the changing city

This from BWorld Online last week:

"After a decades-long wait, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) may be on the way to realizing its vision of becoming an Asian mecca for arts and culture as it prepares to bid out almost 60 hectares of land reclaimed from Manila Bay...

  • 57.8 hectares of land comprising most of the area declared by the Supreme Court as property of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

  • As currently planned, the area will be awarded to a single developer.

Apparently the NCCA held a design competition for the masterplan that had a top prize of Php 100,000.00, and the winners were supposed to have been announced last December 8. But I can't find any announcements either on the NCCA site nor the CCP site. Although the BWorld article says the masterplan was completed in 2003 by Planning Resources and Operations Systems, Inc.

From a two part report dated May 16, 2005, in the Manila Times Online, PROS is a division of Palafox and Associates, although their website does not list the CCP masterplan as a project.

If done right, this will create an northend anchor to Baywalk -and an honest to goodness public waterfront for the city. It will also have a huge multiplier effect on the Roxas Boulevard corridor.

The plan allocates 10% of the development to residential uses -"both transient and permanent" -which I assume means rental units will be included. Some 32% of the project area will be devoted to open space.

Part two of the report also quotes CCP President Nestor Jardin
“Though there are major thoroughfares in the area, we will have a public transport terminal that is accessible to all, meaning an egalitarian vision. Whether you’re rich or poor, you’re welcome, so public transport hubs are a must.”

Which will help as far as accessibility -but the area's main problem is the barrier of Roxas Boulevard which, because of the recent expansion of the roadway, is less pedestrian friendly. The CCP site is accessed through two east-west arteries - the north-end via Gil Puyat (Buendia), which has been obscured by the short-sighted flyover, and south-end via Vito Cruz -which is too narrow. Both of are also not particularly pedestrian friendly.

What would crown this effort would be a tram at surface level which would run the length of Roxas Boulevard - connecting Intramuros to the MRT/LRT hub at the Taft-EDSA intersection. Plus lateral line linking the site to the Makati CBD via Buendia.

According to MTimes article, the goals of the plan are:
  • Develop the CCP complex as a center for arts and culture in Asia and the centerpiece of artistic expression of the Filipino soul and spirit;

  • Maximize the income potentials of CCP’s real properties;

  • Encourage private-sector participation in the development of the CCP complex; and

  • Promote private and public activities in the CCP complex.

My hope is that CCP will make sure to include artists apartments -affordable units. It could really be interesting if they provided live-work housing for artists.

If anyone has anymore details about this, please email me.

(Two other major pieces of property soon to be developed will have huge multiplier effects: the MRT North Depot (North Triangle Business District) and Camp Crame/Camp Aguinaldo complexes.)

manila tees

Thanks to GUTS. GRIT. GUMPTION. for this lead on Team Manila Tees. Produced and designed by Graphic Designed Lifestyle. The website lists prices but no info on where to buy.

I'd really like to score the Urban Rail design. Any of my friends back home (you know who you are) want to track this down for me?


better late than never

Big thanks to vonjobi of the Filipino Librarian for joining this call.


leading change in metro manila

Harriet Tregoning, Executive Director of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute, has adapted John Kotter's outline of how to lead change in organizations into a playbook for leading change in the built environment.

Hopefully we can use the playbook to channel our frustrations about the state of our metropolis into an actual movement committed to improving the quality of life in Metro Manila.

Here's the playbook:

  1. Communicate a sense of urgency

  2. You can only campaign for change if people understand why there is a need to change the status quo. I think this is the toughest challenge for Metro Manila. We all know what we don't like. We are all frustrated with the quality of life in the metropolis but none of the reasons stand out as urgent. A litany of what is wrong with the city is not enough. We have to identify the key issues and develop a message that outlines the broad consequences of failing to act on these issues.

    Is it the state of the environment? Pollution? Traffic? The Pasig? Laguna Lake? Quality of life? Housing? Competitiveness? -all of these are pressing and important issues. (The problem is that we have lived with these issues for so long we have been inured to their effects.) The crux lies is finding the key issues that will allow us to go to the next step which is to...

  3. Establish a broad guiding coalition

  4. The driving issues on the table must be powerful enough to bring all the stakeholders to the table. It has to be a strong, multi-sectoral coalition united on the issues. A special interest group will not do. Neither will a coalition of convenience do - not if it waters down the issues.

  5. Develop a vision for an alternative

  6. Disillusion and disatisfaction will not be enough to drive lasting change. The movement must also present a vision for an alternate future. To paraphrase Kennedy: It will not be enough to ask people to complain about what is wrong, we must also inspire them with a vision of what can be.

  7. Constantly communicate the new vision

  8. The work of evangelism is not the exclusive domain of churches. Or to put it another way, you have to infect people with the vision to bring it to reality.

  9. Engage leading local governments

  10. We won't get very far in our campaign for change if we remain outsiders throwing stones. We will have to earn a place at the table and be ready to engage the existing authorities. If we do our work well, the issues we champion will resonate with the electorate and will find their place in the platforms and debates of local candidates.

  11. Leverage catalytic projects

  12. Like I wrote in my previous post, nothing succeeds like success. Change does not always proceed via cataclysmic events. Lasting changes are built on incremental steps - success can build on success. We must find and leverage projects that will: 1) show what our vision looks like on the ground, and 2) allow people to use the success of the project to push for the same changes across the metropolis.

  13. Allow broad-based action by changing systems/structures

  14. The changes we push for hopefully empower people to create more innovation. Here's an example of a different way of doing things: the city of Porto Alegre (Brazil) pioneered direct citizen participation in allocating the municipal budget. It has not only revolutionized the way the city invests in capital projects, it has also created a culture of citizenship. (More on Porto Alegre in a succeeding post.)

  15. Generate short-term wins

  16. Cities do not change overnight. At best, changes can occur over 5 years. More substantive changes happen over 20-30 year cycles. To keep the coalition and the vision energized, the movement must identify and generate short term wins. Better sidewalks? Cleaner esteros? - The vision must be grounded on a strategy -and that strategy must have short-term wins as wayposts.

  17. Consolidate the gains and build on them

  18. See item #6 (above).

  19. Embed changes in the culture

  20. See item #7 (above). -- the end-game must be a culture of citizenship.

Image: Orrery mechanism of the Clock of the Long Now


Sydney Snoeck's last comment on my previous post deserves a post of its own.

Sydney says"

I agree that a lot of your politicians are not doing a good job (to say it diplomaticaly). But it also strikes me (as an outsider) that whatever is done in this country it is criticized.

The SM Mall of Asia is not good because it is a huge ugly box. I agree, but you find them everywhere in the world. Those ugly malls were not invented by Sy senior. He just imported the idea. In the meantime it is good for the economy (and of course for Sy's bank account)and there are additional positive (not only negative!) changes for the neighbourhood. (See what happened in Ortigas with MegaMall)

Ok, those Pasay lights are not beautiful. But beside those lamps (which I consider a detail), can't we find something positive to tell? Is this neighbourhood better than before? Are we moving in the right direction?

Do you remember (one year ago) the Plaza Calderon in front of the Binondo Church? There was a little park (?)full of squatters where the statue of Pipin is located. It was a scary place. Now they cleaned the whole Plaza Calderon. It is far from perfect and with the same money it could have been done in a better way. But it is MUCH MUCH better than before. Do I hear a voice of praise somewhere? (I don't think this was done to please foreign investors.)

What about Rizal avenue between Plaza Fair and Recto? Is this not better looking now?

What about some stretches along the Pasig river? Even the water seems a bit cleaner...

I came in Manila for the first time (as a short time visitor) in 1989 and I live here since mid 2003. And I saw many positive changes in this city and I really have the impression efforts are done to make this city a better place.

It is far from perfect. There is still so much to do but don't forget it is not a small city of 100.000 souls. You have more people in Manila than in the whole of Belgium (population of Belgium +-10 million)


beyond borloloy

Photo of new streetlamps in Pasay City, by Carlos Celdran

So the MMDA is looking for "architects, landscape artists and nonprofessionals" to "turn Metro Manila’s drab landscape from grey to green" (google cached article here -as I failed to catch the release on INQ7) as part of it's P100M facelift of the Metro. ("Non-professionals? Does he mean gardeners? or doodle-artists?)
“They must give their ideas soon … they should submit their proposals hopefully by the first week of December. The Metro is a concrete jungle and we need this to soften up the look of Metro Manila,” said Nacianceno in a phone interview.

The proposal, he added, should be practical, affordable and sustainable.

“Of course we are looking at functionality. The plan should not be too expensive maintenance-wise but still colorful in terms of the kinds of plants they intend to use,” he said."

Good intentions i guess, but the whole plan smacks of ornamentation. My former boss, in response to a florida councilman's questions about the intent of their waterfront plan, once said "we are planning a city, not just decorating it." (And she should know as she, with her late husband, led the groundbreaking urban plans for, among others, Boston's Faneuil Hall, Chicago's Navy Pier, San Francisco's Ghiradelli Square, Baltimore's Harborplace, and New York's South Street Seaport.)

It would be better if they spent a million or two coming up with an actual urban plan for the Metropolis that looked at mobility and livability issues -along with city image. Try for instance something like Austin TX's Great Streets Masterplan where the design guidelines were anchored on the following principles:

  • Sense of History
  • Unique Character
  • Authenticity
  • Safety
  • Diversity
  • Humane Character
  • Density
  • Economic Vitality
  • Civic Art

If the landscape or streetscape plans are not grounded in deeper principles, the deciding factors would be the MMDA's design aesthetics. (More pink?)

(with thanks to Sidney)

more on the OLPC

Andy Carvin posts a video-blog from Tunis on the $100 laptop.

He interviews Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen, CTO of the $100 Laptop Initiative.

Some notables:

  • the keyboard costs $5 - and will be customized for every country.
  • power consumption is at 2 to 3 watts!
  • the tech for the dual-mode screen will be open source (so expect it to show up in a lot more products)


nothing succeeds like success

Speaking of unintended consequences (or at least of infectious success), seems that the Organized Bus Route system is so effective that the MMDA is considering organizing the jeepneys too. The really interesing part: the jeepney operators and drivers are leading the asking.

The group, Pasang Masda, led by Obet Martin, has volunteered to test run the organized jeepney route among their members in Valenzuela and Caloocan City to find out if it will have the same effect.

This seems a better use of organized transport unions - since they seem to be failing at organizing transport strikes.

The other quotable quote:"...the OBR has increased occupancy rate from 11 percent during pre-OBR days to 68-percent capacity. This means, bus operators’ income has also improved."

Image credit: from Love affair with a jeepney by Sonia Krug


ticket to ride

Malacanang is mulling privatizing the ticketing services of MRT and the LRTs.

If all three lines were unified under a single ticket system, it would vastly improve mobility in the city. (That plus closing the MRT-LRT1 loop.) It may cost an extra P2.50 per ticket but if the ticket company is creative, the cost of the actual ticket can be passed on to advertisers. Many other cities use advertising on the tickets. It might also be a relief to be rid of politician's mugs in our wallets.

Cities and municipalities serviced by the MRT/LRT should also respond with policies that encourage the use of mass transit. They can, for instance, allow companies to provide employees with monthly MRT/LRT passes as pre-tax benefits. Labor unions should ask for this benefit.

Cellphone companies can get into the act by allowing re-loading of transit passes via text, etc. Malls along the mass transit lines can also join by providing discounts to monthly pass holders.

A more ambitious program would unify all transport ticketing -or at least MRT/LRT, bus and FX taxis -under one fare system that allows no-charge or discounted transfers. This is not so far fetched. If the OBR succeeds, implenting a single bus-ticketing system won't be impossible. And if the LTO gets its act together, it can apply a similar system on the FX/shared taxis -and from there, it'll be a short throw to uniting all three fare systems.

Aiming for such a program may also provide the impetus/political will to abolish the boundary system.

The single metrowide fare system might provide beneficial (unintended) consequences by necessitating a rational interconnection between the various modes of transport.


21st century pencils

Yes, yes -I'll get back to urban planning issues soon enough. I actually have two draft posts gathering cobwebs. - I just can't let this story go.

from the FAQ

Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What's wrong with community-access centers?

One does not think of community pencils—kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to "own" something—like a football, doll, or book—not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care.

From Negroponte's interview in WIRED:

WN: Do you have any thoughts on what the long-term impact of giving all these kids a programming environment and an open-source ethic might be?

Negroponte: Those are two different questions. Giving the kids a programming environment of any sort, whether it's a tool like Squeak or Scratch or Logo to write programs in a childish way -- and I mean that in the most generous sense of the word, that is, playing with and building things -- is one of the best ways to learn. Particularly to learn about thinking and algorithms and problem solving and so forth.

And providing the tools for some people -- it's going to be a very limited subset (who will use them) -- to develop software that will be redistributed and versioned and so forth out into the world is also important. It's part of the whole open-source movement.

WN: You're going to be unleashing a whole new generation of open-source programmers, who otherwise would never, possibly, have gotten their hands on a computer.

Negroponte: I hope so. I hope we unleash half a billion of them.

WN:What, if anything, has been challenging about bringing this idea to national leaders?

Negroponte: Bringing the idea to national leaders has been easy, partly because I know some of them, or they know me.... It's almost easier for me to get in the door than Michael Dell or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, even though they're more famous, richer or more important. It's easier for me to get in because I'm not selling something.

Once I'm in the door, the idea takes seconds for people to get.... People get it quickly, they sleep on it, very often they wake up the next morning saying, "Oh my god, this is a really big change." The whole idea of harnessing the resources of children themselves to participate in education is a pretty big one. A lot of people don't think about it....

It's a short story. It's also a pretty good story, and there aren't too many good stories in the world right now. There's no angle to it that's bad.... And with the possible exception of the circumstance in which (the government) is so poor that the $100 can't be reached, it really isn't a balancing act here. Why would you not do this?

And Thailand is lining up to buy $1M worth.

hmm... if there was a way to funnel .01% of this year's $10B OFW remittances, we could buy up to 100,000 of these "pencils."

(OK, you have a thousand implementation questions - but let's figure out the solutions to the problems after we commit to an approach.)


closer to reality

Design Continuum's prototype of a $100 laptop with hand crank,
for students in developing countries.

Follow up to my earlier post and I'm still asking why we're not on the list?

The WSJ article points to a 2006-2007 release. Brazil is in the forefront and they also see the benefits of manufacturing the machines:
"Rodrigo Mesquita, a Brazilian entrepreneur and a member of a government working group on the project, says his country believes the laptops could be used both to improve public education and the economy. Brazil is hoping to manufacture three million units, beginning next year, and supply some of them to other countries, he says. He also says money normally spent on textbooks would be used to pay for the laptops for Brazilian schoolchildren. "I'm very optimistic," he says, giving the project a "70 to 80%" chance of being launched in the country."

If the national government is too busy (and it the NGO community is too busy), I hope some local executives get excited with the prospect of using this in city schools and take steps to acquire the technology.

UPDATE: November 17 -see pictures of the OLPC laptop (unveiled by Negroponte in Tunis during the UN Internet summit)


make-up and schizophrenia

Commentary on three news items:

  1. MMDA kicks off P100M "facelift" of Metro Manila "investor corridors". (Also featured in this article from Star and a month ago in this article from INQ7.)
  2. The SC bars MMDA from tearing down billboards along the MRT.
  3. Congress updates the rent control law.

Item 1: Cosmetic changes don't last very long
From the Star article:
"The President defined these corridors as the "routes that investors pass all the time when they are thinking of whether they should invest in the Philippines" and the "routes that creditors pass all the time when they are thinking whether we have the ability to pay our debts."

From the latest INQ7 article:
"The general idea here is not to cover up, but to open the areas for commerce," Fernando said.
One idea is to convert sidewalks into parking areas, he said.

Much as I appreciate any work done to improve the city, P100M could go a long way to making substantial changes in the life of the city. This approach sounds so wholly cosmetic -and caters to investors riding in cars. -- Why not actually improve the livability of the city along the routes?

Change sidewalks to parking!!! Please! Hasn't the President or BF learned anything from their visits to other cities? Streetlife is what makes a city attractive -NOT parking.

Item 2: You want to change the look of the city? Start with the billboards.

What exactly does this scene say? Come invest in our city because we don't care what it looks like as long as you can advertise on it? (Thanks to Carlos' post)

We've got to begin respecting everyone who lives in the city -providing them a city worth living in and not spend our money on make-up trying to whore ourselves to investors -or to advertisers.

Investors are not dumb -they go to where business makes sense -and right now business makes sense where there is available talent -and available talent seems to like settling in very livable cities.

(I'm not against outdoor advertising, as long as it's outdoor advertising that respects the city.)

Item 3: Doing what's popular vs. doing what's right

I know rent control is well-intentioned. It's also very popular. It also prevents redevelopment by not allowing land-owners to earn capital -or by not making it worth investing in improving property.

There are plenty of studies on the market-distorting effects of rent-control. Many show that it actually makes the housing market worse for the those who can afford the least. (See one commentary from Paul Krugman here.)

We need a sensible policy for housing, one that will provide for those who can afford the least, and yet encourage re-investment in our cities.

(OK. So I pontificated on this post. Maybe it's sleep deprivation.)

ADDED: One hour later

Can someone please help me put up the money to bring Enrique Penalosa to Metro Manila for a lecture? He should have a full audience with GMA, BF and all the Metro Manila Mayors.


this land (use) is my land (use)...

(note: make sure you read my last post before reading this one)

Last June, the House Committees on Natural Resources, on Housing and Urban Development, and on Agrarian Reform, in a joint session, approved the text of House Bill 0272, also known as National Land Use Act of the Philippines. (Download full text of of the bill here (pdf 407Kb).

From the explanatory note:
The country has no Land Use Code that will serve as a sustainable growth map for both public and private investors. A Land Use Code is necessary for targeting and delineating areas open to investment in line with the country's development plans. There is need for certain lands to be set aside to establish "agricultural reserves" for food security. The Code is expected, eventually, to help resolve conflicts arising from various economic uses of lands versus the housing needs of the population.

A framework is needed for the allocation, utilization, management and development of the country's land resources. There is a need for a Land Use Code that will allocate land to various competing uses, preserve prime farm lands especially irrigated field for agricultural purposes, and ensure community participation in defining local land use.

The political crisis has probably sidelined the progress of the bill, nevertheless this bill is worth watching and is of crucial importance. As the above chart shows (click on image for larger version) Land Use and Development policies not only shape our cities and countryside but also impact a very wide range of issues - from economic (and political) segregation, to public health, to foreign policy (mainly energy independence).

I will discuss how land use impacts each of these issues over the next few posts.

Chart adapted from a presentation by Chris Leinberger, Urban Land Strategist

and Fellow of the Brookings Institution. (View Chris' original chart.)


in the zone

Mandaluyong's Land Use Plan

I mentioned in a previous post the difficulty of remotely obtaining land use plans for Metro Manila cities. I'm happy to report that at least Mandaluyong has it's land use plan maps and regulations online. (Although I wish they had an option to download either a hi-res version or an a vector file format -even CAD.)
More files available via:
I will be extracting the zones as best as I can (using photoshop) but just a few observations:

  • The zoning is definitively euclidean -so the uses are separated, and it looks like there are no opportunities for intense, mixed-use districts.

  • Mandaluyong sets aside a zone (R-4) for socialized housing - which probably represents blighted areas.

More on this later.

(For a good discussion on Jane Jacob's critique of euclidean zoning, see this article by Jay Wickersham.)


the little here quiz

Inspired by the the big here quiz, here's a short "little here" quiz to see how much you know about your own neighborhood. And I hope it inspires you to explore your neighborhood more. BTW, I use neighborhood/barangay interchangably.

  1. What is the largest flowing body of water (creek or river) in your neighborhood? What direction does it flow?

  2. What direction (north, south, east, west) is your front door oriented to?

  3. Where is the largest tree in your neighborhood? Oldest tree?

  4. Where's the nearest 24-hour convenience store?

  5. Can you name at 5 small retail or service places (sari-sari or grocery store, laundry, coffee shop, drug store, etc.) closest to your house?

  6. What is the farthest point in your neighborhood you have walked to from your house? How long did it take you to walk there?

  7. How many modes of public transportation (bus, jeep, tricyle, pedicab, etc.) Are available in your barangay? What are the major routes?

  8. Taking public transportation, how many rides (transfers) would you have to take to get to the nearest commercial center? -the nearest LRT/MRT station? City hall?

  9. How many barangays are adjacent to your own?

  10. How wide are the sidewalks on your street?

  11. What is the widest street in the barangay? How many lanes does it have?

  12. What intersection in your barangay has the most accidents?

  13. What is the tallest structure in your neighborhood?

  14. Who is your barangay captain? Where does she/he live?

  15. Name one store owner in your neighborhood.

  16. Who is the oldest resident (chronological age) in your neighborhood?

  17. Who, among the people you know, has lived longest in your barangay?

  18. Other than your relatives, if you needed urgent help -whom would you run to in your neighborhood?

  19. What is your favorite place in your barangay? Why do you like it?

  20. What is the worst place in your barangay? What makes it so bad?

  21. What's the nearest public open space to your home? (Is it a park?)

  22. Where do teenagers like to hang out in your neighborhood?

  23. Where do children play in your neighborhood?

  24. How many schools are in your neighborhood? How many of them are public? Private? Elementary? High school?

  25. How many places of worship are in your barangay? What religions/denominations do they serve?

  26. What is the oldest structure in your barangay? When was it built?

  27. Where is the nearest police station? Hospital? Fire station? (Name the street where they are on.)

  28. Are there any schools for special or gifted children in your neighborhood?

  29. Name the biggest employer in your barangay.

  30. What places/establishments in your barangay draw the most people from outside the barangay? -How far away do they come from? How do they get to your barangay?

Consider yourself tagged.

File under: Practical urban design/planning for your barangay

Image Credit: Rich Manalang


ready, fire, aim...

Thanks for all the kind thoughts (via comments or emails).

I've taken the time to rethink what I really want to do with the blog. I want to veer away from the default of online punditry. It seems easy to just comment, commend or rant. I think I want to attempt more. Educate, yes, but as much as I decided to get a real education because I didn't want to become another urban planning dilettante, I want to provide practical education. To get from published word (well, online) to praxis (to borrow a term from the socialists).

I've decided to henceforth focus my posts on three areas:

1) practical urban design/planning for your barangay -what the average juan can do to make his neighborhood a better place. (also inspired by this post by Manila Rat).

2) the future (and past) of cities - looking a technologies on the horizon (Kurzweil's singularity notwithstanding) and how this can possibly affect Metro Manila's future.

and finally,

3) news from the world of urban planning/policy -including Metro Manila (i'll try my best not to pontificate).

So, switching from random sniping to a blunderbuss...(yes, but selective blunderbussing). Maybe we can find a worthy Chrysophylax.


if a tree falls in the forest...

I've been silent over the last few weeks. It's an existential silence, borne by major life changes and nagging doubts.

I started this blog in the hopes of having some voice -or some participation in future of our cities. The nagging doubt comes from observing that the blog community is largely incestuous. The usual suspects dishing the same bait and debate tactics. I wonder if blogging really does have any impact on society or if it is, as the Philosopher says, just "vanities of vanities."

I don't mean to disparage the people who read and comment on this blog. You've all shared wonderful ideas. I just wonder if the exchange is productive or if it is (as an old college professor liked to put it) just "intellectual masturbation."

There is also the question of analysis from a distance. I can only really comment on what I read in the online newspapers. (DIGRESSION and RANT: Businessworld online has decided to charge for access. I have nothing against that, if that is the business model they need to pursue to keep the online service going, but please: if you want to begin charging for online access, can you at least make sure you have an online payment system? Bworld wants overseas readers to actually fax them all the credit card details! If I don't do that for US based businesses, why would I do it for a long-distance fax?? Whoever is running the business end of business world online is an idiot.)

Back to my point: it is very hard to really comment on the local situation based on second hand sources. (I've been trying to get land use codes from the concerned government agencies, but all require in-person pickup.)

I haven't answered the question. So I will soldier on, perhaps retreating to the comfort that at least I can put down my thoughts in some server somewhere and my words, theoretically, could outlast my own frame.

I am also trying to lay the groundwork for a conference on metropolitan economic strategies in Manila, sometime next year. Maybe that will be a bit more satisfying.

I leave you with this essay on the perils of postmodernism:

Subcultural situationism and modernist neodeconstructive theory
Y. David Bailey
Department of Peace Studies, University of Michigan
Linda H. G. von Ludwig
Department of Literature, Stanford University

1. Spelling and Sartreist existentialism

In the works of Spelling, a predominant concept is the distinction between feminine and masculine. Thus, in Robin's Hoods, Spelling denies conceptual libertarianism; in Models, Inc., although, he deconstructs subcultural situationism.

The primary theme of Pickett's[1] essay on modernist neodeconstructive theory is the common ground between consciousness and class. Several discourses concerning Sartreist existentialism may be discovered. It could be said that Lyotard promotes the use of the dialectic paradigm of reality to analyse and attack society.

Drucker[2] holds that we have to choose between subcultural situationism and Sartreist absurdity. Thus, the main theme of the works of Gaiman is a subtextual whole.

If the material paradigm of expression holds, the works of Gaiman are modernistic. But the premise of subcultural situationism states that culture is responsible for sexism.

Debord uses the term 'Sartreist existentialism' to denote the difference between class and art. In a sense, Baudrillard's critique of modernist neodeconstructive theory holds that the media is capable of intention.

2. Subcultural situationism and postcapitalist desemanticism

In the works of Gaiman, a predominant concept is the concept of cultural sexuality. Foucault suggests the use of neomodern feminism to deconstruct hierarchy. But modernist neodeconstructive theory suggests that society has intrinsic meaning.

"Sexual identity is part of the stasis of art," says Derrida; however, according to Pickett[3] , it is not so much sexual identity that is part of the stasis of art, but rather the fatal flaw, and subsequent collapse, of sexual identity. The subject is contextualised into a postcapitalist desemanticism that includes language as a totality. It could be said that the example of subcultural situationism depicted in Gaiman's The Books of Magic is also evident in Sandman, although in a more mythopoetical sense.

If one examines modernist neodeconstructive theory, one is faced with a choice: either reject Marxist socialism or conclude that truth is used to disempower the proletariat, given that narrativity is interchangeable with sexuality. The subject is interpolated into a modernist neodeconstructive theory that includes truth as a whole. Thus, Debord's model of subcultural situationism states that class, somewhat surprisingly, has objective value.

"Sexual identity is elitist," says Lyotard; however, according to Wilson[4] , it is not so much sexual identity that is elitist, but rather the meaninglessness, and eventually the rubicon, of sexual identity. Werther[5] implies that we have to choose between structural theory and Sontagist camp. In a sense, Baudrillard uses the term 'modernist neodeconstructive theory' to denote the fatal flaw, and subsequent paradigm, of subdialectic society.

In the works of Gaiman, a predominant concept is the distinction between within and without. Postcapitalist desemanticism suggests that discourse is a product of the masses. It could be said that the subject is contextualised into a modernist neodeconstructive theory that includes language as a totality.

If postcapitalist desemanticism holds, we have to choose between constructive semanticism and precultural deconstruction. Thus, Sartre promotes the use of subcultural situationism to analyse art.

The characteristic theme of d'Erlette's[6] critique of postcapitalist desemanticism is the common ground between society and reality. It could be said that Baudrillard uses the term 'subcultural situationism' to denote the genre, and therefore the absurdity, of cultural class. Sontag suggests the use of Foucaultist power relations to challenge the status quo. Thus, Debord uses the term 'subcultural situationism' to denote a neotextual whole.

Lyotard's model of the dialectic paradigm of consensus holds that truth may be used to reinforce sexism. In a sense, Brophy[7] states that we have to choose between subcultural situationism and conceptual narrative.

Postcapitalist desemanticism implies that sexual identity has intrinsic meaning, given that the premise of the postcapitalist paradigm of expression is invalid. But if modernist neodeconstructive theory holds, the works of Gaiman are an example of mythopoetical nihilism.

The subject is interpolated into a subcultural situationism that includes culture as a totality. It could be said that Sartre uses the term 'textual substructuralist theory' to denote the role of the writer as poet.

The main theme of the works of Gaiman is not conceptualism, as Lacan would have it, but postconceptualism. Thus, Scuglia[8] states that we have to choose between modernist neodeconstructive theory and subcultural patriarchialist theory.

3. Gaiman and postcapitalist desemanticism

"Society is intrinsically unattainable," says Debord; however, according to Werther[9] , it is not so much society that is intrinsically unattainable, but rather the rubicon, and subsequent failure, of society. Marx's analysis of subcultural situationism implies that narrativity serves to oppress the Other. Therefore, the primary theme of von Junz's[10] model of postconstructive desituationism is a textual reality.

"Class is part of the meaninglessness of truth," says Derrida. Lacan uses the term 'postcapitalist desemanticism' to denote the role of the artist as poet. It could be said that if the subcapitalist paradigm of discourse holds, we have to choose between modernist neodeconstructive theory and cultural objectivism.

Debord uses the term 'subcultural situationism' to denote the defining characteristic, and eventually the meaninglessness, of posttextual sexual identity. However, the premise of cultural subpatriarchialist theory states that class, paradoxically, has objective value.

The subject is contextualised into a postcapitalist desemanticism that includes culture as a paradox. It could be said that the creation/destruction distinction which is a central theme of Gaiman's Death: The Time of Your Life emerges again in Stardust. The subject is interpolated into a modernist neodeconstructive theory that includes narrativity as a reality. In a sense, in Neverwhere, Gaiman affirms postcapitalist desemanticism; in Stardust he analyses cultural nationalism.

Parry[11] implies that we have to choose between modernist neodeconstructive theory and predialectic narrative. Thus, many deappropriations concerning the difference between sexual identity and society exist.

