Currently viewing the tag: "Sprawl"

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To celebrate the arrival of Earth Day, David M. Edward’s Sprawling From Grace: The Consequences of Suburbanization, an excellent new documentary, is available for free viewing until tomorrow at 11:59 pm. Click here for the trailer, and here to download the full film. Enjoy, and may it inspire you to do more in the war against sprawl.

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Clean Water Action is rallying the anti-sprawl troops. Click here to quickly tell your senator that you do not support repealing anti-sprawl legislation.

This bill would remove critical growth management authority by the state’s Department of Community Affairs; eliminate transportation concurrency and Development of Regional Impact review in some communities.

Strong growth management laws were established to protect our communities from overdevelopment. In tough economic times, it is smart to manage our tight financial resources in way that encourages long-term regional cooperation and planning. Water is an example of a finite resource we need to protect. Whether it is time wasted in traffic, dropping home values, increasing infrastructure deficits or decreasing quality of our life and water supply, in Florida - sprawl costs us all!

Developer over-speculation and not the regulation of Florida’s growth management process contributed to Florida’s economic collapse. Now those same developers are trying to use the financial crisis to eliminate oversight and limit public participation.

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The livable streets and smart growth blogosphere was set fire today when President Obama declared the end of sprawl in Fort Meyers, Florida — a poster child for the sprawl-induced mortgage meltdown.

The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody… recognizes that’s not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this sort of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation.

Note this comes in direct opposition to a sprawl proliferation project Obama talked up the day before in Indiana.

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According to this Miami Herald article, the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations is coming up mute on Lennar’s proposed Parkland Development, a 931-acre 7,000 home sprawlburg that requires yet another adjustment of Miami-Dade’s urban growth boundary. Perhaps the members of this Federation cannot bring themselves to be hypocrites. That is, the boundary was once moved for where they presently live. That, or like the Herald says, it is just plain apathy.

KFHA apathy notwithstanding, it seems the project is one step closer to coming to fruition, as the Miami-Dade Miami-Dade County Planning Advisory Board voted 7-3 today to recommend that commissioners move the urban development boundary further west.

Really?!

Apparently these “advisors” want more sprawl.

The forces of change whose emblem is the bulldozer, and the forces of preservation whose totem is the tree, are everywhere at war in this country…

-Joel Garreau (1991) Edge Cities

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Lennar corp., a well-known developer of suburban tract homes, has its sights on pushing the bounds of Miami-Dade’s controversial urban development Boundary (UDB). Today’s Miami Herald article explains the politics, players and issues at play. Perhaps the most notable comment is that the ignominiously named Parkland, a 900-acre UDB busting “sustainable” development in question, is nothing more than a political greenwash.

Transit Miami could not agree more.

These types of growth issues-UDB or not-are common across the country. Ultimately, as Rey Melendi, president for Lennar’s Miami-Dade division points out, suburban expansion is typically not about enforcing a planning tool, but about politics. Sadly, that may be the only issue we can agree upon.

Fortunately, politics these days also include a strong contingent of well-informed people who see through this type of development for what it really is-suburban sprawl, something Miami-Dade County already has in spades. Indeed, much of which is currently unable to be sold.

I have many a comment to make, but will restrain myself to three.

1. Melendi says, ”It will be like Coral Gables or Miami Lakes.” This could be true-I have not seen the physical design of the community and how it proposes to be “mixed use,” “walkable” and “bike-friendly”- but based on the developer’s past work I could at best imagine a horizontal mixture, i.e., not supportive of transit, urban intensity or even civic beauty. Not to mention that even if “Parkland” were another Coral Gables, it is a development intended to replace much needed farmland near the Everglades.

Dig?

My thought is the County should enforce its little known Transfer of Development Rights program (TDR) created during the agriculture land preservation planning effort of the late 1990s. This way the development rights for thousands of homes and business could be transferred to the more urban part of Miami-Dade where growth should occur. To make this feasible, the County should work with those cities that contain Metrorail stations and many vacant or underutilized parcels to upzone properties, especially along Metrorail and Tri-Rail sites. If done well, Lennar could stand to make a killing and our precious environmental resources would be none the worse. I admit, this is likely to be wishful thinking.

2. The Herald article states “Parkland’s developers say it would be different from the suburban sprawl that has clogged roadways and produced isolated bedroom communities. The project is designed to be walkable and bike-friendly, a self-contained community with a mix of uses that would encourage less driving — and perhaps inspire reverse commutes to the 2,550 jobs developers hope to create within Parkland. Melendi said.”

