Peter Cal Thorpe, El Camino, America discussed on Tech Nation
Multiple cars in your driveway and other factors, which have suddenly become burdensome or more expensive than alternatives, or given the state of the planet, arguably questionable speak with Peter Cal Thorpe, the founder of health associates, which focuses on sustainable urban growth and planning. And now with the emergence of data. Analytics Peter is a co founder and principal at urban footprint. You may know his ideas from his books, which started with sustainable communities up to his most recent urbanism in the age of climate change. And now the interview, well, Peter welcome back to tech nation. Thank you. It's been twenty five years. I couldn't remember. Short term memory that goes night your long term for some of us. It's both. It's, it's. One of the things I wanted to talk about was sort of what's happened, not just in that period of time. But we'll just stretch it to maybe fifty years, or so, after World War Two the landscape of America change every family had a car. The suburbs nibbled everyone to have a little bit of land, and their own free standing home and shopping centres, replaced main street. Why and win that stop working. Well, let's talk about how it started working before he talked about how it ends it was a. It was a huge huge, it was you for you. It was the fact that America was the only surviving middle class after World War. Two it was that we had an industrial complex that needed to retool for domestic consumption. And we, we were caught up in the idea that we had to build a brand new world. The old world was no good knows not much where saving. So there was a motion sides economic side, special interests sides. And there wasn't a lot of thinking about the downside of it. So it got rolled out wouldn't happen without the federal highway Bill, nineteen fifty-six, which basically was the biggest infrastructure problem project in the history of mankind. I mean who would have thought that we would pay for, you know, concrete in the sky? In order to move four. Tons of steel with us wherever we went, I mean, when you just stand back from that proposition, you think this is a strange idea. Now what do you mean by concrete in the sky, all the, you know, the freeways with overpasses it's just. Country, each inner city freeway intersection, and this is once again going to age. But back in the day, it was, you know, ten twenty million dollars each each intersection elevated intersection. And so now it's probably ten times that much even more. So the, the amount of money spent was fine because we had to motivate the economy, and it was a huge public works program. It was a keen Zine strategy really, when you think about it, and then retooling the military capacity own the Beales, it's the same stuff in of steel and engines and rubber and gasoline. I mean so all of a sudden, these seems kind of fit together with an economic future, for the only surviving middle class in the world. And then the idea was to define a totally new, and we are course the only place on the planet with infinite, or at least that. Point infinite, what seemed like infinite supplies of land. So we could sprawl out, and nobody really saw the environmental consequences. Did they ever talk about environmental consequences, not much? You know silent spring came a little later, and that was not so much built around how we live. It was how we raised food DC and things like that. It's the Rachel Carson. Yeah silence spring. But you know on some level, it was all modernist it goes back to the thirties. When the modernists said the historic city was bad. We have a brave new world. We can build high rises now because we have elevators, we can build freeways, instead of, you know, neighborhood streets, and street cars, and the proposition was to demolish, even the left Bank of Paris and put in its place, a series of high rises in the park and division, was everybody had lighten air everybody lived in a park, and everybody got around conveniently in cars, and so it was a compelling vision, will the American version of that. Brought to you by frankly. Right. Was, of course product or cities, which was took the same idea. And just pushed it down to two stories in Europe. It was high rise in a park in America. It was a single family to alley in a park the yard. So, you know, there was a confluence of ideology economics that was pretty powerful, but fast forward and of course, we created a whole lifestyle that is long-term unsustainable. Unsustainable, economically now ironically, and unsustainably environmentally. So an economic standpoint, I still look at two thousand eight. The, the financial crash as not, not only the malignant financing systems that were developed they were developed in order to sell a product, a large lot, single family, twelve in a very remote location because it could only be remote if it was going to be affordable. Two people that didn't need it and couldn't afford it. The two thousand eight inch loans called liar's loans because you could put anything anything you want it on the paper and you could you could buy an eventually, it crashed and fast forward from the fifties, when we came back from the war, and we were dominated by family households. They were, you know, the married couple and we were producing kids like crazy, and it was everything was about what works for the family and the yard, no cold sack, and all that evolved data that we're only twenty four percent families with kids now. The other seventy six percent are single people older people empty nesters, and then we don't have a robust middle class anymore. They can afford that big house on a big lot down. The irony is in the sixties went to heyday of