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Archive: Anthony Flint

Beyond Density: The Art and Science of Walkable Neighborhoods

Anthony Flint / Dec 14 2012

For Release Friday, December 14, 2012

Anthony FlintThe business of place-making – part science, part art – has had a long evolution, but American cities have never needed good urban design more urgently than at this moment. Changing demographics, energy savings and environmental concerns all mandate getting great urban neighborhoods just right.

The evolution of town planning in the New World arguably began with the Laws of the West Indies, the basic layout for settlement provided by the Spanish crown – essentially a grid, centered on a central square. With important figures from Raymond Unwin to Daniel Burnham to Ebenezer Howard, the art of town planning progressed up to World War II. Then it took a detour for urban renewal and got all but lost in the car-dependent, conventional suburban development of the past half-century.

Jane Jacobs’ seminal and pivotal 1961 work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, helped start a redirection. Her work underscored the importance of shorter blocks, diverse and human-scaled buildings and street-level activity. In recent decades concepts like Smart Growth, New Urbanism and transit-oriented development have dominated the planning profession, and not only for new development but for the continuing infill and reinvention of established urban areas, too many of which have been left in a state of neglect during the suburban era.
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Planet of Cities

Anthony Flint / Jul 27 2012

For Release Friday, July 27, 2012

Anthony FlintIn 1922, the architect Le Corbusier launched the first of several visions for modern city-building — the Ville Contemporaine, or City for 3 Million People. The basic layout called for 60-story cruciform towers in large rectangles of open space, linked by highways and punctuated with an airport.

It was scorned at the time — as a concept, it was proposed to replace a large swath of Paris, as unthinkable then as now. Since then, of course, such large-scale planning has come to be associated with the urban renewal and “towers in the park” that Jane Jacobs and others have discredited.

Thinking in broad terms about the megacities of the 21st-century developing world, however, Le Corbusier might have had some ideas worth revisiting. Back then, the Swiss-born founding father of modern architecture was coming up with new ways to accommodate vast increases in urban inhabitants. That trend has only intensified.

Half the world’s total population already lives in cities, and that urban population is expected to nearly double in the next 40 years from 3.5 billion to 6.2 billion people — nearly all in developing countries. When urban populations double, the areas required to accommodate them will more than triple.

Shlomo “Solly” Angel, adjunct professor of urban planning at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service of New York University and a lecturer in public and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, is among those urging that it’s time once again to think big.

The city-building required today is not so much about tearing down existing areas for slum clearance and urban renewal, but rather making realistic plans for new urban land. That, Angel says, requires planning for expansion and infrastructure as soon as possible.
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TED’s Headline Initiative: The City 2.0

Anthony Flint / Mar 03 2012

For Release Sunday, March 4, 2012

Anthony FlintLONG BEACH — The history of cities over the last century is littered with good intentions, from separated-use zoning to urban renewal to more recent interventions such as convention centers, riverwalks, pedestrian malls, and monorails.

Today, while Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle continue to enjoy a resurgence, the rescue of legacy cities such as Youngstown and Camden remains elusive, and megacities in the developing world are best by poverty and troubled slums.

So what makes a glamorous institution like TED think it has anything to offer? The highly ambitious initiative The City 2.0, announced Wednesday at the annual gathering here, suggests a new pathway for gathering ideas and experimentation for the 21st century city, that seeks to be given a chance.

The City 2.0 is a “wish” embodied in the TED Prize for 2012, which has for the last several years been awarded to individuals. Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson prompted the creation of the Encylopedia of Life []. Last year’s winner, the French artist JR, sought to bring art in the city to a new level with portraits of people plastered on walls and buildings in cities throughout across the globe.
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Biting the Bullet (Train): Moving Forward with “HSR”

Anthony Flint / Oct 14 2011

For Release Friday, October 14, 2011

Anthony FlintOne of the fastest growing lists in Washington these days may well be the Obama administration initiatives that are under fire or have had to be pulled back. The president banded together the EPA, DOT, DOE, and HUD; the House attempted to strip all funding associated with that coordination. The president vowed action on climate change and air pollution; the EPA postponed tougher boiler and incinerator emissions rules. The president wanted to pivot to a new green economy, to encourage innovation for a post-carbon world, like the Chinese are doing — and instead we have the debacle of Solyndra.

So why should another program that so many love to deride as a liberal, elitist, slightly European idea — establishing a true, high-speed inter-city rail network in the U.S. — be any different? Read More »

Puzzles of Legalizing Squatters’ Settlements Worldwide

Anthony Flint / May 26 2011

For Release Thursday, May 26, 2011

Anthony FlintAs the world’s population hits 7 billion this fall, we are again reminded that we live on a planet of cities. More than half the world’s population lives in cities, and hundreds of millions more are on the way, coming in from the countryside in search of a better life. But we also risk living on a planet of slums. Although the number can’t be pinned down precisely, the UN estimates as many as 1 billion live in informal settlement — shantytowns, squatters’ shacks, and favelas that are technically illegally occupying urban land.

The reality of informal settlement has been around for decades, and though it spans from Asia to Africa, it’s Latin America — where nearly 130 million people or one out of four urban residents live in these makeshift neighborhoods — that has had the most experience in tackling the problem. South America in particular understands the costs. Informality is attributed to many causes, including low income levels, unrealistic urban planning and building regulations, a lack of serviced land and social housing, and a dysfunctional legal system. Though romanticized by some, life in the favelas too often means constant insecurity, fear of eviction, lack of basic services such as water and sewer, environmental and health hazards, discrimination, and violent crime. The costs are high for local government as well, in fighting crime, public health, and a vast array of social problems.

