6 Ways Urban Renewal Misses the Livability Mark

Despite spending millions on urban renewal projects, municipalities often miss a common group of opportunities to make their communities more livable and walkable, according to William Adams, a San Diego-based land use attorney.

September 12, 2014, 7:00 AM PDT

By melaniecj


Mixed-use waterfront

La Citta Vita / Flickr

When it comes to urban renewal, understanding the “big picture” is not enough to keep cities and towns from making mistakes.

William Adams, a San Diego-based land use attorney, writes that despite the increasing success of urban renewal in the past 15 years, cities are still missing opportunities to veer away from the auto-orientation that is driving suburbanites to city centers. (Please excuse the auto-oriented idioms.)

Common mistakes include communities not knowing how to truly provide for pedestrians and other active transit users, according to Adams.

“The lesson: Pedestrians and active transit users need routes designed specifically for them, not simply as an add-on to routes designed for cars.  Route planning should seek shortcuts and other opportunities that give walking or biking advantages over the automobile.”

Other common errors include not selecting the right streetscape trees, not reducing parking, and not protecting existing building stock.

“..for more than any other reason, successful urban renewal depends on creating or restoring an environment that diminishes the primacy of the automobile and prioritizes walking, active transit, public transit, the natural environment, and existing structures.”

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