New Urbanism's Chief Regret?

In his fifth entry in a lengthy examination of the successes and failures of New Urbanism, Peter Katz looks at one of the movement's key blindspots: the failure to help improve the processes and practices of local governments.
M.Fitzsimmons / Wikimedia Commons

"Although it’s easy to criticize local government staffers for the sprawling patterns that continue to predominate in the suburbs, as I did in the prior installment, and have in earlier writings—there’s plenty of blame to go around," says Katz. "If one is looking for a villain, I might point also to the leadership of the New Urbanism movement for its failure (with some notable recent exceptions) to engage local government on its own terms."

"Unfortunately, it’s a blind spot that’s every bit as pernicious as the one I described in the prior installment that exists among local government planners. It may even be more so, because as new urbanists, we possess the understanding and skills to address, and possibly solve, many of the chronic planning problems that local governments struggle with on a daily basis."

"Twenty years into this endeavor, I’m coming to realize that New Urbanism (and its cousin Smart Growth) really needs its own policy framework if the larger ambitions of these interrelated movements are to be realized," Katz asserts. "It will be tedious and difficult work, but it has to happen if the New Urbanism is to be more than a minor footnote in a mostly sprawl-bound future; It will also require the engagement of people with both the knowledge of the current local government system (and its 88,000 different municipal variants around the nation) and that of current New Urbanism practice."

Full Story: Planning in local government: New Urbanism’s blind spot

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