Home » Books » Recent Articles:

Recent Book — “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It” by M. Nolan Gray

November 11, 2022 Books, Featured, Zoning Comments Off on Recent Book — “Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It” by M. Nolan Gray

Over a century ago a new idea called “zoning” began, intended to guide cities to grow in a less chaotic manner than they had until then. Reality, however, was very different. It’s time to let go, change.

book cover

A recently published book explains the why & how.

What if scrapping one flawed policy could bring US cities closer to addressing debilitating housing shortages, stunted growth and innovation, persistent racial and economic segregation, and car-dependent development?

It’s time for America to move beyond zoning, argues city planner M. Nolan Gray in Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It. With lively explanations and stories, Gray shows why zoning abolition is a necessary—if not sufficient—condition for building more affordable, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities.

The arbitrary lines of zoning maps across the country have come to dictate where Americans may live and work, forcing cities into a pattern of growth that is segregated and sprawling.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Reform is in the air, with cities and states across the country critically reevaluating zoning. In cities as diverse as Minneapolis, Fayetteville, and Hartford, the key pillars of zoning are under fire, with apartment bans being scrapped, minimum lot sizes dropping, and off-street parking requirements disappearing altogether. Some American cities—including Houston, America’s fourth-largest city—already make land-use planning work without zoning.

In Arbitrary Lines, Gray lays the groundwork for this ambitious cause by clearing up common confusions and myths about how American cities regulate growth and examining the major contemporary critiques of zoning. Gray sets out some of the efforts currently underway to reform zoning and charts how land-use regulation might work in the post-zoning American city.

Despite mounting interest, no single book has pulled these threads together for a popular audience. In Arbitrary Lines, Gray fills this gap by showing how zoning has failed to address even our most basic concerns about urban growth over the past century, and how we can think about a new way of planning a more affordable, prosperous, equitable, and sustainable American city. (Island Press)

St. Louis’ first city planner, Harland Bartholomew, a civil engineer, was big on zoning. His planning firm unfortunately helped hundreds of municipalities adopt zoning laws — including in St. Louis. This form of zoning is known now as used-based zoning based on how it separates everything into separate pods. No longer can a business owner build a new building with their apartment over their store — these uses must be separate. No longer can a 2-family residential building be near single-family detached houses — these must be separate.

The latter ended up being a way of keeping immigrant/people of color communities separated from white folks — because whites shouldn’t be subjected to living near anyone different than themselves.  Idyllic new suburbs, in their mind, meant all white — except for servants, of course.  This attitude wasn’t limited to just the Jim Crow south, northern cities joined in this more subtle form of housing discrimination.

The St. Louis region is a prime example — it’s one reason why we have so many tiny municipalities. Going forward we must change the status quo, otherwise the entire region will continue to suffer.

Gray’s book will help you understand the problems & solutions.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — “Build Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture” by Bruce King and Chris Magwood

September 23, 2022 Books, Environment, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on New Book — “Build Beyond Zero: New Ideas for Carbon-Smart Architecture” by Bruce King and Chris Magwood

With all the talk of electric vehicles it’s easy to forget that buildings are a major contributor toward climate change. Building low or neutral carbon buildings has been the goal for a long time, now a new book is proposing going even further:

“Net Zero” has been an effective rallying cry for the green building movement, signaling a goal of having every building generate at least as much energy as it uses. Enormous strides have been made in improving the performance of every type of new building, and even more importantly, renovating the vast and energy-inefficient collection of existing buildings in every country. If we can get every building to net-zero energy use in the next few decades, it will be a huge success, but it will not be enough.  
 
In Build Beyond Zero, carbon pioneers Bruce King and Chris Magwood re-envision buildings as one of our most practical and affordable climate solutions instead of leading drivers of climate change. They provide a snapshot of a beginning and map towards a carbon-smart built environment that acts as a CO2 filter. Professional engineers, designers, and developers are invited to imagine the very real potential for our built environment to be a site of net carbon storage, a massive drawdown pool that could help to heal our climate.
 
