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October 21, 2020  

“We Can’t Micromanage Great Urban Design Into Existence.”

October 21, 2020

Last week, Jason Segedy, the director of planning and urban development for the City of Akron, Ohio, published a piece in The American Conservative called “Towards a More Inclusive Urbanism.”

Segedy contends that too much of the urbanist conversation is permeated with “an unmistakable strain of elitism.” It emanates from, is focused on, and takes as its model “front-row cities,” where issues like high housing costs, rent control, NIMBY-ism, and rail transit are among the most-discussed topics. At the same time, urbanism tends to be “dismissive of disinvested and economically challenged places,” the back-row cities. He writes:

The most widely read and disseminated urbanist thinking around urban design and public policy has little or nothing to say about heavily disinvested places. It is written mostly by, and for, people who live in economically successful places.

This week on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney and regular co-host Chuck Marohn discuss Segedy’s article. They talk about why good planning looks more like social work than a kinder-gentler Robert Moses, what front-row and back-row cities have in common, and why urban planners go astray when they try to please other urbanists instead of responding to the needs of people. They also describe an option that goes beyond the conventional choices of Top-Down Beautiful or Top-Down Pragmatic. “We can’t micromanage great urban design into existence,” says Abby, an urban planner in Kansas City. “It needs to happen naturally.”

Then in Downzone, Chuck recommends The Myth of Capitalism by Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. (Hearn will be a guest on an upcoming episode of the Strong Towns podcast, which recently returned from hiatus.)  And Abby recommends two articles by Mark Manson as well as a recent episode of James Howard Kunstler’s Kunstlercast.

Additional Show Notes