new year’s retrospective, part 3: learning how to grow–“nothing can come of nothing”

We complete our new year’s retrospective with a compendium which first appeared in on June 19, 2009, with updated links and enhanced photos added.

Eight blog entries later, some trends, concerns and observations have complemented almost 25 years in the trenches of environmental and land use law.

Four points emerge from what began in April entries focused on an inventory of “lessons learned from the development boom” amid 2009’s unprecedented attention to integration of transit and land use and provision for compact and walkable communities.

• “Who pays” for new infrastructure, innovative forms of development and placemaking, and public/private development features surrounding transit will rank highly–competing with attention to climate change as a determinant of how we will grow in the future.

• Overuse of buzzwords such as “sustainable” and “green” must yield to meaningful and implemented end-goals. Political spin or business generation hyperbole will not guarantee financing to accomplish a shared vision towards avoidance of urban sprawl and global warming.

• Silos must go. Laudably, the increasingly savvy Obama administration’s Sustainable Communities Initiative continues to lead the charge to marry land use, transportation and environmental issues.

• When we envision compact, walkable communities close to workplaces as the new ideal, we are imposing a particular point of view on many who either do not want or cannot afford to live in this manner.

Recent travels documented last week yield a fifth point. Let’s be careful with inspirational examples from overseas. We may want walkable cities, vibrant urban spaces and the allure of hilltowns…

The quintessential urban space, Campo di’ Fiore

Night meeting at the Pantheon

Gourdes, Provence, France

….yet adaptation of development forms from other contexts or places in history risk Las Vegas, Leavenworth or facades not built to last. Our malls and commercial spaces are not Rome’s Campo di’ Fiore, nor are new urban centers Rome’s Pantheon.

Las Vegas: The Paris, context askew

Las Vegas: The Venetian, replete with the automobile

We should emphasize the qualities and characteristics we seek, but remember our history is short and contextual and cannot recreate what evolved over thousands of years.

In summary, in this time of opportunity, substance, please, and to quote Shakespeare in King Lear, “nothing can come of nothing”.

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