Earlier this month, I was honoured to be asked to be the first interviewee for ‘Urbanism Speakeasy” a great new urbanism podcast by Andy Boenau, an urbanist and transportation engineer from Richmond Virgina.
The audio podcast can be found on Chirb.it.
Here is an overview of what we talked about:
The influence of an unqualified urban planner
The Yurbanism brand is about 3 years old. In short, it is Yuri’s views on urbanism. What’s particularly interesting about Yuri’s views is that they are not bound to traditional schools of thought. His background is in public policy and administration, not urban planning or city planning.
Yuri’s strong online influence is probably rooted in his curation of articles and stories he picks up from around the globe. He has over 5,000 Twitter followers, and estimates he’s personally met 20% of those people at tweetups and conferences.
Turning community ideas into action
What inspiration or optimism can be shared with people who want to improve their hometown but don’t have any idea where to begin? Yuri talks about answering the question of who was responsible for urban decay, and who was now doing work to revitalize Phoenix? He also talks about encouraging people to get involved in the planning and development of projects early on – before bulldozers start moving dirt or demolishing buildings.
One way to get people more familiar with their community’s character and physical traits is organizing walking tours. To get to know a city, you have to get out and walk it. Yuri describes the Jane’s Walk initiative, how it was introduced in Phoenix, and the momentum that followed. Rather than simply having participants follow around an “expert” tour guide, Yuri describes the events as walking conversations. Politicians and professional planners have an opportunity to hear firsthand what the community observes and what they’d like to see change in their community. See things you might not normally see and hear stories you might not otherwise hear.
The Jane Jacobs factor
Jane Jacobs famously said design is people. Yuri agrees, and adds his own spin: design is dialogue. He talks about ways to defuse tensions from opposing parties. The first step can be as simple as inviting people over for a coffee or beer. Writing boisterous or nasty letters and emails grabs headlines, but sitting down and listening to all points of view can help build relationships that might otherwise not have existed. (Editor’s note: the Urbanism Speakeasy vouches for the neighborly empowerment of hops and barley.)
The one constant about urban planning is that nothing stays the same. Even when the physical structure and character of a neighborhood stays in place, the dynamics still change. People age, children move out of the house, new people move in, etc. This is both an exciting part of community evolution as well as a significant challenge for planners.
Social media in community planning
With the explosion of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, the public involvement process is far different from just a decade ago. Yuri describes traditional, face-to-face engagement strategies and modern, high-tech strategies as part of the same continuum. Not only can both forms of engagement coexist—they need to coexist. He observes that the average age of people in a formal public hearing is about 60. Young people are often not interested in an evening meeting about a road project, for example. And parents with school-aged children often can’t get away from home for a 7 PM public meeting. Social media allows for information sharing without every person filling a physical meeting hall.
One of Yuri’s current ventures is PlaceSpeak, an online consultation platform. He talks about what makes it unique in today’s crowded technology world and why you should be interested in it. Find out how anonymity can breed contempt and how PlaceSpeak fosters productive dialogue among neighbors. Yuri talks in-depth about ways to convert a public process into an online process.
Translating technical jargon to regular people
Describing the technical process of a public works project is always challenging. Basic concepts are often lost amidst jargon like road deficiencies, design speeds, floor space ratios, density, and more. Yuri acknowledges that different people learn in different ways, and he describes how the average person can become better informed about public projects.
Connect with our guest
If you want to connect with Yuri or just watch him from a distance, check out his Yurbanism blog, his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. As far as we can tell, there is only one Yuri Artibise out there. So you can also track him down by just searching online for his name.