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In their headlong search for modernity through mobility, American urbanites made a decision to destroy the living environments of nineteenth-century neighborhoods by converting their gathering places into traffic jams, their playgrounds into motorways, and their shopping places into elongated parking lots. These paving decisions effectively made obsolete many of urban America’s older neighborhoods.
— Mcshane, C. (1979). Transforming the Use of Urban Space – Look at the Revolution in Street Pavements, 1880-1924. Journal of Urban History, 5(3), 279-307. (p.300)
Undersupply of Walkable Neighborhoods

"A California survey found that, although 86% of respondents prefer single-family homes, 47% prefer a walkable, mixed use neighborhood; 49% would choose a smaller house if it provided a shorter commute; and 31% would choose a high-density neighborhood if it had convenient public transit (PPIC 2002).

A survey of Houston, Texas residents (Blueprint Houston 2003) asked, “Would you personally prefer to live in a suburban setting with larger lots and houses and a longer drive to work and most other places, or in a more central urban setting with smaller homes on smaller lots, and be able to take transit or walk to work and other places?” Fifty-five percent of respondents chose the “Central urban setting” and only 37% chose the “Suburban setting.”

The Atlanta, Georgia SMARTRAQ study found that only about 5% of homes in the region are in compact and walkable neighborhoods, and only 40% of respondents indicated that they could walk to any nearby shops and services. Yet, 20% to 40% of respondents expressed a very strong preference for the most compact and walkable neighborhoods (depending on which attributes were considered), 49% prefer a neighborhood where residents can walk to nearby shopping, and 55% prefer a community with smaller lots if it offers shorter commutes. About a third of metro Atlantans living in automobile-dependent, suburban locations indicate they would prefer a more walkable environment but traded it off for attributes such as affordability, school quality, or perception of crime. This suggests a significant undersupply of accessible, walkable neighborhoods.”

from Socially Optimal Transport Prices and Markets: Principles, Strategies and Impacts

26 July 2012 By Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute. [PDF]

read if you’re interested in the economics of transportation; the market failure/distortion/inefficiencies of the current system. 

» District southeast of Lake Merritt organizes to create neighborhood of their dreams

Clinton is a mostly undiscovered, rapidly-changing neighborhood to the southeast of Lake Merritt not far from Jack London Square. In Clinton, diversity is the name of the game: there are Victorian mansions next to bungalows, Julia Morgan Craftsmans, and homes built in every decade. The makeup of residents is just as varied…

Within a month of moving in, we had plugged into several neighborhood groups, some made up of people who had worked hard for decades to preserve and improve the neighborhood, and some who were more recent additions to the neighborhood, working hard to build a community and make positive changes.

Energized by these meetings, my partner and I started a nonprofit, Oakland’s Brooklyn Neighborhood Beautification Project, to raise funds to beautify the sidewalk landscape strips and public medians as a means to fight illegal dumping, graffiti and crime in the area. The funds raised go to neighbors who need financial assistance in planting their sidewalks, and who want to be part of the project.

With the help of many neighbors, we have installed a library box in a public space and filled it with books of all languages for the neighborhood children to read. We landscaped three city medians, a private sidewalk where prostitution was occurring, and several other homes. The graffiti and illegal dumping stopped in the areas where we did our beautification, and now there is a much more steady flow of people taking leisurely walks, going for runs and bike rides, as the spaces feel more safe.

We also hope to plant fruit trees and a garden along with some neighbors at an apartment building near the library box we installed. The tenants used to look at us with suspicion when we walked by with our dogs. Now their kids play in the streets and they say hello and talk with us. It is so valuable to feel at home out on the streets.”

read more: oaklandlocal, 25.01.14.

» 20 ways to not be a gentrifier in Oakland

Gentrification is the word of the day in Oakland. Everywhere you look people are asking, “Am I a gentrifier? Is it bad? Should I care?” What people don’t seem to realize is it isn’t the mere act of moving into a neighborhood that makes you a gentrifier; it’s what you do once you get there.

If you come into someone’s home, do you immediately start rearranging it and moving furniture in? Do you throw away their family photo albums and tell them they have to go to bed at an earlier time or play their music at a lower volume?

No, of course not. You get to know each other, decide if you get along, and, once your host has decided you can stay, you ask politely if there is space to put your stuff. So why do you think you can move into someone else’s neighborhood and start making it over as your own? 

2. Recognize all the people outside of your door as your neighbors, even if they look different from you and live under different circumstances. This includes the homeless who sleep on the street, the drug dealers who sell outside the liquor store, and the prostitutes walking your streets. Replace the words homeless, drug dealer, and prostitute with the word neighbor. Treating these folks with respect and dignity from the beginning will give you later leverage to talk to them about changing their behavior and getting out of the life.

3. Change the way you look at said neighbors by changing the language you use to describe them. Think about the motivations for their actions. Instead of “that prostitute was out all night selling her body” think “my neighbor (insert name here) was forced by her pimp to stand out in the cold all night and have sex with multiple men she didn’t know.” See if that doesn’t change your opinion of her.

13. Recognize Oakland has a very unique and vibrant history and culture, and you were attracted to this city because of the energy that is already here. You should be here to add to that history and culture, not to erase it. We are not San Francisco. We don’t want to be San Francisco. So please don’t try to remake our city in San Francisco’s image. And remember, you don’t gain culture by eating a burrito. You gain culture by engaging in a real and meaningful manner with the person who makes the burrito.

read more: oaklandlocal, 30.01.14.

» Why the 'Trick-or-Treat Test' Still Matters

The test, which all stems from the concept of how easily kids can find the front door to a house on Halloween and then move on to the next one, has been useful in getting a broader range of people thinking about how suburban house design relates to more livable, walkable streets. It helps make the case for building houses with rear garages instead of front, often off a lane, and having true front doors. Once the garage is moved, the door can be moved closer to the sidewalk. The lack of driveway curb cuts allow for street trees, uninterrupted sidewalks, on-street parking, and slower speeds for residential traffic, illustrating the ripple effects that suburban-style garages can have on the public realm, walkability, and yes, trick-or-treating…

Kids are often said to be an indicator species for great neighborhoods; Kids in costumes on Halloween night are an indicator species, too. In many suburbs, kids and families have given up on trick-or-treating in the traditional door-to-door sense. Trends like suburban shopping malls giving out candy, or even the “trick-or-trunk” trend where parking lots and candy-filled car trucks replace neighborhoods, can be pragmatic alternatives to un-walkable communities.

atlanticcities, 31.10.12.

i miss trick-or-treating in my childhood neighborhood of elmwood in berkeley! if you’re in the bay, go check out russell st. and that whole area up to claremont!

urbnfutr:

urbanination:

Demolition of swaths of housing for the San Diego Freeway.

Sad urbanism.
» Taking Down a Freeway to Reconnect a Neighborhood

Three big urban planning moves that could transform San Francisco.

Replacing I-280 with a surface boulevard would create many opportunities for improvement, including the creation of new green spaces that would help to link many neighborhoods together.

Big Move #1:
Put high-speed rail and Caltrain underground

Big Move #2:
Tear down I-280 and replace it with a surface boulevard

Big Move #3:
Redevelop the Caltrain railyards

read more: SPUR’s report in the Urbanist, Issue 524 • June 2013.

previously: Ben Caldwell, a masters student at UC Berkeley’s Dept. of Urban Design, has a project analyzing the removal of the 280 Fwy. In place of the freeway, he proposes a new gracious Potrero Boulevard. 13.02.13.

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