If you had ultimate super-human power, how would you design the region you live in to support more people? Would it look like the picture of sprawl directly below or would it look like Vara in Fremont, the project pictured below right? Or would it look like something else?
That was the question on the mind's of the Puget Sound region's top 250 most powerful political, environmental, development, business and nonprofit leaders, who gathered at the University of Washington on April 30 for Reality Check 2008 (for more on this see posts below or my story in Friday's edition of the DJC).
The overall results of Reality Check? Leaders want a region with compact and livable transit-oriented communities that are also beautiful and support the region's quality of life. Easy, right?
... Or is that too much to ask and if so, why? If not, what do you do to create those communities? Bill Krieger of Mithun said it means local politicians will have to reinvent zoning and reinvent the entire process of land use, permitting and transportation..... are any of our politicians quite that brave?
If density is the answer, what's the best example of good density in your city? Or if density is a word you associate with 'nightmare,' why does it have such bad connotations? Where's an example of how density went wrong?
Ed McMahon of the ULI was the keynote speaker. He said our country is doing some really good work on cleaning air, and cleaning water - but our sense of place is slowly being replaced with convenience stores and Wal-Mart's.
"The truth is... the special, unique character (of our towns and cities)... has been in many ways disappearing faster than ever."
"I could drop you in any U.S. city and you couldn't tell where you were because it all looks exactly the same," he said.
If regions plan better and decide what sort of a community and quality of life they want, he said they can keep their character and quality of life. Dense, compact developments are a part of that, he said.
So what do we do? What should the Puget Sound region do? What should the U.S. do? Is there anything to do or is this just a hopeless situation. What would help you build dense communities, or convince you to live in one? Let me know what you think!