The authors, with the help of other industry experts, show the importance of examining what components of an efficient building (from windows to solar photovoltaics) are made with, and how the supply chains deliver all those products and materials to a jobsite. Build Beyond Zero looks at the good and the bad of how we track carbon (Life Cycle Assessment), then takes a deep dive into materials (with a focus on steel and concrete) and biological architecture, and wraps up with education, policy and governance, circular economy, and where we go in the next three decades. 
 
In Build Beyond Zero, King and Magwood show how buildings are culprits but stand poised to act as climate healers. They offer an exciting vision of climate-friendly architecture, along with practical advice for professionals working to address the carbon footprint of our built environment. (Island Press)

We need as many “climate healers” as we can get! Like so many books this is highly detailed and technical. So here’s the chapters so you can see how they present their arguments:

  • Chapter 1: The Story of Carbon: The Birth of the Universe, of Carbon, and of Life
  • Chapter 2: A Brief History of Green Building: Waking Up to Climate Emergency
    Box 2.1: The Existing Building Solution by Larry Strain
  • Chapter 3: Life Cycle Analysis: Tracking Carbon’s Stocks and Flows
  • Chapter 4: Metals and Minerals: Steeling Ourselves
  • Chapter 5: Concrete: Many Ways to Make a Rock
    Box 5.1: Asphalt: the Other Concrete
    Box 5.2: The Case for Modern Earthen Building by Lola Ben Alon
    Box 5.3: Human Health is Climate Health by Gayatri Datar
    Box 5.4: Entering the Market as an Earth Block Producer by Lisa Morey
    Box 5.5: Can We Grow Carbon-Storing Buildings? by Wil Srubar
  • Chapter 6: Biological Architecture: Wood and Mass Timber, Agricultural By-Products, Purpose- Grown Crops, Waste Stream Fibers, and Lab-Grown Materials
    Box 6.1: Landscape: Connecting the Carbon Conversation by Pamela Conrad
  • Chapter 7: Witches’ Brew: Plastics, Chemistry, and Carbon
  • Chapter 8: Construction: On Site and Under Zero
  • Chapter 9: Education: We All Need Schooling to Make This Possible
  • Chapter 10: Circular Economy: Extending the Lifespan of Captured Carbon
  • Chapter 11: Policy and Governance: Twenty-first Century Cat Herding
  • Chapter 12: A Just Transition: Building a Better Society Means More than Capturing Carbon
    Box 12.1: A Manifesto for the Pivotal Decade by Ann Edminster
  • Chapter 13: The Next Three Decades: Where Do We Go from Here?  15 by 50
    Box 13.1 Case study, Trent University’s Forensic Science Building
  • Chapter 14: What’s Next? Wow. Just, wow.

I can’t say they’ve hit on the right solution, but those making building decisions (architects, developers, code officials, etc) should give this a serious review. If you’re planning new construction or a major renovation project these ideas might also be good food for thought.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Risky Cities: The Physical and Fiscal Nature of Disaster Capitalism’ by Albert

April 7, 2022 Books, Environment, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Risky Cities: The Physical and Fiscal Nature of Disaster Capitalism’ by Albert

A new book explores one of my favorite topics: the overlap of urbanization, capitalism, and disasters. Think our bad habit of developing in flood plains, then acting shocked when levees results in flooding elsewhere. The term “disaster capitalism” is very appropriate.

Over half the world’s population lives in urban regions, and increasingly disasters are of great concern to city dwellers, policymakers, and builders. However, disaster risk is also of great interest to corporations, financiers, and investors. Risky Cities is a critical examination of global urban development, capitalism, and its relationship with environmental hazards. It is about how cities live and profit from the threat of sinkholes, garbage, and fire. Risky Cities is not simply about post-catastrophe profiteering. This book focuses on the way in which disaster capitalism has figured out ways to commodify environmental bads and manage risks. Notably, capitalist city-building results in the physical transformation of nature. This necessitates risk management strategies –such as insurance, environmental assessments, and technocratic mitigation plans. As such capitalists redistribute risk relying on short-term fixes to disaster risk rather than address long-term vulnerabilities.  (Rutgers University Press)

You can read the introduction at Barnes and Noble.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

U.S. Senate Candidate Eric Greitens To Hold Campaign Press Conference Today

April 1, 2022 Big Box, Books, Featured Comments Off on U.S. Senate Candidate Eric Greitens To Hold Campaign Press Conference Today

Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens

Former governor Eric Greitens is a candidate for the U.S. Senate, one of nine Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the Missouri primary on August 2, 2022. The Democratic primary has eight candidates.  Senator and former Governor Roy Blunt is not seeking another 6-year term.

