New Kindle Book: “Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values)”

Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values) is now available at the Kindle Store

Nietzsche said revaluation of values is the supreme task of the philosopher. Nietzsche called philosophers lawgivers. And yet the world continues to operate as though values were not something we are called to revise, develop, enunciate. The position of these recent reflections is allied with Nietzsche. The values suggested are vastly different from the usual, traditional pantheon.

pattern language, politics

Components of New Settlements — One: Parameters 1

A parameter is not a component, but this is the first post in an effort to use words to describe what I have clearly in my mind relating to the creation of new settlements.  Here I simply want to begin noting parameters of such settlements.

1. They will contain within their bounds most if not all the elements of ecological  sustainability. Their own recycling capacity for all or most waste. Collection and distribution and recycling of water. It is important to understand that we are talking about creating duplicable elements that could be used in many settlements.

2. They will have no private automobiles and trucks within their borders. Most transportation will be pedestrian with all mechanized transportation limited to public and service vehicles. Communities will be designed to make access to private vehicles possible only outside of their boundaries. Important that this not be seen as a complete rejection of private vehicles. They will have a place, but they will not dictate design as they now do.

More parameters will be discussed in future posts, setting the stage for a discussion of actual components.. In essence, the parameters will be suggestive of the components.

pattern language, politics

Comment at CommuteOrlando Blog on a Ten Year Old Review By Ken Orski


The Auto and its Enemies

Anti Auto is right on. I have been substantiating this with reference to Christopher Alexander and Pattern Language. Densities in metrosprawl serve the dying automobile economy. We need to create settlements of substantial density (10,000 – 100,000) on the corpse of metrosprawl. This is an interesting and salient piece though it ignores those of us who have been positive critics. So does the rest of the world.

pattern language

Dead Zones: Annals of Urban Disaster

Here in order are three notions regarding the planning of human space — aka urban planning — aka pattern language.


Standard Euclidean SOURCE

Also known as “Building Block” zoning, Euclidean zoning is characterized by the segregation of land uses into specified geographic districts and dimensional standards stipulating limitations on the magnitude of development activity that is allowed to take place on lots within each type of district. Typical types of land-use districts in Euclidean zoning are: residential (single-family), residential (multi-family), commercial, and industrial. Uses within each district are usually heavily prescribed to exclude other types of uses (residential districts typically disallow commercial or industrial uses). Some “accessory” or “conditional” uses may be allowed in order to accommodate the needs of the primary uses. Dimensional standards apply to any structures built on lots within each zoning district, and typically take the form of setbacks, height limits, minimum lot sizes, lot coverage limits, and other limitations on the “building envelope”.

Euclidean zoning is utilized by some municipalities because of its relative effectiveness, ease of implementation (one set of explicit, prescriptive rules), long-established legal precedent, and familiarity to planners and design professionals.

However, Euclidean zoning has received heavy criticism for its lack of flexibility and institutionalization of now-outdated planning theory.


Euclidean II Zoning uses traditional Euclidean zoning classifications (industrial, commercial, multi-family, residential,etc.) but places them in a hierarchical order “nesting” one zoning class within another similar to the concept of Planned Unit Developments (PUD) mixed uses, but now for all zoning districts; in effect, adding a third dimension to flatland Euclidean zoning. For example, multi-family is not only permitted in “higher order” multi-family zoning districts, but also permitted in high order commercial and industrial zoning districts as well. Protection of land values is maintained by stratifying the zoning districts into levels according to their location in the urban society (neighborhood, community, municipality, and region). Euclidean II zoning also incorporates transportation and utilities as new zoning districts in its matrix dividing zoning into three categories: Public, Semi-Public and Private. In addition, all Euclidean II Zoning permitted activities and definitions are tied directly to the state’s building code, Municode and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) assuring statewide uniformity. Euclidean II zoning fosters the concepts of mixed use, new urbanism and “highest and best use”; and, simplifies all zoning classifications into a single and uniform set of activities. It is relatively easy to transition from most existing zoning classification systems to the Euclidean II Zoning system.


The primary design characteristics of New Urbanism include the following:

1) Pedestrian-centered neighborhoods with primary social and economic facilities within a five-minute walk

2) Community orientation around public transit systems

3) Mixed land uses within neighborhoods

The Alexander or Pattern Language approach builds on the SMART COMMUNITIES criteria. Such criteria would completely zap metrosprawl and pave the way for mixed human settlements in which the actual size of key institutions changed to become an integral part of a human matrix or community.

For example, instead of factory-schools built on principles of mega-security, there would be neighborhood educational centers in which one could link to one’s “school” via cyberspace and access a whole range of resources in a setting permitting small groups and even one to one contact with professionals locally.

Instead of mega-hospitals, there could be a profusion of preventive care nodes that would provide basic testing in a cost effective way. Instead of massive, car-centric mega-stores, there would be kiosk-type canters where people could access visual displays of masses of products and place orders.

