Tag Archives: walkable

Tulsa Beacon: City of Norman Tactically Employs Ridicule to Sway Opinions

Kaye Beach

June 22, 2012

This article was published June 20 th in the Tulsa Beacon.  The author if the article is Randy W.  Bright, AIA, NCARB, a well respected Tulsa architect.

Bright immediately picks up on the the shaming tactics employed by the City of Norman in their framing of the the issue which is supposed to be about whether or not to allow high density development however the scheduling of six facilitated “community  discussions” on the issue plus the bent of the City’s presentation indicates that there is more to all of this than meets the eye.

The residents of the City of Norman are, once again, being ‘framed’.  As if we are children, the City will walk us through their ‘charettes’ (really charades!) and lead us to an outcome that limits our choices and further compromises our property rights.  Then,  we will be told that this is what we said we wanted.

Can we not build communities without over-regulation?

by Randy Bright

I don’t read Cosmopolitan, and never have, but when I’m in the supermarket checkout line and see the magazine I think about a story that came out several years ago about how they get the cover photo shot. The girl on the cover always looks perfect, but if you could get her to turn around, her clothing is pulled tightly to her body with dozens of clamps, pins and safety pins.
Sometimes perfection just isn’t what it seems.
Administrators in Norman, Okla., recently began the process of introducing the idea that form-based codes, Smart Growth, and high-density development are what their city needs.
According to an article by researcher Kaye Beach (axxiomamuse.wordpress.com), the city is holding meetings to see if they should codify high-density development.
The facilitated meeting began with a Power Point presentation explaining what Smart Growth and New Urbanism was, and how they related to dense developments.
Things became more clear when a slide entitled, “Pros and Cons of Density” was shown. It said, “It is promoted by those who value urban streetscapes, efficient infrastructure supply, walkable neighborhoods, and increased housing options.

Increased density is opposed by those who imagine ugly buildings, overshadowed open space, parking problems and irresponsible residents.”
In other words, those in favor of density have values, those who do not are ignorant and uninformed. Even if I did not already know about form-based codes and high-density development, I am always suspicious when ridicule is used to sway people. After all, who wants to be identified with the ignorant and uninformed?

Read the entire article here


Norman’s First High Density Development Meeting and Info About Form Based Codes

Kaye Beach

June 12, 2012

Last evening the City of Norman Oklahoma held its first community dialog on high density development. The issue is whether or not the City should codify high density development.  Presently, this issue is not addressed in any of the City’s planning documents.  A sudden spate of requests from developers for extremely high density (100 + dwelling units per acre) development is apparently what has brought this issue to the fore.

Attendees to last nights meeting were first given a presentation to inform us on the subject of high density development.  City planners were kind enough to put the presentation online.  You can access it here

The schedule for future meetings can be accessed here.

We were informed that future meetings would be facilitated and met the gentlemen who would be in charge of that task, Bob Thomas from the Xenia Institute, who gave us a few words of wisdom on the art of listening.

The presentation explains why the issue before the community, describes current use and density zoning, explains how density is figured, the pros and cons of high density development and defines terms like ‘infill development’ and ‘redevelopment’.  The presentation also touched on concepts like open space, sprawl, Smart Growth

and New Urbanism

accompanied by pictures depicting the various concepts covered.  Then the meeting moved to questions and answers.

Here is the ‘Pros and Cons’ of density slide.  It is obvious that really cool people are for it and only those whose imaginations run away from them are against it.

Seriously?   There are many pros and cons to this type of development.  When you are doing a power point, you have to just hit the bottom line.  The City of Norman thinks this is the bottom line in this issue.  Awesome people on one side,  jerks on the other.  If you oppose high density development you oppose “quality of life” for your city.  Jerk.

If I were to assign a theme to the questions asked I would say that generally people were curious about what the purpose high density development served.  For example, the first question asked was from a lady who wanted to know where she could find out what high density development was really about.  Another lady wanted to know were we discussing just one high density development or many.

One of the Norman City Council members, Carol Dillingham,  explained that the City currently has no zoning ordinances to accommodate high density development at all and that the purpose of these discussions is to determine whether or not we want this kind of development and if so what we want our ordinance to look like.  Councilwoman Dillingham assured the audience that the City Council has no preconceived notions on the issue.

Here is a write up on last night’s city meeting from the Norman Transcript;

June 12, 2012

High Density development community forum

Another article of interest, also from the Norman Transcript is one published on June 9, several days prior to the first meeting to discuss high density development.

And another article also published in the Norman Transcript on June 9, 2012;

Creating a vision for Norman’s future

When I first read this I was unsure as to what to make of it because it dives right into the notion of a “new vision” for our city before we have even begun the discussion.   This particular vision, emanating from Mr. Blair Humphreys, an urban designer and  the executive director for the Institute for Quality Communities,  is one of form based codes.

The presentation given to Norman residents last evening included information on Smart Growth and New Urbanism and one thing these two concepts of city planning has in common is the use of form based codes.

Norman City Planners would deny that they were setting us up to inplement Form Based Codes but things like this make me wonder . . .The Urban Land Institute explains that, “Good intentions must be backed up by good regulations such as Form-Based Coding,”  and they held a training event to teach people like Norman City Planner, Susan Connors, how to back up their good intentions with Form Based Codes.

(Click on the picture to see just how many Oklahoma officials have been educated on implementation of Form Based Codes.)

So,  what is a ‘form based code’ anyways?

According to Mr. Humphreys, “form-based codes are more effective in guiding a vision than traditional zoning and land use regulations.”

According to others, form based codes are a nightmare;

‘I thought that Forms Based Code was supposed to be an easy, simple alternative but this is a freaking nightmare.’ link

What is this small business owners beef? Well, the new form based code prohibits many of the building features of his business.  His business is grandfathered in under the city’s new form based codes but he knows that no future owner will buy his property should he wish to sell because it does not conform to the form based code requirements and would cost the new owner a fortune to bring into compliance.

With only a little research, the problems with form based code becomes evident.

This article covers some of the  problems with form based codes.  Here is another one – Form-based code is problem, not answer  And one more take on the issue.

Remember that zoning allows the municipality to use its police powers to exercise authority over privately owned property so we want to very careful about instituting any new zoning.

Form based code is prescriptive meaning that rather than telling property owners what they cannot do on or with their property (which is difficult enough to accept) they are told what they must do with their property.  The purpose of this sort of zoning is to speed up the transition into “sustainable” cities.  That means 3 story buildings built right up on the sidewalks,  retail on the bottom floor and residential on top, high density, low cars (and carbon),  walk-your-big-butt-around-in cities.  If you want more zoning hassles, less control over your property, less choices about your lifestyle and tighter buns-then form based codes are for you!

Achieving sustainability using form based codes (click on picture to see the powerpoint)

SimCity Urban Nightmare

Urban Planning Dream or Nightmare?

In Best-Laid Plans, the Antiplanner argues that cities are too complicated to plan, so anyone who tries to plan them ends up following fads and focusing on one or two goals to the near-exclusion of all else. The current fad is to reduce per capita driving by increasing density and spending money on rail transit.

The logical end product of such narrow-minded planning is illustrated by a SimCity constructed by Vincent Ocasla, an architecture student from the Philippines. His goal was to build the densest possible SimCity, and the result is a landscape that is almost entirely covered by high-rise towers used for both residences and work. There are no streets and residents travel either on foot or by subway. There is little need for travel, however, as most residents live in the same tower in which they work.

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The Junk Science of Walkability


The  more I study what is going on with the whole sustainability, comprehensive social engineering, save-the-world-through-city-planning nonsense, the madder I get but I don’t think running around hollering “Git Off My Land!” is going to help much.

I doubt that this is an uncommon reaction for those who are still attached to their life, liberty and property and the gut reaction to the efforts of regulatory zealots is entirely a natural one.

“As originally interpreted, the United States Constitution denied government the right to regulate and control the citizen in the use of his property. Over the years the commerce clause and the general welfare clause have been so interpreted as to permit both the state and Federal governments to regiment labor, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, communication, finance and all other forms of economic activity. Today, if there is any limit on the power of government to regulate, no one knows what that limit is.” (H. Verlan Andersen, Many are Called But Few are Chosen)

Also see-James Madison’s thoughts on property ownership

I have found a wonderful, well researched  website that I’d like to share-The Antiplanner.

This site shares the all-American independent and free-enterprising sentiment but carries it a step further by getting down to the facts and figures that illustrate what many already know instinctively to be true-

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”

— Albert Einstein (1950)


The Junk Science of Walkability

Sigh. Another day, another junk science paper from the smart-growth advocates. This time it is a paper titled Walking the Walk, which argues that the fact that housing prices are higher in so-called walkable neighborhoods proves that “consumers and housing markets attach a positive value to living within easy walking distance of shopping, services, schools and parks.”

In fact, all the paper proves is that the person who wrote it doesn’t understand basic economics. The report is junk science because it confuses cost with demand and presumes that correlation equals causation.

The report measured walkability by the number of businesses and other destinations — groceries, restaurants, drug stores, schools, libraries, parks, etc. — located within one mile of of a residence. Scores were highest if destinations were within a quarter mile, and zero of they were more than a mile away. In general, then, the most walkable neighborhoods were the ones with the highest commercial densities.

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