A Story Behind Every Street

Question: What are your favorite streets or public spaces in your city?

Behind every street and public space there is a story. A long story. How was the zoning approved? Which developer won the contract? What are the health and safety implications? How has the history and heritage of the space been preserved, modified, erased, or retold over time? How has the built environment affected the surrounding ecology? What mode of transportation is most favored by the design of the street — and who, as a consequence, does the street ultimately serve and prioritize first?

Does the street ‘fit’ into the kind of city where people would want to move?

And this is only the beginning… how do internal city politics between the Planning, Development Services, and Engineering departments work? How informed and involved are elected officials in the outcome of the street project?

Everything about every street is the result of human decisions. Who makes these decisions? Who holds these people accountable? How can we be a city with an urban design that works for everyone — both today and into the future?

The Panel

Shawn Adamsson (@late2game) is a local force of nature when it comes to civic engagement. He was a principle architect of the Pints & Politics series run by the Urban League.

Sara Bellaire is a Professor in the Bachelor of Environmental Design & Planning and Landscape Design programs at Fanshawe College. Her projects focus on blending the ecological and cultural attributes for creating sustainable design solutions.

John Fleming (@jmfplan) is the Managing Director of Planning and City Planner for London, Canada.

Streets

Streets are the connective tissue of human society. The spaces and places we inhabit are indelibly shaped by the sinews that join them to one another. Let’s build streets that prioritize human coexistence first, above sheer transit efficiency alone.

How much of an impact can the mayor of a city have on the community?

In this conversation in the Curious Public at Central Library series, Kate Graham (@KateMarieGraham) discusses her dissertation, Leading Canada’s Cities: A Study of Urban Mayors.

Kate is a PhD student in the Political Science Department at Western University. Learn more about her research at ‘Mayors Project,’ where she is exploring the role of the mayor in ten Canadian cities — the largest in each province — to understand the how the position varies and what this means for our cities and our country.

The City as a Condo

Once upon a time, a condominium was built.

The first residents to purchase units eagerly elected a board. It was the board’s responsibility to plan for longterm capital and infrastructure expenses. They calculated when the roof would need to be replaced and when the parking lot would need likely need to be repaved. They estimated the cost of landscaping, elevator repairs, and planned for some additional security system enhancements. Then, fiscal plan in place, they set the condo fee at a specified level for the first year.

How long before the condo fees would need to increased? Likely the rates will be increased in the second fiscal year. Why? Simply, nothing about the condominium becomes cheaper to maintain in the second year. Parking lots do not become a bargain to repair the longer they are exposed to the elements. Elevators do not cost less to fix as they get older. Utility lines and built infrastructure are not self-repairing. The cheapest year to live in the condominium is the year it was built. Condo fees must inflate with the inflated cost of the building itself: the capital fund to replace the roof in twenty years must raise more money than it costs to replace the roof today.

The condominium board must anticipate this year-by-year increase in operating expenses. By planning for small, longterm, incremental increases of a few percentage points each year, they gradually increase the annual fees to pace with inflation.

Now imagine that the residents elect a condominium board on the promise that they are going to stop raising the condo fees each year. If condo fees are frozen, they argue, more people will want to move in. And if more people move in, their condo fees will cover the shortfall from not raising current fees. More residents, richer residents, everyone wins!

Except that nobody wanted to move into a crumbling, shoddy condominium. And by adding more residents, the wear and tear on the infrastructure only increased instead of magically paying for itself. When new washing machines and dryers had to be installed to handle the greater demand, they were no less susceptible to inflationary maintenance costs than the old ones.

The entropy of bricks and mortar has no respect for one fiscal policy over another.

A city is like a big condominium.