New urbanism is described as the greatest influential step in planning and design in Californian cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is an urban planning and design effort that aims at creation of livable and walkable neighborhoods, reduced car dependency and densely packed arrays with jobs, commercial sites and housing. In the past years, new urbanism design principles have been adopted in numerous neighborhood and housing plans. It has mainly been utilized in the improvement of distressed inner- city neighborhoods (Calthorpe 10).
Public involvement and criticisms are also part of this urban issue, where long standing debates over its implementation is revisited. The expected implications and effects of the urban issue on human behavior and living status also form part of the public involvement in this urban issue. New urbanism is regulated by certain policies, which have to be followed in order for a neighborhood to be livable and friendly to every resident. New urbanism just like other urban issues has its design principles consistent with the policies, which in turn aim at improving and revitalizing the living standards of inner- city residents (Fulton 122). The principles of new urbanism designs work in proximity with other fields of development like historic preservation, environmental protection, sustainable development, main street programs and growth management. Therefore, new urbanism is the most potent weapon in eradicating climate change, environmental degradation, and increasing energy costs.
Why is New Urbanism Important in California?
New Urbanists designs are present in and operate on numerous scales, for instance, blocks, buildings, neighborhoods, districts, corridors and even cities. The principle behind this urban issue is the organization of neighborhoods that are often compact, mixed use, diverse, transit friendly and pedestrian oriented. Neighborhoods are often advanced from an essentially single block or building into an updated large institution having commercial sites, parking spaces, and housing (Calthorpe 25). It gets rid of the heavy traffic volume by having a limited area of approximately five to ten minutes’ walk from edge to center. The neighborhood activities are always within convenient walking distance for the residents. New urbanism streets are designed majorly for pedestrian use, and they have street trees and generous sidewalks.
The urban issue naturally works towards the philosophy of small is beautiful. This development means that there will be compact development characterized by fewer cars, reduced daily costs and provision of more time for community and family than before. Few cars help in reducing environmental damage through carbon emission (Calthorpe 26). The atmosphere will be serene and free of greenhouse gases, which are dangerous to living things. This is quite crucial in eradicating the climate change problem. Reduced daily cost is essential for residents since they can walk to work and commercial sites. Health wise, new urbanism is vital as people get to exercise through walking hence improving their health. In cases of illnesses, getting a physician is cheap since there are hospitals in the neighborhood. The Californian authorities are using this urban issue as a way to improve its neighborhoods. “Vision California”, a framework concerned with new urbanism in the city has predicted a more compact future that is bound to save the state about 3.4 million acre feet water annually (Smith 429). This water, in turn, can be utilized in irrigating approximately 5 million acres of farm land. Therefore, new urbanism has several benefits to the people of San Francisco and Los Angeles, thus the increased efforts to its implementation.
Housing stock can be made more diverse and available to a variety of Californians. New urbanism ensures a drastic change in housing choices since it takes care of all housing types. Therefore, a neighborhood can consist of residents from different backgrounds because housing is affordable and diverse (Fulton 31). Urbanism aims at providing livable neighborhoods while linking its development with environmental social and economic outcomes.
Policy Options Governing New Urbanism in California
The design principle of new urbanism is often consistent with numerous, broad policies which aim at improving and revitalizing the living status of residents in the inner parts of the city. Californian new urbanism follows the policies enacted by the local government, to regulate urban issues. The policies are primarily concerned with the comfortable living of residents of California, and the ultimate environmental conservation (Fulton,32). The new Urbanists principles follow the urban policies that address issues of regionalism, transport, marketing and planning and codes. The scales used in new urbanism principles, for long have been large; however, small scales operations are being adopted to enhance satisfaction of everyone from all walks of life. Transport as an aspect of this urban issue, is aimed at reducing dependency on automobiles which in turn, helps in conserving the environment. Code and planning enforcers are also involved in this process and can engage in deciding in cases of conventional and unconventional projects (Bohl 761). The issue also follows regionalism policies putting into consideration regulatory tools like urban growth boundaries. New urbanism in Los Angeles and San Francisco also uses reform movements that are acceptable in the market place.
Stakeholders involved in the New Urbanism
Californian new urbanism initiative involves numerous people who are interested in development of the city. The local government is the key stakeholder in this urban issue. Architects and some local elected officials are also engaged in the promotion of urbanism. The local government has to be aware of any development taking place in the state or city. The government’s approval is needed to enhance initiation of the project. Architects, electrical, mechanical, and traffic engineers, all participate in new urbanism, in the two cities. Each stakeholder has a part to play in the realization of the ultimate outcome of urbanism project. Building and planning code enforcers often ensure that the project is carried out at the appropriate site and procedure (Smith 430). Ultimately, the residents are also stakeholders since they will have to enjoy the benefits of the new urbanism or suffer the negative effects that come with the project.
Public Criticism of New Urbanism
This urban issue has received numerous criticisms ever since it started. Despite its popularity among the Californians, its governing principles and design practices are under criticism. Issues under criticism include matters regarding privacy, cost and racial discrimination. Controversies over this urban issue form the components of the ongoing debate on growth management, smart growth and compact development (Bohl 763). Debates on the level of privacy in new urbanism neighborhoods are consistent. The density of housings in neighborhoods or cities has led to lack of personal privacy for the residents. People have different housing tastes, some need houses with yards and detached from those of neighbors. However, new urbanism denies such people their desires and instead subjects them to a community of diverse people. Having a neighborhood with mixed and dense population, with a possibility of sharing garages, driveways, and many other facilities deny residents their privacy. On the other hand, this living and housing design is social and promotes community unity and love. The residents get the chance to work in unity most of the time. Others criticize the urban issue as being inauthentic due to isolation from other parts of the state or city. The designs in some circumstances do not represent the settlement norm in Californian cities, hence the feeling of inauthenticity (Bohl 774). Some critics even point at new urbanism as promoting discrimination and not community spirit and diversity as was stipulated. This is because most new Urbanists neighborhoods mostly attract the affluent white people since they at times are expensive. These critics are, however, debatable since not all neighborhoods have similar alleged implications. Despite the critics of new urbanism, the urban issue is becoming popular among Californians (Calthorpe, 47). It is becoming a common planning design for communities, and it has a growing emphasis on high density settlements, walkable streets, mixed use buildings that are suitable for everyone and anyone.
Public involvement in New Urbanism
Urbanists try to convince the public on the importance of new urbanism; however, people have different perspectives on the issue. Some believe that it is a valuable initiative of improving the environment while others believe that it has discriminative effects. Majority of the public in San Francisco and Los Angeles today are considering its implementation since it has numerous beneficial outcomes despite its criticisms (Calthorpe 51). The essential part of human nature is fear of change, and new urbanism involves immense change of life and its aspects. However, the fear is only a matter of time before Californians get used to the magnificent change. The coming generations will have no critics or questions about new urbanism since they will have gotten used. The issue is quite successful as several people are talking about its benefits and getting used to its existence. The public is engaging in the urbanism projects by participating as stakeholders. They leave their former houses and opt for new urbanism neighborhoods because they believe in the benefits that come with urbanism (Smith 438). A certain portion of the public, on the other hand, does not believe in this urban issue, and still prefer the traditional housing designs. The issue, therefore, is received differently by Californian residents, but there is hope for increased embrace of new urbanism in the city.
Californian Urban Managers’ involvement in New Urbanism
Urban managers including mayors, city councils and city managers in California, are totally engaged in this activity, and trying to make the city a livable place for the residents. The managers also referred to as urban sociologists have emphasized the benefits of nature and structure of Californian cities. Their chief aim is to analyze interactions between property, housing, transport, employment and other relevant services and facilities in the neighborhoods (Smith 440). The implications of these services for the various social groups in neighborhoods are managers’ concerns. City managers ensure that the Californian public is involved in interventions, in urban public systems, for instance, in planning decisions, provision of facilities like schools and hospitals, and provision of houses. They work together with the California local government to ensure positive impacts on the inequalities regarding resource distribution (Fulton 57). Together with the state bureaucrats, urban managers engage in defining various patterns of urban development and distribution of public resources.
New urbanism is, therefore, essential because it promotes the implementation of conservation based ideas, which in turn, provide a place friendly to the human race. The urban issue is of immense importance to California people since it offers advantages like reduces usage of automobile and provision of services at convenience. Urbanism is also associated with substantial beneficial side implications like proximity with other fields of development like historic preservation, environmental protection, sustainable development, main street programs and growth management. The climate change problem and concern, which is affecting most parts of the world, can be eradicated through the application of this urban issue. The process of new urbanism is, however, regulated by certain policies, which concentrate on issues of transport, planning and codes, employment and housing. Controversies and critics about this issue are also present, where the California public is divided into those in support of the urban project and those having second thoughts about the issue. However, with time Los Angeles and San Francisco are expected to embrace the urban issue since its benefits are quite massive than the alleged drawbacks. The Californian urban managers have the obligation of ensuring every resident comes in terms with the project and embraces its application and implications.
Bohl, C. Charles. New Urbanism and the City: Potential Applications and Implications for Distressed Inner- city Neighborhoods, Housing Policy Debate, 11: 4, 2000
Calthorpe, Peter. Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, Island Press, 2011
Fulton, William. The New Urbanism Challenges Conventional Planning, Land Lines Article: 8: 5, 1996.
Smith, Neil. New Globalism, New Urbanism: Gentrification as Global Urban Strategy, Blackwell Publishers, 2002