PROJECT TITLE

HOW WILL WE LIVE? 20th Century Retrospect and 21st Century Prospect (90 minute video) 

Writers Guild of America, East, Registration# 088546-00, 11/28/94. Chris Hubbard, Producer, Writer, Researcher.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: 

A video documentary which looks at the decline in community in America and the evolution of community planning in 20th century America – from walkable neighborhoods to automobile dependent development (Produced through a Washington, DC area community television station) . In the suburbs, before WWII, we planned walkable neighborhoods where one could conveniently walk (5-10 minute walk – 1/4 mile) and meet neighbors from residence to shops, workplaces, community facilities and transit. After WWII we planned automobile dependent subdivisions where the auto must be used, thus isolating neighbors (Too far for convenient walk) from residence to shops, workplaces, community functions and transit. The documentary  would document the consequences of the shift from walkable neighborhoods to automobile dependent development (ADD) in terms of Transportation, Community, Culture, Environment, Landscape, Economy, Housing and Quality of life in general with examples from the Washington, DC metropolis. This will be done through interviewing experts in these areas and looking at examples of a variety of these settlements. The purpose of this documentary is to increase public awareness of the fact that planning policies in the suburbs in the late 20th century have fundamentally changed the way we have lived for centuries, deforming the essence of American democracy – community. This information will empower the public to productively exercise their choice concerning the planning of their region.

SIGNIFICANCE

Planning in the post WWII suburbs determines auto dependent development which over 50% of the population now lives in, and is increasing every day. This type of development has significantly contributed to problems which interfere with a vital America, including: Dangerous and congested transportation; Social isolation and alienation which is antagonistic to mental health, especially children’s; Decline of civic engagement and social connectedness; Air, water and noise pollution; Destruction of natural landscape and wildlife; Expensive and inefficient development; Lack of decent low income housing and segregation of housing based on income; Ghettoization of public housing; Isolation of children and elderly; Stressful, inconvenient and socially deficient quality of life.

SCOPE OF PROJECT: 

Relevant aspects of environment, pre and post WWII developments Old Town Alexandria, Annapolis, Georgetown; New Towns: Kentlands, MD, Sandy Spring, MD, Haymount, VA, Belmont, VA including design charrette for new town; A variety of post WWII suburban developments: Tysons Comer, Reston,; New neighborhoods from around the country including Seaside, Fl, (1st walkable town to be built in America since 1929) Portland, OR. In addition, the documentary will look at the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), which has met three times since it’s formation in 1993. The CNU is working to establish a charter of policies and principles to revitalize the inner city and reform the American suburb within an integrated regional structure . Experts will provide narrative for the images. Part I: Establish w able neighborhoods (Both suburban and urban) as planning model before WWII with archival footage. Part Il: Document forces that changed the model focus from the walkable neighborhood to the ADD using archival footage from before and during WWII. Part III: Impact of ADD in terms of Transportation, community, economy, housing, environment and quality of life. Part IV: Show prospect for walkable neighborhoods which accommodate the automobile, and approach for new metropolis: connecting walkable neighborhoods with rail transit. Part V: Experts give their outlook for 21st century America. 

WORK PLAN: 

Production and Post production through 8/96. 

TEAM: Kenneth Frampton, Ware professor of Architecture at Columbia University, Adviser; Chris Hubbard, Producer. 

INTERVIEWS INCLUDING: 

  • Planners: *Andres Duany (Internationally known town planner of Seaside, Kentlands and over 30 other new towns including 5 in Washington DC region) & 
  • *Paul Spreiregen (Internationally known planner and author); 
  • Developers:  *John Clark (Developer of the new town of Haymount, VA) 
  • *Joseph Alfandre, (Developer of Kentlands, MD, Belmont, VA, and Sandy Spring, MD); 
  • *Robert Davis (Developer of Seaside, Florida); 
  • Kenneth Frampton; Internationally known Architectural critic and historian:
  • Transportation planners: *Walter Kulash; Director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project: 
  • *Hank Dittmar; 
  • VA planning directors; 
  • Social Issues: *David Wolf, Consumer Behavior Consultant. 
  • *Ray Oldenburg, Sociologist/Urbanologist, Author, “The Great Good Place”. 
  • Robert Putnam, Author, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital”; 
  • Housing and Economy: *Patrick Phillips, Real Estate Economist; 
  • History of the suburbs: 
  • *Kenneth Jackson, Chairman History Dept. Columbia University, Author : Crabgrass Frontier: The suburbanization of the US.; 
  • Social and rail issues: *Bill Lind, associate editor of the New Electric Railway Journal; 
  • Environmental issues: *Lee Epstein, Director Lands Program, Chesapeake Bay Foundation; 
  • Philosophical issues: Albert Borgmann, Philosopher, Author, “Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life”.              

*On camera interviews included.

 

The Charter of the New Urbanism

 

The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.

We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy.

We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.

We recognize that physical solutions by themselves will not solve social and economic problems, but neither can economic vitality, community stability, and environmental health be sustained without a coherent and supportive physical framework.

