Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yeah - somebody else gets it!

Somebody emailed me this article and I was thrilled to read it. You may recall that I had posted a short version on Planetizen of a presentation that I made to our local urban-county government and two of the issues that I addressed were that existing neighborhoods were going to need to be retrofitted to provide walkable groceries and pharmacies, and that HOA and Zoning rules were going to have to be eliminated that prevent people from having home businesses and cottage industries. This planner clearly agrees.

American Planning Association Magazine (online)
Planning — December 2008
Garages Aren't Just for Cars Anymore
One way to retrofit suburbs for a post-carbon world.
By Suzan Tobin

...Smart growth concepts address this by emphasizing mixed use, walkable development, but the problem with smart growth is that it only addresses new growth. How do we rework these vast suburban areas of single-use residential tracts that so much of our population calls home? How do we get out of our cars when so many of us live where the car is king?

...One strategy is to mix in some new uses. "Community is economy," said James Howard Kunstler in his 1993 landmark book, The Geography of Nowhere. People come together around commerce; without it, suburban neighborhoods have little hope for becoming thriving, sustainable communities.

Yet in residential suburbia, the idea of interacting in a public space is not only ignored, but also discouraged. Neighborhood covenants, conditions, and restrictions and city codes often limit what can be placed in the front part of the house, where it connects to the street. Street parking is forbidden. The whole idea is to keep your life inside your house, behind that closed garage door, while the public space is left empty.

I propose that we take advantage of the car-focused architecture and use it for neighborhood enhancement. The snout-nosed garage, with its large garage door in close proximity to the street, could become the opportunity for injecting mixed use into these single-use areas.

By introducing a "Garage Conversion Mixed Use Rezone" option, we could see garages morphing into cafes, neighborhood grocers, bookstores, and other businesses. The huge, blank garage door fronting the sidewalk and street could become an attractive storefront, connecting the house to the street.

These converted garages could provide the neighborhood with public spaces for interaction and commerce. The new businesses could become a source of local employment, and could generate activity to make the location an ideal node for a local-to-regional transit connection...

...It will be an adjustment for some, but change is absolutely necessary. The single-use, single-family residential model of the last century is just not sustainable in the new century. We are already witnessing the decline of many suburban neighborhoods, exacerbated by the subprime lending debacle. The garage conversion mixed use rezone just may be a step toward retrofitting suburbia for future sustainability.


There is no doubt some NIMBYs will get their shorts in a wad, but they can be outmanned and outgunned if the majority of the neighborhood recognizes that walkable communities are a must for the peak oil era and coming economic collapse of big-box retail and chain restaurants. This is a vital step in the relocalization process and obstacles must be overcome for the good of the community.

Yeah, somebody else gets it!!!

1 comment:

AnnF said...

Wow! Fascinating concept and a very appealing one.

Ideally, it might even involve neighborhood community planning for who does what.

"I'll put up a bookstore or book lending library, you host the backyard farming market, she'll have the tool collection in hers (for the tools that everybody needs sometimes but nobody needs often enough to make it worth everybody owning one), etc."