Urban Planning

What is the actual reason American Cities are bad at urban planning? (Thread 2) : urbanplanning

(Original Thread)

I already made a thread about this, but I didn’t really get the answer I was looking for. I’m not looking for big-picture answers like racism, lobbying, or what urban planners did in the 1950’s. I’m looking for what specific entities control urban planning and why they make the decisions they do.

For example, a town’s zoning board makes decisions about setbacks, home types, and lot sizes. That is one element of urban planning. However, in the previous thread, many people said engineers were responsible for ‘bad’ decisions (1, 2), so the question is then what types of decisions do engineers make and through what entity do they act?

To illustrate what specific questions I was trying to ask, I made a comparison between 2 different spots in the same city, and asked what government entities are responsible for contributing to those differences.

Picture 1

Picture 2

In picture 1, the sidewalk is wide and directly connects to buildings in either side of the street. The road is narrow and has a median with several crossings for pedestrians throughout. In picture 2, the buildings are far away from the road and there is a large distance between the sidewalk and there are large spacings between buildings.

From this, I have the following questions. I am NOT asking for the big-picture WHY these decisions were made, I am instead asking what planning entities are responsible for making the decisions and how they were implemented.

  1. What specific entity is responsible for the width of sidewalks, the width of roads, and adjacent features (i.e. roadside angle parking, pedestrian medians, colored sidewalks, etc)

  2. Why are all the buildings in Picture 1 directly next to the road while the buildings in Picture 2 aren’t? According to the town’s zoning regulations (Link to regulations), and map ((Link to map), the only difference between the B-3A commercial zoning in Picture 1 (Link to zoning around Picture 1), and the B-2 commercial zoning in Picture 2 (Link to zoning around Picture 2) is a 10 foot minimum setback from the street, and a 10 foot minimum setback from buildings on the side (Page 20 of regulations). Considering that strip malls can contain multiple storefronts within the same building, and that 10 feet is less the width of the sidewalk in Picture 1, why does Picture 2 look so drastically different than picture 1 in terms of the density of buildings and how far buildings are from the road

  3. To what extent can the zoning board constrain developers. For example, in picture 1, the apartment (Apartment link picture) is 4-5 stories tall, takes up almost the entirety of it’s parcel, and utilizes a parking garage to maximize spatial efficiency, all elements that make sense in a dense downtown surrounding a train station. In contrast, multi-family zoning on similarly sized parcels (Link to area I’m talking about) has resulted in apartments that take up a much smaller portion of their parcel (Link to zoning map of this area) , that use space-inefficient parking lots, and have no connection to a sidewalk. Presumably, there was some sort of constrain imposed on the apartment in Picture 1 that these apartments weren’t subject to.

The pictures and town chosen for this was completely arbitrary and I used it to demonstrate what my questions were.

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