Yeah, why call it “Places for Everyone?”
First of all, there are many inherent characteristics of urban places that instantly appeal to nearly everyone; this will be the topic of many posts.
I also have a strong preference for policies and places that value *public* benefit rather than the tastes of a privileged few. I also admittedly disdain “view” neighborhoods that have entirely privatized views; whenever I walk through hilly neighborhoods where homeowners enjoy incredible views of both glaciated peaks and the Portland skyline, I always wish that just *one* lot would be reserved as a place for the public to also enjoy the view.
Transportation will also be a major topic of this blog. I believe that public transportation systems cannot be considered highly successful until they appeal to people of *all* incomes, abilities and types.
In his famous TED talk entitled “Why buses represent democracy in action,” former Bogotá, Colombia Mayor Enrique Peñalosa stated what soon became one of the most shared transportation planning quotes of all time: “An advanced city is not one where the poor use cars, but rather one where the rich use public transport.” He further explained that the goal of “development” is to create such strong public infrastructure (in this case, a fast, clean, reliable bus network) that everyone will happily use it.
I also believe that cities should welcome anyone who wants to live in any neighborhood. In fact, www.citiesforeveryone.com redirects to this site. San Francisco is anything *but* a city for everyone; its median home price is well over $1 million. I worry that Seattle, Portland and many other popular cities are headed this way.
Housing will be a major component of this site. I believe that shelter, food and clean drinking water is a basic human right. There is *way* more than enough abundance to go around, but inequality continues to increase. Here are a couple numbers that might keep you up for a few extra minutes tonight: even a moderately sized U.S. metropolitan area of one million people will always have at *least* 100,000 unoccupied bedrooms every night of the year. Surely there is a “place for everyone.”
Perhaps the ultimate “place for everyone” is the free public library; it’s an iconic American invention (by none other than Ben Franklin). It’s a public amenity in the truest sense, and to me, a community is not at all strong if it does not have a strong, well loved and supported library.
Shorewood, Wisconsin, where I grew up, is one of the most walkable “complete villages” in the U.S., and its public school system is phenomenal (it doesn’t hurt that a major public research university with 28,000 students borders Shorewood). Not surprisingly, Shorewood also has a very popular, highly updated public library.
A recent gift to the library represents to me a tremendous advantage of a major public amenity over one accessible only to the wealthy few: A woman who loved the library decided to buy a brand new very expensive train set (at $1,000, it was built to last) as a donation to the library. It is constantly swarmed with delighted kids. She knew the value of great public benefit; had she bought it for her grandkids, it might have been enjoyed for a week or a year by a few people.
Libraries are also great meeting places that foster community, offer free classes and book clubs, and post neighborhood events, among many other obvious benefits. A good library is also open every day, which Shorewood’s is; otherwise, is doesn’t really serve everyone.
So, that’s just a small taste of why “everyone” is such an important part of the focus–and title–of this blog.