Slog Comments


Comments (35) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
keshmeshi 35

To call *911*
Posted by keshmeshi on April 6, 2012 at 4:38 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 34

Your point reminds me of a murder perpetrated in the Seattle area a while back. A man broke in to a young woman's apartment, raped her, and beat her to death. Her neighbors heard it and assumed what they were hearing was "consensual" sex.

I do not trust my neighbors to call if I'm in trouble. Therefore, I choose privacy and peace of mind.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 6, 2012 at 4:37 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 33
@31 "Not that you'd want to..."

San Francisco is a pretty nice place. I enjoyed the three years I lived there. According to Wikipedia, it's the densest city in the US over 500,000 except NYC, and a great deal if it is 3 or 4 story row houses. Most of those places even have vestigial back yards.

As more six-story developer-friendly condos were built here recently, it really became apparent how much more oppressive the 5+ story buildings are to the street's appearance vs. 3 or 4 story.

Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on April 6, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
orino 32
I was in Vancouver's West End yesterday, and was once again reminded what a dark, windy, dirty, noisy place it is at street level. I suppose it's okay if you never leave your $1.5 million broom closet. Or only live there a few months a year, which apparently is the case in most of those skinny highrises...
Posted by orino on April 6, 2012 at 3:16 PM · Report this
@13 you can get a tremendous amount of density out of low-rise buildings. If you had the money, you could easily urbanize the U.S. without building anything taller than 10 floors, maybe even 5 floors. Not that you'd want to, but it's a viable approach in a lot of circumstances.
Posted by minderbender on April 6, 2012 at 3:07 PM · Report this
I don't know anyone with an urban planning degree that is employed in anything like urban planning. however if you are looking for a good delivery driver...
Posted by Chris Jury on April 6, 2012 at 3:06 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 29
i'll be sure to pass this on to all my unemployed urban planner friends.
Posted by Max Solomon on April 6, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 28
BHL @16 In my limited experience, DC sucks until you get into some of the neighborhoods, but I love the Mall. Yes, it's contrived, phony and sterile, but on such a grand scale that it's cool.

Also, "contrived, phony and sterile on a grand scale" is a pretty good description of post-war America...

L'Enfant: prescient or lucky?
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on April 6, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on April 6, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 26
@ 23, that's one reason I live in a single family house.

Ownership (or something else that cements people to their homes, like a NYC-style 0.01% vacancy rate) is a major factor in getting people to know who their neighbors are. @ 19 is likely to be heard when he or she screams at an attack, but the neighbors will be less likely to intervene.
Posted by Matt from Denver on April 6, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Report this
TVDinner 25
Bleedingheart, your understanding is less dramatic and histrionic than mine. I think both understandings are probably correct, just seen through different lenses. I also think it's really important to remember when we talk about these things that actions like imposing broad avenues suited for military parades is a way to extend state power into people's daily lives. Not only were the people in Haussman's path unceremoniously uprooted and relocated, their communities devastated, but the boulevards evening out winding, medieval streets were a military solution to the problem of dissatisfied Parisians blockading the streets to protest their miserable, squalid conditions.

Fnarf, I saw you recommend "Arrival City" in another thread and bought it. Won't have time to read it 'til I graduate, provided I succeed and actually do, but it's on the short list.

The example of Lima providing land title and bringing services to the surrounding shantytowns is an outstanding one for the wisdom of accepting these improvised cities. In many important ways, they represent organic, holistic cities that have more soul and tighter communities than we can understand.

Sikandro, your perspective is wonderful and I think you're right on in a lot of ways. *I* hated my asshole neighbors at 65th and Phinney in a visceral, intense way, because the soundproofing of the building was so bad. But I also deeply appreciated being able to open my windows and hear the flamanco dancers at the Phinney Neighborhood Center on summer nights, and the howler monkeys at the zoo on summer mornings. Thanks for the insight.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on April 6, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 24

We do not need more setbacks. Are those beautiful brownstones set back from the sidewalk? No, and that's what makes them great. What we need is to stop allowing developments that take up half or more of an entire city block. Shit, there's a nursing home (excuse me) "assisted living" development on Denny that takes up TWO city blocks.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 6, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 23

You're an outlier. One reason why people are desperate to have their own single-family home is the fear of getting stuck above/below/next to the worst neighbors in the universe in an apartment building.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 6, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Report this
1. Seattle is 100X more dull and souless than Washington DC.
2. We need developers and buyers who're into beauty; our current crop of mixed use buildings is butt ugly.
3. You need an urban planner who commands vast stretches of land. We should condemn the vita milk site and make it a park and then do the same thing to 12 other blocks in diff neighborhoods. We should expand multifamily on aurora to be a whole block deep allowing the bigger parcels that would give us the ability to have much bigger setbacks. In general, we need more setbacks, wider sidewalks, we need to be designing the public space BETWEEN The buildings. That's the genius of the olmstead hausman l'enfant approach.

