Most of what we are seeing in Penang when it comes to planning and policy in Penang is terribly familiar. The bottom line until now at least is that overall you are not doing well, because you do not have a plan or a coherent vision to guide you. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that you are not alone.
Montréal has never really had a coherent planning vision – they simply react to developers’ proposals.
In fact Penang could hardly be more lucky because there is not only abundant information on the fast-growing number of well thought out examples of cities, projects and approaches that are showing the way for sustainable transport and sustainable cities. But there is also an even longer list of examples of cities that are getting it blatantly wrong. These should be understood and integrated into the thinking and planning process of the city, just as much as the attention which must be given to understanding and adapting “best practices”. If you look closely you will see there are patterns that repeat themselves again and again. It is important to be aware of them.
Here you have an example of the city of Montréal, while doing a fair number of good things in terms of transport, public space and environment, is at the same time suffering badly from the lack of a well thought-out understanding of how transport issues cannot be treated without full attention to land use and the structure of the city. Again painful signs of Penang. And how did this come up?
The morning mail often surprises. Yesterday it was a note from the Canadian planner and activist Zvi Leve that slipped over the transom bringing news of poor, even non-existent planning in the great city of Montréal which should ring a few bells in Penang:
Since I have lived here, Montréal has never really had a coherent planning vision – they simply react to developers’ proposals. “A scattered approach to development will harm the city and the architectural successes it has acquired since the 17th century and that includes contemporary projects…. Economic development is not one building,”
Zvi is hardly alone in his comments on the high cost of poor and even nonexistent planning. An article was published today in the Montréal Gazette based on an interview by a leading architect and urban planning activist Phyllis Lambert, which you can find in its entirety at http://goo.gl/qES1H5. She starts by criticizing Montréal’s mayor in these candid words:
Mayor Denis Coderre’s approach to dealing with development projects is “willy nilly” and is sending Montreal back to an era when a lack of planning and a disregard for heritage and consultation reigned.
Riled by Coderre’s defence of a plan by a developer to gut part of the Maison Alcan complex on Sherbrooke St. W. to erect a 30-storey office tower, the mayor’s recent pronouncement in favour of large-scale residential construction on natural space in Pierrefonds and plans to raise the permitted height of high-rises in such disparate places as the Gay Village, Lambert says it’s a throwback to the era of Jean Drapeau, when a strong-willed mayor determined what projects got the green light.
“We’re back to the ’80s,” Lambert, the founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture and doyenne of the preservation movement in Montreal, said in an interview after returning home from abroad last week.
“That’s shocking, the fact that there are so many controversial projects coming up these days. And this is not the end of it, I’m afraid.”
Lambert said she’s in favour of densifying the city, but said it needs to be planned through a transparent public process as was set up by Jean Doré, who succeeded Drapeau, and his reformist Montreal Citizens’ Movement.
“One has to establish the character of the city and plan it,” Lambert said.
“It can’t be just willy-nilly. http://goo.gl/qES1H5e some development here and a highrise there. That’s not thought through. That’s not a plan. Willy-nilly sounds too nice for it.”
– – – > Read the full article click here to http://goo.gl/qES1H5
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About the commentators:
As founding director and chair of the board of trustees, Phyllis Lambert was largely responsible for creating the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal (CCA), said to be the world’s leading architectural museum and study center. Over the decades she has established herself as a leader in social issues of urban conservation and the role of architecture in the public realm. In addition to her work with the CCA, she was the founding president of Heritage Montreal, and she spearheaded the creation of the Société d’amélioration de Milton-Parc, the largest non-profit cooperative housing renovation project in Canada at the time of its establishment in 1979. Widely known as Joan of Architecture has taught at the School of Architecture of McGill University as an adjunct faculty member and at the Faculté de l’amenagement of the Université de Montreal and served as chair of Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.
Zvi Lev is a transport modeling expert with an educational background in economics, statistics, operations research and urban planning. His interests focus on the linkages between transport and land use and how the transportation network influences travel behavior. When he is not spending his time evaluating the implications of large-scale infrastructure projects, he can be found promoting human-scaled cities and active transportation. He is active in numerous community groups dedicated to rethinking the role of transportation and the built environment. Zvi is Co-President of RuePublique, which is dedicated to reimagining streets and advocating for better use of public spaces with an emphasis on community and on active, public and shared transportation alternatives and a spokesperson for the Montreal Bike Coalition.
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If you are looking for examples of seriously wrong-headed projects and planning we can be of help;:you are cordially invited to drop into World Streets infamous “Worst Practices Department” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/worstpractices, where you can see that there is and has never been a shortage of flakey ideas. (The attached is a view of futurist fantasy about cities dating back to 1909.)
You may also find help in the “Clues: Learning from others” section of Sustainable Penang which you can access at https://sustainablepenang.wordpress.com/tag/clues/
A final word of caution: you can have the best plan in the world but if it is not respected by politicians and administered, if it is set aside more or less surreptitiously and replaced by ad hoc decisions and eager developers proposals, then you may as well not have a plan at all.
And if we have to seek out a single objective lesson in the Montreal experience, it is this: it is civil society that keeps the politicians nose to the grindstone. (One more lesson for Penang.)
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About the editor:
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France
Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh and @ericbritton