Planners Feeling Tension Between Disruption And Convention

December 2, 2015
Cultural changes and ‘disruptions’ created by the ‘sharing’ economy are challenging planners just as they’re challenging their own competitors. Bill Fulton assesses the brave new world that might liberate planners—or befuddle them.

“Planners, for the most part, write and implement regulations that seek to plan for and control land uses. They do so for a variety of well-established reasons – ensuring that public health and safety are protected, but also helping to stimulate, shape, and channel the supply of built space so that the interests of a given community are balanced against the demands of the marketplace.”

“But how can you possibly plan for and control land uses when every bedroom is a hotel room, and every dining room is a restaurant, and every coffee shop is an office, and conversely every office is a potential living room or dining room or bedroom?”

“The needs for parks, libraries, schools, and lots of other public facilities is all based on formulas tied to land uses. Residential densities determine the number of housing units (based on formulas tied to land use), which in turn determines the need for all these facilities (based on formulas that assume household size and composition), which in turn determines the need for both public investment and impact fees.”

“In a certain way, this is pretty liberating for planners – kind of an extension of the form-based code movement, which focuses more on urban design than on the specific uses contained within buildings. Instead of micro-managing private development through regulation, California’s planners could rediscover the kind of planning that originated with Daniel Burnham and the Olmsteads: Focusing on created a beautiful and well-functioning public realm, around which the developers can build private projects that respond to the market.”


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