Too many neo urbanists give up on this and the result is ugly IKEA style buildings that look like they were extruded from a tube in the sky. They lack symmetry, proportion, an entrance all the pattern language things that make urban residential buildings grand, or livable. Check out the affordable housing going up on aurora at about 130th -- it's a nightmare of hundreds of units that will rise straight up leaving only the three foot sidewalk. The brownstone blocks in NYC are about 1,000 better looking than the average arterial block in Seattle that is filling up with these horrible bread loaf buildings. bigger lots, more setbacks, more units in a taller building but ALSO more sculpted frontages and public amenities in front or on the corners, please. It wouldn't hurt to drop in about 14 plazas and fountains either. Cities all over the world have this same stuff; it's elemental; we're building a warren of souless canyons here. Third avenue downtown is dead as a doornail at night. Sure we're a young city but really at some point we have to stop building the orange paneled crap.
Posted by enfant de l'enfant on April 6, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Report this

You know, I was in Your City yesterday.

Here's what a dense, transit rich environment looks like at 5pm:…

Yep...a traffic jam!

Why is everyone so eager to leave?!

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 6, 2012 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Fnarf 20
@14, oh God yes -- Brasilia is the poster child for everything that's wrong with midcentury European planning. But there are thousands of other examples around the globe that are less famous, less all-encompassing, but still as soul-destroying. Check out Les Pyramides on the outskirts of Paris, or some of the utterly tragic New Town of Cumbernauld in Scotland (French, Italian, and British post-war planning was every bit as evil as the Soviet stuff, and similarly motivated).

TVDinner, have you read "Arrival City" yet? I urge you to do so. It casts such a powerful light on this topic, and specifically on trying to see what the differences are that separate bad from good modern developing neighborhoods. There's lots of fine-grained detail (make sure there's plenty of space for small shops) but also the bigger issues, primarily land ownership. Even the grimiest squatter village can be transformed into a vibrant city if people can secure loans against their land title to build, wait for it, five-story buildings. It's fascinating to see this happen in the Turkish "Gecekondu" neighborhoods in Istanbul or their counterparts in Mumbai, Mexico City, and Rio de Janiero. It is also critical to STOP BULLDOZING SHANTYTOWNS, and instead provide them with land title, sewer and water, and mass transit.

But places like Les Pyramides, built in the full flush of Le Corbusierism, are irredeemable. They create crime; they create terrorists. In France, the terrorists aren't immigrants; they're the grandchildren of immigrants, who have been denied all possibility of participating in white France and all possibility of creating functional lives outside of white France, in many ways BY THEIR BUILDINGS.
Posted by Fnarf on April 6, 2012 at 11:12 AM · Report this
sikandro 19
@13. I don't know, sound-proofing seems like a weird place to start a campaign for better apartments. One of the things I love about living in apartments is being able to hear street noise and noise from the other units. It's part of why I feel safer in the city--at least there are more people around to hear me scream if something happens.
Posted by sikandro on April 6, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 18
Was Paris really leveled by Haussman? I thought it was more of a superimposition of the boulevards over the existing labyrinth of streets?

In any case, correction duly noted.

Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on April 6, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
TVDinner 17
Paris was planned. Haussman leveled the city to re-build it in the nineteenth century.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on April 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 16
No sane person would have planned Paris or London the way they are. But they are magnificent.

Washington DC was planned from its inception. And it is a dull, soulless place.

I'm sure that there are counter-examples to both points. But planning clearly isn't everything.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on April 6, 2012 at 10:52 AM · Report this
This of course neglects that idea that a modern suburban home is a producer-consumer system that is in itself it's own private "city" with a park (backyard), common ground (Facebook), cultural institutions (web, Xbox, widescreen).

The automobile turns a human, capable of walking half a mile, into a human-machine, capable of 10 mile "sprints" to coffee houses in shopping centers. The choices become more plentiful...more experiential, than visiting shoemakers and haberdashers as in the old city of the 18th century.

"The (old) city is a cultural relic for ghosts."


Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 6, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Report this
TVDinner 14
Also: a map of Brasilia would have been even more appalling.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on April 6, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Report this
TVDinner 13
I agree with Fnarf that the suggestion that high-rise apartments is the only solution is problematic, largely because it smacks of modernism and Corbusier, whose sanitized prescription for urban living is utterly devoid of any soul or humanity whatsoever. And I love the Jane Jacobs-esque idea of human-scale buildings. I just wonder if we really can accommodate nine-point-something billion people in such structures and still have enough land left over to feed them all. We probably could if we did it right, I guess.

