Posts Tagged ‘land use planning’

Because landscape planning has been important part of landscape architecture from the beginning days of the profession. Some of the earliest landscape planners worked in the Olmsted office, and the first city planners were architects (e.g., Daniel Burnham) and landscape architects (e.g., F.L. Olmsted, Jr. and John Nolen). Another reason for the landscape planning emphasis of this blog is that there are plenty of blogs that already address urban design and landscape design. Design will be discussed here too, but probably not in the same way.

The growing importance of landscape urbanism and related “urbanisms” suggests to me that landscape planning and/or ecological planning needs to be brought back into the professional conversation. Many of the underlying ideas I see presented in landscape urbanism proposals have connections to landscape planning.

Landscape planning – rooted in landscape architecture. Land use planning and environmental planning? Related, but not exactly the same. Disciplinary influences on what is now considered mainstream land use and environmental planning are primarily from social and natural sciences. More on landscape planning to come.

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Wikimedia Commons image by Matt H.WadeI was asked to speak at a conference on the topic of “Land Use, Environment, and Natural Resources,” a very broad subject even if it is focused on Upstate New York. That would be “upstate” defined as everything north of the NYC metro area. In other words, what is the current status of land use, environment, and natural resources for almost the entire State of New York? In 20 minutes. I have taken on that challenge (?)  and will be making my presentation next Wednesday in Syracuse.

To prepare for this talk, I spoke with land use and environmental planners from various parts of the state over the last few weeks. What’s going on in your area? I thought I’d hear some frustration in the voices of those I called, given the state and local government budget challenges – but I did not. There is really a lot going on, and grant money is keeping the planning engine running for now at least. The only downside I detected is that there is too much work for too few people at many agencies and organizations. I have decided that the thrust of my talk will be “Innovation and Resourcefulness in a Time of Austerity.” I will post a few of the interesting examples of innovative land planning that I have found.

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In October of 2009, I made a list of what I thought might be outcomes of the economic collapse in the U.S. on landscape/land use planning. Which of these has come true? I think it depends on where you live. Here are my 2009 guesses:

Land use effects of a weak economy

  • A near halt to new construction, residential and commercial, dramatically slowing land consumption at the urban fringe
  • A slower pace(?) to urban infill; foreclosures creating abandoned neighborhoods
  • Rise in the number of renter-occupied structures/neighborhoods
  • A reversal of gentrification trends in some city neighborhoods
  • A wave of new dead malls and other grayfield sites, especially as retail contracts
  • Cheaper land prices – which could help efforts by land trusts, although it looks like their boom is over too
  • In rural areas, land conversion halted – a chance to re-think agriculture?
  • Fewer areas of second home development. Potentially land abandonment, like second home owners in foreclosure
  • In desperate attempts to appear “business-friendly,” communities give away the store – sacrificing, neglecting, pillaging the qualities of place that
    could have otherwise enhanced their chances of survival
  • The need to re-examine large-lot zoning given the collapse of rampant development. Which communities will allow cluster development now?
  • A focus on green retrofits rather than wholly new green construction
  • Local governments rethinking all basic services – including parks
  • Infrastructure costs need to be contained
  • Opportunity for more shared services across jurisdictional boundaries; collaboration between local govt and local businesses

Planning/design consequences

  • Desire for plans increased; desire to control/guide community destiny
  • Planning/design implementation funding is lacking – future funding uncertain
  • Mixed reception to visioning exercises – Desire to create positive change, but pessimism over future?
  • Value of community-building design implementation efforts high, if funding can be found
  • Need for creative vision – no more planning as maintainer of status quo
  • Green, livable community strategies still sought; local governments seek to differentiate themselves from their neighbors
  • Need to demonstrate relationship between good planning/design and economic development

And some questions about what landscape architects can contribute

How can the planning/design process reveal possibilities that might not otherwise be seen? How can visualization techniques build broad community support for actions that contribute to community survival, community resilience?

UPDATE: One factor that I did not consider in 2009 is that the federal government would embrace deficit reduction in the way it has, leading to the virtual abandonment of state and local governments in a time of need. The massive layoffs of local government employees, including teachers, was something that I did not see coming. Like many other progressives, I hope to see this reversed, accompanied by infrastructure investment.

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