Apply Updated Smart Growth Principles Organically

Kaid  Benfield proposes an update of smart growth principles for the 21st century in his blog:

Smart growth principles for the 21st century | Kaid Benfield’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

Here are the updated principals he recommends (Photos are from his blog as well-place cursor over image for photo credit):

  1. Foster neighborhoods hospitable to residents with a range of incomes, ages and abilities.
  2. I'On, Mount Pleasant SC (by: I'On Village)Enhance, create and maintain communities that encourage healthy living.
  3. Provide walkable access to shops, amenities, and services, including good schools, healthy food, and parks.
  4. Accommodate and provide a variety of convenient, safe, affordable and efficient transportation choices.
  5. Respect nature, integrating natural areas and systems into regional planning and neighborhood design.
  6. Identify, respect and enhance the strengths and character of existing communities.
  7. Keep regional footprints small and discernible, limiting the encroachment of new development onto natural and rural land.
  8. WHigh Point Hope VI housing, Seattle (by: Michael Wolcott, creative commons license)hen constructing new development, use land efficiently, with design appropriate to the context.
  9. Encourage collaboration in planning and development that leads to predictable, fair decisions that benefit all stakeholders.
  10. Take advantage of resource-efficient design, development and management practices.

I support these goals and look for opportunities to put them in practice. The trick is how to do it in a way that works with free market principles, consistent with the values of a free society. I think the key there is look at the subsidies, government policies and zoning laws  that foster, encourage and in many cases mandate urban sprawl and eliminate or update them. We have seen some progress in this approach lately in the Birmingham Metro area lately, in both Jefferson and Shelby counties, but many bad laws still remain on the books. Many of these goals can be met organically as our cities grow if we just get rid of bad policies.

After all, aren’t the traditional neighborhoods we like so much the result of free organic growth occurring before the automobile took over, rather than top down directives?  Let’s not forget that or we could end up with built  urban environments that are just as much a failure at satisfying our needs as our pro-sprawl past.