January 14, 2013

The changing city

Sam Smith

Ever since the eviction of some 26,000 residents to make way for DC’s Southwest urban renewal in the 1950s, urban planning has been driven by the assumption that progress requires the replacement of at least some of the present residents and businesses of a neighborhood to make way for something better and more tax productive. The beneficiaries of this have varied and include whites, large businesses, and the wealthier. Now some changes are underway in Washington based on the premise that planning the city for the young is the best route.

But, as always happens, someone gets forgotten.

USA Today - The hot pursuit of young professionals has been at the core of American cities' urban revival for more than a decade. It worked. They came, they played, they stayed. In many of the largest cities in the most-populous metropolitan areas, downtown populations grew at double-digit rates from 2000 to 2010, according to the Census.

Now, cities face a new demographic reality: The young and single are aging and having children. If the pattern of the past 50 years holds, they might soon set their sights on suburbia.

The older they get, the less likely people are to live in cities, according to recent Census data. The peak age for urban living is 25 to 27, when 20% of that age group are nestled in urban centers. By the age of 41, about a quarter have moved to the suburbs.

Cities recognize this looming challenge and are bracing for the maturing of a generation that sought out coffeehouses, hip entertainment venues and small flats but now is starting to demand soccer fields, good schools and roomy homes.

Gary Imhoff, DC Watch - New Urbanism has become a rigid ideology by which the professional planners cater to single, young, white, wealthy professionals instead of balancing the needs and desires of a variety of ages, races, and classes. The city’s government makes money off of young, single, childless, rich residents, and loses money on other groups, so the preference makes business sense, even if it doesn’t benefit society as a whole.

Deborah Simmons, WashingtonTimes
- The District is undergoing a sort of identity crisis. The demographics are a changin’ and you needn’t be a Bob Dylan fan to know growing pains are blowin’ in the wind.

It’s all courtesy of what’s deemed as New Urbanism, a policy and planning movement that is crisscrossing the nation and redefining politically correct terms such as “urban renewal” and “gentrification,” which often are considered among a four-letter words among blacks.

Hailed for favoring bicyclists, pedestrians and mass transit and criticized for shunning motorists and traffic congestion, New Urbanism is a movement that began in the 1980s. It began with planners and developers, trying to create dense mixed-use towns-within-a-city by focusing on transit; green spaces; housing, office, retail and public schooling potential; as well as public safety. It perhaps unintentionally ignored such cultural demographics as race, ethnicity and religion..

What’s happening in the nation’s capital is the blurring of the lines between New Urbanism and urban renewal/gentrification.

While all three terms involve the relocation of residents, the central concern among today’s D.C. blacks is who, not what, is emerging.

Established neighborhoods once graced with rows of single-family homes, mom-and-pop shops and schools named for prominent blacks are being dotted with condos, rental units and new and newly renovated houses with costs that are hardly affordable.

Big-box and other chain businesses are moving in, while houses of worship are targets for disgruntled neighbors, as the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ recently discovered.

The church plans to use some of its land situated between 10th Street and South Dakota Avenue in Northeast to build housing for senior citizens.

The graffiti scrawled on several outside walls of the church speaks another mind.

“Ghettos no more.” “No low income housing.” “Trash.” “Crime.” “Overcrowdiness.” “Gambling.” “Craps.”

Those were the messages along with another: a swastika.

Mike DeBonis, Washington Post
- District planning officials are rewriting the city’s zoning rules for the first time in 54 years, a process that has hastened anxieties about growth and at times has erupted into a pitched debate about the future of the city.

The proposed changes are small — allowing a corner store here, fewer parking spaces there — but the debate has grown in recent months, pitting some longtime residents and civic activists against city officials and advocates of denser transit- and pedestrian-oriented development…

In perhaps the single most controversial plan, planners propose to eliminate minimum parking requirements for parcels in “transit zones” — areas within a half-mile of a Metro stop or a quarter-mile of a major bus line.

Residents settling in transit-rich city areas are increasingly opting to live without cars, [city planner] Tregoning said, adding that it makes little sense to require developers to build expensive parking for which there is little demand…

The prospect of new residents without new parking spaces have some D.C. residents… fearful that now-bountiful curbside parking could grow scarce.

Washington Post - Under the regulations being implemented over the next month, one side of the street in 550 blocks of Ward 1 will be reserved for Ward 1 residents with valid parking permits from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Nonresidents will have to park on the non-reserved side of each block, where two-hour time limits will be enforced. And in some Ward 1 neighborhoods, DDOT is considering community requests to extend the restrictions through the weekend.

[Councilmember Jim] Graham said the restrictions, authorized by the council two years ago but just now being implemented, are designed to make sure there is sufficient on-street parking for residents in a rapidly developing part of the city.

In the 15 months after the 2010 Census was completed, the District gained an estimated 15,000 residents. Although planners say many new residents are choosing to live car-free, new development has put a strain on the supply of parking spaces.

“There are only so many parking spaces on streets, and eventually there is going to be a time when the numbers don’t add up anymore or demand way overexceeds supply and we have a problem,” said Angelo Rao, manager of the District’s parking and streetlight program.

David Alpert, Greater Greater Washington
- Few newer residents care how people from a different generation in a different neighborhood live. Honestly, most hardly give it a second thought. They just want to have some places to live that fit their budgets and are near jobs or transit, and want neighborhood amenities like shops, restaurants, and parks.

Greg Imhoff, DC Watch
- Honestly, it’s a losing proposition to argue on the basis of the generational superiority of the young, as Alpert does. First, it’s a phony argument, since Alpert doesn’t represent "the young," but only a small sliver of the young. Second, the young get older, and their needs and desires change as their lives change, as they date and form couples, have children and create families, and find reasons to visit neighborhoods other than their own, even neighborhoods in other wards of the city and in the suburbs. Young people have always owned cars at a lower rate than older people. But young people age. It’s a natural progression. No matter how often Peter Pan or Alpert repeats "I’ll never grow up," the people around him do grow up. The average age of the Rolling Stones is now two years higher than the average age of Supreme Court justices.

PS; A recent study found that at fourteen locations peak hour bike ridership in DC had risen from 34.5 in 2004 to 94.8 in 2012. Over three quartes of the riders were male.

Jane Jacobs:
Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

1 comment:

Capt. America said...

What will be the advantage of living in a city when a robot can do your shopping, your gardening, your home improvements and housecleaning, laundry, cooking, dishwashing, and provide security and access to the internet and school systems, and when rails have replaced most of the roads?

The city of the future will be a small town. The big cities will be under water anyway.