Durable Growth

Intro to urbanism, part one: Credentials, syllabus, and duration

Working class urban setting in Brooklyn

Working class urban setting in Brooklyn

During a recent writing workshop, a professional writer was impressed by the readership that I’ve built for this blog, but still had suggestions to offer about building it further.  Her thought was that there might be readers who are deterred from being regular readers because they lack the underlying knowledge of urbanism to understand the points that I try to make.

I’m not sure I accept her assumption.  I think I do a fair to moderate job of being aware of newcomers and of not overwhelming them.   (Readers are welcome to disagree with that assessment if they wish.)   But on the chance that the writer was correct, I decided to begin the New Year, and perhaps each New Year going forward, with a multi-part “Intro to Urbanism”.

Besides, as I began to visualize the project, I realized a side benefit that was important to me.  Writing a blog is about finding a particular facet or perspective on a subject and writing perhaps a thousand words about it.

It’s a strategy that works for the internet and is hopefully occasionally compelling to the reader, but can feels scattered in the mind of the writer.  Week after week of building up momentum in one direction or another, only to stop abruptly, limited by the attention span of the internet age, to smooth the rough edges, and to launch the post into cyberspace, without ever having following a topic all the way to the horizon.

This intro will provide me an opportunity to counter that reality, to backfill and to consolidate my underlying and evolving understanding of urbanism.  If you would, it might even be a form of active meditation, preparing me for another year of advocacy.

So today kicks off my Intro to Urbanism.

If you know someone who has expressed an interest in the general topic of urbanism or in this blog in particular, now is a great time for them to begin their immersion.  Please alert them accordingly.  And if you or someone you know would like to receive an email whenever a new post is published, please email me with the addresses.  I’ll be happy to comply.

My Credentials: On the subject of urbanism, I’m at least as qualified as the average internet blogger, irony intended.

Seriously, there accreditation programs for urbanism and urbanism-related fields, with the Congress of the New Urbanism program through the University of Miami and the LEED-Neighborhood Development program prominent among them.  I’ve taken neither, although the CNU program is a possibility for 2015.

Instead, I have nearly forty years of professional experience, working in land-use, watching how projects perform, and keenly observing as the prevailing paradigms began to falter and to gasp.  Plus, I’ve been motivated to study, albeit casually, the underlying tenets of urbanism.  Also, I’ve become a regular attendee of the annual meetings of the Congress of the New Urbanism.  I may not be the best guide to urbanism, but neither am I the worst.

Nonetheless, I’ll readily admit that there literally thousands of people better qualified to write an Intro to Urbanism.  Therefore, this series will actually be Intro to My Urbanism, with a focus on my personal perspective on the subject, rather than presumptuously pretending to speak with an omniscient voice for all urbanists.  I actually considered titling the series Intro to My Urbanism, but it seemed clunky on the tongue and prone to misunderstanding.

Syllabus: There is a wonderful amount of urbanist stuff in books and on the internet.  If I wished, I could make this Intro awash in links and other references, including links to earlier posts of my own.  But I think too many outside references can be overwhelming and can dilute the message.

So I’ll restrain myself and offer few if any outside references throughout much of this Intro.  Instead, you’ll hear mostly only my voice and my thinking.  But, in the final posts, I’ll provide a wealth of highly-recommended stuff for those who have become motivated to do additional study.

Duration: As I originally conceived this series, I was thinking of six blog posts.  But I didn’t have an exact plan for the six posts.  And my thinking on that point continues to evolve.  So I’ll write until I think I’ve exhausted the subject.  Could be six posts, might be eight posts, could even be ten posts.

My plan is to provide two Intro posts per week, with my third weekly post reserved for something topical that strikes my interest.  But that plan is also subject to revision.

Next Time: In my next post, I’ll tackle a definition for urbanism and the justifications behind it.   And the Intro post after that?  I don’t know.  I’m making it up as I go along.

Schedule Note

Although unrelated to this Intro to Urbanism, some readers may also be interested in Petaluma Urban Chat, a monthly gathering of folks who follow this blog and who wish to further discuss the concepts and the local applications.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, January 13.  We’ll meet at Taps, in the River Plaza shopping center, across the Balshaw Bridge from downtown Petaluma.  We’ll begin at 5:30.

The topic will be a continuation of recent meetings, taking an independent look at the future of the Sonoma Marin Fairgrounds a few blocks from downtown Petaluma.  Outside of the auspices of either the City of Petaluma, which owns the land, or the Sonoma Marin Fair Board, which holds the current expiring lease, we’re trying to answer the question of what new uses of the Fairgrounds would be the best addition to the community.

Anyone who hasn’t attended the most recent meetings will have some catch-up to do, but we like facilitating learning curves.  Also, the recent Fairground posts on possible land uses and a general allocation of the site are good background.

Please join us on the January 13th.  All are welcome.

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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