The Problems of the Public Process

NIMBYism is obstructing the urban planning process, according to architect and New Urbanist Andres Duany. He suggests changing the public participation process to unclog the system.

In this interview from Architect, Diana Lind talks with Duany about the problems associated with public participation and how they can negatively affect the planning process.

"Diana Lind: Is there a better way to get public participation in the design process without a project falling prey to local interests?

Andres Duany: Conventional public participation makes the mistake of privileging the neighbors, the people who live within a half-mile of the given proposal. So it becomes extremely difficult to, say, locate a school or an infill project. While democracy doesn't need a great number of voters to function well, it does require a full cross-section to participate. That is the source of its collective intelligence. You can't confuse neighbors with the community as a whole.

We propose using the jury pool or the phone book to invite a random group, which is then understood to be apart from the self-interested neighbors, just as the developer or the school board are acknowledged as vested interests. The neighbors must be seen as vested interests as well."

Full Story: Control the Masses



people with vested interests need options

"You can’t confuse neighbors with the community as a whole".

What is the community? Is it my street, my block, my city, my province, my country, my planet? Somewhere along the line someone stops being interested about plan because it doesn't affect them. Sounds like Duany wants to ask those uninterested people to approve his planning project. Their interests aren't threatened by it so that should be an easy sell. The "community" in the planning process or in any process are the interested parties, period. Is Duany looking for the 'out' to be able to do what he wants, without proper consultation? I'm familiar with that because the Director of Planning in my city of Vancouver (Brent Toderian) also wants to do what he wants without real and meaningful consultation. Just accept it guys, the people who keep coming out to meetings, keep giving you feedback and keep making suggestions to create a 'better project in my backyard" are the community. You just don't like it.

Although I agree in part

Although I agree in part with the other poster, Duany talks about the principle of subsidiarity which is that decisions should be made at the smallest appropriate scale. So for a school, which benefits (for example) a radius of 3km around it, you should ensure you have a sample of people from all over that 3km area. The reality is that you get people turn up to the consultation who live within 200m who will be directly affected by the traffic. I speak from experience! That is not to say that we dismiss the views of the very local - they are concerned about congestion outside their house so we address that specifically. But Duany's point is that those people's negative comments about the project (because of very local issues) are not representative of the school's potential community.

The next question is how to engage this wider area. Duany suggests inviting random people from the phone book or jury pool. Is this practical? Would those people be resentful? We can't force them to turn up or be interested (presumably). Many people are interested in their communities but don't have the time or come out to a traditional public consultation. This is where municipalities can use new media and the internet to engage. Encourage residents within your municipality to join an email list (or facebook, twitter etc) so they can be informed when there is a relevant consultation for them to comment on. All materials and comment forms should be online. I'm sure this isn't a new idea, so I'd be interested to hear whether in experience this works or not in engaging a broader cross section of the community, whatever that 'community' is.

Tim Barton

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