Dan Bertolet has an interesting post up about the “fourth wave of planning”.

I have thought for a while that each generation of environmentalists is shaped in response to the differing environmental challenges of their time. While older generations of environmentalists were shaped by the back-to-the-land movement, one that believed in an essentially rural solution to environmental problems, young environmentalists are exactly the opposite, believing that dense cities are the primary solution to the problems we face.

Call it Vashion Island environmentalism vs Capitol Hill environmentalism. I find these underlying beliefs to be a helpful organizing structure when talking about density, tree preservation, parking requirements or other issues facing infill development. Dan’s post is a perfect example of these two ideas playing out.

Last year in Seattle, the Bullitt Foundation’s proposed Living Building was subjected to a costly legal challenge based on Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Opponents argued that an environmental impact statement (EIS) should be required because the building would block views. Given that it’s on track to being one of the greenest commercial buildings ever constructed in the United States, and is also located in a dense, walkable, transit-rich neighborhood, the fact that environmental regulations could be exploited to oppose the project suggests something is amiss, to put it mildly.

Following on the heels of the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Washington’s SEPA was created during an era in which the planning culture was dominated by concerns over ecological degradation and responded with strict limits on growth -– planning’s so-called first wave. In the mid-1970s planning entered its second wave, focused on comprehensive planning and infrastructure, followed by a third wave defined by “smart growth” that began around the turn of the century and is still the prevailing approach today.

And now a fourth wave of planning is emerging, with a perspective that will hopefully put an end to perverse contradictions such as what happened with the Bullitt Foundation Living Building. The formative influences on planning’s fourth wave are the “new normal” economy, climate change, energy, food systems, and regional sustainable development.

Full post here.

35 Replies to “CityTank: Get Stoked to Surf The Fourth Wave of Planning”

  1. It is funny how well-intended laws can be put to bad use. We wouldn’t want to eliminate environmental reviews. It is worth noting that “environment” can mean “surroundings” in the “built environment” sense and not necessarily “ecological environment sense”.

  2. Whenever Democrats lose an argument they resort to the old “young vs. old”.

    Simply calling something young or new (and in this case, vertical density is neither) doesn’t make it correct.

    The point is that a whole generation of urban planners…most of whom are in their fifties, not their twenties, were taught to ignore most of the trends in American pattern living for the last 30 years, and proscribe a Euro-ist model as taught in cloistered colleges.

    This model of urban density is ultimately retrograde and inappropriate for the American landscape with its drive towards personal prosperity and independent liberty and independence. The Government sanctioned land grabs of the last 30 years have done more to hinder a wealthy society than almost any other factor. Centralization leaves a few with too much control over the many.

    What is really needed is an Anti-Plan. A way of liberating ourselves from the schemers who will call for a “Congestion Relief Tax” on autos one day, and the next build a stadium in a place where it is sure to cause the maximum congestion.

    No…these are not planning, but political issues. It is time for complete regime change in Washington State, and with it, the exodus of the vertical centrists who have ruined our lands.

    1. Gee, John, when ever Neo-liberals (that includes Libertarians and Republicans) lose an argument, they resort to calling something European as if that is a pejorative.

      You call for regime change but this is not Iraq. We are engaged in the most conservative of endeavors. Saving our environment and saving our lands from the ruin of suburban sprawl. The American pattern you so aptly think you understand is not what you think it is. 80+% of people now live in urban areas ( http://goo.gl/FlWPx ) . And the trend will continue. The global impact of dwindling availability of “cheap” oil will cause your neighbors to move even closer to the city and to change their lifestyles accordingly.

      You can either continue to seethe that your familiar way of life may be changing or you can see where the future is going and enthusiastically get on board.

      1. John’s apparently already living in an apartment building next to a shopping center within walking distance of a train station.

        I have no idea what’s going on in his head rhetorically, because it doesn’t match with his actual way of life.

      2. Balance? From 5% of the world’s population raging through 25% of the world’s energy budget? America is so laughably unbalanced as to make Icarus’s free-fall seem a mere imagined stumble.

        But not to worry! There’s still 400 years of sustainable energy growth before we boil the water off the planet, and who wouldn’t vote for business as usual?

      3. *Very* interesting comic.

        I suppose Bailo would be Type II. Kemper Freeman would be Type I. Type III is only beginning to emerge.

    2. Privatize infrastructure, liberating us from John’s fearful world and watch development concentrate just as it once was.

      Does John just want everyone to own a bit of lawn so that they too can yell “get off my lawn!”?

    3. Dense cities are the oldest ordering structure of a civilized society. Cities are human nature and the American model of suburbia is a aberration, not a new norm.

      1. Dense cities are the oldest ordering structure of a civilized society
        I wonder about that. Communities and connection seem to be part of human nature but the modern, dense, sustaining cities that planners are hoping to create in the 21st century are something very new to the planet–and very much a “work in progress”. I expect that in a few years we will see a 5th wave of planning that addresses the problems of the decaying and forgotten suburbs and exurbs that have languished during the renenewal and revitilization of urban society brought on during the 4th wave of planning.

      2. Actually, yes, cities are the oldest structure of a *civilized* society — by definition!

        *Civil*ization is the world created by city-dwellers. The root for “civilized” is the Latin for “city”.

        Of course, in ancient times, with lower overall populations, cities were relatively small. They were very *dense*, but they were quite *small* — the density didn’t spread out past the city walls. This is arguably the ur-form of civilization: small dense lumps of civilization surrounded by vast rural herding and farming areas.

        Suburbs are definitely an aberration. Incidentally, the fate of the suburbs in Michigan appears to be a return to rural living….

      3. The difference is a pedestrian-scaled environment vs an automobile-scaled environment. Roman cities were only a few blocks long but they were compact. Before cars, only the rich could afford their own horses, and only the middle class could afford taxis. Everyone else had to live within walking distance of work, groceries, and church — or take rail transit where it existed. Cities were built on the village model, with one or more town centers surrounded by houses.

        In the 1900s, new ideas came into vogue. It was assumed that everybody would have a car and would drive everywhere. So houses, shopping centers, and roads were built to automobile scale, and density was leveled out to a few houses per block, or a business surrounded by a parking lot alone on its block. These landscapes are much more difficult for pedestrians to get around in, and the simultaneous lowering of transit service made it worse. People rarely see their neighbors so they become more isolated, which leads to loneliness and health problems.

        Density is about recreating the time-tested environment of town centers and villages within cities and suburbs. Low-rise and mid-rise structures (3-10 stories) and row houses are sufficient, as in northeastern US cities. Highrise construction is not necessary, but we might as well encourage it in “large” urban villages.

        The future is already here, as Bellevue, Lynnwood, Redmond, Renton, Burien, Kent, Des Moines, etc, are all densifying their centers, and sometimes arterial streets too (Hwy 99 in Lynnwood and Des Moines). In some cases the redevelopment is not dense enough or is too automobile-oriented, but it’s going in the right direction.

      4. Nice comment, Mike Orr. I think you should promote that comment into a full-fledged essay and publish it. Perhaps call it “Density is Traditional”, or something similar.

    4. I don’t get it, has John never seen another major city in the USA? They’ve been building highrise housing in cities for a long, long time; before John was born I bet.

      The Seattle metro area is just growing from a little city to a major metropolis, and highrise housing is part of that change. Don’t worry John, SFH is still a big part of the mix in all major cites and will continue to be here.

      1. ALSO…suburban sprawl wiped out most local family farmers, but you never hear John talk about that.

      2. Suburban sprawl didn’t wipe out family farms. Family farms have a very difficult time competing with large corporate agriculture even in rural areas. If you want to pin the blame for the collapse of the family farm pin it on huge corporate lobbing efforts that feed companies like ADM.

      3. Family farms have recovered in upstate NY, thanks to “boutique” specialty farming (as opposed to commodity farming). Suburban sprawl does kill them though.

      4. It’s been a while since I’ve been in upstate New York. I’d be shocked if the areas bordering Lake Champlain were sprawl or family farms. The suburban demand for organic and local produce has been a boon to small scale family farming in the greater Seattle metro area. Much of the farming area around here is in flood plains. Doesn’t mean local officials haven’t been clueless but eventually the insurance companies take note. The Kent valley wasn’t devoured by suburban homes but industrial parks which were previously in places like south Seattle and Bel-Red. Partially because the Army Corp of Engineers “fixed” the flooding problem and partially because that’s where the railroads are. Washington has an edge in the “family farm” business because apples are our number one $$$ amount crop and it’s inherently best suited toward family farming. Even our wheat farms scale well with family farming; even if “family farm” equates to several sections! Potatoes too fall into this category. If you want to support family farms, one word; Dairygold. It’s built on the Kerrygold model. They provide a superior product and if you shop carefully it’s no more expensive than other options.

