Readings in Urban Planning and Design

This manuscript expands upon, and compliments, chapters in the book “Planning Connections – Human, Natural and Man Made.” It includes 37 papers by the author with 136 color and many black and white images.

Both the book, and this compendium of papers, are intended to furnish useful information on the planning process and fundamental principles of environmentally based planning and context sensitive urban design. These are drawn from the author’s more than 50 years of professional practice and their lasting practicality is reflected in the 19 case studies of approved and built projects described in the book on which the author has carried out key managerial and technical roles. 

This compendium is available free - click the link below to view and download the papers.


This compendium completes the proposed study plan for a college level course in urban planning and design as described on the author’s blog site:



For more information on the author click:


petepointnerplanning.blogspot.com










 




PLANNING FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Significance of Sustainability 

The introduction to “Voices for the Earth” by Daniel D. Chiras editor, and the Sustainable Futures Society 1995, notes, “Most nations are treating the Earth as a corporation in liquidation.”…“Many of us wonder, often out loud, if society can find a path that provides for our needs – allowing people to reach their full potential, permitting us to live comfortably, and permitting our culture to flourish – without creating deserts and toxic waste dumps in our footsteps or without turning our skies into grimy smears across the horizon….We at the Sustainable Futures Society think that the people of the world can meet our needs without bankrupting the only habitable piece of real estate in the solar system. In fact, we believe that humankind can go further. That is, we can meet our needs while improving on our future, creating a better world for all Earth’s inhabitants.”

Humans are dependent on nature for air, water, food, medicine, clothing, building materials, laboratories for discovery and synthesis, and for inspiration! 

Evidence of the Environmental Crisis Created by Human Activity Decisions by governments, businesses and individuals are destroying and polluting the natural world, greatly decreasing its ability to sustain human beings and a high quality of life. The book “Land Use in America” by Henry L. Diamond and Patrick F. Noonan makes the point that “A nation deprived of its liberty may win it, a nation divided may unite, but a nation whose natural resources are destroyed must inevitably pay the penalty of poverty, degradation, and decay.” 

Serious words to ponder. Some of the environmental consequences we face as a society and a planet include:

• Soil – in regions with soil and climate suitable for food production: 

conversion of prime agricultural land to urban uses; wind and water erosion; 

over use of the land with a loss of fertility; 

salinity due to irrigation and salt water intrusion from draw down of ground water for human consumption; and, 

contamination from run-off of chemical applications

• Water – there is a limit to the accessibility of fresh potable water due to: 

pollution of surface and ground water from point and non-point sources; 

waste from domestic and agricultural uses; flooding; 

and the rising level of the oceans and drought brought about by climate change

• Air – pollution from carbon emissions of power plants, vehicle use and production of oil based products with an impact on global warming, the 
rise of sea levels and health due to green house gases

• Flora – depletion of genetic diversity; habitat loss; reduced photosynthesis; loss of unique landscapes and open space; introduction of 
chemicals and anti-biotics into the food chain; loss of unique ecosystems such as rain forests, old growth timber and wetlands; introduction of exotic species; increases in wind and water erosion

PLANNING FOR SUSTAINABILITY 

• Fauna – depletion of genetic diversity; over exploitation of the oceans for food and other human uses; introduction of chemicals and anti-biotics into the food chain; introduction of exotic species that displace species more useful to humans 

• Non-renewable Resources – pollution from solid and hazardous waste from extraction and processing impacts on surface and ground water and air quality; unsustainable consumption of petroleum makes our country dependent on foreign oil from inhospitable regions; waste and pollution from the exploitation, processing, production and distribution of agricultural and manufactured products increases the environmental costs 

• Destruction of cultural and scenic resources

• Unhealthy lifestyles, obesity, diabetes and addictions 

For each of these factors there are numerous measures, quantitative and qualitative, to demonstrate the seriousness of the current state of our environment.

Causes of the Environmental Crisis 

It is easy to lose our awareness, our understanding of the fundamental connection between people and the environment, our actions or lack of action, individually and collectively and, the consequences. 

• Population increases – and urbanization that can create a disconnect with nature and pollution, destruction and exhaustion of natural resources and ecosystems.

• Industrialization – that powerfully impacts nature as it is exploited for economic reasons. 

The scale of industrialization and the shear quantity of material stuff can result in the feeling of a loss of individual power and a loss of sensitivity to nature. Massive industrialization introduces products into the environment such as mercury, phosphorus, cadmium, chemicals 
and synthetic compounds that pollute the air, water, soil and the food chain.

• Technology – the pace and scale of technological change creates an over dependence on technology that we cannot individually replicate nor fully understand. This creates a dependence that further separates us from nature. It manipulates volumes of data and information that bombards people and often results in a trivialization of important human functions and an impression that technology can solve any problem and actually replace nature. 

• Values – we act out our values and industrial societies are geared to ever increasing production and consumption producing vast quantities of waste, pollution and destruction of critical natural resources and eco systems through both individual and collective lifestyles.


PLANNING FOR SUSTAINABILITY 

• Ignorance – we often know more than understand about how our actions and life styles impact us, our community and our environment. What we don’t know can and will hurt us.

• Greed – lack of conscience, concern for others, for society, for future generations resulting in ruthless exploitation, destruction, pollution and waste for the sake of short term financial return 

• Laziness – taking no action in the face of needs and challenges is in itself an action, with consequences.

What We Can Do, Collectively and Individually

The following are principles for more sustainable development and operation by local governments, institutions and corporations. 

Following is a modified version of the principles described in my book “Planning Connections – Human, Natural and Man Made”. Chapter 2 of the book describes how to apply these principles within the comprehensive planning process.

1. Start with preservation of prime and unique agricultural lands. Use conservation farming practices to reduce erosion and the application of chemicals.

2. Prevent sprawl – rural non-farm septic-and well residential development, and inefficient leapfrog subdivisions. Focus growth in areas which can be efficiently served by municipal sewer and water systems. Direct growth to reinforce existing communities. Plan new residential development in designated growth areas. Plot drainage patterns and soil types and identify features which can give each community a unique identity. Plan not only the location – based upon a land capability and utility service area analysis – but the intensity, pattern, timing and quality of future development.

3. Rural nonfarm housing at low densities (one unit per acre or less) should be tightly restricted to locations where this type of development will 

(1) use non-prime agricultural land, 

(2) be separated far enough to avoid conflicts 
between agricultural and residential uses, 

(3) provide more opportunities to preserve natural features, and 

(4) have adequate soils and land area for 

proper septic and well operation.

4. Plan enough area for residential growth at sewerable densities to meet the projected needs of the community for ten or more years of growth, or at least plan for doubling the population within the planning jurisdiction. Favor gravity fed waste water systems and avoid lift stations where possible.

5. Establish “concurrence” criteria. Adopt policies that identify the most desirable sequence and timing of urban growth. Require land and cash donations and impact fees to fund a community’s public services and facilities as they become required by growth. These monies can cover such things as community sewer and water, emergency services, roads, schools, and parks.

6. Save mature woodlots, unique landscapes, and wildlife habitat. Don’t fragment ecosystems. Avoid rather than mitigate impacts. Establish the continuity of natural systems incorporating recreational and wildlife values. Protect floodplains and wetlands from encroachment. Incorporate these resources into planned environmental corridors. Establish mechanisms to preserve open space and environmental corridors in perpetuity.

7. Maintain existing tree lines and fence rows.

8. Restore mined and disturbed lands.

9. Site landfills and other public facilities to reduce land use conflicts and environmental degradation. Identify ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle solid waste.

10.Save mature trees at each construction site and require replacement of good trees which must be displaced by construction. Institute a tree preservation plan for every development project where there are mature trees that can be preserved. Establish a monitoring program to evaluate long-term performance of tree and wetland maintenance programs. Control erosion on all construction sites. Reduce impervious surface area and buffer and beautify utilitarian views.

11.Establish a functional classification system so that all roadways are designed and maintained to serve a defined traffic function and handle an appropriate volume of traffic. Arterial roadways provide a linkage between 
neighborhoods and other destinations within the region such as interstate highways, major employment centers, comparison shopping, major public use areas, etc. Collectors link sub-areas and local streets to the arterial street system. Limit curb cuts and establish setbacks so that the roadway operation and property access functions are satisfied and the character 
of the roadway is attractive and respectful of the quieter residential uses along the right-of-way. Local streets provide direct property access and should be scaled to fit the type of housing product and to calm or discourage fast and/or thru traffic.

12. Provide an alternative to total reliance on the automobile. Develop public transportation opportunities and rails-to-trails, and create a system of bicycle and pedestrian pathways to link neighborhoods with schools, convenience shopping, open space and recreation, employment centers, and other places of public assembly and services.

