Saturday, December 22

Anthony Flint lecture

Wednesday night we went to see Anthony Flint speak at the Boston Public Library. I was interested in learning more about smart growth and New Urbanism, so his presentation was a little disappointing. He gave a basic overview, much of which I already knew: a restructuring of land use as an important tool for combating climate change; careful regional planning in addition to city planning (even so-called "mega-regional" planning, like the area from Boston to DC); retrofitting buildings and old first-suburban neighborhoods as LEED-ND; and mixed-use zoning. He did provide great examples, but I would have loved to hear more in-depth analysis. I suppose I'll have to read his book.

All of this smart growth strikes me as basically advocating this: let's do what the European cities have been doing for centuries -- build people-centered communities in our cities, where your social, financial, material, and dietary needs can be met within walking distance. Or at least biking distance. And I agree.

There were about 100 people in attendance, and the highlight by far was the question-and-answer session at the end. One woman asked how it was feasible to expect a resurgence to the city when all of the Boomers moving in kept bringing their cars with them. "We don't have the space for your car," she exclaimed. "We need that space to make the city livable!" His response was so trite that I can see why she left soon afterwards; Flint explained that although they are bringing their cars to the city, they are using them less while they're there and mass transit more, so it's still a good thing. He didn't even address the issue of space. Perhaps if Boston were a smaller town, a slow-city movement could work here. Still, what do you do when people hold on to their past when you're trying to advocate change? This applies to moving people into smaller spaces like cities as well as shifting consumption patterns for the green movement, and I thought her question was excellent, and needs to be explored.

Notice all the links in this post. Two reasons: I have paid time off right now and so more time to research, and I read this advice on why linking is important. I realize I may have gone a little overboard, but this topic excites me and I read about it a lot.

The whole lecture did reconfirm we should try as hard as we can to not sprawl after this baby is born, but we'll have to figure that one out. Boston and affordability haven't found their mix yet, so the nearly century-old wisdom that sprawl is more affordable still holds for this city.

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