The other part, too, is that our idea what creates a community is embedded with cultural assumptions that may or may not translate to other places. Asia has invested in high-rise homes that don't seem repugnant, at least on a superficial level. I wonder how the people living in them feel about them, though....

But no matter what, no one is going to want to live in multi-family housing unless it's built better. We simply must have apartment buildings with sound-proofing, which means we have to beef up our building codes and create incentives for existing building owners to retrofit them.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on April 6, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Report this
sikandro 12
I've always been disappointed that Seattle has no row housing.
Posted by sikandro on April 6, 2012 at 10:47 AM · Report this
Fnarf 11
I haven't read Glaeser's book, but I'm quite certain he is referring to the idiotic idea so popular in Seattle, that we must build, build, build more parks, because having trees in the city is somehow "natural" and environmental, when the fact is that packing cities full of people and density and, yes, buildings is the real environmental response, because every building in the heart of the city is a building that didn't get built in the suburbs or exurbs instead.

If you value the "natural environment" you should want to leave it untouched OUTSIDE the city, and not try to replicate it IN the city.

A great example here is the waterfront, which everyone wants to fill with tidepools and gently lapping waves and swimming little fishlets; but that is the exact opposite of an environmentalist thing to do, because we are pushing industrial and commercial uses -- HUMAN uses -- out of the city into distant points. They ought to be bringing the goddamn oil terminals here instead, so Cherry Point, which every one of us owes our very lives to, could be more natural. It ought to be illegal to build houses alongside Puget Sound streams.

Glaeser's insistence on "high-rise apartments" sounds awfully old-fashioned and really quite anti-urban, though. The highest and best densities are created with large numbers of no more than four or five-story apartment houses, which is what made Boston and New York and San Francisco interesting and is now providing the future in places like Istanbul. Cities should be built to human scale. If you build four and five-story buildings close together, you can create communities; there is no other way, really.

It's a shame Charles chose to use that absurd diagram of Kabul for this, since it is something of an apotheosis of a Soviet-planned urbanist hate crime, all neatly segregated and color-coded and planned to within an inch of its life. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Soviet planning CAUSED Afghanistan to be such a shit hole, but it certainly didn't help. No real vital city looks anything like that picture.
Posted by Fnarf on April 6, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 10
In before the Kent Rotarians attack.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on April 6, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Report this
I want to rewild the cities, to unite the false dichotomies of "wilderness" and "city" into something new. Jennifer Wolch called this the "zoopolis."

William Cronon writes about the false dichotomy of city and wilderness and some of the psychological problems and mental barriers it creates here:…
Posted by LMcGuff on April 6, 2012 at 10:20 AM · Report this
TVDinner 8
Burnham? He was great, but the field has changed a bit since his time.

We are facing a moment in human civilization that looking backward will not solve. Never before has this planet had so many people on its face. Glaeser, at least, is talking about this and the necessity to build upward. That's the only way we're going to preserve enough arable land to feed the nine-point-something billion people demographers are predicting our population will peak at.

I sure as hell hope we can.

On a side note, as someone on the verge of graduating with a masters in urban planning, I'm going to spend the rest of the day muttering to myself, "I'm mothafuckin Jesus. I'm mothafuckin Jesus."
Posted by TVDinner http:// on April 6, 2012 at 10:11 AM · Report this
thatsnotright 7
So, did someone plan for kabul to have the outline of a Kalashnikov carbine?
Posted by thatsnotright on April 6, 2012 at 10:09 AM · Report this
lark 6
Good Morning Charles,
You should check out the work of Daniel Burnham. His urban planning work is most extraordinary.

Posted by lark on April 6, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 5
So Charles states that the Jesus of our times will give us diagrams and not sermons, and then updates the post with a diagram.

Not sure I like where this is heading...
Posted by Theodore Gorath on April 6, 2012 at 9:47 AM · Report this
Nothing against urban planners, but I think computer programmers, microbiologists, and oil company geologists are all a bit more important.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on April 6, 2012 at 9:47 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 3
@Matt from Denver,

I think he means that we should drop the idea that cities are only buildings and trees only exist in the country, not in the cities.

My guess is that a lot of the "romanticizing" of rural countrysides is still left over from the Renaissance times. Wealth and power was displayed through land ownership, especially if one could afford land and then use it for leisure, i.e., instead of building a useful building, keeping the land as a garden or something.

The whole reason for the existence of green grass lawns of today is to show off to neighbors how much wealth you have, that you can afford to waste it on a useless lawn. Those are the beliefs that need to be discarded.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on April 6, 2012 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 2
... er, "thing." Singular.
Posted by Matt from Denver on April 6, 2012 at 9:33 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 1
But environmentalism SHOULD mean "living around trees." They're great at saving cooling costs, and of course there's that converting-CO2-to-02 things...
Posted by Matt from Denver on April 6, 2012 at 9:33 AM · Report this

Add a comment