Saturday, September 11, 2010

Completing the equation - part 2

We must rethink land use zoning

There were interesting comments to my last blog about CPTED, design guidelines and the incomplete equation.

My view is that without social capital, territoriality doesn't work well. Offenders usually want to avoid detection when they steal, burgle or rob which is why natural surveillance helps prevent crime. But that is only true when offenders fear someone will apprehend them (or get the police). In other words, someone must care enough about their neighborhood to do something. That's social capital.

To cultivate social capital we must re-learn how to better build and re-create neighborhoods from the ground up.

Jane Jacobs champions this idea in her famous incantation when she says the public peace is kept by an intricate network of voluntary controls and standards among people themselves. That is why we created 2nd Generation CPTED.


Social capital is the idea that within healthy neighborhoods there is a subtle system of what anthropologist Edward Hall called social dos and don'ts. It's the idea that there is wide range of social activities, people, services, businesses and cultural events that encourage local folks to share, sell, play, and relax. Social capital helps them tackle their own neighborhood problems. Service providers (e.g. police) are still available, but the majority of issues are dealt with internally.

There are plenty of neighborhoods where this happens. Westville in New Haven and the San Romanoway Apartments in Toronto are two. Last month I discussed Hollygrove, the New Orleans neighborhood where impressive improvements have been underway for a few years. Last year Louisiana AARP asked me to introduce CPTED in a SafeGrowth format.


This week, AARP posted an article and video about the residents and their work in Hollygrove. The video shows what in 2nd Generation CPTED we call "social stabilizers". My favorites are the "Hollygove Originals" and the walking club.

Click here to watch the AARP video of social capital at work!

CPTED-styled, urban design guidelines are a small step in that direction. But guidelines will not create Hollygrove, Westville or San Romanoway. Design guidelines fall short.

How can we encourage local interest and ownership, community driven initiatives such as community gardens, artists moving into and reusing old areas, and locally improved public spaces? Can urban planning help?

The world of land use planning (distinct from other forms of planning) is usually the world of zoning. Traditional zoning is done through setbacks, floor-space ratios, and restricted/permitted land use categories. It can be very restrictive and changes (variances) to it can be awkward, difficult and politically dangerous. From a CPTED perspective, traditional zoning says little about safety.

Unlike traditional zoning, form-based zoning controls the physical look of a place through design guidelines. For example the shape of building facades, types and sizes of streets, and the scale of architecture prescribes the what the neighborhood will look like. For CPTED guidelines, form-based zoning is ideal. However, this does not lead to social capital.


Performance zoning is another alternative. Where traditional zoning specifies the types of use, performance zoning specifies only the intensity and results of that land use. It deals not with the type of use, but the performance of that development and how it impacts surrounding areas.

Performance zoning is already working in a few places. Early adopters include transport planners aiming to require roadway builders to adopt designs to cut traffic fatalities.

Performance zoning is more flexible than traditional or form-based zoning. It better accommodates market principles, social activities, and environmental protection.

Performance zoning in Breckenridge, Colorado

It's not difficult to see both CPTED guidelines and social capital as performance measures in such a place. There are helpful websites to learn the pros and cons of performance based zoning and the international experience with performance based planning.

Today's zoning denies certain uses or forms when developers submit their plans. Performance zoning evaluates the impacts of land uses directly. Property owners have the obligation, cost risk, and duty to fit the required performance to their land - and the freedom to use their own creativity in an innovative way.

As Jacobs often noted, one of the first ingredients of social capital is local innovation. Richard Florida says the same thing when interviewed on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Perhaps that's how we solve the safety equation in the 21st Century city?