      5. “Suburban sprawl does kill them though.”

        Case in point. Lemon Grove, Orange County, Blossom Hill, etc, were accurate when they were named. The most productive farmland in the world is now under asphalt and single-family tract housing, because it was unfortunate enough to be within thirty miles of a city. There’s also the fact that sprawl has penetrated into flood plains, which creates its own problems.

        (If people really wanted to build effective houses, they would not build them in flood plains or on productive soils, they would put the main windows on the south side for winter light and heat, they’d plant a deciduous tree in front of the window for summer shade, and they’d locate the house within walking distance of a significant transit stop.)

      6. I remember visiting my uncle in Anaheim, Orange County, back in the 60’s. His house was one of those built on old orchard land and there were still farms in the area. I suspect citrus farming is similar to apple farming in our state which can still be done on a family farm basis. Sunkist is a cooperative of growers as is Tree Top in Washington. Sprawl hasn’t killed the CA citrus industry. CA is still number 1 in Naval oranges and 2nd only to Florida in citrus production. The farmers migrated north into the San Joaquin Valley. Of course that’s under pressure from development now too but a larger threat might be from imports. In Western Washington though agriculture is dying because of competitive pressure. The growing season is short, land parcels are relatively small and labor costs are high. Dairy survives because of huge subsides but even with that is hard to overcome the likes of global giant Nestle which bought out Carnation.

      7. Plenty of family farms on the Peninsula. I think you’ll find that small farms near cities don’t compete directly with the big boys, because they specialize.

        It’s about the cost of land, to buy or lease. When you are starting out you usually have to lease land from another farmer, unless you inherit it. Very hard to compete with a suburban developer who’s willing to pay $100,000++ an acre.

      8. Overall family farms are doing well in the state…

        • The number of farms in Washington rose 6 percent between 2000 and 2008 — with the upward trajectory steeper in the last two of those years. That means the state has about the same number of farms as it did in 1970, though the total acreage in farming has shrunk.

        • Ninety percent of the farms are owned by individuals or families.

        (Seattle Times)

      9. Family farms are a growing trend in Whatcom County as well. B’hamer’s are big on the organic and sustainability; or as it’s know in their master plan, “ecological footprint.” You’re right that they specialize. For instance milling flour from locally grown grains. For a lot of these farmers it’s a passion but not one that allows them to ditch their day job. It can also provide a nice tax write off on that 5, 10, 100 acre spread.

      10. Lake Champlain area was never prime farmland. It’s Central & Western NY which has “re-farmed”. The once-rich farmland of Westchester, unfortunately, is gone under suburbs.

  3. The Government sanctioned land grabs of the last 30 years have done more to hinder a wealthy society than almost any other factor. Centralization leaves a few with too much control over the many.

    Those 2 sentences need to be examined closely. The first is absolutely preposterous if we look at the current status of the of the top 1% (or even the top 10%) of Americans and compare their situation with the top 10% 30 years ago. But I will agree with you about the 2nd sentence; however, it’s not the 50 year old urban planners that I’m worried about.

  4. As a planner (in my 40s, ten years out from my planning degree), it’s always interesting to read about our supposed blinders, conspiracies, and various other evildoings.

    If we had even half the power you think we have, you’d be bicycling home in the rain to your 40th floor walkup, where you’d be cheerfully greeted by the telescreen.

    1. I’m not so much just talking about planners, I’m talking more about the norm that a whole generation references when they think about an issue. Take pollution for example. I think older people would think mostly of point-source pollution from factories, mills, etc. Ask younger people, and while they’ll still talk about factories, I bet a lot more would talk about cars, water runoff, CO2, etc.

      1. That’s very true. CO2 and cars. Also, small-scale toxins used by commercial and residential locations.

      2. Richard Mlynarik has described the US as being particularly paranoid about fire. And it is; the US “fire retardant” rules are substantial overkill at this point, with a nasty poisonous side effect.

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