Monday, July 23, 2007

New Urbanism is not a Gated Community

Monday, 23 July 2007
As I've mentioned before-- I support "new urbanism" a movement of architects and others to bring pre-war city planning and architectural values back to our cities by incorporating public transportation, mixed-use zoning, walkability, and add to that contemporary necessities like environmental sustainability. It's compatible with Local First movements, environmentalism, low income housing options and a vibrant community life. As keen as I am on new urbanism and it's primary organization "Congress for New Urbanism" I finally wrote to them to express my displeasure at their prohibitive membership fees. Years ago, when they viewed themselves mainly as a professional organization of architects, perhaps it made sense; but now, their movement is more broad based, but even their sliding scale really doesn't slide far enough. I've had it and I decided to let them know. Here's a copy of the letter I sent.

Link-Congress for New Urbanism

Dear Congress for New Urbanism:

For several years now, as an urbanite and concerned citizen, inspired by Jane Jacobs and others such as Leon Krier and the Duany Plater-Zyberk team, I have learned a great deal from your website and have written to my neighborhood council, city council, mayor's office etc... to help bring the values of new urbanism to my city, Salt Lake City, Utah.
I might have joined your organization years ago had the membership fees been reasonable. Sadly, they were not and still are not for a person of low income. (Though I have an academic address, I am an office assistant, not a faculty member.) There are no provisions for lower fees on an income basis and even the full-time "student" rate is exhorbitant for most students. Your pricing is comparable to professional organizations rather than a public interest organization. While the categories of "activist" or "student" exist, your fees really are unaffordable.

Don't make your organization a "gated community." For new urbanism to take hold as a grassroots movement and a coalition between professionals and urban dwellers as it must if we are to end sprawl and make sustainabiltiy, transit, safety and aesthetics a priority, we must make new urbanist values accessible starting with a membership fee more on the order of $25-$35 for students and low income subscribers. Many low-income earners are well-educated and civil, have great ideas and are passionate about saving our cities. Don't keep us out of the conversation. You might also consider free registration rights and e-newsletters separate from a donation to the organization as many non-profits opt to do.

Thank you for time and your serious consideration of this proposal.

Best regards,

Joanna Straughn

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