Let me point out the inherent contradiction in this most favorable description. Any city, development, subdivision or what have you that is ‘self-contained’ most certainly does not plug into a framework of urbanism. That is to say, cul-de-sacs and strip malls are self-contained as well. Thus, I am not convinced by such a hollow sales pitch, as sustainable urbanism is complex, connected and vertically integrated, not closed off. Not to mention all completed studies state that current traffic capacity, water supply and environmental issues make this project a no-go.

3. This last one is fantastic.

“Pino, one of the largest home builders in the county, said he currently controls more than 700 acres on which he can build houses inside the UDB…” “…The developers challenge county calculations that it has an adequate supply of developable land within the UDB.”

”They are overstating their numbers,” said Melendi, who argues the county has largely reached its buildable limits within the UDB.

So, let me get this straight. Said developer has 700 acres within the UDB, but finds it essential to build on 941 acres outside of it first? I am sorry, but this is infuriating. All I see is greed here.

Finally, Melendi states “I don’t see a trend of people moving closer to urban centers.”

Does he have his head in the South Beach sand? Demographic research shows, time and time again, that urban centers continue to grow and revitalize, while new suburban areas, especially right now, are seeing the largest property devaluations.

To be sure, the timing of this vote is sneaky, as it is designed to slip by constituents a day before our national Presidential elections.

We at TM say no. Call or email your County Commissioners and tell them you support smart growth in the existing cities of Miami-Dade.

In what could only be judged as an effort to stymie opposition on the most contested land use issue in the region, the Miami-Dade Planning and Zoning department has scheduled a public hearing for November 3, regarding an application to amend the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP).  The hearing, of course, entails the expansion of the Urban Development Boundary for the development of a “new mixed-use community” on 961.15 acres, also known as the Parkland Development.  The likely horizontally mixed-use development (sprawl) would incorporate residential (cookie cutter houses), commercial (strip shopping centers), institutional (schools deemed necessary by county code requirements), and civic uses (streets?).

Besides the obvious detrimental ecological concerns posed by opening up further land outside the urban development boundary, I am troubled by the timing of this public hearing – only one day before the most hotly contested presidential race to date.  The timing is uncanny for such a hot buttoned issue within Miami-Dade’s local politics.  Moreover, amid the deepest economic recession in recent history, the precipitous decline of the local housing industry, and the tumultuous wake of the sub-prime lending mortgage crisis i must wonder why anyone would push for a public hearing.  Looks like its politics as usual in Miami-Dade…

(Image Source: Fate the Magnificent’s Flickr)

  • Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower is calling to move forward with a plan to build a new convention center rather than the 50,000 SF addition proposed back in 2004.  (Miami Today)
  • After three years and $7 Million worth of renovations, Miami Beach’s historic City Hall (pictured above) is finally set to reopen.  The refurbished building will house Miami Beach Police offices, the Miami design preservation league’s offices, and the MB Branch Court.  (Miami Herald)
  • Despite the huge economic downturn, MDM partners have secured a $250 million loan for the construction of MET 2 - a 750,000 SF office building rising in the heart of the CBD.  (Globe Street)
  • Contractual delays in the port of Miami tunnel could likely set back that project’s opening date to 2013.  (Miami Today)

Elsewhere:

  • NIMBYs try (and Fail) to keep a bus route from passing by their suburban Toronto home.  Their arguments, typical of the NIMBY mindset, included: noise, pollution, added traffic, and a threat to children playing in the streets… (The Star)
  • Surprise, surprise, apparently Sprawl may be the reason for a lack of civic involvement in Central New Jersey.  (Princeton Packet)
  • Voters in Minnesota will be deciding whether to spend $10 million to purchase a golf course in Eagan in order to prevent a developer from building more suburban homes.  (Minesota Public Radio)

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Clif Bar, the purveyor of well-known and quite tasty energy bars, has long been an eco-conscious company. However, they have taken their advocacy to a new level with the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge.

Their fantastic website gives you the facts about climate change, connects it to human behavior, allows you to build your bicycle (assuming you don’t already have one) and map out a two mile radius from where you live so that you may see all that is accessible within a relatively easy bicycle ride.

Why 2 miles? Well, if you visit the website you will learn that 40% of urban travel in America is two miles or less. 90% of such trips are undertaken with automobiles, which generate approximately 25% of our nation’s carbon emissions. Bottom line: American’s are lazy and we pollute.

However, as Clif Bar rightly asserts, such trips are easy to replace with a bicycle which in turn helps you get fit, connect to your neighborhood and city in a new way, and have little to no impact on the environment. If you take the challenge but once a week, your will be doing yourself, city and world a bit of good.

So go ahead Miami, Take the challenge!

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On the bike ride to work this morning I stopped to snap a couple of photos. The first displays the Miami Arena on its way out. The second, the once beautiful and ‘coulda been saved if the political will was there, ala Coppertone Girl and Marine Stadium,’ East Coast Fisheries building on the Miami River.

