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Tactical Urbanism With Pattern Language Toolkits-mehaffy

Tactical Urbanism With Pattern Language Toolkits-mehaffy

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Published by Leif Brecke
Tactical Urbanism With Pattern Language Toolkits-mehaffy
Tactical Urbanism With Pattern Language Toolkits-mehaffy

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Published by: Leif Brecke on Jan 31, 2014
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Tactical Urbanism Using “Pattern Language” Toolkits
In recent years “tactical urbanism” has arisen as an approach to make beneficial urban changes catalytically, using limited resources. But to be most eective, such an approach requires eective tools that can work together in coordinated “toolkit” orm. he tools must be able to evolve and adapt to specific pro!ect requirements and barriers. "e describe herein a methodology aimed at meeting these requirements, using an e#panded system o “pattern languages.” $uch systems have  proven enormouslty eective in sotware design and other fields, though they have been neglected in the fields o urban planning and design. %s we discuss, this presents an intriguing opportunity or tactical urbanists.
Over the last several years, the topic of “tactical urbanism” has arisen along with related concepts of “urban acupuncture,” “peer-to-peer urbanism,” and “economic gardening.” All of these concepts and approaches follow the insight, perhaps irst discussed thoroughly by Jane Jacobs, that urban planning and design are not linear processes, but reuire an understanding and e!ploitation of the dynamics of self-organi"ation # an understanding, as Jacobs put it, of “the $ind of problem a city is” %Jacobs, &'(&). *hese insights have been given special urgency by the evident challenges of achieving more wal$able, compact, mi!ed-use developments in urban and suburban settings. +conomic resources are scarce # particularly since the  inancial crisis # and at the same time, signiicant barriers remain to this $ind of development, relative to more conventional, speciali"ed, segregated forms of development. A more “leveraged” $ind of approach is needed, and one that ma$es more effective use of limited resources %/ehaffy, &a). *his is the challenge for a more effective “tactical urbanism.”*he problem is particularly challenging in e!isting urban areas see$ing “inill” pro0ects. A successful inill development strategy must move beyond well-intentioned plans to carefully assess these barriers, and identify the speciic tools needed to overcome them. 1t must also recogni"e that different sites will often reuire very different tools, types of tools, and combinations of tools. 2inally, it must ma$e these tools and resources available to the diverse parties who are actually implementing development # some of them at ine-grained scales. *his is especially important in the current economic environment.An approach that meets this need is to develop le!ible “tool$its” that can bring a range of tools to bear on different sites with varying needs. *hese tool$its need to be able to combine the different $inds of tools that are needed in the development process # design types, regulatory and entitlement processes, funding mechanisms, partnership structures, collaborative planning processes, and other resources. 3ut they must do so in a way that allows the tools to wor$ together, and to do so in a relatively simple, easy-to-use form. *his capability has been referred to as “plug and play” # a format in which different tools are made available, relatively easy to use,
and able to wor$ together. 
The Nature of the Barriers
4hile the mi! and intensity may vary by location, many of the barriers are common to any inill pro0ect in almost any city. 5ome of these barriers are more challenging in suburb-heavy cities li$e 6hoeni!, Ari"ona, in part because that region, li$e others, has developed a ma0or portion of its economy around edge or “greenield” development, and e!isting tools, s$ills and resources are still geared largely to support this class of development. 3y contrast, tools to support inill development have limited availability or, where they do e!ist, limited functionality in the present environment.As part of our research in 6hoeni!, 7ew Orleans, 6ortland and other cities, we consulted with an array of sta$eholders and gathered their input about barriers. 2or 6ortland8s /etro government, we co-authored a report on barriers to sustainable development in the “9enters and 9orridors” %:elley et al., '). 4e can summari"e the identiied barriers as follows;
Uncertainty in the entitlement process,
 in part because of high scrutiny and potential opposition by sta$eholders, within a public process that does not yet provide substantial regulatory support for more wal$able mi!ed-use, compact inill development.
Relative cost of higher-density projects,
 especially when structured par$ing is needed to fulill par$ing reuirements or e!pectations.
Regulatory complications from mixed-use and inill development,
which tend to ma$e this form of development slower and more costly than greenield development.
Fragmented land ownership patterns.
1t is often dificult to assemble parcels of land that are of suficient si"e to ma$e a viable redevelopment pro0ect.
Competitive advantages for suuran edge development relative to inill development.
*hese include natural advantages %such as lower development costs) and artiicial advantages %such as lower permit fees and other effective subsidies). *his has the effect of ma$ing inill development relatively uncompetitive, and more dificult to inance and sell.
!Chic"en and egg# prolem of wea" mar"ets
 in areas where amenities have not yet been developed %e.g. lac$ of groceries, etc) and where there are negative aspects of amenities within e!isting neighborhoods %e.g. empty buildings, etc). *his is a particular challenge within large areas of central cities that have e!perienced economic depression as a result of sprawl policies.*here is one other factor that is very important at the present time, but may become less important as inancial mar$ets stabili"e;
$ac" of capital for larger, more conventional development projects.
*here are notable e!ceptions in larger multi-family rental, but other mar$ets, especially mi!ed-use retail, are li$ely to remain wea$ for the foreseeable future.
Overcoming the Barriers: Changing the Structure of Incentives and Disincentives
*o understand the tools and strategies needed, we should begin by recogni"ing that every act of development occurs within a conte!t of incentives and disincentives # a $ind of “operating system” that governs how much something costs, in relation to how much it is rewarded. *his “operating system” includes the laws, rules, fees, standards, and all the other parameters that govern what can be done and where, and for what cost and reward.2or most pro0ects, the mar$et itself provides perhaps the most obvious set of incentives and disincentives -- namely, whether buyers %or renters) are prepared to pay a price suficient to cover the cost of development, plus a competitive proit. *he more they are willing to pay above the threshold of proitability, the more there is an incentive for that development to occur. 9onversely, if they are not willing to pay enough to ma$e a minimum threshold pro0ect, then developers say the pro0ect “doesn8t pencil” - and in most cases, it simply doesn8t get built.3ut mar$et behavior does not arise in a vacuum. 3uyers have their own set of incentives and disincentives, which often depend on conditions set by the public sector. 9onstruction and e!pansion of public infrastructure %roads, water, etc) is clearly a ma0or incentive to development, and a disincentive when that infrastructure becomes inadeuate. Other sources of buyer incentives and disincentives include the cost of resources and services, the structure of ta! policy, and the “pricing signals” of such services as toll roads and par$ing charges.3uyers also have non-economic incentives, of course, including neighborhood aesthetic appeal, amenities, convenience, attractiveness, and peer-group desirability. *hese in turn are sensitive to public investments in area services and amenities, and the perceived uality and effort made by the public sector in things li$e schools, par$s, streetscapes, public transportation and other amenities. /any of these conditions develop slowly, and are dificult %and usually e!pensive) to change uic$ly.*here are also important incentives and disincentives in the cost of development itself. *his includes the cost of planning and entitlement, the cost of regulatory reuirements, the cost and comple!ity of construction, and # one of the most signiicant for the public sector # the cost structure of development fees, including infrastructure system development charges. *hese are often consciously structured in a way that incentivi"es suburban edge development, which is used to generate new ta! base and additional economic activity. *he regulatory and entitlement process is often also greatly streamlined in smaller suburban 0urisdictions, adding more powerful incentives to this form of development.*herefore it is not a surprise to see that while many inill sites stand vacant, including many along the new 6hoeni! light rail line, for e!ample, the overwhelming volume of development activity in 6hoeni! and other similar regions remains at the suburban edge. *his pattern of uneven regional development relects an uneven playing ield when it comes to incentives. 1f the public sector wants to see a more spatially eficient form of development that ma$es greater use of e!isting inner-city resoures, and li$ely lowers worrisome e!ternality costs # which will hit future ta!payers and citi"ens especially hard - then it must e!amine the steps needed to re-balance the incentives and disincentives.

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