The Urban Humanism Manifesto: Putting Communities First

By John Mirisch : newgeography – excerpt


Construction comes with a high cost to residents’ health. All is not rosy for the residents of the new Mission Bay housing springing up along the San Francisco Bay who are getting a dose of dust and contaminants from the piles of excavated dirt blowing their way. Photo by zrants.

Urban planning exists to serve people and communities, not the other way around. Unfortunately, urban planners these days, perhaps under the influence of academic arrogance as well as the lure of developer dollars, seem to forget this simple truism.

A particularly invidious form of planning orthodoxy involves certain adherents of so-called “new urbanism,” which looks at density, more density and only density as the hallmark of the (for them) only acceptable form of urban living.

Without considering that people of all colors, stripes and ethnicities might like to have gardens, these urban planning densifiers support policies whose main aims are to eliminate low-density housing, without regard to preservation of the integrity of communities or without acknowledging that community character means anything.

The new urbanist density hawks also use other “arguments” apart from social justice to make their moral case for high-density, including, importantly, environmental considerations. Never mind the fact that even studies done by density advocates show that the supposed benefits of increased density on the environment would be marginal, at best. But that doesn’t dampen the rhetoric. Far from it. Some of the most strident density fetishists decry single-family neighborhoods as “the enemy” and proclaim homeowners to be nothing less than “zoo animals” and “bloodthirsty dinosaurs,” who are “angry, entitled, immoral, classist and racist.”… (more)

How livable are the new dense urban environments? How healthy are residents living in a perpetual construction zone?

Aaron Starr’s Plaza Program Overview and Presentation Material

The Plaza Program does not establish any plazas, but would establish a program framework

Mar. 13, 2014 Planning Commission meeting: MARCH 13, 2014
…Proposed amendments to Section 234 of the Planning Code that could support the more broad Plaza Program as well as address several common – sense clean – up and efficiency amendments to that section that are not directly related to the establishment of this new program. We look forward to describing the goals and processes of the Plaza Program for you so that you can have more context for the small section of the proposed Planning Code amendments (234.1(e) that is designed to support this new initiative. The proposed Plaza Program does not establish any plazas, but would establish a program framework… (more)
Four pieces of legislation were introduced at BOS – January 28, 2014 (140061, 140062, 140063, 140064) Hearing at Planning Commission – February 27, 2014 2014.00180T. Legislation was drafted by OEWD (Robin Havens – 554-5395), and is co-sponsored by the Mayor and Supervisor Cohen. There is virtually no public notice or awareness and the scope is unknown, but appears to be wide-ranging.
One project mentioned is a plaza converting 19th Street up against I-280 freeway. This legislation is racing through. No one seems to be informed or aware of this. Read attached staff report… (more)
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