What is lacking in most urban planning and zoning is the notion of starting from scratch. Of building an integral community from the ground up. I am not saying that the ideas of pattern language cannot be usefully employed to adapt existing sprawl and dead zones. But there is ample need for a radical break and this will require the creation of models de novo.

An interesting example of adaptation is about to take place outside my window. Broadway is about to be closed to vehicular traffic for a substantial stretch. It may be filled with tables and stand as a gorgeous testament to what happens when the domination of the car is challenged.

I venture to say that all urban planning and zoning is beholden now to the car. When that is no longer the case, we will have a shot at pattern language.

So too we will have a shot at reducing the height of structures to a habitable four stories rather than the emerging, Promethean Mumbai style.

I am not holding my breath, however.

There is still formidable cultural lag and no doubt Euclidian will be practiced for decades to come. In fact I suspect that we will need some hardy venture capitalists to begin creating integral communities. The only likely winning strategy wil probably end up being, as Veblen understood, emulation.

pattern language, politics

Why Single Family Homes Are Obsolete

Not in the sense that they are presently the standard — the home that stands alone, that may be big enough for more than a nuclear family or small enough for two only. The standard, sprawled, often ugly, car-dependent, beloved American Dream acquisition, foreclosed and key to the economy. Single family homes that are the default, the ideal, the cash cow, whatever.

But these standard, pervasive, single family homes are, like private automobiles, obsolete for the future.

They may be cash cows for developers and resurrected real-estate speculators and they may for a time be the only thing that will enable you to escape the city or otherwise get right with the world. But they must eventually become either antiques (like old colonial dwellings in New England and along the Acela Corridor) or be folded in to reasonable human settlements that come about as a result of smart planning, humane design and caring attention to the thought of persons like Christopher Alexander.

I am talking largely about the single family dwellings of suburbia and exurbia, the little and big boxes that all look just the same, the bedroom community houses that have as much potential to be part of a vibrant neighborhood as a snake has to be a common pet.

Here are some salient reasons why the single family home cannot be a model for the future.

1. The future requires economies of scale to create reasonable ecological models.

Consider that a truly solar and wind driven neighborhood would thrive with a matrix for its dwellings that could incorporate 1000, or 5000 or 10,000 persons. Panels, turbines, not to mention recycling apparatus would be eco-effective and cost-effective if the huge expense involved was distributed among a large enough base. This thought becomes vapor if we assume the current proliferation of single family homes is the model for the future.

2. Single family homes represent a medium of conspicuous consumption which is borderline-disgusting.

I have watched some of the TV journeys through dwellings with more rooms than one can count, homes whose taste is not worthy of association with the word taste. These homes are a regurgitation of servile design responding to the big dollar which is no more. They got in under the wire and deep down everyone knew they made no sense, save as reflections of prideful ownership.

I think it was the noxious W who pushed the phrase ownership society. In a pig’s eye.

3. Single family homes are no longer affordable in an economy that will be moving more and more to the utilization of diverse human talents and less and less to the creation of capitalism’s friends, the defective and continually costly cash cows, otherwise known as the private car and the single family home.

The value of the single family homes being foreclosed today is about half what people paid for them and the economy is grimly absorbing this living nightmare. Everyone knew it when the deals were struck. It was a tacit crime against reason.

4. The American Dream will no longer be to own a car and have a single family home. It will be to live a decent life with a decent income and participate in a diverse and exciting community where the things needed to live are close at hand.

This will require a totally new approach to design and execution, a revolution in zoning. It will begin with an entrepreneurial model of a car-free human settlement and move, as people cotton to it, into actuality from place to place.

5. Security is enhanced by the creation of human settlements in locations not subject to the vagaries of flood and wind. Or settlements subject to these vagaries, but built to actually withstand them.

The private one family home is not a viable model for the creation of such settlements. Security will be one of the payoffs for a mentality that moves in the direction of these new settlements.

6. The dominant reason for the obsolescence of single family homes is their inextricable linkage to the automobile. They are slaves to the ideals that emerged, half-formed, in the minds of Henry Ford and Frank Lloyd Wright, when they imagined that we the people were going to become stalwart pioneers in an endless landscape. Wright actually assumed that every suburbanite would have a little garden in the back yard.

The result of this misjudgment is that we have built metrosprawl and continue to do so and it is an offense to nature, to humanity and to the future. It must be literally razed or radically changed to create livable human settlements where people have all the privacy they need in an environment that does not leave them. like Lucy Jordan, in a white suburban bedroom in a white suburban town. We are in the alienation elimination business. A sustainable economy requires a new conception if what it means to live together in society.

Imagine a community where children have a place to mingle and play within a few hundred feet of a dwelling and in sight of other adults gathered at social meeting places in a pedestrian setting. Imagine a community where preventive health nodes are also to be found within a few hundred yards of any dwellings and where one can eat and drink in social settings that are integrated into the mix and reached by foot.