13. Stop strip development along arterial roadways and develop commercial uses in centers which will efficiently serve market needs and maintain the visual character and beauty of public roadways. Control signs so that they fulfill their identification function but do not clutter the landscape or confuse drivers by their number, size, design or location.

14. Locate business parks and employment opportunities in proximity to housing, and design all retention and detention facilities for ecological, scenic, and recreational functions, as well as storm water management.

15. Create a diversity of land uses so that there is a balance of housing, retail and service opportunities, and provide jobs where local citizens can make a reasonable living. Balance land uses to provide a revenue source to sustain public facilities and services. 

16. Preserve and interpret historic and cultural resources. Find adaptive reuses for historic buildings. Let the buildings of the past be a symbol of your community’s heritage, a reflection of its history and accomplishments, 
an inspiration for the future, and one basis for defining the character of new development. 

17.Revitalize historic downtowns with uses and places that attract and serve people from throughout the community, making it “everybody’s neighborhood”. Build on unique elements of the environment such as water frontage, and authentic character of notable historic buildings.

18. Conceive of growth in terms of “neighborhoods”, diverse building blocks where daily needs are in proximity to residential areas and linked with attractive pedestrian and bikeway systems. Provide for daily needs within walking distance to the fullest extent possible.

19. Provide a diversity of housing types to meet the needs of a diverse community in terms of housing product and price range.

20. Maintain open space buffer strips along major roadways and carefully plan limited access points to protect the capacity of the roadway, beautify rights-of-way and provide continuity of wildlife habitat. Arterial roadways 
should pass on the periphery of residential neighborhoods. Housing backing up to arterial and collector streets should incorporate adequate setbacks and landscaping to maintain the integrity and quality of the residential environment.

21. Teach the public an environmental ethic and the value of stewardship of the land.

Actions that individuals, households and businesses can take to contribute to sustainability, from Pinellas County Florida website:

Reduce

1. Buy only what you need.

2. Buy High-quality products, and keep them for a lifetime.

3. Buy the largest size or quantity practical for your needs.

4. Avoid “use and toss” disposable products such as razors and paper goods.

5. Reduce junk mail by removing your name from unwanted lists at 

www.obviously.com/junkmail.

6. Buy items with the least packaging.

7. Use e-mail instead of hard copies.

8. Switch to rechargeable batteries.

9. Bring your own mug (BYOM) instead of using a disposable cup.

10.Rent, lease or borrow rarely-used items

11.Switch to long-lasting florescent light bulbs.

12.Use free recycled mulch instead of purchasing new mulch.

13.Use preventive maintenance for durable items such as tires or appliances so they will last longer.

14.Make double-sided copies.

15.Reduce your trash by composting kitchen food scraps and yard trimmings.

16.Substitute less toxic products such as cleaners and pesticides when possible.

Reuse

17.Give away unwanted item

18.Donate reusable items such as housewares, clothing or furniture

19.Reuse office supplies such as paper clips

20.Sell unwanted items at yard sales 

21.Reuse the back side of single sided sheets of paper

22.Pack meals-to-go in reusable containers

23.Share magazines, newspapers and books

24.Reuse packing materials…

25.Check secondhand sources before buying new equipment or furniture

26.Repair broken items instead of discarding and buying new.

27.Visit the swap shop for free items…

28.Bring reusable bags when you go shopping.

Recycle

29.Use the handy “How Do I Get Rid of It? From A to Z web guide to find how to recycle just about anything…(Pinellas County only)

30.Participate in local recycling programs.

31.Recycle hazardous household chemicals and electronics.

32.Recycle used motor and filters.

33.Get your business involved with recycling paper, toner cartridges, cardboard, and other items.

34.Buy products with recycled content


We are active participants in the evolution of life. We have a responsibility to bring to use our human capabilities to endure, respond, and build the best of whatever situation in which we find ourselves. We are the end of evolution by natural selection. Man now dominates the evolutionary process and we must select sustaining values, individually and collectively. 

The future is in our hands. 

For related articles see “Readings in Urban Planning and Design”, a compendium of 25 published and 4 unpublished papers I have authored with 115 illustrations. This compendium is available free via 


These readings complete the proposed study plan for a college level course in urban planning and design as described on the author’s blog site: 




For more information on the author see 


petepointnerplanning.blogspot.com



“Pete” Pointner FAICP, ALA, ITE