This past week included the always entertaining April Fools’ Day, generating interesting faux-articles on urbanism that help illustrate the state of our collective psyche; what we find perversely funny, what we wish were jokes, and what jokes indicate our worst nightmares.
First up, Edward Erfurt, the Restless Urbanist, takes a shot at the disastrous planning that exists in many places around the country. Some planning has been so bad that it can only be treated similarly to an act of God that needs FEMA to step in and save the day by completely eliminating the local codes. His criteria will sound familiar to longtime Strong Towns readers:
3. If the number of zoning categories exceed the maximum allowable residential density
4. If the zoning map looks more like a mosaic than urban form
Alex Ihnen from nextSTL also steps up to bat and his is a doozy. St. Louis is going through the dreaded ‘public funds for a world class stadium or I’m going to take my team and go home!’ debate with their (otherwise) beloved Rams, so what could make that situation even worse? The Cardinals also threatening to leave town on condition of getting a brand new stadium. As someone that’s not from St. Louis, it took me extra long to figure out that this one was a joke. File this in the “worst nightmare” category:
While much of the focus has been on elaborate sports palaces in the NFL, the Atlanta Braves are set to raise the bar in MLB. In suburban Atlanta, Cobb County will finance approximately $300M of that nearly $1B mixed use development. It is said that Cardinals owner Bill Dewitt, Jr. has shared in private conversations that he doesn’t want to be outdone by the Atlanta club, or any other team.
Dave Alden of North Bay Design Kit pulled together his own two part list of “Quirky, whimsical, cringeworthy, and fun” urbanism-related posts from the past year. Not necessarily pranks, but things that could have been pranks or perhaps should have been pranks. There are a lot of good ones and I encourage you to browse the originals he links to. My favorites are:
[T]he City of London is seeking creative, even fanciful, design concepts for a new $60 million pedestrian bridge across the Thames River upstream from the Houses of Parliament.
Some of those designs really should be pranks.
Boston bicyclists, frustrated by a fifteen-foot high pile of snow left by snowplows and blocking their preferred bicycling route, spent two days building a tunnel through the snow.
…which just sounds fun. But really, I wish American cities treated cyclist commuters with enough respect that this actually felt like an April Fools’ prank, but alas, it sounds about right.
The Project for Public Spaces had great fun with April Fools’ Day, writing stories that would have taken multiple places in my list if they hadn’t all been on the same webpage.
Last but not least in the April Fools’ category is a story that isn’t from a member blog, but definitely worth mentioning. Urban ABQ, a group of downtown/urbanism advocates in Albuquerque, NM, pranked the entire city, including the Mayor, in a way that might return dividends. The group created a fake news release about plans for city-wide bike lanes and they managed to get the Mayor and many citizens’ attention.
Online, a news article popped up with a bicycling bombshell: “Mayor Announces Buffered Bike Lanes for Downtown.”
“Yeah we made it all up, yeah it was completely fabricated,” said Leila Salim, a member of Urban ABQ.
Turns out the mayor’s office says it’s listening, and appreciated the prank.
“It’s a fun way to get those conversations started and then hopefully encourage people to get involved,” said Salim.
And to wrap things up: this one isn’t an April Fools’ prank. Patrick Kennedy of Walkable Dallas/Fort Worth, A New Dallas, and the Street Smart blog in D Magazine writes an incredibly thorough and brilliant explanation of the benefits of the I-345 teardown and subsequent steps to grow Dallas’ core, reduce congestion, increase livability, and reduce the housing and job geographical imbalances that the city faces. It is well worth the read and an example of the best kind of long-term, antifragile megaproject that actually fits the Strong Towns mode of thinking.
All told this plan will yield more than $30 billion in real private investment, $825 million/year in new property tax revenue, savings in commuter’s pockets, better housing options, shorter commutes, a greater, greener city, and a happy, healthier populous.