The building of car-free communities is within our grasp and is the very key to sustainable economies. The decision to continue building private cars and single family homes spread to kingdom come is exactly the wrong decision for a viable future.

More On New Human Settlements:

Please read Our Crisis Is Not Economic as a starting point.


pattern language, politics

Why Private Cars Are Obsolete

No they are not obsolete as the dominant mode of transportation in today’s world, with the American model of more roads and more cars being emulated everywhere else and the design of cities following the imperious needs of the automobile.

They are obsolete for the future, they are obsolete as one of the foundation stones of a future economy, they are obsolete as a viable choice for a society that is moving toward change you can believe in. Why so?

1. Foundation Stones of A Future Economy

Individually owned cars are too expensive for most people but this is not the main reason why they are not viable economically.

They are sold with the expectation that they will be a cash cow for the seller and related businesses. More and more cars is the mantra.

But all this does is make any effort to reduce congestion or move beyond oil or any other laudable objective completely impossible. A future economy needs to be based not on the sale of cars, but on the replacement of the entire infrastructure of automotive society by a new form and configuration where money is generated by the growth of new services based on a localized availability of all relevant aspects of urban life.

The current model, assuming the endless sale of cars, is sprawl and individually-owned dwellings, both increasingly unaffordable and nonsensical in terms of creating a community where people can interact as they wish, be private as they wish and have a range of choices and options without having to drive for miles to work or play.

Current emphasis on car sharing is simply an acknowledgement that the notion of growing an economy by continuing purchase of individually-owned vehicles is an invitation to entrapment in a global economy that is no longer viable.

In case you are scratching your head and wondering what planet I come from, check out this Google books reference to a 1990s conference on car free cities.

The foundation stones of a future economy are car-free, pedestrian communities that incorporate ecological economies of scale, recycling capacities of scale and all of the features, in localized nodes, that we now associate with urban life, but which are being changed to universal by the universal availability of the Web.

2. Change We Can Believe In

President Obama has all of the pieces of change we can believe in in statements he has made over the past several years. The only thing that he has not done so far is to acknowledge that moving beyond what he calls the tyranny of oil means moving beyond the economy of private cars. The economy of the future will be one where the thousands of dollars that we invested in car after car will be invested in quality of life items that are largely localized as communities become more integral. For example. there will be a massive jump in home care of all sorts or neighborhood care. The money we paid for cars will go to care givers, teachers, coaches and so forth.

Why has President Obama been silent on the vision of a post-automobile society based on the money-generating idea of building entirely new communities that integrate many of the ideas that he has for such things as birth through college education? And health reform? Does he really believe it is viable to have huge hospitals that require $600 payments just to perform blood work?

No, I am sure he would like to see preventive clinics in each community of a few thousand persons or so. This is only viable in a car free new settlement or in an existing settlement that has been freed of central auto traffic to the point of offering a pedestrian option to all.

None of the changes envisioned by President Obama can take place without a commitment to making new or renewed neighborhoods, settlements or towns that move a bit toward shared amenities including solar and wind and recycling. These things are not viable long term if they are confined to retrofitting what we have now.

The President should launch design contests, planning contests. The criteria: car-free. mixed residence, work, culture, educational, medical and so forth all within walking distance. Cars allowed only outside the perimeter of the space occupied by the dwellings and other structures.

More ideas on change we can believe in:

Please read Our Crisis Is Not Economic as a starting point.


pattern language, politics

President’s Talking Points for Now or Later

NOTE: This post — HERE — has been entirely submerged by the Huffington post. You will not find it on its main page under new posts. The only way it could remain there is if they chose to feature it. You will not find it where I designated it, on the Politics page. Same story. All this within an hour of posting it.

For now if we mean to get out of this crisis.

For later in the manner of Carter’s remorseful “malaise” speech if we do not do these things now.


1. Say that we cannot build an economy that will work by creating and selling more and more private vehicles. Effective now our policy will be to replace private vehicles by public transportation and other steps noted below.

2. Say that we cannot build an economy by spreading sprawling single dwellings that declined in value because they never were worth what people paid for them. We will be moving toward new human settlements that bode a new and more integral society.


By these two decisions we have the basis for the new economy. We will design new human settlements and make them a model for the world that will exist when we have moved beyond the car and sprawl.

To begin to develop the positive talking points, set your speechwriters to reading the following:

Please read Our Crisis Is Not Economic as a starting point.


It has been said that the President puts little stock in blogs so I am not holding my breath. He is in good company. Huffington Post typically sinks my pattern language posts in record time. And even people I try to explain this to scratch their head. So why do I keep on? Because I know that the economy will not come back on the strengths of a private car and single homes economy. I know that the new economy will take place when we change to a society based on livable, car-free human settlements where the features of urban life are within reach of everyone. Read the links above and think about it.

Oh, and what caused the crisis? A gluttonous economy based on an unfounded belief in growth based on selling more cars and more houses.

You have just read what no administration voice has said thus far and until the President says it we will tank more and more.