evil New Urbanism?
Would James Kunstler understand what is going on here? I was there when I think Kunstler last came to Pittsburgh for a public presentation, though he was here for a book signing I believe more recently. Scares me to realize it was almost a decade ago. For those who have heard him in person, whether you agree with all he says or not, almost everyone learns something and absolutely everyone is entertained. In an odd way he has been invoked in a debate before City Council... but I doubt he or anyone else realized it. And I really don't know which side Kunstler would be on even if he did know.
But the Trib today covers the debate in city council over a zoning exemption required to build a 400 unit apartment building in Ridgemont (aka Chicken Hill) in the City of Pittsburgh. The story focuses on a pretty creative youtube video from folks obviously opposed to the project. I really am not commenting either way on the project itself, but the video is really curious. The theme/title is "Small Town America versus New Urbanism".
A minor point is that I am not quite sure the New Urbanism moniker applies to the project, whether the developer would like to label it that way or not. I suppose someone thinks NU is just a synonym for density and nothing more. Last I taught Urban Economics I would explain there is a little more too it than that. Otherwise it might be urbanism, but it certainly isn't anything new. But the "Small Town America" claim is really curious. This is a neighborhood in the middle of a major city (or so we like to think) in America. A city that has is so often quoted as having lost half it's density since it's peak. Maybe the title would have been a tad more accurate as: Old Urbanism vs. New?
All that being said, none of it really matters. Like political ads, or any advertising for that matter, these things are judged by their impact. I have no idea if the video is responsible at all for the update today that the project has failed a preliminary vote in city council today. Is it any surprise folks from out of town often get confused when they get caught up in anything like this here. Debates like this are just off from what you would see elsewhere. Here you have a self described small town community group, that isn't from a small town at all opposing a New Urbanism project that isn't really New Urbanism. It confounds me.
What is also interesting is how similar the public debate over this project sounds compared to what happened at the Don Allen site. I can't find a news article that really gets into the gory details on that, but the short version is in this Trib article.
But check out the video which you have to admit is effective... gratuitous Springsteen soundtrack near the end or not: