Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tools to Fit the Task--Register, Ch. 11

Ultimately, as before, I both agree and disagree with what Register has to say. Many of the things he sees as serious problems, so do I. It brings me to an interesting question-- one to do with Democracy (capital D) and history. What is the value and place of dissent when there is an overwhelming sense of urgency to fix, fix, fix the destruction we see?
To clarify: Much of Chapter 11 proved useful, interesting, and empowering. I enjoyed the discussion of zoning as a means, rather than a structure with which to agree or not. It is like math, I think, or maybe more like statistics. It can be really useful for creating a picture, for shaping our built environment, for protecting people and the environment, if it is well understood and used properly. But it can also do a lot of harm if it isn't understood within its specific context. As much as we want to know where the numbers come from, so do we want to know why a zoning ordinance exists or doesn't.
The idea of "balanced development" also seems useful and I like the way we can really take a systems approach through this to understand how we can, well, balance development.

Some of my concerns included de-development. Bluntly put, what does he recommend we do with all that junk? Another was the equity question. This all might be nice for people in a place like Ithaca, where there are more PhDs per capita than who knows where, and maybe people have the time and resources to make nice zoning maps, and probably have the connections they need to get represented. Now, my complaint is not that none of this should take place, more that I wonder what's going to happen in the rest of the world?

And again, like before, I am concerned about saying how things "should" be. I don't know, I don't have the answer. I just wonder if this isn't Step 3 or Step 4, and maybe we should go through the steps of providing things like education and health care that would make it possible for more and more people to have a hand in creating society (built and social). Then, we can see what a sustainable, equitable, beautiful city might look like and feel like.


I spent a lot of time walking around Ithaca in the last few days. Starting from my house, on Stewart Ave, on Saturday morning, I walked up through the frat ghetto to Collegetown to do my laundry and have a bagel at CTB. I was interested in the possibility that the block from CTB to Starbucks could be made into a pedestrian zone. The road is already narrow and it would have been a more peaceful morning if I had not been dodging speeding cars and trucks. But then I wondered where all the cars would go if not down that road. So I thought about the possibility that maybe there could be car-free times of day, like Saturday when lots of people want to walk to breakfast or brunch. Or maybe if the Connect Ithaca public transit works out, there would just be less cars.
Then I walked down to the Apple Fest. It was great, as Carlos already described in his post. There was a real sense of community, and it was a joy to be able to walk on State St without fear of death by car or worse, bus. So what if we extended the Commons one more block along State St? It might enliven the block around State Theater. Of course it was the same question, and came with similar answers. What about the cars and buses? Redirect them or make car-free times.
And then, this morning, I walked to the Farmer's Market. It was a long walk, which was fine, I was planning on that. But once again, I was forced to face my own mortality. Crossing Route 13 is asking for it, I'm telling you. So what about some crosswalks there, what about engaging the residents in the low-income housing so that they can enjoy the famous Farmer's Market? It was interesting to walk down Third Street, and observe how quickly it stops looking like the Ithaca I know, the one that's advertised. And it's something you don't have to see if you can drive your car to the market. But if you can't, because you don't have a car, you get a chance to see what lies between the Gimme! Coffee on Cayuga and Route 13.
I think cars are not only seriously affecting the environment, but they are making it possible for us to live in our own reality. I don't think that's very healthy, for anyone.

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