

The City may not like it, but this becomes a way of generating revenue for a City that is broke. The City has the power to pull together parcels that private industry often cannot, leaving outparcels and holes in the fabric. It can also responsibly redevelop troublesome areas and responsibly relocate impoverished households into mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhoods rather than the current built environment of clustering by income. Lastly, it can generate increased complexity, which raises value, by allowing for multiple developers to work in a single area, much as the State-Thomas area has developed, rather than a single (and dwindling supply of) entity capable of developing large tracts of land.

Since so many potential large developers have evaporated, somebody has to fill that capability void. If the City can pull this off, it allows for an increased amount of developers by allowing for smaller projects as part of larger singular projects in areas, which will then have a greater impact on the City as a whole. These can happen more quickly as well by allowing multiple developers building at once rather than a phased development by singular entity which can take 20-30 years as they work through their pipeline.

I don't believe we have the time to allow for the Kings (and Queens) of the Town to bear the burden of fixing up an entire neighborhood or area by their lonesome. It is our responsibility as the City to partner with many and deliver a common vision of sustainable, vibrant, and lasting neighborhoods for all citizens of Dallas.