By Richard L. Davis, associate editor, April 14, 2020
Mobility justice and COVID-19, by Untokening Collective in collaboration with Pueblo Planning, April 8, 2020
“The most marginalized find themselves on the frontlines [as essential service providers] … It is critical to center their lives and ask how we can make their movement safer, whether on public transit or at their jobs … Those of us with the privilege to choose physical immobility must protect and uplift those in our communities who are continuing to be mobile.” Go here to read Untokening’s mobility justice statement, their advocacy principles for mobility planning staff, and perspectives from transportation planners in the Untokening network.
Time outdoors is crucial to your health, even during the coronavirus pandemic, by Jack Wang, UChicago News, April 6, 2020
Measures being taken to shut down beaches, parks, and trails underscore a widespread urban problem. “If a city lacks enough green space for the people who live there, that’s a public health issue. Nature is not an amenity — it’s a necessity to be taken seriously. The ongoing crisis only underscores the psychological benefits of nature — as well as the need for urban infrastructure and policies that maximize those benefits. Research has also highlighted nature access as an issue of environmental justice in low-income neighborhoods.” Read the full article here.
Housing development likely to crash because of COVID, by Josh Stephens, CP&DR, April 6, 2020
“ ‘There’s a demand problem: you have 15 percent unemployment; you have a supply problem: you can’t build,’ said David Shulman, senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. He added that exact numbers have yet to be forecast, but he estimated that ‘single-family starts probably will be down anywhere between one-third and 50 percent.’ ” Developer advocates suggest an antidote: promote certainty in housing entitlement timelines and reassess certain restrictions in the California Environmental Quality Act. Read more here (paywall).
Coronavirus has potential to reshape government technology, by Alan Greenblatt, Governing, April 2, 2020
“Agencies long hampered by endless procurement processes have suddenly become nimble. Rules are being waived to move swiftly and buy, for example, licenses for Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms. ‘We’re in crisis and bureaucracy is suspended,’ says Meghan Cook, program director at the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany [SUNY]… It’s likely that the shutdowns triggered by the novel coronavirus will mark a turning point in the way governments use technology.” Go here to read to read how shutdowns will affect management, legacy systems, remote working, and technology investments.
Development permit processing and post-approval considerations in the wake of COVID-19, by Frank Petrilli, Steve Atkinson, Shahiedah Palmer, and Matthew S. Stone, Arent Fox LLP, April 1, 2020
This article alerts developers to potentials disruptions in entitlement processing caused by the pandemic. Go here for examples of extensions for discretionary approvals in several Bay Area jurisdictions and possible actions that the State and local governments might take to grant blanket extensions to sustain various approvals through the crisis.
How will public transit survive the COVID-19 crisis?, by Larry Buhl, Capital & Main, April 1, 2020
“The $2 trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill [as] signed into law … contained the largest aid package ever for U.S. transit agencies: $25 billion… Experts say the money, which has basically no strings attached, should be more than enough to keep workers employed, at least through the year.” However, there is still uncertainty over how soon the public will return to mass transit and whether smaller transit agencies will receive the aid they need. Read more here.
Primed for deliveries, by Lisa Nisenson, APA Planning Magazine, April 2020
Nisenson, vice president for new mobility and connected communities at design firm WGI, describes the potential impact of COVID-19 on retail trends and e-commerce in an interview with APA Planning Magazine. The article details 12 key technologies and trends in e-commerce poised to transform package delivery in cities, suburbs, universities, and rural areas.
Database documents cities that are repurposing car space during the pandemic, by Steven Vance, StreetsBlog Chicago, March 29 2020
“Dr. Tabitha Combs, a transportation researcher at the University of North Carolina, has started a crowdsourced database of what cities are doing to create safer, people-friendly streets during the ‘shelter at home’ era.” Go here to read about the ways that street space has been repurposed in cities around the world. The ‘database’ is a shared Google Spreadsheet, so anyone can contribute what their city is doing.
Why infrastructure is the only way to fight a COVID-19 recession in the US, by Shai Kivity, World Economic Forum, March 27, 2020
“When monetary policy isn’t enough, a country must turn towards fiscal policy. Right now, reviving the lagging US infrastructure sector may be the best approach: infrastructure creates economic growth, 5G cellular infrastructure will allow for faster data rates, a better electric grid allows us to drive electric cars, and new roads reduce congestion and commute times.” Read more here.
What can the coronavirus teach us about healthy cities? An Interview with Billie Giles-Corti, Foreground Magazine, March 24, 2020
Professor Billie Giles-Corey of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) argues that dense cities are “where there are shops, businesses and services nearby, where people can get around, they can walk and cycle” and “regional cities of villages, where there’s amenity nearby” provide the most in public health and disaster-resilience benefits.
From APA, March 25, 2020
APA is “looking into ways to celebrate the 2020 College of Fellows inductees in lieu of the FAICP induction ceremony and reception” that was to have been held at NPC20.
“Even with the current state of uncertainty in our lives and our profession, we would be remiss not to celebrate the career achievements of 53 AICP-certified members who were inducted into the College of Fellows as the Class of 2020. Please join us in celebrating these individuals who demonstrate excellence in professional practice, teaching and mentoring, research, and community service and leadership.”
One member from APA Northern Section was inducted with this year’s class: David C. Early, FAICP. Early founded Design, Community & Environment in Berkeley in 1995. The consulting firm later merged with PlaceWorks, where he is now Senior Advisor.
Early is the author of “The General Plan in California,” Solano Press Books, 2015.
The body of his work, in its excellence and clarity, has done much to help the public understand planning, its purpose, and its value, from evaluating current conditions, to setting goals, to implementing action programs.
By Katherine Guyot and Isabel V. Sawhill, Brookings, April 6, 2020
“The COVID-19 pandemic is, among other things, a massive experiment in telecommuting. Up to half of American workers are currently working from home, more than double the fraction who worked from home (at least occasionally) in 2017-18.
“Until now, telecommuting has been slower to take hold than many predicted when remote work technology first emerged. This inertia probably reflects sticky work cultures as well as a lack of interest from employers in investing in the technology and management practices necessary to operate a tele-workforce.
“But the pandemic is forcing these investments in industries where telework is possible, with more people learning how to use remote technology. As a result, we may see a more permanent shift toward telecommuting. As the economist Susan Athey recently told the Washington Post, ‘People will change their habits, some of these habits will stick …, and this will accelerate that.’
“There are pros and cons to more telecommuting. On the plus side, workers tend to prefer working from home, it reduces emissions and office costs, and it helps people (especially women) balance work and family roles. It may even make us more productive. The downsides: managing a telecommuting staff can be difficult, professional isolation can have negative effects on well-being and career development, and the effects on productivity over the long run and in a scaled-up system are uncertain. …
“Overall, about half of employed adults are currently working from home, though a recent paper estimates that only a third of jobs can be done entirely from home. Either way, this is a massive shift. Between 2005 and 2015, the fraction of workers who regularly worked from home increased by only about 2 to 3 percentage points, according to Mas and Pallais (2020). Even at that growth rate, telecommuting has been the fastest-growing method of commuting over the last several years. If our new telecommuting culture sticks, the pandemic will have accelerated this trend dramatically. Already, nearly one in five chief financial officers surveyed [at the end of March] said they planned to keep at least 20 percent of their workforce working remotely to cut costs. …
“Technological limitations could be a barrier to the development of an American tele-workforce. … If there is one piece of critical infrastructure that will provide jobs to those in left-behind places, it is high-speed broadband.”
Read the full article here (8 min., two graphs).
Cities rush to build office blocks and rail networks
By Rina Chandran, Thomson Reuters Foundation, April 1, 2020
“ ‘Delhi was established as the capital of the Indian empire in 1911, when the colonial British rulers moved the capital from the eastern city of Calcutta, now called Kolkata.
“A two-mile stretch in Delhi featuring some of India’s most iconic landmarks is to be redeveloped, angering historians and conservationists who say the move will rob the country of its heritage and valuable public space.
“Federal authorities last month said they would change the land use for the 86-acre (35-hectare) area that includes Parliament House, the presidential palace, and the India Gate war memorial to ‘government use’ from recreation and public facilities.
“Conservationists fear that the Central Vista redevelopment project will obliterate the history and character of the area, which also has among the biggest public spaces in a city of more than 20 million.
“ ‘The Central Vista is significant for historical, lived, and architectural heritage. Equally importantly, it is a public-use area for tourists and residents, and a green area,’ said Kanchi Kohli, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Research.
“In India, as in many countries, rapid urbanization is putting greater pressure on governments to build office blocks and rail networks, which has led to the razing of old buildings and traditional markets.
“Shashi Tharoor, a member of the opposition Congress party, said in a recent tweet that the money earmarked for the project must instead be used to deal with the pandemic, which has devastated the country’s poor communities.”
Read the article here. (5 min)
By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP
Things are getting better; keep doing what you’re doing
As we’ve all started to find our groove with a new normal, we’ve also seen positive results from our collective response to flatten the curve. Traffic is down; air quality has dramatically improved. Our ability to work, learn, and connect with friends and family has been tested, and we’ve learned to collaborate remotely across various platforms.
And recently, we’ve seen the curve start to bend. This is great news, and proof that our actions (and sacrifices) are paying off. But don’t start celebrating quite yet. New COVID-19 cases are still being reported, we don’t have a vaccine, and many people are without work or have had their pay reduced, with no immediate signs of improvement.
While the shelter-in-place and related restrictions seemed like a switch had been flipped, lifting these restrictions will be more like adjusting a dimmer switch. And even though some restrictions will be lifted, depending on indicators that Governor Newsom recently announced, life won’t resume to pre-COVID-19 standards for some time.
We’ll have guidance from the State, but implementation will largely be at the local level. This emphasizes the need for local leaders in government, public health and safety, planning, and other fields to plan and collaborate on measured steps to get through this pandemic. We planners should continue to lead by example, learn from others, and adapt as needed.
When will this be over, and what will the future look like?
We might not know the answers yet, but neither did our predecessors as they grappled with the sustainability of various city designs, emerging technologies, and philosophies. We know that the next phase (“safe mode,” I like to call it) will not look like the recent past, nor will it look exactly like it does today. Our physical spaces will change, our social norms will be modified, and our thoughtful and coordinated planning efforts will be even more critical.
Workplaces, schools, parks, public transportation, restaurants — nearly every place where we interact — might see reduced capacities for people, reduced intensities. We might still be wearing masks in public spaces and be subject to temperature checks before entering enclosed spaces.
Implementing change won’t be easy, just as it wasn’t easy to transition to remote operations and to outfit employees and students with the technology and resources they needed to continue working and learning.
“Furlough Friday” was instituted during the Great Recession to help reduce financial burdens, yet still maintain operations. It became common afterward for many offices to close (or be closed to the public) on all or alternate Fridays. Will our current way of life have similar fallout? Will planning counters continue to have a virtual component? Will there be continued or greater flexibility for people to work from home? Will commuters return to public transit?
And what might your life look like? What can you do to help plan, lead, and implement the coming changes? What professional skills and life lessons can you apply?
I urge all of us to think inwardly, but to work collaboratively as we plan for and experience the coming social reintegration. Be flexible, be there for each other, and be creative. And please continue to wash your hands, practice physical distancing, and wear a smile behind your fashionable mask.
By Lou Corpuz-Bosshart, UBC News, March 23, 2020
“We spoke to UBC professor” Patrick Condon, chair in Landscape and Livable Environments at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the founding chair of the UBC urban design program.
“What are the potential impacts of the current crisis on transit systems?
“This will be another blow to urban transit, which will be needed to solve the climate crisis. It will likely be a boost to the ride-hailing industry.
“How will it affect the way we design and build cities?
“The rich will withdraw even more behind the protection of doormen and gated communities. Sanitized cars with drivers on call.
“Our current housing inequality in the region needs to be addressed when this is over. It makes no sense to continue a trend where increasingly the rich live in Vancouver and wage earners who provide services to the city are being forced further and further east.
“How will it affect community services?
“I foresee a continued slide in our civic infrastructure and reduced taxpayer support for these functions. I suspect our concerns post-crisis will be more basic: where can I live affordably and how can I access job and services safely.”
By Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, March 17, 2020
“Many thousands of people all over the world are mourning dead loved ones. I’m lucky; I’m just mourning the city.
“To live in a city like New York, where I’ve spent most of my adult life, is to trade private space for public space. It’s to depend on interdependence. I don’t have a dining room, but I’ve been able to eat in thousands of restaurants. I have no storage space, but everything I needed was at the bodega. I don’t have a home office, but I could work at coffee shops.
“The coronavirus disaster is going to devastate communities all over the country, … but it poses particular challenges for urbanites.
“Social distancing is brutal for everyone, but it’s particularly difficult for people in cities, especially those who live alone and those packed into tiny spaces.
“And where you’re isolated matters. ‘It’s going to be a fundamentally different experience if you’re able to stroll around your 10-acre farm and pick the produce you’ve been growing,’ said Steven Taylor, a University of British Columbia professor and author of The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease, than if you’re ‘living in a one-bedroom apartment with your three roommates.’
“When this emergency is over, people are likely to emerge into fundamentally changed cities, with economies in crisis, and beloved restaurants, businesses, and cultural institutions gone for good.
“I wonder if our cultural romance with urban living will recover. In recent decades, millennials, who tend to be more averse to suburbia than their parents and grandparents, have helped fuel an urban resurgence. If the shock of the coronavirus is devastating enough, that could change, as more people seek their own personal bunkers.
“Maybe when this ends, people will pour into the restaurants and bars like a war’s been won, and cities will flourish as people rush to rebuild their ruined social architecture. But for now, it’s chilling to witness an entire way of life coming to a sudden horrible halt.”
By Michael Tatarski, New Naratif, March 16, 2020
Northern News presents these excerpts from a 2300-word article. You can read the full article here.
“Vietnam’s economy has … helped the country climb up the global development ladder, and it’s repeatedly been declared a winner of the US-China trade war amid major shifts in production by the world’s biggest companies.
“This growth has fueled a building boom, along with an explosion in car and motorbike ownership. Increased industrial production, widespread construction, and more vehicle emissions might be signs of a healthy economy, but at the cost of health problems for the people living among them.
“Katherine Nguyen moved to the city from San Jose, California, in 2009. ‘It wasn’t a concern at the time,’ she recalls. ‘I never even thought about it. But recently there have been spikes where the AQI turns red (unhealthy) or purple (very unhealthy) on the app.’ Nguyen’s family have responded by installing air purifiers in each living space in their apartment.
“Despite being Vietnam’s most populous city and economic engine, the air quality in Ho Chi Minh City used to be generally better than in Hanoi, the country’s capital. But while the situation has further deteriorated in Hanoi, things aren’t much better in Ho Chi Minh City.
“Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam as a whole, are often portrayed as lands of bountiful economic opportunities for people across classes. But when the construction and development that boosts economic growth is also generating these impacts to health and quality of life, people have to figure out how to deal with the situation according to their means.
“People working outside, or without the means to afford air filters and high-quality masks, face even more health risks, as they are in the middle of dense traffic for hours at a time. They are also reticent about speaking to the press about their experience, given that the issue is often seen as rather politically sensitive.
“Meanwhile, large-scale potential solutions — mass public transit, for example — are years away from becoming reality. Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line won’t start operating until 2021 at the earliest, with any further lines expected to take several more years of construction, while Hanoi’s first line has been 99 percent complete for nearly a year, with no opening date in sight.
“As of now, buses are the only form of public transportation, while huge construction projects continue to emit dirt, dust, and other particles into the air, and industrial parks expand capacity to welcome companies escaping the trade war.”
Michael Tatarski is a journalist based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He focuses on the environment, urban development, and social issues. Find him on Twitter @miketatarski.
Read the full article here.