Durable Growth

The Planners: Preserving English heritage

London street

London street

I’ve previous written thrice about the BBC show “The Planners”, here, here, and here.  With today being Boxing Day, with the afterglow of Christmas still lingering, and with further family activities perhaps still planned, it seems a good day to return to “The Planners”.  At least, it seems like a better idea than tackling a new and mentally challenging topic.

So, we’re onto the fifth episode of season one of “The Planners”.

I’ve heard from at least one reader who’s puzzled by my fondness for the show.  All I can say is that the favorite part of my career was the entitlement dance, the careful sculpting of a land use application, trying to balance the desires of the developer with the wishes of the community as expressed through its zoning code, the parry and thrust as the planning staff and review boards consider the application, and the final result, with its unexpected twists.  Take all of that, add English accents, and what’s not to like?

Relative to the earlier shows, the fifth episode breaks little new ground.  But the storylines are sufficiently interesting to be worthy of your attention.

A moderately affluent family sells their long-time family home to buy a unit in crescent-shaped block of homes that date from the Regency period.  Although listed as a historic resource, the two-centuries-old unit has fallen on hard times, most recently serving as a nursing home.  Inexplicably, the family assigns the project management to their 22-year-old daughter who, although she appears more adept than might have been expected, seems unqualified for the task.

The family’s plan requires the approval of the local historic conservation office, who several of the family members describe as “scary”.  The conservation officer takes a particular dislike to a new deck proposed for the rear of the house and the eventual result of the remodel project is uncertain.

A developer, who we never see, proposes three new homes at the end of an existing cul-de-sac, a textbook infill project.  A neighbor initially argues that the car maneuvering space is inadequate.  Emboldened by winning a concession on that point, the neighbor goes on to argue that any construction at all would potentially endanger neighborhood children, an argument that a planning councillor correctly notes could potentially stop almost all new home construction.

A fisheries advocate proposes a dramatic home of modern architecture in forested rural land near the border with Scotland.  The planning staff notes that the regulations require all new rural homes to be part of a cluster of at least four homes, in an attempt to avoid a scattering of single homes.  In this case, there are only two other homes nearby, so the proposed new home fails the test.

The potential homeowner, unwilling to surrender, notes that his land includes a portion of a grand carriageway that led to an 18th century country home.  He offers to restore the carriageway and the adjoining rolling, grassy hills to their 18th century grandeur if the authorities allow his home.  It seems an odd offer, with the possibility that restoring acres of manicured grass to its 18th century state isn’t even a good idea in the 21st century, but the review board seems willing to consider the offer.

A developer prefers to honor the past by tearing down aging buildings and constructing new buildings on the same sites, with the new building giving homage to the older architectural styles.  The local historic officer isn’t impressed by the demolition and rebuild strategy.

If you find a spare hour in your Boxing Day, please partake of episode five.  I hope you find it at least half as enjoyable as I did.

Next up, I’ll advantage of an improving weather pattern and finally return to my great streets mission, likely with a look at Calistoga and St. Helena.

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.

1 comment to The Planners: Preserving English heritage

  • Definitely check out Paxton gate for fun and creepy dhetglis. Then stroll down Valencia and check out the shops. Blue Bottle three africans is the best coffee….and though taste in coffee is subjective, it really is the best….just sayin’. Check out the hayes valley blue bottle coffee stand, head over to gimme shoes and then have lunch at Bar Jules. Come meet us at mini bar on divisadero for a drink anytime. And try to stay dry……