Charles Buki's blog

Charles Buki is principal of czb, a Virginia-based neighborhood planning firm specializing in deep dive analysis, strategy development, and implementation of revitalization plans.
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Essence of Sustainability

Challenges that strong and weak markets alike share

How to Turn One Disaster Into Two

In St Bernard Parish, it took almost 7 months for the crickets and other insects to return after Katrina. In that period there was silence at night to go with the darkness.

But the first plans for recovery were delivered inside a mere 80 days, during which time none of the people were talked with or listened to except for the wham bam ty m'amisms that are the lifeblood of the charrette.  

Is it any wonder there are two disasters to recover from a full seven years later?  The first a storm.  The second, an imposition.

"Willingness and Ability" as Drivers of Community Development

The work of planning at some point becomes the work of doing.

Few communities move from planning to executing easily. This is especially notable in weak markets, though it occurs in strong markets too. In weak markets, planning does not typically require anyone to make a commitment. Or to put it more directly, it too seldom requires the community to really make choices.

Was Governor Romney Right Suggesting (Perhaps) that HUD Should Be Eliminated?

Set aside whether or not you agree with anything Governor Romney has to say about anything.  Set aside whether or not you think it is axiomatic that the people of the United States need a federal agency generally charged with the mission of housing the poor and attending to urban issues.  

Candidate Romney may be doing us a favor by putting HUD on the table for us as an American community to evaluate.  It does not matter if the world that favors the elimination of HUD is largely comprised of what Senator McCain called Tea Party Hobbits; the question as to the merit of keeping HUD or not deserves our attention.

Unwillingness to Embrace Demand

At a recent meeting in Washington, DC I was astonished at the demonstrated lack of grasp of how neighborhood markets work. This, after all, was a meeting called by supposed experts in revitalization to discuss revitalization with other experts in revitalization.

Notably missing during six hours of painful back and forth rehashing of Great Society pabulum v 5.0 was any sense of what "demand" means.  It's not just that there was a lack of understanding of demand, for three quarters of a day it was as if the very word - demand - was off limits.  

Neighborhood Change

It is often - and very inaccurately - said that people hate change.  When people get married - they are overjoyed.  When they hold the winning lottery ticket, or have children or get a raise or a promotion or a new car, they are thrilled.  These are forms of change that illustrate the point that change is not what people hate; what people have trouble with is certain forms of change.  This becomes especially relevant to planners and designers and community developers who are part of processes - shaping, facilitating, leading, participating in, or otherwise advocating for one form of change or another.

Infuriating Inferiority

I recently posted an open-ended question on facebook to my friends about Governor Palin, asking for their views. It was remarkable how condescending many of those views turned out to be, just as Gerard Alexander noted in his excellent February 4 Washington Post editorial.

Herewith are my thoughts on the tea party thing - whatever it is - and how it relates to the challenges faced by the New Urbanists and advocates for Smart Growth....

Opportunities (and Mindfulness) of the Emerging HUD Blueprint

By any measure, the HUD that is now emerging from the shadows of eight years of amateur hour, is focused on the right things: markets, coherent roles for public and private sector alike, and energy efficiency. Indeed the emphasis on "urbanism" and "regionalism" illustrates that this administration "gets it".

Tea Leaves in Cleveland

In January 1992, The New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a piece by Columbia’s Nicholas Lemann, titled “The Myth of Community Development”.  It was then - timed to provoke critical thinking about the Clinton Administration’s vanilla urban policy of Empowerment Communities (EZ/EC) - a poignant evaluation of community development, and it asked hard questions.

Questions about the capacity of local organizations, the wisdom of economic development efforts in the hands of anemic CDCs.  Neither wholly right nor wrong, the piece put on the table a necessary skunk:  was it sensible to try to revitalize the inner city using the tools and thinking then at hand?

The More Things Change...

Community Development Work Avoidance

Local government across the nation is knee deep in the work of figuring how to do with less.  No community is immune from the challenges posed by reduced sales and property tax revenue and the constant if not increasing demand for services.  Invariably, and appropriately, locating the proper balance between the two becomes a matter of setting priorities.  And to do that, criteria are needed to rationalize why one municipal activity should be funded, but not another.  It was ever thus, of course.

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