David Sucher is a little late, for reasons he explains on his City Comforts blog. But he now presents an interesting critique of The Smart Growth Manual—a lively and sometimes trenchant book by Andres Duany and Jeff Speck with Mike Lydon that appeared in 2009.
When I reviewed the manual—a concise, 240-page paperback—in the January 2010 New Urban News, I observed, "Manuals are usually inoffensive and dull. Not this one."
On that point, Sucher and I agree. But whereas I praised the manual, Sucher, the Seattle-based author of the book City Comforts as well as the blog of the same name, finds fault with several of the arguments made by Duany, Speck, and Lydon.
A few of his criticisms:
• The book confusingly lumps hospitals, schools, museums, police stations, and a number of other kinds of structures into the category of "civic" buildings. Sucher argues that the authors "conflate public, private and civic."
• The Smart Growth Manual says rail corridors should be preserved for future rail use, not converted to trails, but Sucher says this ignores the usefulness of these corridors for bicycle commuting.
• The manual says uses such as drive-throughs, gas stations, and car lots should be in districts beyond the neighborhood edge, but Sucher thinks those uses may end up relegated to places occupied by people too poor to fight them off.
• The manual, in its prescriptions for order and tidiness, rules out "messy vitality," urban hustle-bustle, and some varieties of expression.
For all his disagreements with Duany and company, Sucher found the manual very engaging. Which of course is one of the tests of a good book.
For more in-depth coverage on this topic:
• Subscribe to Better! Cities & Towns to read all of the articles (print+online) on implementation of greener, stronger, cities and towns.
• See the March 2012 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. Topics: Traffic congestion, Zoning, DOT mainstreams livability, HUD's Sustainable Communities, Transit-oriented development, TOD tips, Form-based codes, Parking minimums, New classical town, Urban retail, James H. Kunstler, Placemaking and job growth, Maryland's smart growth.
• Get New Urbanism: Best Practices Guide, packed with more than 800 informative photos, plans, tables, and other illustrations, this book is the best single guide to implementing better cities and towns.
• See the January-February 2012 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. Topics: Value capture and transit, Social networks aid downtown, Live smaller, Rentals are market key, Streetcar inspiration, Box building, Civilizing suburbs, Alley houses, Sprawl repair, Healthy communities, Funding for infrastructure, Chicago River reversal.
• See the December 2011 issue of New Urban News. Wall Street and urbanism, streets to plazas, Sustainable Communities grants, Choice Neighborhoods, TIGER grants, buyers prefer smart growth, protecting historic buildings, public health and planning, redevelopment in Georgia, Ecovillages, parklets.