Greitens was recently in the news over new allegations:

Allegations stem from an affidavit from his ex-wife Sheena Greitens filed in their ongoing child custody case in Missouri. She alleges the former governor was physically abusive toward both her and one of their sons, who was 3 years old at the time, the Associated Press reported.

The accusations come years after Greitens resigned as governor while facing allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail involving his hairdresser and a House investigation into his campaign’s finances.

Greitens has emerged as a leading candidate in a crowded Republican field to succeed the retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. His primary opponents include Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, Mark McCloskey and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz. (USA Today via MSN)

This allegation has apparently prompted some republicans to call for Greitens to drop out of the race.

Just last week, Greitens’ ex-wife accused him in court of physically abusing her and their two children while they were married. McConnell reportedly seemed hopeful that the news would torpedo Greitens’ campaign, according to a New York Times report last week.

“We caught a break,” McConnell reportedly told fellow GOP senators. 

Greitens has since claimed — without evidence — that McConnell and GOP operative Karl Rove conspired against him to spread allegations of misconduct. (MSNBC)

In an effort to refocus his campaign on wining the primary, Eric  Greitens has hired former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to assist with  getting the campaign on track.

So at 3pm this afternoon Giuliani will introduce Greitens at a press conference and campaign rally at the Four Seasons in Chesterfield, MO. I’d go out of curiosity, but it would require 3 different bus routes (90 minutes!) to get all the way out there.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘American Urbanist: How William H. White’s Unconventional Wisdom Shaped Public Life’ by Richard K. Rein

March 18, 2022 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘American Urbanist: How William H. White’s Unconventional Wisdom Shaped Public Life’ by Richard K. Rein

cover of american urbanist book Willam H. Whyte is one of two people who influenced how I see our built environment, the other is Jane Jacobs. Had I known about either in 1985 I probably would’ve studied urban planning instead of architecture. Both focus on observation, but in very different ways.

On an otherwise normal weekday in the 1980s, commuters on busy Route 1 in central New Jersey noticed an alarming sight: a man in a suit and tie dashing across four lanes of traffic, then scurrying through a narrow underpass as cars whizzed by within inches. The man was William “Holly” Whyte, a pioneer of people-centered urban design. Decades before this perilous trek to a meeting in the suburbs, he had urged planners to look beyond their desks and drawings: “You have to get out and walk.”
 
American Urbanist shares the life and wisdom of a man whose advocacy reshaped many of the places we know and love today—from New York’s bustling Bryant Park to preserved forests and farmlands around the country. Holly’s experiences as a WWII intelligence officer and leader of the genre-defining reporters at Fortune Magazine in the 1950s shaped his razor-sharp assessments of how the world actually worked—not how it was assumed to work. His 1956 bestseller, The Organization Man, catapulted the dangers of “groupthink” and conformity into the national consciousness.
 
Over his five decades of research and writing, Holly’s wide-ranging work changed how people thought about careers and companies, cities and suburbs, urban planning, open space preservation, and more. He was part of the rising environmental movement, helped spur change at the planning office of New York City, and narrated two films about urban life, in addition to writing six books. No matter the topic, Holly advocated for the decisionmakers to be people, not just experts.
 
“We need the kind of curiosity that blows the lid off everything,” Holly once said. His life offers encouragement to be thoughtful and bold in asking questions and in making space for differing viewpoints. This revealing biography offers a rare glimpse into the mind of an iconoclast whose healthy skepticism of the status quo can help guide our efforts to create the kinds of places we want to live in today. (Island Press)

He was right, in-person observation is incredibly valuable. Photos, videos, etc are good, but the best observations are made in person. This is why for 17+ years I like to visit places in person before posting about them here.

You can read some preview pages of this hardcover book here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



[custom-facebook-feed]

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe