Jeff Speck on why I shouldn’t be such a grouch

Mr Speck wrote the following in response to yesterday’s post:

Dear Lisa: I was directed to your blog, and I thought I would take the time to reply. Feel free to post it in its entirety or not at all.

The title “Why They Hate Us” was meant to be an ironic reference to the hand-wringing after September 11, implying the silliness of such self-defensive discussions, but I guess my subtleties are sometimes too subtle. For the record, I do not feel at all like Jar Jar Binks.

To your comments:

a. I think you are conflating two arguments, traditionalism vs. modernism and urban vs. suburban. There are plenty of fully urban modern houses, like mine, which sits on a 500-square-foot lot three blocks from metro, and allows our family of four to not own a car. As the title of your website suggests, the real discussion is about settlement patterns and transportation, not architectural style, and one has little to do with the other. Slap forehead!

b. I guess attractiveness is in the eye of the critic. I find most high-quality new urban projects to be attractive, and you don’t. . . fair enough. I do know a lot of traditional architects who approach their work with tremendous skill and care, who would take issue with your assumption that originality is more important than what they consider beauty. Most of them consider an obsession with originality to be the central flaw of today’s design professions.

c. Again, the “haters” was a joke, but I won’t pretend that my goal wasn’t to stir up a lively debate with an opinionated piece. My bad. If I was less smug, we probably wouldn’t be having this useful conversation.

d. I too feel that d is an overused letter.

e. Were it only true! The sad fact is that while the brain of the development industry (including the feds) seems to have settled on New Urbanism as a preferred alternative to sprawl, the body of the beast is still largely unchanged, so that most (active) developers still build — and most municipalities still approve (or require) — sprawl projects. There is a big difference between winning the war of words and the war on the ground. So we keep fighting when you think we’ve won.

I suppose I should take offense at your suggestion that I am being disingenuous about my need to fight, when just last month I fought to narrow one too-speedy in-town highway by two lanes, and this week I am fighting to keep a major downtown high school from decamping to the periphery. . . and both of these are FIGHTS, believe you me.

So, I for one, don’t know whom your students prefer, but I could certainly use them on my side. I hope they get the chance to read this.

Best, Jeff Speck