Monday, July 11, 2016

CNU 24: Best Moments, Part 3

Downtown Detroit
Having given a pair of updates on efforts to change the political picture in my town and provided urbanist marching orders for the week, it’s time to return to the highlights of CNU 24, the annual meeting of the Congress for the New Urbanism, held a month ago in Detroit.

I previously provided the best of Andres Duany, who was so prolix, in a good way, that I needed two posts to cover his thoughts.

Today I’ll move on to Kaid Benfield, a man whose quiet but eloquent love for the subtle points of good cities has caused him to appear often in this blog when he still with the Natural Resources Defense Council.  He has since moved to PlaceMakers LLC, taking him further from my radar, but I still looked forward to hearing him speak in person for the first time.

He didn’t disappoint.

 As before, the quotes are reconstructed from my notes and are likely imprecise, but capture Benfield’s intent.

On the job still to be done: “Anyone who thinks that battle for good urbanism is already over, whether won or lost, should remember that by 2050, half of built environment then in place will have been built after today.”

On the current breakdown of CO2 emissions by sector: “Buildings 44.6 percent, transportation 34.3 percent, and industry 21.1 percent.”  With urbanism directly impacting the first two, it has a key role to play in combating climate change.

On knowing when public places are working: “The indicator species for public places are kids and elders.  If both are present, the public place is working.”

And lastly, on the six strategies for good community planning:”1 – Guide development to the right places, in urban cores and along transit routes. 2 – Make America walkable again.  In 1969, 48 percent of children walked to school, today 13 percent do.  3 – Integrate nature into the urban fabric.  4 – Get buildings right, starting with energy.  5 – Employ density with sensitivity.  6 – Create places that people love and will retain, which is a literal version of sustainability.”

(For those who want to dig deeper into the six strategies, here is an earlier version, slightly different in its emphases, but equally valid.)

It’s all good, thoughtful stuff.  As a Parks Commissioner in my town, I tour a set of assigned parks monthly.  Although not as many as I’d like, I often find children playing there, but rarely do I see seniors hanging out, with the possible exception of myself.  It’s a point I need to ponder.

The session was one more reminder of why I love going to CNUs.

When I next write, I’ll provide a collection of links on regional transit planning in the Bay Area.  It’s a subject on which I wrote about almost exactly a year ago, shortly after I returned from CNU 23.  A year later, spurred by coverage on the topic in the New York Times, a number of organizations are taking a hard look at the subject.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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