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School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 4 – Changing Expectations

This is the final installment in a four-part series about the demographic, housing and land use contexts of troubled public schools. Here are links to parts one, two and three.

North Americans are culturally attached to the single-family house, especially for families with children. Thanks to Barrie Sutcliffe for this great photos of houses on the outskirts of Edmonton, Alberta.

In many core cities, insufficient affordable and suitable housing for families provides a push for young families to leave urban neighbourhoods for the suburbs.

The pull of suburban environments is the other side of the coin. 55% of Canadians live in a house, and many believe that young children have the best outcomes in a single-family house with a private yard. Cultural attachment to … Continue Reading

School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 3 of 4 – Intergenerational Neighbourhoods and Housing Diversity

105-year-old Sir William MacDonald Elementary School was one of 11 Vancouver schools threatened with closure in 2010. Thanks to Sqeaky Marmot on Flickr for this great Creative Commons photo.

Wrestling with the conundrum of why growing cities like Vancouver face declining public school enrolments, the first two posts in this series suggest links between municipal and regional populations of school-aged children and the affordability and suitability of family housing. Today’s post explores the value of intergenerational communities in both urban and suburban contexts, and considers how housing diversity may influence demographics at the neighbourhood scale.

Urban Context
Researching the dispersal of children across local neighbourhoods, the Curious Dad newspaper column found that Vancouver’s east-side communities house the most young children, while … Continue Reading

Planning Challenge 1: Commercial Aggregation and Subdivision (Part 1)

Colorado suburbs. Courtesy David Shankbone.

The word “subdivision” is almost synonymous with the “suburbs.” The building blocks of many suburbs are subdivisions with names ranging from the biblical (“Green Acres”), to the pompous (“Kingdom Heights”), to the pastoral (“Pheasant Run”). The problems of inner-city rejuvenation, brownfield restoration, and strip-mall redevelopment are miles away from the great subdividing maw of suburbanization at the rural fringe. But the theory and practice of subdivision may have something essential to teach about re-vivifying blighted commercial and industrial properties in the urban core. Read more…

20-Minute Community on Portland’s inner fringe

Portland is trying to be North America’s most walkable city by employing a vision for 20-minute communities in much of its current planning. There’s a lot of power in this idea, and if done right, it can be influential beyond the Rose City. The key though, as I see it, is not to embellish Portland’s thriving boutique districts, but instead to strengthen the places that are lacking structural riches. If the city can do this, it will have accomplished something that can inform planning everywhere. read more

Retro Book Review: The Organization Man (1956)

I would not want to malign planners for becoming interested in sociology—it is a common complaint in the field, indeed, that most planners aren’t interested enough. But a little sociology can be a dangerous weapon. (p. 349, The Organization Man)

The Organization Man, by William H. Whyte, is a key American sociology text of the mid-1950s. References to it still pervade current sociology and planning literature, which is what prompted me to borrow the only copy from the Vancouver Public Library.

Whyte’s subject is the generation of young white-collar men who worked for large American corporations. For Whyte, their conformity and social orientation represented such a severe break from traditional value systems like the Protestant Ethic that he feared a troubling … Continue Reading

CTRF 2010: Linking land use and transit

Transit service and land use patterns are inextricably linked. Thanks to Wylie Poon on Flickr for this Creative Commons photo showing a transit expansion in Toronto!

One of the session topics on the last day of the CTRF 2010 conference was Urban Transit, which for the transit planner at heart was a great way to close off the event! The first paper was presented by Sybil Derrible, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. The paper, prepared with Bilal Farooq, categorized four types of neighbourhoods based on the type of land use development and corresponding transit potential. The four styles were exemplified by Toronto-based developments, but can be applied to most North American settlement patterns. They are: urban sprawled, … Continue Reading

CIP Conference: From edge city to urban place: Tysons Corner revisited

This session took place on October 1.

Uri Avin of Parsons Brinckerhoff and Iain Dobson of the Real Estate Search Corporation discussed edge cities and how they can be transformed into urban places. Avin described Tysons Corner, Virginia, a prototypical “edge city” and the 12th largest business district in the United States. Although Tysons Corner, located just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Dulles Airport corridor, is generally considered to be an economic success, the city suffers from an increasingly dysfunctional environmen. Dobson contrasted Tysons Corner with Mississauga, Ontario, a similar city in terms of square footage, population, jobs, and other statistics, but stagnating nonetheless.

Edge cities are typically suburban commercial, retail, and residential developments built in areas that contained no development 30 years ago. They are usually outside a larger urban area and tend to be close to highways and airports. … Continue Reading

Reimagining Suburbs for the the Post-Carbon City

Finalists have been announced at the Reburbia Suburban Design Competition! Cast your vote for the best idea before midnight tomorrow (Monday, August 17).

Currently leading the vote count is Galina Tahchieva’s Urban Sprawl Repair Kit. It offers design solutions for integrating existing suburban prototypes like drive-through restaurants into a more diverse, cohesive and walkable urban fabric. The “T-trees Social Housing Project” has the second-greatest number of votes – it proposes nifty-looking modular towers topped with windmills that supporting prefabricated social housing units.

Meanwhile, an article in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal describes the fierce community resistance that stands in the way of proposals to modestly densify Edmonton’s older single-

Parking lot at the IKEA in South Edmonton - one of many big-box stores that serve new suburban development on the margins of the city. Photo by author.

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Retro Book Review: Redesigning the American Dream (1984)

Redesigning the American DreamWhile groundbreaking new works are constantly being added to the body of planning literature, older texts still have plenty to teach. “The classics” have inspired and informed more recent work, and even their outdated aspects can provide a valuable glimpse into the zeitgeist of past eras.

Following its publication in 1984, “Redesigning the American Dream: The Future of Housing, Work and Family Life” by Dolores Hayden received awards in planning, design and feminist scholarship. It is a measure of its influence that Arlie Russell Hochschild cited it several times in “The Second Shift,” her ground-breaking 1990 book about the gender dynamics within dual-career American families.

From the point of view of a present-day reader, the greatest achievement of “Redesigning the American Dream” lies in illustrating … Continue Reading