An Urban Bill Of Rights For Berkeley

This column from The Berkeley Daily Planet sees cultural values being rapidly depleted in favor of quick developments and short-term profits. To remind planners and citizens what could be, an 'Urban Bill of Rights' has been written.

Facing a planning environment more focused on meeting standards than on innovating, this columnist has proposed an "Urban Bill of Rights". This list outlines the basic rights every urbanite should enjoy, from being able to sleep at night without excessive ambient light to avoiding any negative environmental changes brought about by "poor urban design".

"Berkeley is making three serious mistakes. First, we are deliberately and unnecessarily increasing income-based inequities in quality of life. Second, we are moving toward an urban environment where man is disconnected from (his) nature. And third, we are creating an urban environment that undermines our cultural values and individual potentialities."

"We cannot let planners and developers decide what we will do with our lives. I never hear planners discussing psychological health and cultural values. Planners have a different approach. As one Berkeley planner told me, no matter what they build, eventually those who can or must tolerate the new, worse environment will replace those who can’t. As this happens, resistance to further degradation lessens. But I reject this 'race to the bottom.' And with enough time, planners and developers could also train Americans to live like drones in anthills â€" but why let them?"

Full Story: The Public Eye: Notes on NIMBYism Part IV: The NIMBY Manifesto



I'm down!

I don't think people who live in an urbanized area have all those rights.... if you you make the choice to live in the CITY vs the COUNTRY, you are giving up 3 and 4, and sometimes even 1. I don't mean that we shouldn't strive for peace, quiet, greenery, etc. But let's be real. If you live in the city, what did you expect?

Other than that, I am surprisingly in agreement with the "NIMBY Manifesto".

Michael Lewyn's picture

Here's my alternative...

Urbanites shouldn't have a right to turn their cities into suburbs. That's been tried in the second half of the 20th century, with disastrous results.

I propose the opposite: urbanites have a right to the 3 Ds:

1. Density. Develompent compact enough that a few major facilities (including public transit) are within a 10 minute walk, and more major facilities are within a 30 minute walk.

2. Diversity. The right to live within walking distance of shops, etc. not just more housing.

3. Design. The right to communities designed for people, not just cars. This means buildings instead of parking lots in front of the street, and no more six-lane highways cutting neighborhoods in half.

Ms. Hudson's rant is completely self-contradictory. On the one hand, no pollution and overpaving. On the other hand, more cars and more parking.

Qualify and Quantify

Hmm, this article generated comments very quickly...

It's mostly a nice sentiment but unrealistic and unquantified.

How much "peace and quiet" is sufficient--total silence or some limited noise? What is excessive light--bright storefront across the street or street lamps (and do curtains not help)? What amount of greenery is "significant"--park frontage or street trees? What is "walking distance to nature"--crossing the street or 10 minutes down the sidewalk?

How much shadow is too much? How can a Berkeley resident have both minimal "shadow canyons" and "convenient access, on foot if possible, to basic daily needs" when businesses depending on foot traffic require shadowy, high-density neighborhoods? Is dense Downtown Berkeley not still rather sunny in late afternoon?

What, for the various stated modes, is considered "convenient access" to employment? By foot, a 5- or 20-minute walk? By car, streets of LoS A or D? By transit, a one-vehicle ride of 10 minutes on an uncrowded bus stopping at one's front door or a bus-to-BART transfer with walking distances at either end?

What is participation in "democratic processes"--influencing decisions that directly affect you or that affect other people unbothered by the issue?

The "rights" are open to too broad a range of subjective interpretations and are sometimes themselves written subjectively. Many of the items are merely "nice-to-haves"; in the area of needs, though, the writer should speak less for the entire community.

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