Downtown Eugene

Monday, December 04, 2006

Meeting with the planners

In discussions today, some Eugene planners wrestled with these assertions:

1. Planning for Urban Renewal, for destroying places where people live and work, usually violates human rights.

2. This is an indigenous rights issue -- the same procedures which allow planners to destroy neighborhoods, and call it "renewal", are used to destroy larger cultures, and call it "progress".

3. You can't use the phrase "the community wants something different than the tenants" unless the community has actually been asked. Asking the tenants, one by one, is divide-and-conquer ... people do not feel free or empowered, in one-on-one discussions with powerful institutions like the City.

4. "Community vision" discussions are framed to exclude reality, through media presentations of architectural fantasies, discussions of space without discussions of real people and their organizations, etc.

5. Whenever someone says "wouldn't it makes more sense for X to be relocated from A to B instead?", one needs to bring to the foreground the reasons someone is already in A. This rarely happens.

6. While tenants and organizations may decide to move, they should not be pressured to do so. They should not be moved.

7. Yes, there is a growth model here: (1) support the existing tenants (2) support their organizations (3) help them maintain their space (4) give them collective decision-making power over their space (abuses are corrected by City Council oversight) (5) empower them to program the space, incubate new tenants, and determine whether their actions are positive and contribute to the whole. When they find the need to grow, they will improve and expand a space, incrementally. So, their organizational success naturally leads to building expansion. This is the way life works, and the way naturally vibrant cities emerge. Planning from the top down, by contrast, kills life, and the potential for it.

8. Participatory planning is not grassroots empowerment. Participatory development is. A downtown collective of tenants must be able to make small experiments to see what works, in reality. By contrast, a plan implemented by professionals, designed in a focus group, has no chance to succeed, and will only cause destruction.

9. This is not to say that there is no role for professionals. But they should be employed by empowered tenants. The tenants should not need to fight for their right to exist, in competition with professionals who "know what's best".


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