Sunday, September 30, 2007

Register, Chapter 10

For this week I read Chapter 10, Tools to Fit the Task. I still resent having to read from this author, but this selection was slightly more tolerable than Chapter 7. Register goes over some of the ways in which to arrive at the city, citing an ecocity zoning map, transfer of development rights, and the international ecological rebuilding program. The basic objective of an ecocity zoning map is “to open up landscapes covered by car-dependent development and recover agricultural and natural landscapes while shifting density toward centers.” Register’s vision relies on building concentric circular zones, where density is highest in the center and thins out at each outlying circle. He argues this is more feasible than corridor development, which is harder to maintain. The transfer of development rights (TDR) seems like a very sensible solution to sprawl and involves people on the periphery selling their development rights to projects in the city center, leading to higher densities. I was less clear on how the International Ecological Rebuilding Program is a “tool”- sounds more like a bunch of rhetoric. Register advices that there be a more concerted effort to initiate global action, and that certain policies should be passed into law- but how do we get there? He says automobile subsidies must be stopped, and sure, that would be nice. He seems to forget though the lobbying power of car manufacturers and oil companies and the general weakness of our current legislative body. I mentioned this in my last post, but Register has this utopian view of how everything should look and feel in an ecocity, but he implies that any deviation from this picture is ill-advised and would incur devastating effects. He is incredibly elitist in his writing, and very presumptuous in assuming that everyone shares his values and thinking.

For the fieldwork assignment, I made observations of the southwest development site. The obvious asset here is that it gives planners a (relatively) blank canvas with which to work. Some of the limitations include the Wal-Mart bordering the site, the train tracks, and the marshlands spotting the area. Provided that a rail system is built connecting downtown/Cornell with the big box developments, this site could help to bolster the sustainability of Ithaca. The ideas I have laid out below are all things that can be incorporated into a contract made with the developer, whereby the city sets certain requirements that must be met by the company winning the bid. A required insurance policy purchased by the developer would guarantee that the company follows these guidelines (this was discussed by the Caroline group, I forget the actual name of the insurance though).

I would locate a town center in the middle of the city (something like a circular open space), surrounded by high-density mixed-use development (not to exceed eight stories). Yes, there will be car access- this is necessary in order for businesses in the center to receive shipments, to allow disabled patrons to be dropped off near the center, etc. However, any roads close to the center will be single lane, with parking on one side to serve as a traffic-calming device and to discourage car use in general. Pedestrians will have easy access to the center through a vast network of sidewalks, and because traffic will not be as heavy bikers will feel safer riding to the center. The more heavily forested area located near the southwest side of the site will be preserved to provide residents with a natural area and to promote greater bio diversity. Linking the development to the water system will be more difficult though because of the train tracks.

No comments: