Durable Growth

An encyclopedia of advocacy

Salt Lake City transit stop

Salt Lake City transit stop

“The Smart Growth Manual” by Andres Duany and Jeff Speck, with assistance from Mike Lydon, is an odd little book.  Indeed, calling it a book might be a stretch.  It’s really more of a compact encyclopedia.  An encyclopedia of urbanism.

(Usage note: The authors share a concern I’ve previously expressed, that “smart growth” is a polarizing term.  But they conclude that the battle seems lost.  I haven’t surrendered and will continue to use “urbanism”.)

The authors had a long-time goal of summarizing the key elements of urbanism.  However, they found the task impossible as long as urbanist thinking continued to evolve.  It is only now, as urbanism reaches intellectual maturity, that the project can be completed.

What they present is 148 “points” about urbanism, ranging from “A Regional Plan” to “Yard Trees”.  Each point is presented on a single page, with an illustration and a short paragraph of description.  The points are arranged in four sections, “The Region”, “The Neighborhood”, “The Street”, and “The Building”, descending from the big picture to the details.

My first impression of the format wasn’t favorable.  Flash cards for urbanists was one thought.  But as I began to read, my opinion reversed.  The points are well-written and presented in a logical order, with cross-references where needed.  The presentation quickly became compelling.  Part of the reason is the strict conformance to the one paragraph standard.  Succinctness can be difficult, but adds to the impact.

Of course, the manual differs from an encyclopedia on one key point.  An encyclopedia is intended to provide impartial information.  Duany, Speck, and Lydon make no claims of impartiality.  All three are avowed urbanists.  All three attended and had key roles at CNU 21.  As a result, “The Smart Growth Manual” is an encyclopedia of advocacy.  It’s a worthy read, both for urbanists and for those trying to understand what the fuss is about.

Follow-Ups and Schedule Notes

Fairgrounds: A few posts ago, I wrote about the future of the fairgrounds, particularly in regard to the possibility of adding a public square in a portion of the current site.  I noted that negotiations between the City and the Fair Board might be imminent.  “For all we know, the negotiations may already be underway.”

As it turns out, the first negotiation session was held about the time I wrote those words.  As of now, there is no indication on when the public might be able to comment.  But if you have a position on the possibility of a public square or other ideas for the fairgrounds, now is the time to marshal your thinking.

Petaluma Urban Chat: One reason I reviewed “The Smart Growth Manual” above is that Petaluma Urban Chat will be talking about the book over our next three meetings.  The first of those meetings will be next week.  On Tuesday, June 11, we’ll convene at 5:30 at the Aqus Café in Petaluma.  Anyone with an interest in land use is welcome, whether or not you’ve read the book.

Urban Chat Field Trips: For longer range scheduling, Petaluma Urban Chat also has three planned field trips.  On Saturday, July 13, we’ll take another look at BART TODs.  On Saturday, September 21, we’ll take a walk around Windsor.  On Sunday, October 20, we’ll reprise an earlier Petaluma walk.  If you want to join us for any of the outings, let me know.  I’ll provide further information as the dates approach.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

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