You’ve met them, those “food separatists” that cannot stand for one item on their dinner plate to touch another. A random pea rolling into the mashed potatoes is greeted with a look of distain, and gravy or any sort of escaped sauce that made its way off the meat might be the cause of apoplexy. Likely one of them was the inventor of the divided plate of the sort one sometimes sees in school cafeterias. A plate that keeps order, and peas in their proper place.
There are others that take relish in the unplanned and accidental combination of flavors that may take place during the course of a meal; who even actively engage in food combining, dropping leaves of their salad into their spaghetti and swirling peas into their mashed potatoes just to see what flavors might result. Regardless of whether you are a food separatist, a food combiner, or stand neutral on the subject, all will likely come to complete agreement in the case of a pizza. Who in their right mind, or even addled mind, would ask for a deconstructed pizza?
Pizza is defined by its particular combination of crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings. Even the pizzas of experimental cuisine adhere to this basic structure even if they swap out tomato sauce for pesto or mozzarella for goat cheese. If the crust were naked, the sauce, and meats or veggies were in a separate bowl, and the cheese melted on a separate plate, we would not find ourselves tempted to eat it. Or at the very least, we wouldn’t call it a pizza.
Pizza as Metaphor
It is for this reason, precisely because of the necessary mixing and combining that goes into a pizza, that famed architect and urban planner Leon Krier (often credited as the intellectual god father of the New Urbanist movement) has elevated the pizza from mere restaurant item to the official food mascot of New Urbanism. Krier makes use of the pizza to argue against use-based zoning.
While we see a deconstructed pizza as ridiculous and unappetizing, we have gone to great lengths to create deconstructed places. Before the advent of the car, towns and cities were created in such a way that the majority of daily needs could be met on foot. Work, groceries, clothing, schools, libraries, doctor’s offices, parks, playgrounds, and retail establishments were all within a 10 minute walk or within an easy street car ride. Large format, single family homes were down the road from duplexes and apartments.
Then along came use-based zoning. No longer could a corner store or neighborhood pub occupy the end of a residential block. Retail establishments needed to be grouped with other retail establishments. Office buildings and places of work were separated with other office buildings and places of work, so on and so forth. This grand sorting out of places by function was only made possible by the car. And while many people do have cars, this type of planning removed the choice and made having a car a necessity for many.
The Degradation of the Pedestrian Realm
The result on the visual quality of the pedestrian realm was not neutral. As the necessities of life became unreachable by foot, there was then no need to create retail and commercial buildings that had sidewalk appeal designed to draw in pedestrians to their place of business. So the loss of a multitude of functions within a walkable sphere also led to the degradation of the pedestrian realm itself. (See my Speed of Christmas post).
Zoning Based on use vs Zoning Based on Form
Often those who promote the creation of walkable places promote form-based code as a preferable alternative to use-based zoning. The proponents of walkability understand, just as the promoters of use-based zoning, that it does not work to have a big box store with a vast expanse of asphalt parking lot located next to a single-family home. But instead of prescribing against retail stores next to homes, form based codes prescribe the size that a building can be. They limit things like the height, width, length, and set-back and leave the use up to the owner. Since a Walmart cannot fit inside the equivalent of a three story brownstone, the effect is that Walmarts are not located next to houses, whereas, a small store or coffee shop could be.
Walkable Places are More Attractive Places. More Attractive Places Increase Property Values
By allowing a mixture of uses to flourish within a neighborhood, walkability becomes possible again as people have places to walk to. As people begin walking to places, businesses will take more care with their exteriors. And as a street becomes more attractive, it is not just the pedestrians that benefit. Andrew Burlson, a real estate developer and consultant with The Fourth Environment shows how in his presentation on the Net Attraction Framework that as a place becomes more attractive, it increases the property values for buildings and homes located adjacent to those attractive places.
Walkable Places Help Reduce Traffic and Infrastructure Costs
When every errand does not require a car, traffic volume decreases. Thus every car trip that is replaced by a pedestrian trip makes life more pleasant for those who still need to travel a greater distance by car. It also reduces the wear and tear on the roads. You would think by how enthusiastically we lay new roads and widen highways that they must be cheap to build and maintain, that perhaps cities and counties are getting a volume discount on the materials. But the truth is, roads are expensive. Expensive to lay and expensive to maintain. Thus creating more walkable places not only alleviates stress on traffic during peak times, but also decreases the burden on our roads.
So, let’s advocate for pizza and everyone can benefit, even those who prefer spaghetti!
Much has been written on the logic of form-based zoning and the repercussions of use-based zoning. See:
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