the suburbs. The average home size was around eleven hundred square feet and we had one car now. And there were about three people average per. Household and cross America. That's Maxine all the apartments and all the rest of that. Now, we're down to about I think two point three people, perhaps hold and average sizes up to twenty three hundred square feet. We double the size and we've reduced the number of people there. And we have two cars on average. So this mismatch, I mean, we just kept growing, and growing, and bloating and bloating to the point where it popped, and that's what I believe happened in await. It wasn't just about Wall Street. It was about the kind of neighborhoods we were building. You're listening to tech nation. I'm regaining. My guest today is Peter Cal Thorpe. He's the founder of Cal Thorpe associates, located in Berkeley, California, which for decades is focused on sustainable urban growth and planning. And now a co founder and a principle of urban footprint in might also know him from his books, his first, sustainable community. Ladies or the next American metropolis where we see the concept of transit oriented development to his most recent urbanism in the age of climate change. He's the recipient of the urban land. Institute's JC Nichols prize for visionaries in urban development. It salvaging the talk about urban planning when you never seem to start with a blank slate. You're always here, always inheriting, something that came before, and I was fascinated by one of the studies that you did, and recommendations are possibilities, you developed take L communion rail. That's that Spanish for the king's highway and literally, the king of Spain's highway for those who don't know that it was a six hundred mile footpath trail road, which connected the twenty one California missions starting in Baja California. That's in Mexico and extending north of San Francisco to the last mission. And if you remember your history every mission. Was, you know, a full day's walking between one mission to the other so they could all be connected while many parts of that road are alive and active today, including El Camino real, which goes from San Jose, and the in the heart of Silicon Valley north forty five miles to just sure to San Francisco. So describe for us. What is that become today? Well, let me back up a little bit part of the formula. The suburban formula was subdivisions but then their office parks there were shopping centers and there were apartment complex. It was almost like you, you had a chess board of four different pieces, and you could just put them around while you put them around an arterial network, that was about a one mile grit, which is the jeffersonian system of planning land. So every mile, we had a quote unquote, arterial long with this win a whole philosophy of transportation, which is that cul de sacs lead to tonight. Neighborhood streets, neighborhood streets lead to collectors, all collectors lead to arterials and the only way to get from to be was to go out onto arterial. So you could live in a neighborhood that literally backs up on a shopping center. But you couldn't get there you had to go out through all four street types, and get on the arterial, and then pull into the parking lot. It was kind of a tragic system that was very you know, in a way controlled our options dramatically. And so, you know, in historic areas like El Camino and the peninsula, the arterials the old big streets became the arterial network, and they became where the shopping centers went with the big parking lots and the office parks with their surface surrounded by acres and acres of parking. And they were all it was all about moving automobiles not moving people not connecting people to destinations not connecting people to one another. It was just about cars and how to move cars efficiently. And so the tragedy was historically on the peninsula. There were towns. Each town had a real main street, I grew up in Palo Alto. And, you know, there's a great little main street on University Avenue, there that, you know, had quite a distance relationship to Stanford, but nonetheless, town and gown was present. Until it was well, and it was severed by El Camino. So there were these real places that went in decline, just as our cities did as we emptied the middle class out of the cities as we ended. The businesses out of the city says we ended the shopping from main street to shopping mall and all these places died. These main streets died and all of the suburbs for then were built away on both sides as much as you could away from El Camino in that area in that whole peninsula area. And so you had your sever bes and they all came back in two L community. Yeah. Well, they only came back by car. I mean that was the tragic do you know, it wasn't like kids were on their bicycles running up and down. El camino. I remember I used to go quite some distances on bike, but never on that street. So it's the most inhospitable place in every community. And it was the place that stole away the economic inactivity, energy of the historic human scale walkable places that we always had. Now, remember prior to World War, Two, we were city, a world or country of beautiful cities, with great civic monuments, in public spaces mix use people living downtown from all economic classes mixed together. And then we had streak our suburbs. We had transit. They were streetcars, and they went out to these beautiful, little towns and villages, and each one, each stop had a little main street at it, where people would walk from elm street down to their. Local spot, and do their shopping and whatever and see their neighbors, and then get on the streetcar. Now I know that's a Norman. Rockwell painting..