December 31, 2014 2 Comments
On this New Year’s Eve, it’s worth reflecting on better city making and some New Year’s resolutions as we go forward. I have been inspired by an article Brent Toderian (who recently visited Perth from Vancouver and joined us for a walk around Fremantle) wrote this time last year. I have taken some of his core ideas and given them a Freo focus.
2014 has been both a hard and challenging year for Fremantle. Yesterday swimming at Bathers Beach before having a meal at the new Bathers Beach House, I couldn’t help but feel that Fremantle is truly becoming even more vibrant and liveable. a packed vibrant Bathers Beach was barely imaginable a few years ago, let alone the most popular skate park in Australia. In 2014 we’ve worked with challenges and successes, and with frustration and fatigue, but always with a passion that keeps driving us forward as a community.
So this year, as West Australia/Australia struggles with fiscal cliffs, patterns of urban sprawl and its ecological and social damage, and an irresponsible lack of action on climate change, we in Freo can focus on where real success, real progress, has been occurring for a while – in cities and city-regions.
Here are a handful of resolutions for our community to hopefully embrace. They aren’t unique – we all know what they are, and any of us could write them – but like resolving to lose weight each year, it’s the doing that counts, not the uniqueness of the resolution. If we can make these real in 2015, we would truly make our cities better:
- We resolve to come together as a community that cares about Fremantle, to put aside decade old differences, and finally break the silos that keep us from achieving holistic, complete city-building.
- We resolve to set better goals, and better measure the RIGHT successes, rather than optimizing the wrong things. Smart density, not sprawl. Shorter, smarter trips, with everything we need closer. More parks and public places that more people visit, and stay in longer. The key is to be clear, and to honestly measure success over time. In many cases, we’ve been busy measuring the wrong things.
- We resolve to not just increase density, but to do density better! With beautiful (but not necessarily more expensive) design, walkability, mix and completeness, amenities, and housing and population diversity.
- We resolve to push for sensible transport investment in our region. It is tragic when the biggest single road project in Perth’s history – the freight link – will only encourage more freight onto roads instead of rail at the same time investment in public transport in our region is at a standstill.
- We resolve to stop feeding, or accepting, the unhealthy and distracting “war on the car” rhetoric, and inspire our cities with what true multi-modal cities can achieve. All ways of getting around work better, including cars, if we emphasize walking, biking and transit!
- We resolve to address key social issues like mental health and homeless, not just because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it actually saves us money in the longer term, but because it diminishes all of us when these issues aren’t properly addressed.
- We resolve to stop accepting “false choices” that are dumbing-down our conversation about how to building cities. Heritage preservation OR smart growth. Good planning OR job creation. Beautiful design OR affordable design. Good city-making doesn’t play these false choice games.
- We resolve to stop using the eight most frustrating words in the English language – “we could never do that in our city!”. Great cities made good and often hard choices and stuck with them for years if not decades to see their benefits come to fruition.
- Lastly, we resolve to be not just involved in, but absolutely integral in, the broad conversation about the future of Freo. And at the same time, we all need to listen and learn a lot better.
This list isn’t intended to be comprehensive. But I was inspired to share them with you because I’m inspired by the year we could have together, our community of people who love and care about where Fremantle is going and the broader leadership we can show.
By half way through 2015 there isn’t going to be a Fremantle Council or East Fremantle Council but there will be a greater Fremantle community and that is why it is all the more important in 2015 that we step up and constructively engage in Fremantle ‘s future. Feel free to add more, to contribute and debate, but most importantly, to passionately participate this year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(Much of this article has its origins in Brent Toderian’s post at http://www.planetizen.com/node/59985 Brent is an international consultant on advanced urbanism with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS and his ideas are well worth checking out).