4. Subcultural situationism and Sontagist camp

The characteristic theme of the works of Gaiman is the role of the observer as artist. Modernist neodeconstructive theory suggests that consciousness is impossible. However, if Sontagist camp holds, we have to choose between semantic rationalism and Marxist capitalism.

"Sexual identity is fundamentally used in the service of the status quo," says Derrida; however, according to Brophy[12] , it is not so much sexual identity that is fundamentally used in the service of the status quo, but rather the rubicon, and hence the meaninglessness, of sexual identity. Cameron[13] holds that the works of Tarantino are empowering. In a sense, Debord uses the term 'Sontagist camp' to denote the bridge between culture and sexual identity.

In the works of Tarantino, a predominant concept is the concept of capitalist language. Lacan's essay on modernist neodeconstructive theory states that the law is capable of significance, but only if art is equal to reality; if that is not the case, Marx's model of subcultural materialism is one of "the textual paradigm of consensus", and thus elitist. Therefore, Foucault promotes the use of subcultural situationism to deconstruct and analyse consciousness.

In Four Rooms, Tarantino reiterates Lacanist obscurity; in Pulp Fiction, although, he denies subcultural situationism. Thus, if precultural semiotic theory holds, we have to choose between subcultural situationism and Derridaist reading.

The subject is contextualised into a Sontagist camp that includes art as a whole. However, postconceptualist narrative implies that narrativity is used to entrench hierarchy.

Marx suggests the use of Sontagist camp to challenge capitalism. Thus, the subject is interpolated into a subcultural situationism that includes culture as a reality.

Several deappropriations concerning Sontagist camp may be revealed. It could be said that Geoffrey[14] states that the works of Tarantino are postmodern.

1. Pickett, S. A. S. ed. (1975) Postcapitalist Narratives: Subcultural situationism in the works of Smith. Oxford University Press
2. Drucker, Y. (1990) Modernist neodeconstructive theory in the works of Gaiman. University of California Press
3. Pickett, L. A. ed. (1986) The Dialectic of Sexuality: Modernist neodeconstructive theory and subcultural situationism. University of North Carolina Press
4. Wilson, Y. (1977) Subcultural situationism in the works of Glass. Schlangekraft
5. Werther, T. O. ed. (1991) Reading Sartre: Subcultural situationism and modernist neodeconstructive theory. Harvard University Press
6. d'Erlette, U. H. A. (1977) Modernist neodeconstructive theory and subcultural situationism. O'Reilly & Associates
7. Brophy, K. Z. ed. (1981) The Vermillion Fruit: Subcultural situationism and modernist neodeconstructive theory. University of Georgia Press
8. Scuglia, B. U. M. (1996) Marxism, textual theory and subcultural situationism. Cambridge University Press
9. Werther, G. M. ed. (1983) Deconstructing Sartre: Subcultural situationism in the works of Joyce. Schlangekraft
10. von Junz, S. (1994) Modernist neodeconstructive theory in the works of Gaiman. University of Illinois Press
11. Parry, N. L. ed. (1981) Deconstructing Realism: Modernist neodeconstructive theory and subcultural situationism. Yale University Press
12. Brophy, U. D. Q. (1973) Modernist neodeconstructive theory in the works of Tarantino. Panic Button Books
13. Cameron, D. ed. (1984) Narratives of Economy: Subcultural situationism and modernist neodeconstructive theory. University of Georgia Press
14. Geoffrey, S. L. Q. (1976) Subcultural situationism in the works of McLaren. Schlangekraft

See what I mean?
Read original context of essay here.
Find more essays like this here.


every city should have one...

we should have one of these:

"Action Network can help you change something in your local area, by:
  • Putting you in touch with people who feel the same way you do so together you can get something done.
  • Providing you with information and advice you'll need to help you change your local area for the better."

Check out how one man is cleaning up a river.


while we were all distracted...

So what will it take to get us on this list?

Sub-$100 laptop design unveiled

"Children in Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand, and South Africa will be among the first to get the under-$100 (£57) computer, said Professor Negroponte at the Emerging Technologies conference at MIT."

Paging GILAS!

Click on the picture for more cool images.


the new black (and white)

This is a response to Christian Monsod's Solution as posted on MLQ's blog.

If you can't march with the black and white (because there are just too many people with shady backgrounds or you're still figuring out the grays) but you're still committed to improving the country and you feel something should be done. Join me in calling for the following:

  1. Immediate resignation of all COMELEC commissioners.
    (Impeach them if they won't.)

  2. Immediate implementation of a RATIONAL electoral automation program.

  3. Creation of a COMELEC REFORM COMMISSION (composed of representatives from all sectors) who will select a new set of commissioners who should all be above reproach.

  4. Immediate reform of the COMELEC. We want an electoral system that we can trust.

This is the most important, most immediate demand. All sides of the impeachment/hello garci/gloriagate can agree to this.

This is the best investment for our future -and if GMA wants to leave a legacy, this is it.

Feel free to take the logo above. Post it on your blogs. Remix it. Send it to friends. Blow it up. Print it on t-shirts. Post it on walls.

(email me if you want a higher resolution or a vector copy.)

There is should be no ambiguity on this:



touching the state

"How and where do we ‘touch the State’? When do we become citizens rather than members of the general public? And when we encounter the State as citizens, how does the nature of that interaction – the way it is choreographed, communicated, shaped, scripted, designed – affect our sense of citizenship?"

from "Touching the State" UK Design Council report
available as a .pdf (5.5mb) here.

The UK Design Council through their unit RED is taking "a proactive approach to solving problems and developing new concepts and processes for change... to provoke, stimulate, surprise and deliver, within a context that puts people first and is based in the real world."

One of their projects is Touching the State which looks "at the role of design in mediating and defining the relationship between the State and citizens." They ask "can these encounters be designed differently to increase engagement and a sense of citizenship?"

Essentially they are employing the tools of design (i.e. -looking through the eyes of the user; making the invisible visible and the intangible tangible; rapid prototyping and modeling) to rethink the way we interact with the State -even the processes of the state.

I am a firm believer in benefits of good design (and I am not referring the to glossy magazine conception of aesthetics and style -i mean it as a discipline and a way of thinking.) It would be interesting if we could have a similar project back home. If anything we Filipinos stand out in the region for our creativity -we could design (and redesign) some very innovative approaches to government and governance.

Image credit: Japan Today


t.o.d. spelling

Let's get this straight. it's supposed to be Transit Oriented Development NOT Development Funded Transit. Could someone make that clear to the MRT-8 proponents?

From Businessworld article dated September 20, 2005:

"A consortium led by American Transport System Corp. is proposing to develop a 2,300-hectare estate in Angono, Rizal, approximately the size of Makati City, to raise funds for the $907.4-million Metro Rail Transit 8 (MRT-8).

The estate called Palayan ng Bayan will be linked to MRT-8 by a 25-kilometer, six-lane highway the group will build by next year."

"In a proposal to the government, consortium representative, Herve Laumond, said 516 hectares will be initially developed into a special economic zone housing information technology firms, call centers, and wafer plants by 2006.

Also in the consortium are Vinci Construction Grand Projects, Bombardier Transportation, Invensys Foxboro Transportation, Aecom Technology Corp. and Systra."

"The consortium expects a high-end investment in wafer plant with an annual turnover of $500 million-$700 million to funnel, $15 million-$20 million to state coffers and about $10 million-$13 million to the local government of Rizal.

Mr. Laumond said the initial development would be enough to cover expenses for MRT-8 as it would draw $4 billion-$5 billion in direct investment. He said the project would benefit the government in direct income tax amounting to $45 million yearly at current exchange rates. The project will employ 100,000 workers."

So the scuttlebutts: To defray the investment costs, they want to develop an area larger than Makati that will potentially have 100,000 workers -BUT it'll be 25-kilometers from the nearest MRT-8 station which they'll need to connect to the train via a six-lane highway. What's wrong with this picture?

Intent of MRT-8 (mass transit)
= less car dependence, less traffic congestion, less sprawl
six lane highway+25 kilometers to nearest station
= sprawl and traffic congestion

Where will the workers live? Will they take the train to work?

The real-estate deal is just to cover the construction costs, to say nothing of the $100 M they will need to operate this project in the first 5 years.

The government should REALLY REALLY CONSIDER bus rapid transit as a solution. It'll be at a fraction of the cost and won't require these faustian trades. These light and heavy rail projects are starting to look like pork for engineering companies. (BTW, Laumond was also a proponent of MRT-4 and also has his fingers in the Panay Rail project.)


we are not alone

"Sixty-five percent of citizens across the world do not think their country is governed by the will of the people, a poll commissioned by the BBC suggests."

Read the rest of the article here.


the big here quiz

Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick for WIRED magazine, posted this eco-awareness quiz on his Cool Tools blog.

It's an eye-opener of a test - specially with what I don't know about Metro Manila (or even of the current city I live and work in). I strongly suggest you take a stab at trying to answer the questions if only to enlarge your thinking of where the city begins and ends.

I've answered two of his questions here:

3) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.

  • If you're in the East Zone of Manila -this is the probable route: your tap, main pipe, Pasig pumping station, Balara, La Mesa, Angat Dam, Angat-Umiray Rivers.

4) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?

  • If you're in Makati -to the Magallanes Sewage Treatment Plant, then to Tripa de Gallina, then to the Pasig, then to Manila Bay.
  • If you're in Q.C. -probably to a community septic tank.
  • If you're in Manila, to a CSSO (combined storm-sewer outfall) into Manila Bay.
  • If you're elsewhere, you probably have a septic tank. (And when was the last time you had it drained?)

lateral thinking

One more post on systems thinking, tackling again the problem of the powerful feedback gain and politics then I move on.

The feedback gain we are working with is: congressmen (indeed, any elected official for that matter), gain power and privilege while in their posts and even after -power and privilege that is often used to gain more resources to get their scions (or any other next of kin or protege) to run in the post they will vacate, thereby perpetuating the power> privilege >resources to get elected cycle. (Up to 50% of the previous congress members come from political clans.)

Caveat: There are MANY operational feedback gains, this is but one.

How do we break this feedback gain or de-couple it from the position? Term limits (which reduce the replacement cycle) have been instituted into the constitution, but very often the pol just gets a surrogate to warm their post to keep the power in the family. (c.f. -the Binays in Makati). The bill enabling the anti-dynasty provision was supposed to prevent this but it has never passed muster in congress (whose members, of course, will not vote against their political interests).

Pursuing some wishful thinking, here are a few new approaches using Brian Eno 's Oblique Strategies and Edward de Bono's Lateral Thinking. As with all re-thinks, the ideas are meant to be conversation starters and may set us on the road to innovative solutions. The trick is to think of the consequences (re: feedback gain), and find a workable operating principle:

What would happen to the feedback gain (and to Philippine politics) if we:

  1. Change the service area - What if congressmen were not allowed to run in their home province or any province they may have lived in? Would it remove or redirect vested interest?
  2. Increase the risk - What if all public officials (good or bad) were put to death immediately after their term? Would it bring out the noble or only the crazy?
  3. Extend rather than decrease the term limits What if we keep the congressmen in their post until they die? Would they tire of the privilege and begin to do some serious legislation?
  4. Elect congressmen by pairs What if you had to run as a duo? As a a duo -- but from separate provinces? (i.e.-both of you must win or neither one gets the post)
  5. Change the representation level. What if you can only run for barangay captain? Then the captains elect from among them, the councillors. Then the councillors elect the mayors, the mayors then elect the governor and congressmen, the congressmen elect from among them the senate and the presidentcy? And what if you could only stand for a higher post after at least two terms in your previous post? What if you were required to go back to the barangay level for one term before you could run again?
  6. Isolate Congress. -What if freshmen and sophomore representatives were closeted (ala trappist monks) for the length of their term?
  7. Name successors -What if would-be congressmen were required to name who they would select to run in their post after they retire? And they could not change their choice?

Like I said, new-think that could spark ideas for new approaches to arresting that feedback gain. More ideas please, the wilder the better.

Btw, some classic lateral thinking puzzles here.


system of down

Fig. 1

When I started this blog, I told myself I would avoid commenting on politics. I make an exception today as my comment on politics has a long range view.

I discussed leverage points in systems in my last post. Here's a real world explanation -albeit, a simplistic example. (see Fig. 1)

  • If we think of Congress as a reserve pool or buffer (i.e.-cache of politicians).
  • Input can be new politicians or scions of political families.
  • Output is retired politicians.
  • The positive feedback gain (and I use positive in a technical, amoral sense) is power and privilege which allows retiring politicians to favor their scions with resources to run for congress.
  • The positive feedback gain encourages more scions or proteges of politicians to run for congress - having their scions run for congress actually reinforces the feedback gain.
  • Because there is no positive feedback gain for new politicians who do not want to play patronage politics, there is a slower input flow of new (non-corrupt) politicians
  • (We might consider "public acclaim" as positive feedback for new pols but this potentially only encourages them to do better work - it does not arm more incoming new pols with resources to get into the buffer.
  • Term limits (not in illustration) were intended to break the cycle of patronage politics (negative feedback), but that only speeds up the replacement cycle but does not cut the positive feedback gain.
  • We can increase the number of new (hopefully ethical) politicians coming in (increasing one input) but if the size of the buffer stock (number of corrupt politicians in congress) does not change, then the state of the system (perceived and actual corruption) will not change

So, on to the proposals on the table:

  1. Replace the leader (resign or impeach). Replacing the leader by itself does not change the system if the buffer remains stable and feedback gain remains.
  2. Change the form of the buffer stock (bicameral to unicameral). Changing the form of the buffer stock does not change the system if the inputs remain the same and the actual stock ("a congressman by any other name...") is not changed.
  3. Put in a leader with powers over the buffer, input and output (a dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise) -can potentially clear the buffer stock but has been used to just redirect the cycle of the feedback gain (to oligarchs and cronies).
  4. Replace the whole stock (resign all or revolution). This will clear the buffer stock and potentially change the input sources but if the feedback gain remains (power and privilege leading to resources), then the system will find stability again (corruption will again take root).

Again, this is a simplified example -to illustrate that, in any system, lower number leverage points have amazing power over higher number leverage points (changing parameters vs. arresting feedback gains).

The challenge is (and I do not have the answers) : "How do we decouple or de-amplify the feedback gain?" Or, "How can we create a stronger feedback gain to get new, ethical politicians into the system?"

Ideas, anyone?

p.s. -I promise to get back to Livable Cities soon.


if the system is broke...

"Frameworks must be lived with and explored before they can be broken."

Thomas Kuhn

I've held back from posting over the last week given the ongoing political upheaval back home and the aftermath of Katrina in the U.S,

Both events are painful examples of failures in systems. By saying that, I am not absolving anyone of blame or complicity, simply that meaningful changes to systems rarely equate down the the replacement of a single individidual.

I am a veteran of both EDSA I and II and though each event produced the change we wanted to effect - replacing a corrupt leader - each failed to change the system for the good. Though we found the tipping point necessary to reset the political clock, the change point did not significantly affect the deeper (faulty) mechanisms of our society.

That points me to systems thinking, particularly to the late Dana Meadow who identified Twelve Leverage Points to Intervene in a System (pdf 91kb). I reproduce part of the summary from the Wikipedia page below:

Leverage points to intervene in a system
(in increasing order of effectiveness)

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards)

Parameters are points of lowest leverage effects. Though they are the most clearly perceived among all leverages, they have little effect long term; they do not usually change behaviors. A widely changing system will not be made stable by a change of parameter, nor will a stagnant one dramatically change.

11. The size of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows

A buffer is a stabilizing stock. The stabilizing buffer is important when the stock amount is much higher than the potential amount of inflows or outflows. In the lake, the volume of water in the lake is the buffer: if there's a lot more of it than inflow/outflow, the system stays stable.

10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport network, population age structures)

The structure of the system may have enormous effect on how the system operates. So it might also be a leverage point to act on. However, if a system structure was not built properly, the cost, delays and externalities of the rebuilding may be prohibitive. Sometimes, the structure cannot even be changed at all. So the leverage point might be to understand the system limitations and bottlenecks, and to work on fluctuations.

9. The length of delays, relative to the rate of system changes

Another leverage point is in the length of delays. Delays must be carefully considered, as information received too quickly or information received too late could cause either overreaction and underreaction. Very lengthy delays cause oscillations when trying to adjust a system. However, delays are often parameters that can be changed as easily as rate of change.

8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the effect they are trying to correct against

A negative feedback loop is a control that tend to slow down a process (it refers to the direction of the change). In a system going forward, the negative loop will tend to promote stability (stagnation). The loop will keep the stock near the goal, thanks to parameters, accuracy and speed of information feedback, and size of correcting flows.

7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops

A positive feedback loop is a control that tends to speed up a process (it refers to the direction of the change). It is a self-reinforcing loop. Positive feedback loop are sources of growth, of explosion, and sometimes of collapse when the feedback is not under control (in particular of a negative feedback loop). Dana indicates that in most cases, it is preferable to slow down a positive loop, rather than speeding up a negative one.

6. The structure of information flow (who does and does not have access to what kinds of information)

Information flow is a very important leverage point in a system. It is neither a parameter, nor a re-inforcing or slowing loop, but a new loop delivering information that was not delivered before. It is considered a very powerful leverage, cheaper and easier than infrastructure change.

5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishment, constraints)

Rules are very high leverage points. Dana Meadows points out the importance of paying attention to rules, and mostly to who make them.

4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure

Self-organization refers to the capacity of a system to change itself by creating new structures; adding new negative and positive feedback loops, promoting new information flows, making new rules.

3. The goal of the system

A goal change has effect on every item listed above, parameters, feedback loops, information and self-organisation.

2. The mindset or paradigm that the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises out of

A society paradigm is an idea, an unstated assumption (because it is unnecessary to state it) that everyone shares, thoughts, or states of thoughts that are sources of systems. Any set of assumptions becomes a paradigm, and therefore re-examining all the fundamental assumptions may lead to new paradigms. