Smart growth or Socialism? Debunking the myths of Agenda 21

A few weeks ago, Christina Frankel– the local architect spearheading the effort to restore the Commercial Building in Downtown Stockton– wrote an article in the Tracy Press discussing the website Walkscore. She described how the site ranks the “walkability” of certain cities and neighborhoods based on proximity to various amenities such as parks, schools, and businesses. Frankel concludes that communities with high walk scores allow residents to rely less on automobiles, resulting in improved health and a cleaner environment.

While Frankel’s column was a simple call for the inclusion of more walkable growth patterns, the comments section of the article would imply that Frankel suggested that Tracy petition for the new capitol of communist Russia. Several commenters insinuated that Frankel was in cahoots with the United Nations, secretly planning to rob citizens of their private property, condemning all Tracy-ites to cramped Soviet-style housing with two million other people. One reader even went so far as to compare Frankel’s words to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. All of this admonishment for making the simple argument that walking makes the air a little cleaner and our waists a little smaller. This hardly seems the stuff of Marx or Stalin.

Some feel that smart growth principles are actually a threat to their personal liberties.

Some feel that smart growth principles are actually a threat to their personal liberties.

Unfortunately, this public sentiment against the virtues of smart growth and sensible planning represents a growing trend beyond the comments sections of local newspapers. Both locally and nationally, growing numbers of Americans are galvanized against any changes in growth patterns, believing that any plan aimed at improving cities is actually a veiled argument for a war on suburbia or a war on cars inspired by “European” living standards. While this group represents a small minority of the country, they seem to be making a disproportionate impact on the land use planning decisions of many local governments.

A lot of us in the New Urbanism field are taken aback by these charges. The basis for this outrage is almost always rooted in something called Agenda 21— a non-binding, unenforceable United Nations decree advocating for sustainable communities. These Agenda 21ers believe that the tenets of smart growth and New Urbanism are sneaky attempts to implement Agenda 21 here in the United States, which will ultimately lead to a seizure of private property, herding citizens toward dense urban centers. Locally, groups in Lodi and the foothills have protested rather mundane municipal matters on the basis that these cities are secretly trying to undermine the rights of citizens.

While planners and developers scratch their heads over these arguments, it is important to realize that while the rhetoric may be a tad absurd, the basis of these concerns are real. Fear of change is often derived from a lack of information, and it is easy to chide a group of people for believing in an a conspiracy theory when no one tries to engage them in the planning process. If we want a consensus of Central Valley residents supporting infill development to help revitalize our cities, the onus is on us to help everyone understand the benefits of reprioritizing growth inward.

Below, I respond to the most popular arguments against smart growth and discuss why there is nothing to fear:

Agenda 21 has no control over any planning decision anywhere in this country, or any other for that matter
One of the more colorful arguments frequently spouted on online media comment sections and in town hall meetings is that planning principles touting bike paths, transit-oriented development, and walkability are a product of a United Nation’s plan to turn American standards of living into something resembling socialism. To put it bluntly, this argument simply has no basis in reality. The United Nations has absolutely no authority whatsoever in municipal planning decisions. Agenda 21 is so obscure that most planners and civic leaders don’t even know what it is.

In Lodi, a vocal group protested the city’s acceptance of state grant money to assist in the development of the city’s climate action plan. While planning for sensible energy use in the future may seem fairly innocuous, some local residents felt that these small steps would trigger a slippery slope down the path to socialism. Simply put, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most cities embrace these plans and tactics because they will save them money in the long run. There is no secret plot by Lodi’s government to turn the city into a cramped European metropolis where no one has cars and land ownership is prohibited. Once we get past the Agenda 21 argument, we can begin to have a reasonable conversation about the role of government in land use planning decisions…..

Suburban development patterns are not the result of the free market
Another common argument is that large homes in sprawling communities are a product of a free market economy and any attempt to incorporate more apartments or denser communities subverts the will of the free market.

Unfortunately for Agenda 21ers, the reality is quite different as the suburbs are actually the product of extreme government incentivization, not the free market. The suburbs originally exploded because the federal government provided cheap mortgage guarantees, making buying a home more affordable. Moreover, the tax breaks received for owning a home are unavailable to people who rent, further distorting the market towards homeownership. If housing were truly a free market, why is the government giving us money to buy houses?

It is also just as important to note that the proliferation of the suburbs was greatly exacerbated by the federally-funded highway system which made it possible to work downtown but live in the suburbs. Needless to say, highways and roads are completely subsidized by the government. Commuting by automobile is affordable only because the price does not reflect its actual cost, which is picked up by the federal government.

Suburban development patterns are also heavily dictated by municipal zoning codes which restrict what developers can offer to buyers. The real reason there are only single-family homes available away from retail or commercial is because most cities make it illegal to mix uses. If I am a developer in Stockton who wants to build an apartment building with ground floor restaurants and stores, I can’t, because the city’s zoning code most likely prohibits this type of development. Seems pretty restrictive for a free-market economy.

Suburban style development is economically inefficient
One of the main reasons Stockton suffered from diminished finances stems from unencumbered outward growth generating insufficient income for the city to meet the demand for services in these new areas. New subdivisions mean new roads, sewers, power lines, parks, roads, street lights, and so on. More police and fire protection is needed as well. Unfortunately, the fees paid by developers and taxes collected on homes are not sufficient to pay for this new infrastructure, and instead create the illusion of wealth which we now know was erroneous. On a pure fiscal standpoint, it seems foolish to support a pattern of growth that has proven to be so economically unsustainable.

Conversely, research shows that compact developments provide greater economic benefits by making efficient use of resources already at the city’s disposal. I previously profiled Joe Minicozzi’s work demonstrating how modest downtown revitalization efforts yield greater economic benefits than the traditional suburban shopping center or subdivision. Minicozzi has performed this analysis locally as well in Modesto, Turlock and Merced, with similar results. In an interview with Minicozzi, he said that Stockton’s downtown structures almost certainly could bring in more tax dollars per square foot than the city’s Super Walmarts.


Waterfront neighborhood, or secret socialist enclave? Agenda 21ers may see this sketch of a proposed Stockton neighborhood and feel threatened by the United Nations.

Waterfront neighborhood, or secret socialist enclave? Agenda 21ers may see this sketch of a proposed Stockton neighborhood and feel threatened by the United Nations.

Consumer demand for different housing options is on the rise
Speaking of the free market, more and more Central Valley residents would like the option to live in walkable communities and rely less on their cars. As I have previously discussed, the demand for apartments, townhomes and condos is increasing in the Central Valley while support for suburban development has tapered off. Further, research has shown that home buyers are willing to pay more for housing in areas with high Walkscores, even here in Stockton. Clearly, whether Agenda 21ers like it or not, there is a growing market for these kinds of homes and neighborhoods.

If we really live in a free-market society, those of us who would prefer to live in a walkable neighborhood should have the opportunity to do so. Our founding fathers would surely frown upon Americans protesting and shouting down their fellow citizens simply because they prefer to live in a walkable community. No one from the city or the United Nations is going to come and seize your house in the suburbs and force you into a duplex simply because the city adopts a more lenient zoning ordinance. Which brings me to my final point…

Suburbs and cars are not going away. Ever.
Many commenters in Frankel’s article noted that they prefer living away from amenities and far from the central city. That is absolutely their choice, and no one can ever take that away from them. In the Central Valley, suburban development isn’t going anywhere. In the report cited earlier regarding increasing demand for various housing options, the authors concede that suburban housing will continue to make up the majority of the region’s housing stock. What has already been built won’t be taken away or converted to something with higher density as some may fear. The only thing that might change is that those of us who want to live closer to amenities might have a neighborhood or two where we can actually do that. Those who want to live in the suburbs can rest assured that their housing style of choice won’t be encumbered. Urban Planner Jeff Speck suggests in his book “Walkable City” that suburban areas should remain suburban; no policies or projects are going to change the nature of these areas.

Further, life in the Central Valley will always revolve around the car. While some new developments may offer the option of a less auto-centric lifestyle, the vast majority of people will still be using their cars to run errands, go to Costco, and take weekend trips.

While these arguments should assuage any paranoia regarding bike lanes and infill development, I fully realize that some may read these words and continue to believe that smart growth is out to get them. There is nothing to be said that will ever sway your opinion, and I am completely comfortable with that. You can continue to disagree with smart growth and urban planning; that is your unalienable right, and there are perfectly reasonable arguments to be made against these principles. However, I hope that these disagreements can be discussed calmly and rationally so that we can all be part of a dialogue to develop strategies for the future of our region. However, when smart growth principles are likened to the teachings of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, a reasonable conversation is no longer possible, and those with legitimate concerns will lose their seat at the table. Stockton and the entire region took a huge hit during the economic downturn, there really is no argument for dismissing any ideas to help improve our cities.

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Categories: Community Commentary, Smart Growth

Author:David A. Garcia

David A. Garcia created SCL in March of 2012. Garcia is a Stockton native with a background in urban policy and planning, holding a Bachelor's Degree from UCLA as well as a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. He currently serves as the Policy Director at the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation. David was also COO at Ten Space, a real estate development firm focused exclusively on Downtown Stockton, and continues to advise on their projects. Prior to that, he worked three years as a researcher/analyst for a Congressional research agency in Washington, DC. The views expressed on this site are entirely of the author's

21 Comments on “Smart growth or Socialism? Debunking the myths of Agenda 21”

  1. Ned
    March 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    I certainly agree with most of what you said, but I am not so sure that it is simply Agenda 21 UN based concerns that motivates protests against some urban planning. I think there is an element of “protest” that you should carefully consider, and perhaps you will find that you should debunk some other myths.

    Consider Christina Frankel’s statements:

    Our children are more likely to get asthma, as their young lungs more susceptible to damage from air pollution. According to the EPA, residents in the San Joaquin Valley are four times more likely to die from air pollution than driving a car. And since breathing air is something we all do, it’s everyone’s problem.

    Whether you believe in climate change or not, or whether you can afford to drive or not, the bottom line is if you live in the Central Valley, your lungs are taking in more particulates than are good for you. To make things better, we need to get out of our cars more.

    And consider your statement:

    While this group [opponents of Agenda 21] represents a small minority of the country, they seem to be making a disproportionate impact on the land use planning decisions of many local governments. A lot of us in the New Urbanism field are taken aback by these charges. The basis for this outrage is almost always rooted in something called Agenda 21– a non-binding, unenforceable United Nations decree advocating for sustainable communities

    A statement embedded in your link above: “Environmentalists and many fans of cities hail SB 375 as an important step towards both curbing global warming and creating more pleasant cities.”

    Too much of sensible urban planning policy is justified by “polluted” appeals to improving the environment.

    Do you believe the statement about four times as many deaths are caused by air pollution as traffic accidents? That is a profoundly unlikely statement. You can check with the Executive Director of the SJ Valley Air Pollution Control District, or look at the underlying EPA sponsored study of the projected effects of PM2.5. The study is pitiful. It is not a valid epidemiological study and I had to write to the EPA several times over 9 mos to get them to even identify the study. I do not expect you or Frankel to actually look at the details of such claims, but they are extraordinary, and you should not use them to justify a brand of urban planning.

    The case is even more polluted with justification based on “curbing global warming.”

    The problem with SB 375 and AB 32 the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, is that it wastes substantial economic resources and results in meddlesome, useless ordinances like the illegal Stockton Green Building Ordinance. It is important for rational thinking “New Urbanism” folks to distance themselves from the outrageous contention that local urban planning is “an important step towards …curbing global warming.”

    In Stockton, we spent perhaps $2m on the still in process Climate Action Plan which is tied to noble endeavors like downtown in-fill. But most of the administrative funds were on useless studies and meetings and trying to estimate GHG emissions using methods that are perfectly unscientific. The effort was costly and meaningless. There is no way any resulting reduction in GHGs will have any effect on global warming. If you look at the numbers, the current proposal from the Stockton’s Climate Action Plan – based on AB 32 SB 375 – is a reduction of 91k MT GHG in Stockton vs 30,000,000,000k MT GHG emission globally, of which 1/2 ends up in the atmosphere, and that constitutes about 1% of the carbon exchange from all sources with the atmosphere each year.

    It is beyond senseless to make statements like any urban planning project will be “an important step towards …curbing global warming.”

    So, when you rail justifiably against the fringe of Agenda 21, save some of your breath for colleagues who make astounding claims about the benefits of urban planning based on helping the global environment or reducing the incidence of premature deaths due to a projected reduction in PM2.5s in our valley air. And realize then when I see a justification for urban planning based on such reasons, I think the advocates are as “misguided” as the anti-Agenda-21 folks.

    I support Stockton downtown infill. I live and work downtown, and have since 1976. I support critical thinking about urban planning and other public policy matters.

    • David Garcia
      March 13, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

      Hello Ned,

      Thank you for the thoughtful comments. You are right: while I write about the need for respectful discourse from the Agenda 21 crowd, this does not necessarily exempt policy makers from using arguments that are not justifiable.

      Regarding air pollution, there is no way to deny the link between air quality and mortality rates. This subject has been thoroughly reviewed. Here is a prime example, which has been cited by other peer reviewed work

      While I have never looked at the EPA study you mention (academic studies are generally more credible as they are peer reviewed), even if their study is flawed, there is a large body of literature out there that substantiates the links between air quality and mortality. I haven’t read any studies specifically looking at the Central Valley, but the link overall between pollution and mortality is clear, and the air in our region is by no means clean.

      As far as “curbing global warming,” I believe that urban planning plays a huge part, and environmentally, it is hard to argue that better planning does not help the environment. There is plenty of literature that shows more compact cities use far less energy than sprawling areas. Brookings notes that residents living in larger, more dense communities have a smaller carbon footprint. Moreover, planning that allows sprawl also creates more run off, further polluting waterways. Therefore, better land use policy is a key way to “curb global warming” and protect the environment by making the most efficient use of finite resources, such as open space. Sound urban planning principles are needed to reduce pollution, I don’t think New Urbanists would agree with your claim that environmental concerns are not related to urban planning.

      With that being said, I can’t speak on Stockton’s own GHG reduction efforts, you probably know much more than I do. SB 375 has plenty of flaws, no argument here. The part that is most intriguing to me are the incentives given for infill and transit oriented development, which I think can help Stockton in the future with redevelopment of existing areas. Are there issues with the law? Yes. Some think it doesn’t go far enough, while others think it’s too prescriptive.

      • Ned
        March 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

        Before I offer some reflection on your comments to me, let me offer my observations about the anti-Project 21 folks, ICLEI, and government subsidized energy efficiency programs. You are getting many comments from the anti-Project 21 folks. I was totally unsuccessful in getting anyone from the American Policy Center, a prominent anti-Project 21 organization, to get back to me despite multiple phone calls and written requests. Accordingly, my opinion of the anti-Project movement is down there with … ICLEI. Actually, ICLEI and the EPA made some efforts to respond to my requests for information about the basis of their models. After long importuning and many “incorrect” statements by ICLEI, Stockton City Staff and the EPA, the bottom line is: the ICLEI model for estimating GHG emissions has been approved by the EPA, but the EPA has no empirical study or evaluative report supporting the validity of the ICLEI model. ICLEI despite its first statements to me has no such studies. The City of Stockton, which used some ICLEI models etc, has no evaluative reports. The same is true with ICF, the current GHG modeler. These GHG inventory models have not been validated. If you look at the GHG inventory calculations will see they do not comprehensively attempt to measure GHGs nor could they approximate actual GHGs. Furthermore, neither ICLEI nor ICF made the detail of their computations available to me, so they are opaque. These are political models not scientific ones. David, if you worked with the ICLEI models, compare them to traffic models which are empirically validated. That does not exist with the ICLEI or the ICF models so they are worthless. The anti-Project 21 folks are fully justified to be skeptical of the ICLEI models.

        Your response to Roberta about ICLEI and energy efficiency is not correct. ICLEI and the multitude of similar consultants cost the city and taxpayers money that could be used for direct, tangible benefits such as planting trees, or supporting local staff. The Stockton City Council in July 2010 approved payments to ICF, which took over from ICLEI, of $881,000. The actual administrative costs for the Climate Action Plan activities certainly are over $2 million.

        You claim that ICLEI and its proposals necessarily save money because they provoke or mandate innovation and efficiency. That certainly was not the case in Stockton, and you need to examine carefully your belief that government subsidized or mandated energy efficiency measures result in net economic returns. The largest government energy efficiency retrofit programs do not yield net economic gains. For example, the PGE Low Income Energy Efficiency program that spends over $100 million of rate payer money each year does not show a net economic return. PGE in a letter to me confirmed is was essentially a welfare program. I have sought over and over again, valid studies that show true economic returns to such government programs, and I have not received back one study despite repeated claims, such as you recite, that there are net economic returns to all these energy efficiency measures. Net economic benefits from government subsidized energy efficiency programs is, in every example I have found, a myth.

        Back to your response to me. I appreciate your comments, but I hope you and your colleagues will stop and consider the wisdom of making exaggerated claims to support urban planning projects. It debases otherwise good planning proposals to justify those proposals by asserting, for example, that 4 times as many people die from air pollution as traffic accidents in SJV. It seems that your response to my call to condemn reckless exaggerations is to claim there is some (small?) truth to a related but different contention.

        For example, you seem to support (or not condemn) the wildly exaggerated rate of air pollution deaths in SJV by making the weak statement that air pollution is positively associated with increases in mortality and morbidity. You point to an abstract (I cannot reach the article), that recites the weak, easily accepted conclusion:

        “Adjusted relative risk ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) of all-cause mortality for the most polluted areas compared with the least polluted equaled 1.15 (1.09 to 1.22) and 1.17 (1.09 to 1.26) when using sulfate and fine particulate measures respectively. Particulate air pollution was associated with cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality but not with mortality due to other causes.”

        So the most polluted compared to the lease polluted, by some index (that I cannot determine) results in 9% to 26% higher mortality from two major diseases but not all causes of mortality. That is not an extraordinary claim. That is a very prosaic claim. In contrast, the claim that PM2.5 causes 4 times the death rate as vehicle accidents in SJV is an extraordinary claim, crafted I think to be sensational. You should condemn such exaggerations.

        I urge planners to avoid simplistic thinking and sloganeering. Perhaps you believe that density reduces energy consumption, incidence of lung and cardiovascular disease and global warming. What about urban density and exposure to pollution? As you increase urban density, you probably increase exposure to harmful pollution. More energy usage per capita in general is associated with greater life expectancy and many measures of welfare. These last two simple statements are true to some extent, and probably more relevant and cogent then your statements about density and energy consumption. The complex truth is a mixture of many factors that should be treated respectfully.

        It burns me to see planners justify urban project proposals by claiming it will help curb global warming. Ambient co2 has increased perhaps 100 ppm over 250 years, and now is perhaps 380 ppm. These are very small amounts, and the concern for global warming based on such small increases in co2 is extraordinary, especially compared to the known, true drivers of large scale climate change, i.e., the Milankovich cycles. The Milankovich cycles result from giant energy forces perhaps 75-150 wm2, and the current IPCC reports claim that perhaps there is radiative forcing from human GHGs of 1-2 wm2. See the comparison: 1-2 wm2 vs 75-150 wm2 that cause the glacial cycles. Anyone can see the giant difference…if they look at these very basic numbers.

        Again, you seem to believe that good urban planning will have some effect on the global warming, but I urge you to think more deeply and critically about that belief. Where is the evidence? What is your response to the numbers I cited about GHG emissions local vs world wide vs the carbon cycle? Even if you believed that GHG emissions at high levels (e.g. moving from 7 gigatons of carbon to 8 or 9; or from 2 wm2 to 4wm2) could, in the future, produce destructive global warming, the amount of GHGs subject to any land use decision, at least at levels we speak of, are absolutely, completely, totally, vanishingly small. If you try the math you will see it is not possible to overcome that very simple conclusion.

        It was painful to watch the Stockton Climate Action Committee worry about grains of sand and spend so much money and so much time on something that is absolutely meaningless in an attempt to “curb global warming.” It makes others – beyond the anti-Project 21 folks – worry about the thinking process that goes into urban planning that contains justifications based on global warming etc. And for some, the only explanation is a hidden agenda. Do you see the problem? Do you see why the anti-Project 21 “fringe” are so upset? Why do local planners bring in global warming and other irrelevancies?

        Focus on local, palpable, demonstrable planning, and you will be OK. The minute you talk about global warming or epidemiology, and you recite slogans, you raise all sorts of ire. Most of that ire is not deserved, but some of it is.

        So as I started out, think critically, skeptically and be alert to all the myths that need to be debunked. You and your blog are a great benefit to our community … and that is no myth!

    • David Garcia
      March 14, 2013 at 6:38 pm #


      That is certainly a lot of ground to cover, I will try and address your points. First, I don’t think I have made big claims about the ties between cities and global warming. If I have, it has been tangental and probably not par of a larger point I was making. I don’t think I touched on global warming in this post specifically because, as you and I can see, it is quite a complex topic, and many have decided not to accept it, and I don’t think I have the requisite knowledge base to convince anyone otherwise. I am generally a free market guy, so I try to make my arguments in favor of smart growth/new urbanism using a financial perspective. Personally, I do believe in climate change, but you are right, changes at the municipal levels probably are not going to make a very noticeable difference, unless all cities were involve. Addressing climate change is more of a federal concern.

      I admittedly am not up to your level regarding the science of carbon emissions, so if you say the EPA is flawed in their assessments, I will trust that you know what you are talking about. I have some contacts at the EPA, i might drop them a line and see what they say.

      I am of course against any “outlandish” statements emanating from either side of the argument. I would argue that most of the outlandish statements come from those who think good urban planning is a veiled attempt to impose socialism, rather than someone overstating the benefits of driving less. The former is far more incendiary, and I don’t think you can make a one to one comparison of statements between conspiracy theorists and urban planners. I am sure there are examples of urban planners misstating benefits, but they by and large are not filling town hall meetings and demonizing anyone as Stalinists. As I have said before, there are real critiques about urban planning, but we can’t hold a discussion about them with people who elevate their rhetoric so quickly.

      As for “government subsidized” programs, I am sure there are plenty of instances where the results were a net negative economically speaking. For example, a micro program targeting single houses is inefficient. The big ticket energy losers are large buildings, which can account for 75% of a city’s energy use (though these are much larger cities). Admittedly a far out example, but the Empire State Building was recently retrofitted for a savings of $4.4 million annually. The project itself cost $20 million, and at this rate the project will pay for itself in about 5 years. Retrofitting larger buildings is generally more cost-effective than new construction, and has the added benefit of reduced energy consumption.

      Further, while you have noted that the PG&E program under performed, there are other things a city can do that do result in net positives, such as planting trees on new lots (which I believe Stockton did for new homes until the program was cut from the budget).

      I am not sure where I said that ICLEI does not cost cities money, which you implied above. What I did say was that they are basically a consulting service, I never implied that there were no costs involved. So you are correct, money spent on developing sustainability plans could be used to plant trees. But I believe the city is required to come up with a plan, whether or not this is good policy is another discussion.

      I am glad we can have this discussion here, thanks for your insight, I find it very valuable.

      • Ned
        March 15, 2013 at 8:46 am #


        Thanks for all the exposure of this issue.

        Just remember, my point is that planners will provoke valid as well as invalid resistance when there are exaggerated economic, health or environmental claims that accompany planning proposals. I urge you and your colleagues to be skeptical of extraordinary claims within the context of local planning, e.g., PM2.5 mortality, global warming or the more plausible but untrue claims that there is demonstrated net economic benefits to premature retrofit and most subsidized energy efficiency programs. When planners use justifications like these, it invites resistence from those like me who actually read the basis of the underlying claims and try to evaluate their cogency, and well as resistence from those who simply see it as part of a larger, inimical movement (Agenda 21).

        So, keep your analytical tools sharp; look for empirical studies to support important contentions (e.g. double blind, randomized studies); do not accept slogans; and be a little skeptical. You can see the “blow back” from using weak justifications for otherwise laudable projects. And continue to be on the look out to debunk myths.

        Thanks for maintaining your great blog.

  2. March 13, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    google ICLEI, this is agenda 21 tool, it is found in over 600 cities and has been giving the same solution to different problems, and anyone who deals with various problems knows with various problems comes various solutions of which iclei offers none. soft law only means you have to use persuasion and propaganda (and money) to get what you want under false guises. cities and counties are taking money thinking they are using it to implement these smart growth policies not knowing the full import of the consequences. and all of this is based on false enviormentalism and false global warming. I do not trust the so called highly paid experts to tell me what is what in regard to enviromentalism the climate or giving predictions 50 years or 100 years into the future.anytime you hear words like we can’t wait for the scinece or proof to come in we must act now, it means you better run for your life because they are using fear to implement what they know the science will not agree with and want to implement their policies before this happens.

    • David Garcia
      March 13, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

      Hello Roberta,

      Thanks for the comment, you have laid out a lot of thoughts here. It looks like your mind is set on global warming, I don’t think I can say anything or point to any research that will change your mind. So I will address your concerns with ICLEI, which is actually affiliated with over 1,000 municipalities nationwide in 49 states. You can definitely see a link between ICLEI’s goal of sustainable cities and the tenets of Agenda 21. However, ICLEI is not much more than a consulting organization that is hired by cities to help them address sustainability issues. Whether or not global warming is real, the strategies pushed by ICLEI help cities save a lot of money, which is the primary reason I believe cities turn to ICLEI and other organizations to help them develop plans to become more sustainable. If there was not a tangible economic benefit to sustainability, cities would not pursue it, regardless of the implications on global warming.

      Does the energy used to power a lamp post contribute to global warming? Maybe or maybe not. But either way, upgrading lamp posts with more efficient lighting technology can potentially save a city hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs. Or for example, retrofitting an old city building with better insulation will save taxpayers huge sums of money, whether or not it does anything to help the environment. These are simplistic examples, but most if not all sustainability plans can help a city realize some type of long-run cost savings. If these types of tactics save us, the taxpayers, money, why shouldn’t they be implemented? And if it turns out to help the environment, then that is a bonus, right?

      I argue that cities would not turn to ICLEI to help implement these strategies if it did not make financial sense. I think cities are happy to be helping the environment, but above all, these measures save money. So, whether or not global warming is real, I argue that city leaders are making these decisions on sustainability because it makes financial sense (or at least they should be) .

  3. Jon Seisa
    March 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    As a designer, I’m all for urban revitalization and redesign, greenbelts, bike paths, pedestrian oriented urban redesign, community friendly environs, plazas with fountains or reflecting pongs, public sculpture, new public works projects; and enhanced leisure and entertainment venues; and the facilitating of the cultural arts, new museums and science centers; new institutions brought into city cores; and new design strategies to generate vibrant inner city exchange, an economic regenesis and new business development in our American cities, like Stockton; and even “infill” and the current mixed-use trend in design (though I object to its cookie-cutter aesthetics of low value and redundancy) or what I would rather call “urban enhancements”—– but unfortunately, we keep reading of Agenda 21 horror tales, where in fact the UN language speaks in no uncertain draconian terms of its powerful intrusion on the municipal, local and private land ownership level in the U.S.

    Here’s a perfect example:

    And these protestors objecting to Agenda 21… why are they being branded and labeled as obstructionists and silly, or even ‘fringe’? Aren’t they just “Concerned American Citizens”? Why the negating labels? I’m just curious, here. Are they not “American Taxpayers” whose hard-earned taxes are footing a significantly major part of the U.N. operation bill? Their tax monies fund 22% of the U.N. regular budget and 27% of the U.N. peacekeeping budget, as well as these U.S. government sponsored programs. Should not their voice be seriously considered with great weight and concern, and the proper adjustments made to the U.N. policies?

    If there are problems red flagged with Agenda 21, then obviously doesn’t it make sense that these things need to be readdressed and revised so there are no infringements upon anyone’s rights or freedoms, or individual private property ownership? Personally, I would never impose on a paying client my personal dictates and completely discard out the window their desired criteria. This makes no sense.

    • David Garcia
      March 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      Hello Jon,

      Thanks for the comment. You are confusing those with real, legitimate concerns about urban planning and sustainability with those who shout down city officials at town hall meetings and protest mundane municipal decisions. As you will recall in my article, Frankel was heckled for simply implying that walking is a good thing for people and the environment. She was compared to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. These would constitute as “negating lables” and “obstructionist,” wouldn’t you?

      There are certainly “concerned American citizens” with legitimate concerns about urban planning and sustainability, but unfortunately it is difficult to reasonably address these concerns when there is such a vocal minority dominating the conversation. All planners should be happy to talk about any issues that come up with any planning or policy decisions, but not when we are being compared to socialists.

    • March 15, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      I was just thinking as I read your comment that sometimes things happen in peice meal and it is hard to connect the dots. for example the use of the spotted owl fiasco to destroy whole towns in the west (so the feds can take over it completly?) agenda 21 is peice meal, gradually do something and most people wont notice it, around here, maybe related to agenda 21? they are telling people around here what they can and cannot build for example up the street used to be a pretty big milk farm, a mennonite farm, they are telling buyers they have to maintain at least one acre (not that I want more condense housing let me tell you I hate cites by the way) in one way it is saving green space in another they are telling private property owners what they are allowed to do, but I have to give them credit for telling people this before they buy the land, but then the original owner is stuck with land he can’t sell. he would like to sell it but can’t get a fair price for it. so he keeps it and pays taxes on land he doens’t want, he said he needs the money as part of his retirement. so he has owned the land for many decades before they changed the zoning on him, which to me is unfair. in the outer banks they are having a hard time as well, the piping plover breeds there only when it’s numbers overflow according to the bird society (can’t spell adabon?) based on the map in my guide book. yet they are using it to prevent people from using the beach in such large swatchs of area that it is like a desert, which is sad really, (that is if they find one nest by the way) it equals the size of several football fields. a small bird like that doens’t need that much and they can just put a fence (like they did for the turtles (I know I fished next to one last year) that way people won’t walk all over it. most do avoid them simply because they are considerate but there are always a few who are not. by the way I am a bird lover so I have nothing against helping them I do however have something against those who would use that concern to destroy livlihoods under false pretenses.

      • David Garcia
        March 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm #


        These are legitimate areas of concern, and I agree with a lot of your points. I don’t like how the protection of animals are used as means to an end. There are certainly instances where protections are needed, but too often protections are not sought because of the species, but instead as a way to control land use.

        Regarding zoning, we can agree that the city shouldn’t be moving into farm land, at least not at the rate we saw in the 2000s. I agree that zoning is a big problem, not just for farmers but for developers in the city too, and these rules should be refined. Is there a perfect balance between letting people do what they want with their land and preventing the spread of suburban development into farm land? No, but there are better options. There are some places that employ a policy known as the Transfer of Development Rights that allows farmers to profit from the sale of land within the city for developers to develop, which allows farmers to make money and gets developers to build within the city. I talked about this in an earlier article, here is an excerpt:

        “Transfer of development rights
        While zoning to prevent growth does not allow landowners to profit from the sale of their property, the transfer of development rights (TDR) solves this problem. In a TDR program, a farmer can sell their rights to developers in areas of the city slated for higher densities. Essentially, farmers still get the money from the land, and also get to keep farming it, while developers are allowed to build in areas which the city feels would be better suited for development, preserving open space.

        This strategy works better than regular zoning as it relies on market forces to redirect growth. The concept is fairly simple, but the details are complex. Here is a thorough breakdown of everything a TDR program entails.”

      • Jon Seisa
        March 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        Oh, Robert that’s so sad, I just don’t even know what to say.

        I don’t really know if A-21 is affiliated with this; but I certainly can see the logic to your suggested rationale regarding the frog in the simmering pot strategy, gradually increasing the temperature unnoticeably until he is cooked to death, unknowingly.

        I’m all for preservation of nature and the natural environment, nature reserves and protecting rare endangered species, but within what is reasonable, and that is what is key, but seemingly has gone out the window. What is occurring here by your account seems so draconian to the human factor when the two worlds collide and people get the short end of the stick, particularly the strange policies now being imposed against their own property that they worked so hard for years to obtain and maintain. That poor man, so in the end his long anticipated dreams of retirement are horribly dashed due to environmentalism gone amok. This is just tragic. Again, I don’t know what to say.

        You have to wonder whatever happened to ordinary common sense and rationalism. I have a friend who lives outside Eureka in the Redwoods, and she relayed to me the daily protest drama that she witnessed and had to negotiate around to and fro her property that transpired during the tree-sitting incidence with the eco-activist named “Butterfly” against the forestry company farming and cleaning out old growth trees to eliminate unnecessary kindling for forest fires. This was the same crowd that went up to Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization conference weeks later. Apparently, these people were quite hypocritical; my friend humorously noted that at the bottom of the hill from their tree sitting affair was parked a massive swarm of all their gas-guzzling-ozone-annihilating SUVs, big Dodge Ram trucks, motorcycles and Ford vans, all made by corporate giants, and they all chitchatted on cell-phones, made possible by corporate trade and manufacturing, and strewn throughout the area were candy wrappers, empty water bottles and cigarette butts. We weren’t surprised.

        This irrational logic was also exhibited in the environmentalist enclave Laguna Beach about 11 years ago, or so, when it was the site of an awful conflagration that burned down many residential homes in the north part of the seaside town. I was in Laguna to see a client the day the fire began and it raged onward into the subsequent week; and as I drove northward out of town I could see the vast extent of the black smoke and spreading fire amongst the hillsides. The firefighters were at a sever disadvantage when in the middle of their efforts the water pressure significantly plummeted to a trickle rendering their task completely useless, so they could not save many homes at all, and they shifted to an evacuation plan while the water-tanker air assault took over. As it turned out, the grave extent of the damage need not have happened. In the decade prior, the environmentalist of Laguna fiercely shot down a proposed plan to construct a reservoir in an adjacent steep uninhabitable canyon that would have easily and timely provided the necessary water pressure to combat the fire. So instead, their homes burned down to the ground into smoldering heaps of ashes, and the city is still vulnerable to this day for a repeat calamity.

  4. Jon Seisa
    March 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Well, I am certainly not an advocate of negative labeling on either side of the fence, I think it denigrates and acts as a red herring to divert focus off the issues, which is why I pointed it out, and I think it’s unproductive despite what factions engage in it… and I certainly do not endorse heckling municipal leaders as was done to Frankel.

    Specifically, my post was merely pointing out that if the Agenda 21 is so ideal, despite how noble the core endeavor, then why has it produced such unsettling reactions that anyone in their right mind would find quite disturbing? I really don’t know what to think of such reaction, other than just pointing it out that it is real and exists. Clearly, this is a symptom that conveys something is skewed and needs to be addressed, not swept under the carpet with political bias or favoritism. If there are some aspects to it that need refining so that it can become a win-win situation for all involved, then obviously that course of action should be pursued and built upon to produce a conducive dialogue to generate positive and constructive results for the development of smart growth and pragmatically designed communities that meet all people’s needs. If there are unforeseen inherent negative aspects to Agenda 21 that are rubbing people the wrong way, then perhaps they need to be revised with more positive results.

    So was your tweet, “I am disappointed that it took my Debunking Agenda 21 post over 24 hrs to get its first conspiracy theory commenter” in reference to my mere comment?

    • David Garcia
      March 14, 2013 at 5:42 pm #


      First off, the tweet was not directed at you! It was in response to the commenter above who railed against ICLEI. I was surprised I did not get more Agenda 21 folk commenting on here, considering how much flack Frankel received.

      So you are describing a scenario where people with legitimate concerns are being marginalized, and this would indeed be a problem. However, I am talking about those who assume that any attempt at say, historic preservation, is part of a UN-sponsored plot. To my knowledge, no cities are actually implementing Agenda 21, in fact the vast majority of city planners had no idea it even existed. It is for all intents and purposes a Red Herring. Further, it has been my experience that those who rail against Agenda 21 are not interested in a civil dialogue, but instead have already made up their minds.

      So in sum, there are plenty of real issues surrounding planing policy, and planners should be willing to address concerns regarding these policies. Part of the planning process, if done correctly, involves both incorporating public feedback as well as the dissemination of information. These attempts to create an inclusive planning environment are subverting, however, when we are confronted with vitriol such as was directed toward Frankel.

  5. Jon Seisa
    March 15, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    Well, your point is well taken; thank you for the clarity. And I really think your final point is even stronger regarding education on the issues of Agenda 21 so there are no misinterpretations on both public and municipal levels. If cities, as you say, do not even know it exists, and if Frankel were versed in its finer points, then the unfortunate exchange could have been neutralized by her, despite its implimentation or not on a municipal level.

    Apparently, the Lodi and Alabama reactions to Agenda 21 are not unique. Though the main stream media has been relatively silent on the matter, there appears to be a mounting backlash effect in the U.S. to this U.N./Rio protocol. Here is an unbiased piece by LAM (Landscape Architecture Magazine):

    I’m more in alignment with this analysis, though as a design visionary and one versed in trendscoping and analysis of societal indicators, as a former editor-in-chief of an in-house trend monitor for a Fortune 500 company, as well as a history buff who cautions on the side of rationalism when precursory indicators point to the reemergence of historical social experiments gone horribly wrong, I must say I sense something quite sinister on the horizon regarding the ultimate goals of Agenda 21 that the common foot soldiers in the trenches are not privy to.

    I don’t want to negate your quest to improve Stockton, this is a very humble and honorable passion in you. I’m all for this, since it’s my birthplace and childhood hometown, as well. I, too, see great potential for this city that is yet untapped, and your points regarding planning and partnership collaborations to make the positive changes are all well and good. But in regards to A-21, I sense another agenda not forthcoming by its creators, something entirely on another unseen level, a broader spectrum, if you will.

    In my brief analysis and ability to read in between the lines, this seems to promulgate the return to the feudal city state but without walls, wall-less, and with control overtones of “The Matrix” viewed as ‘conveniences’ and ‘resource management’ where the inhabitants will be completely unaware of their own imprisonment and their separation FROM nature, forbidden spaces beyond the beehive; where the individual is the prime target to be made sustainable; i.e. managed via new policy dictates, as if the human being is the cancer cell and the planned-opolis is the comprehensively designed cancer tumor. Cancer tumors emerge in a ‘biosphere’ (body-host) when the immune system detects cancer cell proliferation and therefore shifts into a mode to consolidate the cancer cells into isolated compact locations called tumors, a manner in which to manage the detrimental and adverse effects caused by the excessive spread and metastasis of the destructive cancer cells, a malcontent impinging on the integrity and survival of the ‘biosphere’.

    From my assessment, this is the rudimentary and unspoken principle behind Agenda 21… WE (the Human Race) are deemed the ‘cancer cells’ to be herded up into the heavily dense planned-opolis, beehives of neo-environmentalism utopias, having great limitations of mobility other than local and insulated mobility, for in the ecosystem WE are the THREAT to the greater environment, as perceived by the A-21 Social Engineers. This is my immediate and more sweeping indepth take and rationale on the matter that sees beyond the more common and visible aspects of “smart growth”, “walkability”, “greening”, “resource management”, “sustainability” and “streetscaping”, all seemingly noble pursuits, but mere decoys diverting from the greater agenda, concealed.

    For every cause there is an effect; then a counter-reaction, even retaliation against the former antiquated norms, then a new agenda or movement emerges to correct the past but affects the future in other ways unforeseen, even to its great detriment; and then this cycle repeats. Nothing is perfect, or new under the sun. So for the time this is the new tendency in city reconceptualization that the world is moving towards. But it’s really not new; it’s “utopianism” (and this time a “global neo-environmental utopianism”), which historically tend to be socialist experiments, like Sir Francis Bacon’s scientific socialistic utopia “New Atlantis”, or the more recent Industrial Age “Garden City Movement” of Sir Ebenezer Howard that birthed suburbia, or how the promise of Italian Futurism and its manifestos and grandiose visions of Monumentalism morhped into Mussolini’s Fascism. You cannot tell a book by its cover. Overall, I seriously advocate caution and suggest keeping one’s eyes acutely peeled with vigilance.

    • David Garcia
      March 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm #


      Lets set aside the argument about whether or not Agenda 21 is a good or bad idea and examine if there is anything to even fear regarding planning decisions here in the US.

      First, local and state municipalities are prohibited by law to be governed by regulations emanating from other countries. It is as simple as that. In fact the article you posted says just that; Alabama passed a law agreeing not to do what would have been illegal anyways. Moreover, A21 has absolutely no binding authority anyways, as legal experts here in Stockton have even noted. Further, the A21 language is vague, and has no real policy prescriptions, per what your article says. So even if someone wanted to make planning decisions based on A21, they would essentially be guessing, because the language is so vague.

      It sounds like you are accusing me and other New Urbanists of using words like “walkability” to mask our true agendas of social engineering? That is a pretty inflammatory statement. If you want to know what my “greater agenda” is when i discuss smart growth and walkability, it is to see Stockton reverse it’s decline and become a vibrant and prosperous city for families who want more suburban lifestyles as well as the younger generation and baby boomers who want more walkable communities. Stockton has the resources and advantages to develop into a city that can cater to families, millennials, and the aging population. I can assure you that when I write an article about adding more bike lanes or revitalizing a historic building, I am not secretly pushing some sort of socialist experiment.

      • Jon Seisa
        March 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

        No David, that is not what I’m saying. And yes, I know you are not promoting a secret agenda, not at all. I’m saying there appears to be a different agenda at the top that is concealed and separate from the perceived agenda in the trenches, your agenda, and the local hands-on affairs where you are coming from are genuine, sincere and noble, but I suspect the foot soldiers are not privy to the whole agenda and scheme of things, purposely, by design and by intentional strategy from the top to implement their true agenda, whatever it may be. My study of environmental design, my work with futurists on EPCOT Center, knowledge of art and design movements, their theories, manifestos and rationales, and environmental design theory merged with awareness of historical political movements are all apart of my mental thought process formations as a design visionary that gives me extraordinary insight and ability to cite within the fabric of culture and society niches, societal trends and emergent generational cycles. And I’m merely saying all these elements and factors come into play and are giving me indicators that make me extremely uneasy regarding the possible existence of A-21’s unseen broader spectrum and unpublicized ultimate purpose; and as a result, I merely recommend siding on the side of alert caution in terms of its bigger picture.

        I’m for urban revitalization, but within reason in terms of density issues, after all, highly dense and compactly confined Japan has one of the notoriously highest suicide rates in the world (30,000+ average per year), particularly amongst young women, and one of the contributing factors in suicides (and murder) is the effects of intrusive urban ambient noise infringing upon one’s private space. It is known that in pastoral and rural living suicide rates are substantially lower by comparison. Also, out-of-control clinical depression is Japan’s greatest public health issue (an annual 6.6 rate in reported cases), and 1 in 4 amongst adolescence/high schoolers. So there are quantifiable detrimental affects if excessive urbanicity becomes the norm. I find it extremely peculiar that knowing this via the U.N.’s own World Health Organization annual statistics that they have on the contrary developed a policy to encourage increased urbanicity density via A-21.

        So in the end what I’m saying is merely keep this all in the back of your mind as we prod forward towards more immediate local goals. I will say no more on the matter and focus on the immediate; and as far as Stockton is immediately concerned, I cannot agree with you more, these other issues are really far off into the future (I truly hope), and for now the city really does need infill development, what I would rather call “urban enhancements” or “urban renaissance” or “urban redevelopment” simply due to the fact that its inner core is so underutilized and abandoned in order to bring active vibrancy and interactive exchange back to its core. Strategic redevelopment is essential for Stockton’s rebirth, as well as strategic design vision.

        Right now my ONLY concern for Stockton is the QUALITY of that design be of a higher design equity, because I am not impressed with this hideous “cookie cutter aesthetics” being used in mixed-use design where all the designs are of a fractured hodgepodge nature, and all are identical from Houston to Hartford to Hoboken, looking identically the same in all cities, so much so that they are geographically indistinguishable; and this style does not have enduring and timeless longevity and will look COMPLETELY OUTDATED in 10 years time…. I reluctantly recollect the “Darth Vaderism” in architecture that was so trendy and prevalent in the 1970s with those atrocious behemoth black Mylar glass boxes that now add urban blight to our cities. And then what? Tear it all down? Build façade covers over the infill urban blight with its outdated 2010’s random-chopped-up signature look? Whatever happened to continuity in design? It’s like a horrible “Lego-Mentality” trend has invaded modern architectural design. Just because the functional strategy is mixed-use doesn’t mean the aesthetics and style has to be a grotesque mixture of façades, textures, finishes and materials all meshed and mangled into a behemoth monstrosity. (Sorry, this is my critical design side; I strive for higher standards.)


  6. Jon Seisa
    March 17, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    One more example…

    MIXED-USE DESIGN GONE TERRIBLY WRONG – This is the type of Lego-mentality hodgepodge mixed-use “architerrifying” design (deprived of all possible aesthetical integrity and coherent continuity) that I hope Stockton’s design approval committee are acutely capable to recognize and immediately subvert from ever materializing. I’m stunned that L.A. city officials actually approved this eyesore for construction, particularly since the final ghastly structure is identical to the ghastly architectural rendering which they pre-approved and it clearly conveys what the final outcome was going to look like, so there is really no room for excuses, dismay or shock. It’s theoretically great to integrate all these wonderful multi-functional mixed-use elements into a singular behemoth densely packed concrete edifice, but in the end it has to look pleasant and be aesthetically harmonious. I think architects need to abandon the mixed-use trendy style aesthetics and return to tried and true architectural design principles that are classic and enduring, even merged with innovative flair, as they simultaneously integrate the functional multipurpose elements of mixed-use into their designs.

    • David Garcia
      March 18, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Yikes, those are some pretty bad (and bland) examples. What do you consider a good example for a city to strive for? What do you think of places like Harbor East in Baltimore or the Navy Yard developments in Washington, DC?

      • Jon Seisa
        March 21, 2013 at 7:54 am #

        I’ll have to hunt for some good examples; they seem to be extremely rare. There appears to be two horrible trends in mixed-use style, the one I initially cited (“Legoland Gone Amok”), and a more subtle atrociousness, which I have to call “Westworld” (from the movie of the same name), being a Disneyesque/theme park approach, where these seemingly pleasant, but phony and dishonest, mixed-use communities cropping up look like quaint movie set façades masquerading as real architecture and real cities. I’ll post samples of this later.

        I’ll have to take a look at the Baltimore project; I worked on the Power Plant across the bridge from it.

        The Yards is okay; I give it a B-. I think it could have been more innovative and inclusive. Though mere post and lintel architecture, the glass structures on the waterfront are more interesting (but not award-winning spectacular) than the recessed mundane structures inland with that typical heavy Lego-look of infinite cut-n-paste photoshopped repetition and overemphasis on the rudimentary square windows, forever, as the main feature for lack of architectural details and having the appearance of business-industrial park architecture. Why anyone would want to live in a glorified business-industrial park environment is beyond me. The refurbished older historic structures are good as they will get, at least they won’t be torn down.

        The movement in real architecture is in curvilinear design. The Yards, on the contrary, are very boxy, very square and very angular in design with flat top roofs, straight across the board. One diagonally angled roof would have been nice, or a round or ovalesque structure to break up the monotony. The dramatic lattice pedestrian bridge is stunning, though, but sadly it is the only saving grace. I would have designed a broad Farmers Market Bridge that would have intentionally cycled pedestrians through the main corridor of the market to get them to the other side of the bridge (with their arms full of new purchases).

        Overall, the plan seems to lack sufficient seating, unless you want to sit on the ground, as well as shade elements from the natural elements of sun and rain, like kiosks and lattice canopies, and entry overhangs are scarce, just shear walls you walk up to when entering a structure; and there needs to be more intimate alcoves and courtyards, though the vast open spaces are well established. My favorite part is the asymmetry of the waterfront corridor park layout, but it needs focal points of interest to give one a reason to walk from point A to point B, like memorial monuments, sculptures, botanical gardens, reading garden, or fountains, rather than empty plazas and vacant vistas connected with pathways and a bridge to nowhere.

        The Yards’ major downside is its insulatory aspect of catering to a certain higher demographic income level, only, and having no significant venues (other than the waterfront park of leisure) to generate external influx and exchange, like a repertoire theatre, waterfront amphitheater, major cultural museum, maritime museum, institute of higher learning, or unique and exclusive commodity not found elsewhere, like San Francisco has Ghirardelli Chocolates.

        The one thing I find extremely odd and a gravely missed dramatic opportunity is the under sight to not take full advantage of the waterfront via a marine lifestyle feature and emphasis, after all, it’s called The Navy Yards. I’m speaking of the design of a dazzling retail-entertainment wharf with major fish market, seafood restaurants, etc.… that juts out INTO the water with an anchoring plaza along the park’s shore featuring a breathtaking modern white marble naval monument, and perhaps flanking and cantilevering waterfront condominiums on one side that stand on pylons to accommodate pedestrian walkways underneath them to not obstruct the flow of foot traffic along the waterfront esplanade, while a sheer waterfall sheet plummets off the structure into the Anacostia.

      • Jon Seisa
        March 22, 2013 at 12:07 am #

        I finally found a superb aesthetical cohesive and well thought out design style utilizing mixed-use in DC… it’s the “Chevy Chase Center”, having a blend of classical touches with modern appointment, tones and materials, though a small development, it brings it all together.

        Note the aesthetic continuity yet the diversity for needed distinction, but refraining from the heavy concrete blocky Lego look and chopped up hodgepodge. It is more sophisticated, tasteful and visually pleasing. It is very now, contemporary and honest and does not emulating a phony façade quality, like a movie set or make-believe theme park-ish lifestyle center.

        My only wish is that they might have incorporated some shade verandas, and more curvilinear features (though the office structure has one fabulous sweeping curvilinear façade which is very poignant), or an arched roofline or curved structural front façade top, or a rounded or cylindrical corner. But other than that this style is extremely pleasing, unified very harmoniously, and will not become awkward looking or dated in 10 years time due to a trendy look, because it has an enduring quality that can survive time.

        Also, the “San Mateo Bay Meadows Mixed-Use Development Phase II” is exquisite. I think there could have been more height variations, terracing and breaking out of the flat roofs, as well as a vertical structure or tower for orientation, but otherwise the façade designs are wonderful:

        Here are examples of the mixed-use styles that I cited as rather Disneyesque and fake, like a movie façade, where people will live atop a “themed-pedestrian-outdoor-shopping-mall-village”

        I call this one “Euro-Disneyville”:

        I call this one “Mary Poppinsville”:

        I call this one “Resurrection of Industrial Age NY Tenementsville”:

        I call this one “Artificial Americanaville”:

        The Carmel, Indiana, mixed-use development style, unfortunately, has succumbed to the dreaded “Replicator” with a lot of repetitive façade redundancy (though basically the quality of execution is excellent). However, the second image down of the mass of mangled and mixed concrete is just tragic. It’s very mountainous. I imagine (and this never addressed) that the downside to these voluminous developments may be the high risk of fiery conflagrations spawned from mattress businesses, dry cleaners, or restaurant kitchens on the main floor, possibly jeopardizing the whole edifice, including upper residential units, due to the unification of the structural compartments, like when strip malls burn down, one unit goes, then they all go, making one to really appreciate those separate single family dwellings in the suburbs:

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