The City of Phoenix has become a model of Lean Governing, demonstrating the benefits of community revitalization when a municipality enables and encourages the work of creative entrepreneurs, small developers, neighborhood leaders, and community organizations. Along the way, it has employed and refined a number of principles and techniques that other cities can use to revitalize their neighborhoods. Phoenix is demonstrating that small projects can lead to big results.
The Lexicon of Lean Urbanism defines the “terms of art” and other useful words and phrases that have emerged from extended discussions on the online Lean Urbanism discussion group and at Lean Councils. The first section is dedicated to these terms, and the second presents a selection of helpful quotations.
Appealing, context-aware designs for small-scale homes in small-scale neighborhoods grabbed national attention during the 2005 Mississippi Renewal Forum after Hurricane Katrina. Though it took far longer for the ideas to find traction than anyone imagined, trial-and-error progress has produced models worth emulating, and just in time to address new realities in housing demand in post-recession America.
The potential for a natural partnership between Lean Urbanism and social-justice groups is self-evident and should be explored. A growing movement of social-justice organizations across the world are coalescing behind the concept of “the right to the city” as a means to garner support for a wide range of social issues that can be characterized by a belief that everyone has a right to design and shape their community. These groups have the energy and determination to alter the status quo of financial and regulatory structures that prevent people who lack access to resources and capital, such as millennials and immigrants, from becoming active in small-scale development. But these groups often also lack the technical knowledge to achieve such goals. Lean Urbanism can provide tools and know-how that these groups need.
Regulatory barriers make housing less affordable to millions of households in the US and abroad. If regulatory barriers were reduced, small developers could provide housing at more affordable prices. This article assesses the current state of knowledge about the effects of federal, state, and local regulations on the supply and cost of housing.
The Lean Urbanism movement will come to life through pilot projects, as they will spread the knowledge from the professionals to community builders and entrepreneurs. They are at the core of the Project for Lean Urbanism, as they will serve to demonstrate the potential for and value of incremental, community-scale revitalization and development by tapping local physical, financial, and social assets that are currently underutilized. The pilot projects will also be used to test and refine the tools, to identify and seek solutions to common barriers in regulation or practice that inhibit small-scale development or rebuilding, and to serve as models for use by other communities.
The Lean Scan is one of the key tools of the Project for Lean Urbanism. It is a method for uncovering hidden assets and opportunities within a neighborhood, district, corridor or town, and for identifying why those assets are underutilized. The Lean Scan will be deployed in a series of pilot projects to be tested and refined in before being released to the public as a free tool.
Lean Governing is not government reform. It is the action-focused exercise of collective will by local elected officials and citizens. It is a process of discovery, of robust experimentation and learning by doing.
How might Lean Governing be applied in places where local leaders believe in Lean Urbanism and want to support it? The term Lean Governing is used here to connote a network of distributed leadership among public entities, citizens and businesses, focused not on a massive, long-term reform of government, but rather on robust experimentation with alternative models through a set of opportunistic partnerships.
The legislation enabling building codes and other targets of Lean Urbanism is often inspired by straightforward protection of health, safety and welfare, but then comes to serve many other purposes. Environmentalists have sought for many years to reform codes for new buildings to allow greater innovation, and Smart Growth advocates have worked since the ‘90s to reform building rehab codes. In some ways these efforts have been very successful, while in others they have left in place many impediments to a certain scale of development. This scale of development occurs in the inner city and in severely damaged suburbs and rural villages, and becomes more valuable to a locality when the market for larger-scale development disappears and is very sensitive to cost, delay and complexity. Additionally, legislative interventions are necessary to remove regulatory barriers that inhibit robust development at this scale. The method for identifying appropriate legislative adjustments to the building codes can be applied to other regulatory scenes which interfere with the revitalization of neighborhoods.
Seaside, the resort town in the Florida Panhandle, is best known for being a compact, walkable, and diverse community, but it has also become known as one of the first environmentally designed new towns. It is now time for it to be recognized as a model for Lean Urbanism, particularly greenfield development.