Duany speaking to Downtown Sarasota Alliance


Andres Duany, noted urban planner who wrote Sarasota's Downtown Master Plan, is speaking to the Downtown Sarasota Alliance at The Francis, a new meeting venue on the ground floor of the Palm Avenue Parking Garage.

Duany, speaking to a sold-out crowd, and impressed by the relative youth of the audience, says Sarasota does not need to do the same things everywhere to make the city more walkable and inviting, or to fight suburban sprawl.

"What is cool about the city, you have dense urbanism, and then close by, especially to the south, a rustic village." But he is concerned about the rustication of the downtown landscape, done perfectly.

Let it be natural. Don't hyper-engineer, he says. Let the water drain through crushed shell. "In the old days, urban was urban and rural was rural, and people knew the difference." Now we are trying to add nature to downtown.

The downtown landscaping is beautiful, but it will take love (and money) to maintain it, he said.

Red tape is slowing up development and progress, he said. "We have lost our minds what it takes to get a permit today," he said. He proposes "pink codes" to ease up on the red tape and empower young people to make their mark and change the community. Regulations are too strict. We need to let the young design like Paul Rudolph once did. Government has extinguished the ability of "people to just do things. No one can do anything without government help. Government has ... gold plated the standards. It is completely ridiculous."

People don't resent government, he said, as much as they resent bureaucracy.

He said 1974 was the cutting-off point for creativity and enterprise. Before that, government help was not essential for building or doing other great things.

The climate change ship has sailed, said Duany, two weeks ago in a speech in Atlanta. Climate change cannot be stopped, he said. What must be done is adapt to it, locally and regionally, by providing self-sufficiency -- sheltering against higher tides, growing food locally, providing local security. New Urbanists are concerned with carbon and rising sea levels, he added. "Carbonists" and "hydronists" are at odds. Hydronists say water must be stringently saved and gotten into the aquifer or we will run out of water.

Duany was at a luncheon today in which there was a "religious obsession" with getting water into the ground, and then into the bay, as cleanly as possible. "This is trumping other concerns."

Having to control rainwater on a small lot downtown with a retention pond is a big problem, he said, restricting development of these small vacant parcels, he said. It is no problem in a suburban subdivision where ponds can be built easily. The new codes need to change this, putting walkability (and preventing carbon emissions) ahead of water concerns.

The county 2050 plan, "which is about to be thrown out, is not worth administering. It is yielding suburban sprawl. It is not about building cute places. It is about the fundamental human right not to starve to if you don't have a car. Half of America does not have a car -- too old, too young or too poor. Being told "get a ride" is a real void in a sense of fairness." He said that if those in wheelchairs must have perfect access to a public building, then why must people without cars be denied walking access to necessities?

Environmentalists don't compromise on wetlands, he said, and developers aren't complaining because they don't object to sprawl.

He tells a story about how a public clubhouse was approved on a beach in Australia, right in front of a row of mansions. How was it done? "The way Americans do it incites small mobs," Duany was told by the Aussies. There, a large random sample of people are educated about the pros and cons of a project, and then the affected neighbors are invited to weigh in, and then the city council is advised. In the U.S., only the affected neighbors are empowered to speak in public on a project, and they will object to it. Result: An undemocratic blocking of progress by a minority.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: June 19, 2013
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