Quotes for Urbanists

We have 52 of them.

We have 52 of them.

At Your Delray Boca, we like lists and we love quotes. Here are 50 quotes, plus two bonus quotes that fit into the local zeitgeist at the moment. Enjoy. Courtesy of Quotes for Urbanists, a fascinating collection.

  1. In a 20 mph collision, 4% of pedestrians die, 30 mph is 55%, and 40 mph is over 80%.”– AASHTO Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities. Handy for the next time somebody complains about making US 1 safer.
  2. “Factors that are driving the popularity of large houses: First, with less of a sense of community and public life in our culture, the home becomes a fortress which needs to contain everything we need, including multiple forms of entertainment, rather than basic shelter.” –John Abrams, battle cry for community building.
  3. “A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” Douglas Adams. A good reason why you don’t design public policy to guard against foolish elected officials.
  4. “How is a village a village? By including young & old, white & black, rich & poor, churches & shops.” Anonymous
  5. “How many of you here think housing should be more affordable? (almost all hands rise) OK, now how many of those own your own home?’ (most of the same hands stay up) OK. How many of you want the value of your own home to go down? (lots of blank looks, and hands creeping down) You see the problem?” – Anonymous
  6. “A teacher fills a bucket with big rocks and asks the students ‘Is this bucket full?’ They all answer yes. Then she takes gravel from a pile hidden behind her desk and fills in around the big rocks until the bucket is full again. Now, with the same question, some students aren’t quite so sure. She repeats the same with sand, and then with water. ‘What’s the lesson? ‘She asks… The smaller stuff can always fit around the larger stuff, but if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in.” Anonymous. And a good reason not to major in the minor.
  7. “The suburb fails to be a country side because it is too dense. It fails to be a city because it is not dense enough”. Anonymous
  8. “Suburbia is a collection of private benefits and public nuisances.” Anonymous
  9. “A specialist is someone from out of town.” Anonymous
  10. “A community has to have the capacity to envision a future they want, and not just the one they are likely to get.” Anonymous
  11. “Placing surface parking lots in your downtowns is like placing a toilet in your living room. “ Anonymous
  12. “The goal of the city is to make man happy and safe.” Aristotle
  13. “Downtown is the antidote for boredom.” Daniel Ashworth
  14. “A leader is someone who cares enough to tell the people not merely what they want to hear, but what they need to know.” –Reuben Askew. Met him once at a Leadership Florida event. He was wonderful.
  15. “Long before I was struck with cancer, I felt something stirring in American society. It was a sense among the people of the country—Republicans and Democrats alike—that something was missing from their lives, something crucial. I was trying to position the Republican Party to take advantage of it. But I wasn’t exactly sure what ‘it’ was. My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society was what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood…. Love each other a little more, care about each other, and get away from that [dirty, negative] kind of politics.”- Lee Atwater. Empathy, my friends. Empathy.
  16. “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties. “ Sir Francis Bacon. In other words, don’t be so sure of yourself.
  17. “All of the old-timers knew that subprime mortgages were what we called neutron loans: they killed the people and left the houses. The deals made in 2005 and 2006 were going to run into trouble because the credit pendulum at the time was stuck at easy. “Louis Barnes. Wonder if some of these eye popping commercial deals will make sense in a year or two.
  18. “No urban area will prosper unless it attracts those who can choose to live wherever they wish.” Jonathan Barnett
  19. “If car ownership is mandatory, [the place is] not urban.” Donald Baxter. South Florida, we’ve got a long way to go.
  20. “In the desire to be collaborative, don’t forget leadership. Don’t be embarrassed to lead. There are too many efforts where it’s all about ‘getting everyone to the table.’ Everyone goes away feeling good, but no one’s doing anything. “– Frank Beal. At some point, you have to make a decision. Solicit input from a wide range of people and then do the right thing, as Spike Lee would say.
  21. “Neighborhood activism is a path to political power in American cities today, and city halls are filled with former activists more sympathetic to the social agenda than to the physical agenda. “Steve Belmont
  22. “The rigid, isolated object is of no use whatsoever. It must be inserted into the context of living social relations”—Walter Benjamin on codes. Flexibility and high standards build great towns!
  23. What gets us into trouble isn’t what we don’t know; it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” –Yogi Berra, who would have been a great city councilman.
  24. “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yogi Berra talking about Atlantic Avenue?
  25. “The most destructive force I continue to see is the grafting of suburban types… building-lot configurations, street types, landscaping, public works, open space… onto urban settings. This has fueled the destruction of the city as well as frustrated the construction of new urban places.”—Chuck Bohl, a brilliant placemaking thinker.
  26. “Bureaucracies to be effective must move slowly and deliberately, in the manner of planets and vegetables”— Jorge Luis Borges
  27. “Those who buy into the suburbs because they want to be close to nature are going to keep doing so. The point of parks in cities is not to satisfy that urge, but to make better urbanism for those who want real urbanism.”—David Brain
  28. “NIMBY reactionaries don’t stop change in the long run. They simply help to insure that it happens in the worst possible way.”—David Brain
  29. “It is the adaptable, not the well-adapted who survive.” Ken Boulding
  30. “As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.”—Mel Brooks. As long the mistakes aren’t fatal or repeated and you learn something that’s Ok.
  31. “The most intrinsically green buildings are those that already exist. This is because constructing a new building consumes 15 to 30 times the building’s annual energy use. Reusing it after its original purpose is obsolete makes an old building even greener, because the new purpose does not require a new building.” David Brussat
  32. “Cars are happiest when there are no other cars around. People are happiest when there are other people around”—Dan Burden
  33. “We must not build housing, we must build communities.”—Mike Burton. Do we even talk about building community anymore?
  34. “The second shortest code in the world: Diverse, walkable and compact”-Peter Calthorpe who is so great.
  35. “Anyplace worth its salt has a ‘parking problem’.”—James Castle. Corollary: Want to solve your parking problem, build a place nobody wants to visit.
  36. “Planning of the automobile city focuses on saving time. Planning for the accessible city, on the other hand, focuses on time well spent.” Robert Cervero
  37. “Convivial towns can offer solace in disaster, solidarity in protest, and a quiet everyday delight in urban life…Creating and revitalizing places that foster conviviality is essential to the good life.”—Mark Childs
  38. “I’ll tell you what I want for Christmas. I want the Planning Commission and the mayor and the county Legislature and the county executive and all our decision makers to get on a plane and go to Charleston, S.C. I want them to walk around and see why that city works, and what can be done with wonderful planning, and how developers… if you do it right… won’t run away.”—Lonnie Chu. I’m heading there next week to talk at the Riley symposium, I won’t wait for Christmas.
  39. “Vancouver killed the freeway because they didn’t want the freeways to kill their neighborhoods. The city flourished because making it easier to drive does not reduce traffic; it increases it. That means if you don’t waste billions of dollars building freeways, you actually end up with less traffic.” Rick Cole
  40. “Increasingly, we live in a world where cities compete for people, and businesses follow. This trend has largely been ignored by many cities, which are still focused on business climate and tax incentives. But I think the big question businesses will ask in the years to come is going to be ‘Can I hire talented people in this city?’ Cities need to be able to answer ‘yes’ to succeed.”-Carol Coletta, author—along with our citizens–of Delray’s cultural plan, a good plan indeed.
  41. “We have too much legislation by clamor, by tumult, and by pressure.” Calvin Coolidge. Cal was really saying don’t give the squeaky wheels the grease every time, unless of course they are right.
  42. “Elected officials, community leaders and intellectuals must cease encouraging the untenable belief that there is an inherent American right not to be offended.”—John Coski. Sometimes the bridge goes up, construction happens, life goes on.
  43. “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than knowledge.” –Charles Darwin.
  44. “Parking is a narcotic and ought to be a controlled substance. It is addictive, and one can never have enough. “Victor Dover, a fan of Delray Beach.
  45. “The problem with planning is that it has been overtaken by mathematical models… traffic, density, impact assessment, public costs etc. discarding common sense and empirical observation.” -Andres Duany…hmmm….weren’t we supposed to get a form based code?
  46. “We have legislators who think it their duty only to listen to the people instead of becoming expert on the subjects which they must decide upon.”—Andres Duany. Listen to all, but learn, so you know whose advice to take.
  47. “The loss of a forest or a farm is justified only if it is replaced by a village. To replace them with a subdivision or a shopping center is not an even trade.” –Andres Duany. Losing the Ag Reserve is tragic.
  48. “Higher density housing offers an inferior lifestyle only when it is without a community as its setting.” -Andres Duany
  49. “With infill, start by providing for those who are not risk-averse (singles, Bohemians, etc.). These people are the urban pioneers”—Andres Duany. Are we pricing our pioneers out in Delray and Boca?
  50. “The Department of Transportation, in its single-minded pursuit of traffic flow, has destroyed more American towns than General Sherman”—Andres Duany. DOT almost killed Atlantic Avenue in the 80s with a hurricane evacuation plan. Thank goodness, leadership at the time stopped the widening.
  51. “The Department of Transportation (DOT) typically keeps the public at bay by having only two phases for their projects: Too early to tell and too late to stop.” Ernest Fitzgerald. Isn’t this the truth?
  52. “Power corrupts, but so does weakness and absolute weakness corrupts absolutely.” Josef Joffe.

Creating Livable Cities

Building Livable and Engaged Cities is the goal of the Knight Foundation.

Building Livable and Engaged Cities is the goal of the Knight Foundation.

I’m a huge fan of the Knight Foundation.

I wish we had more foundations that invested in our local communities.

Way back in 2001, when we were embarking on the downtown master plan, we were able to attract the support of the MacArthur Foundation. They not only paid for the creation of the plan, but they provided intellectual resources and connections that were invaluable.

Their local program leader, David Harris, was a big a fan of Delray Beach, and he encouraged us to expand our thinking by including the West Atlantic community and our northwest and southwest  neighborhoods in our vision for a sustainable downtown. MacArthur invested in some of our community leaders and as a result we travelled to conferences and events where we were able to connect with other communities and learn from their successes and their missteps.

Around this time, we had conversations with the Ford Foundation and a few other large and small groups who were intrigued by what they were seeing in Delray Beach. Our diversity, our ambition, our ability to work together impressed foundation leaders coast to coast. We were America in 16 square miles, with conditions that ranged from third world poverty to the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

While we stayed close with MacArthur we never quite closed the deal with some of the others and that’s a regret, because a great foundation would have a field day with the promise and the potential that is Delray Beach.

Still, when we were building and visioning we made some connections that proved to be invaluable to our progress. One of those connections was an urban thinker by the name of Carol Coletta.

I discovered Carol through her radio show “Smart City” which was a weekly talk show on NPR that spotlighted the best of what was happening in cities around the country. One of my greatest thrills was appearing on Smart City where I was able to tell a national audience about what we were working on as a team here in Delray.

When we decided to do a Cultural Plan, we engaged Carol whose firm had done landmark work in cities across the country. Carol and her team didn’t disappoint, the cultural plan was a great vision because it articulated Delray’s strengths and our place in South Florida’s cultural landscape.

Our brand was authentic and intimate—and Carol urged us not to compete with the Broward Center’s and Kravis’ of the world but to create experiences that people could not find in larger cities or larger venues. Her work, which was adopted by the City Commission a decade ago, inspired the Arts Garage and also influenced the evolution of the Delray Center for the Arts and one could argue the CRA’s decision to purchase the Arts Warehouse which has helped to grow “Artist’s Alley”, an amazing nook in our city near Third Street and Third Avenue.

That’s what visions do…they inspire, but they also take you in directions you never thought possible.

Last week, the Knight Foundation, where Carol now serves as Vice President for Community and National Initiatives, released a report on “Livable Cities”. It ought to be required reading for policymakers, city staff and all those who care about making their communities better.

Knight lists Four Pillars for Livable Cities. They are:

WALKABILITY: To design streets for everybody, design for pedestrians first – slow speeds, raised crosswalks. Next, make streets interesting for walkers.

BIKEABILITY: Success isn’t more Spandex; it’s a woman biking to a business meeting dressed exactly as if she were driving. First step:  Make bikers feel safe.

PUBLIC SPACES: Parks, walkable streets and other public places are great equalizers; they bring people together, and they can energize people through recreation.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: High-speed buses with dedicated lanes are the most cost-effective way to move people, though offering choices to commuters is best of all.

It’s a great list, isn’t it?

And all of the pillars come with suggestions and rationales for implementation.

For example, walkability:

Key Points

  • Lowering the speed of cars is essential. An accident at 20 mph has a 5 percent mortality rate; at 40 mph the mortality rate climbs to 85 percent.
  • Adding medians to streets lowers accidents by 56 percent.
  • Giving pedestrians the walk signal six to seven seconds before the light turns green makes them visible to turning cars.
  • Encouraging each block to have multiple establishments instead of long facades makes the streetscape friendly and interesting.
  • It’s possible to prioritize pedestrians and still allow cars, but prioritizing cars rarely works well for pedestrians.

The report concludes with a calculator that enables you to type in your city and receive a walkability and transit score on a scale of 0-100. Delray scores a 91 on walkability, Boca rates a 53, Boynton a score of 57 and West Palm leads the pack with a score of 95. All four cities score 0 on transit.

It’s a worthy read and we suggest you dive in by visiting: http://www.knightfoundation.org/features/livable-cities/?mc_cid=b611e6d9fb&mc_eid=c683592e53

Kudos to the Knight Foundation for their work.