We represent a broad-based citizenry, composed of public and private sector leaders, community activists, and multidisciplinary professionals. We are committed to reestablishing the relationship between the art of building and the making of community, through citizen-based participatory planning and design.

We dedicate ourselves to reclaiming our homes, blocks, streets, parks, neighborhoods, districts, towns, cities, regions, and environment.


We assert the following principles to guide public policy, development practice, urban planning, and design:

The Region: Metropolis, City, and Town

  1. Metropolitan regions are finite places with geographic boundaries derived from topography, watersheds, coastlines, farmlands, regional parks, and river basins. The metropolis is made of multiple centers that are cities, towns, and villages, each with its own identifiable center and edges.
  2. The metropolitan region is a fundamental economic unit of the contemporary world. Governmental cooperation, public policy, physical planning, and economic strategies must reflect this new reality.
  3. The metropolis has a necessary and fragile relationship to its agrarian hinterland and natural landscapes. The relationship is environmental, economic, and cultural. Farmland and nature are as important to the metropolis as the garden is to the house.
  4. Development patterns should not blur or eradicate the edges of the metropolis. Infill development within existing urban areas conserves environmental resources, economic investment, and social fabric, while reclaiming marginal and abandoned areas. Metropolitan regions should develop strategies to encourage such infill development over peripheral expansion.
  5. Where appropriate, new development contiguous to urban boundaries should be organized as neighborhoods and districts, and be integrated with the existing urban pattern. Noncontiguous development should be organized as towns and villages with their own urban edges, and planned for a jobs/housing balance, not as bedroom suburbs.
  6. The development and redevelopment of towns and cities should respect historical patterns, precedents, and boundaries.
  7. Cities and towns should bring into proximity a broad spectrum of public and private uses to support a regional economy that benefits people of all incomes. Affordable housing should be distributed throughout the region to match job opportunities and to avoid concentrations of poverty.
  8. The physical organization of the region should be supported by a framework of transportation alternatives. Transit, pedestrian, and bicycle systems should maximize access and mobility throughout the region while reducing dependence upon the automobile.
  9. Revenues and resources can be shared more cooperatively among the municipalities and centers within regions to avoid destructive competition for tax base and to promote rational coordination of transportation, recreation, public services, housing, and community institutions.

The Neighborhood, The District, and The Corridor

  1. The neighborhood, the district, and the corridor are the essential elements of development and redevelopment in the metropolis. They form identifiable areas that encourage citizens to take responsibility for their maintenance and evolution.
  2. Neighborhoods should be compact, pedestrian friendly, and mixed-use. Districts generally emphasize a special single use, and should follow the principles of neighborhood design when possible. Corridors are regional connectors of neighborhoods and districts; they range from boulevards and rail lines to rivers and parkways.
  3. Many activities of daily living should occur within walking distance, allowing independence to those who do not drive, especially the elderly and the young. Interconnected networks of streets should be designed to encourage walking, reduce the number and length of automobile trips, and conserve energy.
  4. Within neighborhoods, a broad range of housing types and price levels can bring people of diverse ages, races, and incomes into daily interaction, strengthening the personal and civic bonds essential to an authentic community.
  5. Transit corridors, when properly planned and coordinated, can help organize metropolitan structure and revitalize urban centers. In contrast, highway corridors should not displace investment from existing centers.
  6. Appropriate building densities and land uses should be within walking distance of transit stops, permitting public transit to become a viable alternative to the automobile.
  7. Concentrations of civic, institutional, and commercial activity should be embedded in neighborhoods and districts, not isolated in remote, single-use complexes. Schools should be sized and located to enable children to walk or bicycle to them.
  8. The economic health and harmonious evolution of neighborhoods, districts, and corridors can be improved through graphic urban design codes that serve as predictable guides for change.
  9. A range of parks, from tot-lots and village greens to ballfields and community gardens, should be distributed within neighborhoods. Conservation areas and open lands should be used to define and connect different neighborhoods and districts.

The Block, The Street, and The Building

  1. A primary task of all urban architecture and landscape design is the physical definition of streets and public spaces as places of shared use.
  2. Individual architectural projects should be seamlessly linked to their surroundings. This issue transcends style.
  3. The revitalization of urban places depends on safety and security. The design of streets and buildings should reinforce safe environments, but not at the expense of accessibility and openness.
  4. In the contemporary metropolis, development must adequately accommodate automobiles. It should do so in ways that respect the pedestrian and the form of public space.
  5. Streets and squares should be safe, comfortable, and interesting to the pedestrian. Properly configured, they encourage walking and enable neighbors to know each other and protect their communities.
  6. Architecture and landscape design should grow from local climate, topography, history, and building practice.
  7. Civic buildings and public gathering places require important sites to reinforce community identity and the culture of democracy. They deserve distinctive form, because their role is different from that of other buildings and places that constitute the fabric of the city.
  8. All buildings should provide their inhabitants with a clear sense of location, weather and time. Natural methods of heating and cooling can be more resource-efficient than mechanical systems.
  9. Preservation and renewal of historic buildings, districts, and landscapes affirm the continuity and evolution of urban society.
  10.  
 

Cities are starting to think small when it comes to housing.

Many cities have previously discouraged homeowners from building small cottages or apartments on their properties with zoning ordinances that made it nearly impossible to have them in areas designed for single-family homes.

But increasingly, municipalities such as Austin, Texas, Boston, Boulder, Colo., Los Angeles, and Portland, Ore., see these small units as a way to appeal to renters and others on limited budgets who otherwise can be shut out of a city’s more desirable areas. The hope is the units will rent for less than larger single-family homes and allow more people to live within the city limits.

“Not everyone needs or wants to live in a 2,500-square-foot home,” says Anthony Flint, a senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. “It increases the supply and diversity of a city’s housing stock, so there are more choices to suit different housing needs.”

Small spaces

Mini-homes, granny flats and carriage houses—technically referred to as accessory dwellings—are usually only a few hundred square feet. They have their own kitchen and bathroom and function as a separate living quarters from the main unit. Designs vary. Some look like miniature versions of the main house, others are long, open spaces similar to a mobile home, while still others could be attached to or even part of the main dwelling. The hope is that the new units will create additional housing while maintaining the neighborhood’s look and feel.

Their size, however, can run afoul of local zoning ordinances. Throughout the U.S., many city neighborhoods are zoned for single-family homes, which can constrain homeowners who may want to add a rental unit to their property. Local ordinances often dictate lot and building size along with density requirements. Complying or getting a variance can be a long and expensive process.

Portland in 2010 began exempting accessory units from certain fees associated with new construction, like charges for water, sewage and street access. Homeowners putting units in their backyards now save about 10% of the overall construction cost, or $8,000 to $11,000, the city estimates.

“It creates more options for renters,” says Morgan Tracy, a project manager for Portland’s residential infill project. People willing to live in smaller spaces have more access to desirable city neighborhoods with shops, public transportation, libraries and other important amenities—neighborhoods that had previously been zoned for single-family residences, Mr. Tracy says.

 
A 500-square-foot cottage behind a single-family house in Portland’s Irvington historic district is the primary residence for the homeowner’s mother.
A 500-square-foot cottage behind a single-family house in Portland’s Irvington historic district is the primary residence for the homeowner’s mother. PHOTO: PAUL SIVLEY

Similarly, in 2015, Austin eased the requirements for accessory dwellings in certain neighborhoods. It reduced minimum lot size and the space required between buildings, and eliminated requirements for driveways. More accessory-dwelling building permits were issued in 2017 than in 2014, according to the city. But, Ming-ru Chu, an Austin city planner, says, the city’s planning and zoning department has just begun to analyze the permit data to better understand the effects of the code amendment. “It’s not clear how affordable rents for these new units actually are and if the new units/properties are even rented or if they end up being sold.”

In fact, the jury is still out in general on whether such units will do much to ease housing prices where it’s most needed. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality looked at rental prices for accessory dwellings in the state and found the units tend to rent for slightly more than apartments of similar size in nearby neighborhoods, though about 20% of the dwellings are rented free or below market value.

Jake Wegmann, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture, says research shows that if older and unregistered secondary dwellings are included in an analysis, prices drop below market rent. He theorizes that prices will continue to fall as more units come on the market and the existing stock begins to age.

report by several groups including the University of California at Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation and the University of Texas at Austin surveyed owners of accessory dwellings in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver and found the average unit rented for about $1,298 a month (with about 58% of respondents saying they rented the unit for below market rates) and cost on average about $156,000 to build.

“There is no cost of land. A lot in a central neighborhood can go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s before there is even a spadeful of dirt,” says Mr. Wegmann, a co-author of the Terner Center report, which also found that financing these units was the biggest hurdle for many homeowners since it is frequently difficult for homeowners to borrow against the expected income or added value from an accessory dwelling.

Boston’s program

Meanwhile, Boston’s Housing Innovation Lab recently embarked on a small pilot program studying the feasibility of tiny houses and granny flats. This spring it built a 360-square foot prefabricated house at Boston’s City Hall, designed to be quickly and cheaply inserted into backyards and vacant lots.

Secondary Market

Since Austin, Texas, eased rules on secondary dwellings in November 2015, the number of building permits issued for such housing has surged. Permits for the 12 months ended June 20 of each year:

Source: City of Austin

The home took a five-person team five hours to build and cost about $50,000, says Marcy Ostberg, director of the innovation lab. Ms. Ostberg is also intrigued by the idea of homeowners leasing their backyards to existing tiny-house owners.

The idea came from Sharon Day, 59 years old, who built a tiny house for $65,000. Her house is off the grid. It has a rain barrel, water filtration system, and composting toilette and runs on solar power. Ms. Day is talking with city officials in Somerville and East Boston about creating a small community of such homes on vacant lots or even on brownfield sites.

In Boston it can cost $1,200 a month to rent a room where you are still sharing a bathroom and a kitchen, says Ms. Day, who adds that her initial outlay to build a tiny home was much more palatable than spending thousands of dollars on rent or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of her retirement savings buying an apartment in the city.

Ms. Ward is a writer in Mendham, N.J. Email her at reports@wsj.com.