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In Quest for Revenue, Cities Turning to PILOTs

Anthony Flint / Dec 03 2010

For Release Sunday, December 5, 2010

Anthony FlintThe public finance crisis for local and state governments keeps rolling along, a bit like a slow-motion train wreck. Harrisburg, Pa., is on the brink of bankruptcy. In California, police departments say they must cut back on enforcement of certain crimes. Pensions and health care continue to wreak havoc on municipal budgets everywhere.

Meanwhile, the mood in the country is against new taxes, while several states have placed caps on property taxes. And as anyone who has balanced a home budget knows, it’s simply unsustainable to have expenditures going out outpace revenues coming in.

Against this backdrop comes heightened interest in collecting payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, from charitable nonprofit organizations such as private colleges and universities, hospitals and medical centers, and cultural institutions that are exempt from paying property taxes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Read More »

Peril, Promise, and a Watery Future For the World’s Coastal Cities

Anthony Flint / Apr 30 2010

For Release Sunday, May 2, 2010

Anthony Flint

NEW ORLEANS – Even with aggressive action on climate change, scientists agree that a global temperature rise of some kind is inevitable, triggering sea level rise, more intense storms, and an array of other chain-reaction disruptions to life as we know it. And in the typically sinister way that the climate cataclysm plays out, these impacts will hit hardest in the places most people live.

More than half of the U.S. population lives in 673 coastal counties. In China, the world’s most populous nation, 60 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion people live in coastal provinces. Worldwide, rapid urbanization in coastal and delta mega-cities includes widespread informal settlement, a recipe for disaster for the most vulnerable populations.

The good news is that planners are paying attention. Cities, as places of density and transit, can make great strides in mitigation, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But coastal cities must engage in adaptation on a parallel, and in many ways integrated, track. There is no more urgent role for planners in the years ahead than to plan and help implement adaptation to climate change, says Edward Blakely, the former recovery director for New Orleans.

Coastal cities are already well aware – some painfully aware – of the breadth of the problem. Jakarta is confronting annual flooding that strains a colonial-era layout, and Dhaka in Bangladesh has struggled with stronger typhoons. At the Yantgze and Pearl river deltas in the Shanghai and Hong Kong regions, chronic flooding, coastline erosion and wetlands deterioration, storm surges, and punishing storms are wreaking havoc on areas that have been attracting the most intense in-migration and urbanization. Sewer overflow and saltwater intrusion, with impacts on drinking water, public health, and agriculture, are key areas of concern, as well as the vulnerable infrastructure, such as power plants, port and refining facilities, that will be flooded and potentially permanently underwater in the decades ahead.

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Wishing Green to Succeed–In a Future That’s Red

Anthony Flint / Feb 13 2010

For Release Saturday, February 13, 2010

Anthony Flint SEATTLE — Members of President Obama’s “green cabinet” were greeted like rock stars by nearly two-thousand believers in a more sustainable future at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference earlier this month.

We know this in part because Washington, D.C. city planner Harriet Tregoning–who introduced Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation, and Lisa Jackson, director of the Environmental Protection Agency–came right out and called them rock stars and everybody cheered in agreement.

This was a particularly friendly audience, to be sure, and predisposed to like the administration’s plans to bring smart growth and planning to the–gasp–federal level. The gathered planners and local government officials were also a technically knowledgeable bunch. Where else would it be an applause line to say that not only municipalities but regional planning entities could now apply for a particular federal grant program? Or that there are plans to put the “UD” back in “HUD”? Read More »

New Climate Tools: A Must for Planners

Anthony Flint / Oct 02 2009

For Release Friday, October 2, 2009

Anthony FlintThere’s cap-and-trade, the international accord emerging from Copenhagen, wind farms, hybrid vehicles, green buildings, solar panels, and carbon sequestration. But planners know well there’s another fundamental strategy in the challenge of climate change: achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions through better land use planning.

Metropolitan regions across the country are now aligning growth plans with that one goal in mind–reduced emissions in both redevelopment and new development, linking land use, urban form, and transportation to help head off the planetary emergency. Good tools to help decision-makers at the local and regional level, however, are only beginning to emerge.

This is work in the trenches, and planners need help. Now more than ever, they need to rely on modeling and forecasts to make sure standards, guidelines, rules and regulations will get the most bang for the buck. There’s no point in making requirements that don’t truly result in emissions reductions, through lower vehicle miles traveled (VMT) or other means. Read More »

A Government Retrofit: Federal Coordination

Anthony Flint / May 14 2009

For Release Sunday, May 17, 2009

Anthony FlintAs we stare down the economic recovery and a post-carbon future, we’ve got a lot of retrofitting to do.

Water heaters, furnaces, windows, and older buildings await energy efficiency upgrades. Transit systems need technology overhauls to communicate with riders on their mobile phones. Underground, aging water, sewer and steam pipes can’t stand much more deferred maintenance. Automakers need to revamp assembly lines to produce low-emission buses–and maybe even streetcars and trolleys.

Add one more thing that badly needs an update: governance.

At the local level, a more regional approach is necessary to marry land use and transportation, for example. “How else would we govern, except the way that we have settled?” asks Portland Metro councilor Robert Liberty in the recently released documentary film, Portland: Quest for the Livable City. Read More »