Hannah Arendt, 1:9:90 rule and greening the city

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sat, 12/06/2008 - 10:37.

"Revolutionaries do not make revolutions. The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and then they can pick it up." - Hannah Arendt

It seems to me that Cleveland could be on the verge of a greening trend. Several ideas converged for me yesterday as I sat listening to Bobbi Reichtell, Terry Schwarz and Fred Collier present their plans for Reimagining Cleveland to the Cleveland Planning Commission. They offered a pattern book

This fall while visiting family in southern New Hampshire, I visited the Hampshire Country School. The beautiful grounds of this 1700 acre boarding school held a story - the story of the invention of dressmaking patterns. The story is here: Butterick's History. Yes, a woman launched this idea that revolutionized dressmaking and fashion worldwide.

Butterick's wife was pretty darn good example of the the 1% of the  The magical 1:9:90 rule to crowdsourced placemaking.

As I listend to the presentation and exchanged glances with the many urban growers and urban agriculture advocates who were in the room because their "chickens and bees" idea was being discussed again by the CPC, I realized that this was the 9% who would rate, edit or vote on it. But my thoughts were already moving to the 90% who would use the result. I was already dreaming of a city that would change building ordinances allowing at first and then requiring residents and business owners to disconnect downspouts. I was imagining a change in the city's policy that would demand that any and all future paving utilize permeable pavement wherever possible. (There's a lot of possibility.)

I imagined a website like this one, (Green Guerillas) where we read the stories of urban gardens. I imagined these concepts catching on in the inner ring suburbs and spreading to the exurbs.

I imagined that, lured by the greening of the city and the industriousness of urban youth engaged in growing and marketing their products, we would see exurban folk looking at their fuel bills and deciding to move to the city (even if they still felt they needed  an estate surrounded by vine covered high fencing and security guards). In Key West, many high dollar estates are walled, their private homes tucked into neighborhoods. They enjoy privacy, others only see the green fence. I imagined the day when exurban commuters with heftier bank accounts considered living in Cleveland along the valley or on the escarpment so they would not have to commute, their outlying estates becoming summer homes. They would be lured by the green city, those less fortunate had built. They would be just another part of that 90% who would use the idea.

I was dreaming, I know. But living in Cleveland, sometimes you gotta dream right? I can't wait til we get busy with that pattern book and refashion Cleveland. 

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Litt reports on "Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland"

I had been to an earlier meeting of the CPC on this topic and posted my thoughts above. Now Litt weighs in with his report on "re-imagining a more sustainable Cleveland. You can click the links in the above post to delve into the details.

At Friday's meeting, planning commission member Lillian Kuri suggested that the document could be revised to include a dramatic, large-scale planning concept, such as creating an "inner Emerald Necklace" for the city.

"It would be good if there were one, two or three big ideas to galvanize" community-development groups, she said.

Schwarz said she favored what she described as the more practical, down-to-earth techniques used by the Dutch city of Rotterdam to rebuild itself after it was heavily bombed by the Nazis in World War II.

"Maybe we don't need a big vision of a preferred future," she wrote in an e-mail after the meeting.

"We'll save what we can and blend old and new into a new vision of urbanity."

Reichtell and Schwarz said they devised the plan in meetings with more than 30 city officials, community-development officials and members of nonprofit organizations.

They said their work embodied a wide range of views represented by the participants, although they held no public forums.

Nevertheless, members of the City Planning Commission, who voted 6-0 in favor of the new guidelines, were convinced that the document represents a smart way forward.

"This is more than a land-use plan you're asking us to adopt," said Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman. "This is a shift in culture."

I have to say that I agree with Terry on Kuri's "big vision"  suggestion. Long ago I worked with an arts consultant who was managing a group of whiny board members; he had just told them, in no uncertain terms, that their responsibility was to raise funds to support the organization's mission. They were looking at their shoes doing their best to dream up excuses as to why they would not ask friends and neighbors for support, maybe even why they could not give more themselves. An astute body language reader, Mr. Thorn offered, "Start where you are. It may seem impossible to raise a large sum, but you already have some assets - begin with those and leverage them to the hilt."

Our historic neighborhoods (with all their socioeconomic diversity and quirkiness) are our existing assets. The people who live in these sometimes restored, sometimes raggedy older homes, whose businesses are in these sometimes polished, sometimes raggedy old school storefronts are Cleveland's assets. So we, too, must start where we are.

Do we recall the effort to save the Breuer Tower from tear down and build green? It is the same damned principle. Don't tear it down if it can be saved, reused, repurposed - you get the picture, waste not want not.  Will we have the funds in the future to replace homes made of old solid timbers, constructed of bricks made right here? I doubt it. We're already well into Kunstler's Long Emergency.

When I corresponded with Terry Schwarz after the meeting I asked, "We're not gonna start willy nilly tearing down houses to create vacant land are we? She replied that she is very concerned about retaining and restoring Cleveland's historic built environment. She said - this is what keeps me up at night. So, we have an ally in this planning - Terry Schwarz. But we're gonna have to stay vigilantly in support of her efforts to retain the historic buildings in our town.

"Everyone is pushing to take down as many derelict houses as possible and I'm worried that we will eventually come to regret this. It's not just the City of Cleveland. Shaker Heights is demolishing two-family homes in significant numbers. And demolition is a key objective of Jim Rokakis' county land bank initiative. The historic value of a house or a neighborhood is not currently being factored into the city's demolition plans, at least as far as I know.

Ohio's statewide historic preservation plan (recently completed) does not mention the foreclosure crisis and only speaks of population decline in Ohio's cities in the most general of terms. I was on a review committee for the statewide plan and I submitted comments to the Ohio Historic Preservation Office twice to encourage them to address the potential impacts of large-scale housing demolition programs in Cleveland, Youngstown, and other Ohio cities. To no avail—the OHPO has not taken a stand on the steady erasure of the neighborhood fabric in Ohio's cities." 

If we have to flood the Landmarks Commission with applications, so be it. Get your history and preservation research thinking caps on. Sharpen your pencils.

This "big dramatic vs. small infill" issue reminds me of my years in the arts community and how the foundations created a competition between the big guns like CMA, Playhouse Square, CPH, the Cleveland Orchestra and small arts organizations and individual artists. The foundations seemed to want to give all their support to big plans and big visible arts efforts. Well, indeed, these institutions are important, and yes, we have several lovely brooches, but it is the individual artists and the small arts organizations which create the cultural fabric that is Cleveland. We can give all our attention to the big guns, we can polish those gems all day long if you like, but without a garment on which to pin them, they will languish in darkened safety deposit boxes visited only by their rich collector/hoarders.

Protect our built heritage, store it carefully when it is not in use and then wear proudly Cleveland's cultural heritage. These buildings tell our stories, the stories of Cleveland.

There will be plenty of vacant land - there already is...

I really doubt demolitions keep Terry up at night

Ultimately the thing in the comments from Terry above that matters is "they held no public forums".

As Ed Hauser would have said, "THE PROCESS IS BROKEN".

Terry's work and the work of other Foundation funded academics is being used to justify the SIIs, funded by the same people funding Terry.

One result of the Shrinking Cities Land Lab effort is the East Bank demolitions, done on their watch, and the Land Lab got funded by the Foundations to have a party on the graveyard.

I really think CUDC has lost touch with reality, in pursuit of funding.

Disrupt IT

Terry Schwarz on SmartCity Radio

Terry Schwarz talks about reimagining Cleveland toward the end of this radio interview, but listen to Sean Safford, too. He talks about his new book Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt

It made me wonder about the GCP and social networks that are too entrenched in Cleveland. Sort of a "when is a social network just a new name for an old boy network?" question.

Listen here: Shrinking Cleveland and The Garden Club


I listened until I puked

The first guy, Sean Safford, from University of Chicago, made sense.

And then all the Shrinking Cities, Cleveland Clinic crap from the tight networks killing Cleveland like Youngstown... done listening to their BS.

Show me the workforce to provide all local food service to the Clinic, as Case has proposed for themselves, as well... nothing like plans without solutions.

Disrupt IT

I already have permeable pavement on Denison

Waiting for the bus today, I noted that I already have permeable pavement on Denison and the side streets, down in places to the bricks with sand bases and open joints, down in other places to the gravel/screed/screenings bases and dirt.