Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Urban "Spamming"

I don't know about you, but I cannot easily move around the city that I live in.  It is not very livable. Actually, most of the county that I live in is not.

I cannot ride my bike to the grocery store.

There is only one major grocery store- no neighborhood markets, only large big box type corporate stores.

I need the freeway to get just about anywhere.

The public transportation system is laughable.

There is no readily accessible train and or bus system available to me.

I need to punch in a gate code to get into my "community" and I need a second to merely enter my garage.  Don't have that code?  Not welcome in this "community".

My neighbor's house looks the same as mine.  You would never know it, because all you see is my garage.

I cannot plant a tree out front, or hang up a basketball hoop for our son as it is "not aesthetically pleasing to the remainder of the community".

Granted- I will give it this; there are plenty of parks.  Dog park, kid parks, the YMCA, there are an abundance of planned community recreational areas.

But what I miss is the feeling of a "real" city.  Everything here, and most other new cities, is artificial.  It is planned, jammed full, and identical.  It is mundane, monotonous, drab....artificial.

I am tired of it.

That is why I love this book- 

The Inclusive City, by Daniel Iacofano and Susan Goltsman.

"While they may look inviting, these instant neighborhoods are not meeting the needs of all residents of the city. Take a closer look beyond the facades and the traffic-calmed streets. You’ll notice that housing is expensive and the shops even more so. The people who live there don’t work there and the people who work there can’t afford to live there... The result does not work as a neighborhood, however. Instead of looking like a simulacrum of Main Street, it more closely resembles a large mall with the roof removed. Where are the kids, the parks, the neighborhood-serving stores? Chic boutiques on the corners don’t make a social community".

S0- How can do we get from here to there? 

"The solution, we believe, is a focus on inclusive planning and design based on economic, social, environmental and culturally sensitive policies that allow everyone to improve economically as the physical area improves. Cities need planning that recognizes that every individual has the right to full and equal participation in the built environment—and that through their direct involvement they can shape their own environment to meet their own needs".

Susan and Daniel are both founders of MIG, Inc. in Berkeley, Ca.  Together they work on environmental design for children, youth and families as well as urban and transportation planning.

Now, I am not an architect.  Or an Engineer, or a planning mastermind.  But I do know this.  The way that we collectively live in the larger part of the United States is unsustainable.  This bothers me.  I want to change it.

I believe that this is what they are doing.

The book is fantastic.  Large, but still fantastic.  It took me some time to get through it, but I never once felt as though I was in over my head.  The Inclusive City is put into readable terms, and laid out in a manner in which any reader can participate with the text.  It is evident that both authors are passionate about what they do, and that they want to share this passion with those around them through the work that they do.

You can get it here.

And I believe that you should.



Raging Dad said...

That sounds like a great book. I am fortunate to live in one of the most livable cities in the country. We have an incredible public transit system (I am biased, however. I work in public transit!), we are consistently called the best city for biking and people here actually give a damn about their impact on our planet. Of course, it's not perfect. Really, if everyone just followed a few things in books like these, or just committed to changing their light bulbs to compact fluorescents, pressured their power company to invest in renewable energy sources, and stopped driving their car to work at least one day a week we'd have a better country.

Oooh. Thanks for putting that soap box out for me! ;)

Eva said...

That sounds so neat! We lived in a subdivision in San Antonio, and although we could put up a basketball hoop (seriously?! aesthetics are more important than fun?!), I hated the cookie-cutter-ness of it all.

I'd like to be able to walk/bike/take public transportation to more places. That being said, when I lived in Russia, obviously I only used public transportation (and walking)...let me tell you, if the system isn't designed well, rush hour is the most horrible thing ever. Not only does everyone squish in, which is bad enough, but men rub up against you. Fortunately, I lived right next to the end of a tram line, so I could always get a seat in the mornings. But I won't forget the couple of times that men did that, and the sense of violation.

But the metro system in St. Petersburg and Moscow is awesome!!! Krasnodar (a city of about a million, down south) didn't have a metro, which I think created the problems.

Emily said...

It sounds like a very interesting book. I'm going to keep my eye out for that one.

So... do you think you'll move?

Minimeltdown said...

Hey, Thanks for the great tip. I have a good friend in urban planning and this would be a great gift for her (if she doesn't already have it).

I believe you and I have discussed the "Pottery Barn" nature of your city before! Needless to say, I agree with you completely.

Rosie said...

It sounds like a very interesting book.

I am very fortunate to live in a little City and can move around as I please. The crime rate is very low. We have certain bike lanes which link major roads, buses trains. The City is very historic and a Roman archway that is still used to this day with traffic.

Rosie x

Bookfool said...

We live in a very unlivable place, too, but in very different ways. We can't ride a bike or go for a walk because of the lack of leash laws -- there are some very threatening dogs in our neighborhood. I think that and the fact that we have to hop in a car to go absolutely anywhere are the biggest annoyances.

When my kids were younger, we actually went through a time when there was no pool in town and the city park closed because the play equipment was so old it had torn, rusted parts. They dismantled the park, plowed the pool under . . . gah. Those were awful years. We just finally got a movie theater after two years without. Nah, I wouldn't live here if I had an option.

Cara said...

Interesting thoughts there. We live in a friendly, welcoming neighborhood, but don't have public transit or anything like that around. In my dreams, I can bike to the Y:)

Brittany said...

I am also not in a livable all honesty, I don't live in a city at all, I live in a village, that is how rural and small it is. We have one store, one gas station and any other options are miles and miles away. People drive down the street on tractors. But, I like the uniqueness, so it's worth it sometimes:)

Lesley said...

Ooh, thanks for posting that. My husband and I are missing city life but Atlanta is not that great of a city - no walking downtown, not a great transit system, etc. etc. so we are looking at options.