Talking Headways Podcast: Critiquing the Language of Planners

This week, Robin Rather of Collective Strength joins the podcast to talk about missteps in the planning profession — including how things go wrong with language. Robin shares how she got to thinking about urban issues and why she believes current planning practice is stuck in the 1990s. We discuss the often jargon-filled language the profession uses, taking a paragraph from Austin’s current zoning code rewrite to illustrate.

  • Casimira Younger

    Robin brings up an interesting point that I wish she expanded on — the fact that density doesn’t always solve the problem affordability in cities. This doesn’t have economic sense to me and I wish she would have elaborated. If adding housing doesn’t solve affordability crisis, what DOES? Any literature I can read up on this?

  • Cole Hendrigan

    Vancouver adds density weekly in the form of another Condo completed. It has zero effect on affordability. If it did, developers would likely slow down their projects as they wouldn’t be getting their returns. Best bet is for older condos to become ‘apartments’ to become rentals in which those who can’t afford a downpayment/mortgage might eke out a life. Then density might = affordability but this often also = rundown poorly maintained units managed by ‘rent-seeking’ landlords. So, this is the issue of how density doesn’t always solve affordability. You are correct to ask what does then: more supply. Nothing in Shortage, with a Demand, has even been Equitably distributed.

    In North America/Australia more housing supply usually is code for single family houses out into the hinterland. Yet, in Vancouver there are very successful Co-Op Housing schemes in which one’s rent is indexed to your income “A co-op is a home, not an investment”( In Europe housing is often controlled by Cities, as in they own the buildings and people are on long term leases. This helps smooth peaks and valleys of residents by income, but imperfectly. Singapore, another model, offers inexpensive spaces to people to buy in a new building (or set of buildings) clustered around a train station through HDB.

    Otherwise, what she says about ‘net share of density’, Transects and Form Based Codes (~20:00) is spot on. Some of what she speaks of, though, is the difference between ‘social planning’ and physical planning (urban design). They should be the same, but are a different set of skills. One cannot do/be everything. The weight of the responsibility would be crushing.


Talking Headways Podcast: Growing Up and Out in Houston

This week and next I’m joined by Christof Spieler, a vice president of Morris Architects who serves on the board of Houston Metro, to talk about Houston. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the podcasts. Christof tells stories about how planning works in Houston, including how Intercontinental Airport was sited during a backroom deal and how people inside the city think […]

Talking Headways Podcast: Moneyball for Transit

Laurel Paget-Seekins joins the podcast this week to talk about her days as a transit activist in Atlanta, what Santiago, Chile, taught her about transit networks, and her current work on data collection and dissemination as the director of strategic initiatives at the MBTA in Boston. We discuss the MBTA’s data blog and dashboard, how the agency […]

Talking Headways Podcast: How Does This Podcast Make You Feel?

This week, Jeff Wood and I get indignant about Miami-Dade County’s misuse of transit funds for roads, and we speculate about why — with the current success of pedestrian projects like Times Square — old-style pedestrian malls are still going belly-up. And then we peek behind the curtain at an exciting new frontier for urban […]

How Would Jane Jacobs Zone?

Everyone’s paying tribute to Jane Jacobs today, on what would be the pioneering urbanist’s 100th birthday. Jacobs’ classic critique of mid-century American urban planning dogma, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is probably the most influential book ever written about planning. But her legacy is also contested, and her ideas still go unheeded in most cities. Was […]

Mapping the Smells and Sounds of the Sensory City

Daniele Quercia and Luca Aiello of Bell Labs are pioneers of sensory mapping in cities. They have been able to map smells, sounds, and how people feel on their favorite walking routes. On the podcast Daniele and Luca discuss why people are so focused on noise instead of sound, the languages of smell and sound, as well as the chromatic layers […]

Talking Headways Podcast: The City Is a Painting You Walk Into

This week I’m joined by James Rojas of Place It! to talk about art in planning and Latino urbanism. James is an award-winning planner and a native Angeleno, and he tells us about how growing up in East LA and visiting his grandmother’s house shaped the way he thinks about urban spaces and design. Tune in and hear James discuss […]