As I bicycle around downtown it sometimes seems this city has had almost as many buildings knocked down as put up in recent years. Some had to go, but others… alas, another day, another demo.

Via: Reconnecting America:

Next time you’re stuck going 20 mph in the fast lane, waiting forever to get through a traffic light, or trying to find your way out of a giant concrete parking structure, remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for America to rediscover the human scale. It’s time to build communities for people, not cars.

Apparently we were having an HTML error due to the recent wordpress software upgrade.  We apologize for the inconvenience and incomplete emails that were sent out this morning.

Let me see if I am reading this sequence of events correctly:

  1. Miami-Dade County commissioners allowed development to occur adjacent to Kendall-Tamiami Airport.
  2. Thousands of cookie cutter homes were built, some in locations far too close to the airport boundary (you all remember how certain developers took certain commissioners on fishing trips to Mexico  because they are so kind in exchange for a reduction in the airport buffer zone…)
  3. Knowing of the airport’s existence, families still moved into these houses.
  4. Residents are now complaining of the noise caused by the airport and want restrictions placed on flights.

I don’t know about you, but I’m left scratching my head on this one.  How stupid are we?  One of the proposed “solutions” is to move more of the training flights out to the Dade-collier transition facility in the middle of the everglades. In case you aren’t aware, in the late 1960’s some of our legislative geniuses laid the foundation to create the world’s largest airport (Everglades Jetport) in the middle of the Florida Everglades.  Luckily, only one of the airports proposed 6 runways (a 10,500 ft behemoth nonetheless) was actually constructed before environmentalists (rather the cancellation of the SST aircraft, the main reason why the airport was conceived from the beginning) convinced the government that the airport would cause irreparable harm to the ecosystem.

I digressed as usual, but am I the only one in complete disbelief?  This reminds me of the other geniuses in Kendall who never realized that existing rail rights-of-way like the CSX or FEC corridor could actually once again be used for regular rail service…

But residents are worried about the dangers associated with testing equipment in such a highly populated area.

It has even led homeowners to question whether it’s time for the Federal Aviation Administration to revisit airport guidelines now that the landscape around the airport has significantly changed from mostly empty fields to hundreds of homes.

Once again, this chain of events is the result of developers controlling our land-use regulations.  Land-use planning is pro-active, why is it that in Miami-Dade County we’re always left cleaning up other people’s messes?

The swath of land centered in the image below was a former airfield in Pinecrest, forced to close due to encroaching development, could Kendall-Tamiami experience this fate one day?  How about Homestead General Aviation Airport or even Dade-Collier?

Three Great articles I highly recommend.

An entire generation of Americans has grown up thinking public faucets equal filth, and the only water fit to drink comes in plastic, factory sealed. It’s time to change that perception with public fountains in the city’s busiest quadrants, pristine bubblers that celebrate the virtues of our public water supply, remind us of our connection to upstate watersheds and reinforce our commitment to clean water for all.

Oil fueled our ambitions and dreams. The more we drank, the happier we felt, the bolder we acted. We believed in the eternity of oil, the everlasting cheapness of it; we looked askance at anyone who questioned our faith.

In all of this, we had enablers, politicians who supported our habit, told us not to worry, that there was more cheap oil to be found somewhere — in another country, perhaps, if not our own. They said they would fix whatever needed fixing.

It is one thing to meet with an Amtrak worker for a photo-op. It is another to get on board for the rail service America needs for a green economy, less urban congestion, and a more civilized future. Obama says, ‘‘Detroit won’t find a better partner than me in the White House.’’ In the past, that has also meant making a pariah out of Amtrak. Nothing would symbolize a break from this past more than a whistlestop tour in the presidential campaign, to promote trains themselves.

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I returned yesterday from a whirlwind weekend trip to Mexico City. My head is still buzzing, perhaps due to the overwhelming amount of smog, but more likely because the sheer amount of kinetic energy inherent to the world’s seventh largest city is still pulsing through my veins. I will post more complete and complementary thoughts over at Planetizen later this week. For now, I will keep this post as short as possible and transit-oriented.

In less than three days time my girlfriend and I were able to see a fair amount of the city, including Zocalo Square (one of the three largest in the world) in the Centro historico, the neighborhood extant of Roma, Condesa, Zona Rosa and Coyoacan, and the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which translates to ‘birthplace of the gods,’ by one account, or ‘place of those who have the road of the gods,’ by another. After walking the Avenue of the Dead at Teotihuacan, which stretches for two miles, one would feel like they were in the presence of gods if it were not for the hundred or so schlock-hawkers peddling everything from cheap rain sticks to fake bow and arrow sets. I digress.

Although we walked a good 6-7 miles each day, as that is always the best way to understand urbanism, the city;s breadth required us to intermittently relyheavily on the Subway, taxi service and a very comfortable bus that got us all the way out to Teotihuacan and back. Thus, all of our explorations would not have been possible if it were not for Mexico City’s robust, multi-layered transit system.

Let me take a step back. Mexico City is literally choking on automobile traffic. Many of its avenues and thoroughfares operate as auto-sewers broken only by the occasional monument. Such streets are incredibly wide and often have a street section comprised of wide sidewalks - three to four lanes in one direction - median - then three of four more lanes… in the same direction - wide sidewalks. Seriously, one must always look when crossing the streets. Think Biscayne Boulevard in front of American Airlines Arena as a one-way street. Hellacious.

Public transportation in Mexico City includes jitneys, buses, electrified bus lines, bus rapid transit lines, light rail and the 201km Metro subway system, which is set to expand another 24km by 2010. The subway in particular is thought of as the transit mode of choice for the middle to lower classes, which is probably because it costs only two pesos (20 cents) per ride! Nonetheless, one gets the sense that no matter how extensive the public transit, it will never keep up with the city’s ever-growing demand.

The Subway system is clean, highly efficient and very easy to use. We hopped on three blocks from our hotel and didn’t think twice about taking it to Chapultec, the city’s central park, south to the Coayacan neighborhood or all the way out to the city’s northern bus terminal for our trip to Teotihuacan.

Although I wonder how much subsidy the system receives, I also dream of the day American cities might democratize transit in such a dignified way.

A few nerdy facts about Mexico City’s Metro:

  1. It began operation in 1969
  2. It was the first system to be color coded and it features unique logos for every stop. This is because at the time of its construction so few Mexicans were able to read.
  3. In 2006 the system garnered 1.417 billion passengers
  4. It is the cheapest metro system in the world

Now, what about bicycling you ask?! Unfortunately, Mexico city is not nearly as friendly to the two-wheeler as it is to the metro rider. Actually, it’s terrible. There are no bicycle racks to be found. Bicycles are generally not allowed on the Metro system and the traffic is so deadly that unless one is very experienced, bicycling anywhere but the quietest of streets would be utterly hair-raising. Sound familiar?

Despite its current ways, Mexico city is starting to push the bicycle as clean, fast and dignified mode of transport. In 2007, the local advocacy group Bicitekas and an international NGO, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, created a blueprint for bicycle infrastructure expansion. At present the government is making good on the plan, which will eventually add 300km of bicycle routes, paths, and lanes.

In addition, the government instituted “Muevete en Bici” every Sunday from 8am-2pm. This weekly event, similar to Bogota’s Ciclovia, bans traffic on some of the city’s major avenues and connects residents and visitors to the city’s most vibrant public parks and squares. What is more, on the last Sunday of every month the city expands and renames the “Muevete” to the “Cicloton Familiar,” which closes 32km of the city’s streets and features hundreds of loaned bicycles, hydration stations and doctors to deal with any physical-related injuries.

As we left out hotel room on Sunday morning we witnessed just how successful this program has become. Hundreds of bicylists, walkers, joggers, and skaters were out enjoying their city. It was a beautiful site, one that would give anyone hope that the city of cars is changing its way. It made me salivate for my own bicycle.

If all goes well, Miami may soon be experience its own bicycle awakening. As for the transit, just hope our commissioners don’t hike the fares.

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Today’s post is inspired by an article I read on The Overhead Wire, republished below. The successes and failures of our transit systems can be determined by the attempts we make to integrate them with the urban spaces which surround them. I typically make the distinction that our failures with metrorail has nothing to do with the transit system itself but rather with what we have done in the immediate vicinity of its 22 stations. VTA’s LRT in San Jose, is a perfect example of the type of transit we should be pressing for within the county, instead of Heavy Rail like metrorail. The at-grade train is versatile enough to move passengers quickly and efficiently but small enough to integrate into urban spaces such as the city’s downtown pedestrian mall:San Jose, LRT, Transit Mall

Imagine an LRT similar to this one connecting every major city on our eastern coast through the FEC railroad…

Here is the article from The Overhead wire, illustrating how we should orient our urban structures to transit:

What happens when we orient buildings to transit? It saves space. It creates more value from the land. It creates more opportunities for walking. Here is an exercise I did with that employment sprawl photo from the post below.

1. The Sprawl Way - What San Jose Looks Like

San Jose LRT

2. Sprawl Rearranged - What the same amount of development would look Like if the development were organized around the station. I outlined the buildings and rearranged them in a more compact way.

San Jose LRT

3. Sprawl Rearranged x2 - Doubling the amount of buildings, using the same footprint for each original building.

San Jose LRT

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