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The future of Placemaking and Urban Design

Brett Gawn's conversation with Local Government Magazine

  • 17 October 2016
  • Author: Brett Gawn
  • Number of views: 225
  • 0 Comments
The future of Placemaking and Urban Design

In May this year Local Government Magazine published an article on this topic. The article is a good read and can be found here. UDF committee member, Brett Gawn contributed to this by answering the following questions posed by Mary. 

When it comes to place-making and urban design how will the role of local authorities change over the next 10 years? What can local authorities do to make the most of these changes?

Good urban design and the creation of great places within existing urban areas often requires larger sites than generally exist within one lot or contiguous ownership. To achieve a good urban design outcome requires the aggregation of a number of lots to provide scale. The private sector has difficulty in doing this. Councils and or Govt may need to consider assisting with this by facilitating the aggregation of land into larger holdings and vehicles for development of those areas. (An example of this is the Tamaki Redevelopment Company.)

Another change I believe is for Local Authorities to be able to form teams of people from their various departments to work together both within Council and with the developer’s design team to work up master-plans for these larger development sites so that when formal planning applications are lodged there are no surprises for the LA or the community. Some of the learnings from dealing with Special Housing Areas needs to become norm for Councils.

Another change that I would like to see is a more macro and risk management approach to responding to development proposals – a bit less of inefficient sweating over minor matters. This would mean that an assessment of a proposal might start with the question “is this proposal on balance a good thing for the community?” If so – can the Council staff take a facilitative approach to working with the applicant to make it happen?

Councils are likely to face more standardisation over planning codes and guidelines through amendments to the RMA and National Policy Statements that will likely include urban design criteria.


In terms of placemaking and urban design, what are the 3 big issues that local authorities will need to consider in the next 10 years?  

o What challenges will local authorities face in achieving this?  

o How can they overcome these challenges? 

click read more to continue reading

Special Housing Areas - Success or Failure?

Ree Anderson guest speaker at the UDF AGM

  • 10 October 2016
  • Author: Duncan Ecob
  • Number of views: 215
  • 0 Comments
Special Housing Areas - Success or Failure?
Ree Anderson at the UDF AGM (29Sept2016)
When Did the Auckland Housing Crisis Start?
..... was the opening questions from Ree Anderson, the previous head of Auckland Council’s, Housing Project Office (HPO) when she addressed the Urban Design Forum. Over an all too brief, 40 minutes Ree explored the SHA, its successes and the lessons learned, leading to many questions and opinions from the floor at its conclusion.
  

Ree gave insight into how the Council took the initiative in developing the approach to deal with the planning system’s poor decision process through the setting up of the HPO. This was in response to the Housing Accord and Special Housing Areas Act (HASHAA) which intended to speed the delivery of new housing through an integrated planning response. The HPO was led by Planners, coordinating the inputs from all the stakeholders involved in the Plan Variations and resource consent applications under the HASHA. These stakeholders include those Council Controlled Organisations (CCO's) such as Auckland Transport, Parks and Stormwater (now known as Happy Water, sorry, Healthy Water).  The intention of the HPO was that the process was led by Planners with an outcomes focus, not a rigid approach to meet rules. The Planner was empowered to use judgement in achieving a positive outcome to address the housing crisis that Auckland is facing. Bringing in the CCOs who are responsible for the 'hard' infrastructure to enable development meant that everyone had a say, but the final decision was a balanced view of the Planner.

This was considered to be one of the key successes of the HPO although it wasn't tested robustly at the evening. Another key success was the integration of infrastructure and for this to be planned as a response to the emerging SHAs.
Lessons learned ranged from the need to manage expectations, especially with the Press, through to the fixed end-date of the HASHA legislation. The HPO could assist in delivering the land and boost opportunity but there is a construction industry that has to deliver on the ground and this needs further planning and capacity building from the private sector. This in turn lead to discussion on the need for central government to have social housing programmes that would give certainty to the construction industry and its supply chain outside the ‘boom' years . The intent to cease the HASHAA at the time that the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan was adopted was thrown a curve ball by the appeals against the Plan, with the result that the legislation has been extended until late December 2016, but no further.

Further questions remained around how the up-lift of land value can be captured through zoning changes for the benefit of further investment in infrastructure, and the role of the structure plan. Who leads the structure plan when landowners are focused on house numbers (the economic driver) and not the social, open space and transport infrastructure which add real value? Social infrastructure appears to be a major gap in much planning: who will provide health, education and community facilities seems to be an issue few are willing to tackle.

In all it was an enlightening evening; Ree has an abundance of experience which was eloquently shared and raised further questions for the Forum to discuss

UDF opposes Minimum Parking Requirements in Town Centres

  • 7 October 2016
  • Author: John Mackay
  • Number of views: 198
  • 0 Comments
UDF opposes Minimum Parking Requirements in Town Centres

The Urban Design Forum has submitted in opposition to an Appeal by the supermarket chains and other “big box” who are retailers seeking to re-impose Minimum Parking Requirements on the town centres that they regularly abandon when they set up, for instance, a new PaknSave on a nearby traffic arterial.  


The “Key Retail” Group’s appeal was only possible under the Auckland Unitary Plan legislation because the Council (the respondent) chose to stick with their originally notified intention to dispense with minimum parking requirements, despite the Hearing Panel’s recommendation that the requirements be re-instated for retail and commercial floorspace.   The Panel had been persuaded by the “Key Retail” Group that their precious carparks would be over-run by motorists, who would then wander down the main street to spend their money at a café which had no obligation to build carparks of its own.  

We believe that the appeal is not about managing their carparks - it’s about preserving the competitive advantage for their car-based development model over traditional (and stagnating) mainstreet centres. Removing the requirement to provide parking in centres could well be the game-breaker that enables intensive redevelopment with mixed-use residential to start happening.  That’s more likely to be what the “Key Retail” Group are worried about, rather than managing their carparks against people who may want to do some comparison shopping. 

We opposed the Appeal on the basis that “the imposition of Minimum Parking Requirements imposes unnecessary costs on developers, results in poor design outcomes, and is contrary to the principles of a free market.”  In the case of many mainstreet properties, also, it is physically impossible to meet the parking requirements because traffic geometry doesn’t fit within the dimensions or shape.  

We lodged as a s274 party to the Appeals in association with the NZIA and Generation Zero.  The risks are zero, because our position is not as extreme as the respondent Auckland Council, who are additionally trying to impose maximum parking requirements.  We just want to leave it to the market :-) 

A Simple Plan?

  • 2 August 2016
  • Author: Graeme Scott
  • Number of views: 542
  • 0 Comments
A Simple Plan?
The Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel’s recommendations to Auckland Council are clear, and as simple as they could be following the two-plus years of submissions/mediations/expert conferences and hearings involving almost everyone in Auckland’s design and planning community.  

Gone are the peripheral concerns around matters that are, or should be, dealt with by other regulations, such as dwelling and room sizes, ceiling heights, window sizes and insulation standards which, in the Panel’s view, are Building Code matters.  Arguments around socially aspirational outcomes (affordable housing, universal access) have been swept aside. The much debated rural-urban-boundary, following agreement by our national politicians that it’s a bad idea, has been predictably neutralised as an issue, although it’s still there in name.  Gone are the so-called urban design rules on such matters as garage door setbacks, windows to the street and front fence heights.  Requirements for parking on private land are, thankfully, mostly gone.

So, a simple plan; a plan that is, as they say, focussed on outcomes and integrated both vertically and horizontally.  By way of example, in the residential rules (the main area of my involvement), the outlook requirements from habitable rooms are now common to all the main zones, and I never did understand why, in the originally proposed plan, the mixed housing zones had yards and height-in-relation-to boundary-controls, while the terrace house and apartment zone had stepped setback dimensions to achieve much the same end.  All these zones now have a common set of rules, covering such matters as coverage, building separation, outdoor living and fences.

The Panel has taken the Auckland Plan very seriously, and has modelled their recommended plan on the principles set out in the 2010 document.  But more than that, it has actually delivered on the compact city vision, with almost 60% of the planned 422,000 dwellings over the next 30 years to be located inside the 2010 Metropolitan Urban Limit.  Some of the increase in the planned numbers above the originally proposed 212,000 came from mediated changes to the zone rules during the hearings process (it went up to around 296,000 as a result), but the huge increase to the present number appears to be largely a result of applying the zones differently on the maps.  Density around centres and transport corridors has been emphasised.

So this is the good news, but the other part of the Auckland Plan’s vision for the quality compact urban form is the “quality” part, and this is where the recommended plan encounters some difficulty.  While “recognising that the need to achieve a quality design is increasingly important as the scale of development increases”, the Panel’s report goes on to say “good design is based on principles rather than rules. Mere reference to good design or the listing of preferred design principles is ill-suited to a regulatory framework which imposes binary ‘grant/decline’ outcomes. Discretionary decision-making must be exercised on the basis of relevant and clear objectives, policies and assessment criteria rather than on subjective preferences”.

Auckland Council’s brave attempt to start to address this issue through the mandatory provision of Design Statements has been ruled out as being costly and ineffective, but there’s little on offer as a replacement, and no mention of peer design review which has proved so successful at Hobsonville Point, for instance.

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect an RMA plan to deliver

Entertained, enlightened, educated and invigorated

Fresh from his success at the UDF sponsored Christchurch event, Gil Penalosa presented 8, 80 Cities at Auckland Conversations on Tuesday 5th July

  • 13 July 2016
  • Author: Duncan Ecob
  • Number of views: 707
  • 0 Comments
Entertained, enlightened, educated and invigorated

Dealing with a wide range of topics from equity (not equality) through the dignity of walking and cycling, to designing cities for people not cars Gil covered a variety of issues that are facing Auckland now and challenged us to not be complacent.

Having been a commissioner in Bogota he warned of the peril of the CAVE people (citizens against virtually everything) and of ‘keeping on doing the same thing’.

He had 8 messages for Auckland
1. Change is hard. (Doing what you are doing now, is easy)
2. Don’t be complacent. You may think you are great but you are probably just good! Copenhagen is recognised as a world leader in cycle infrastructure with 41% of trips by bicycle. But they are striving for 50% (and then what)
3. Design for all ages and all abilities. Would you send your 8 year old out to this world or your 80 year old?
4. Equity not equality – some need more than others, don’t give everyone the same. Some disadvantaged need more help. How you treat the most vulnerable is a reflection of the city.  One neighbourhood may have more than it needs, deficient neighbourhoods need attention and respect!
5. Play everywhere. It is for all ages and is a learning and communal experience for all
6. Walk.  Plan for it and make it a priority. Birds fly, fish swim, people walk. Even if it is only at the start or end of the journey (or between L1 and L2)
7. Sustainable mobility. Public transport integrated with walking and cycling. A great city is where the rich use PT
8. Community is the expert. Consultation and engagement is key before the experts get involved. The community knows what works for them. Experts can deliver and design it for them
9. Benefits.  Always tell people about the good aspects of walking, cycling and pt. and make this about outputs, outcomes and impacts.  (quality open space = more people encouraged to use it = improved health and longer lives)
And a final message
STOP TALKING, START DOING!

For those that missed it it is now on the  AKLconversations website as audio 
http://conversations.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/events/8-80-city-creating-vibrant-and-healthy-communities

Link to the RadioNZ interview:
http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/201807646

Christchurch articles following Gil's visit:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/81725401/Christchurch-officials-should-experiment-more-expert

http://ccc.govt.nz/the-council/newsline/show/774


 

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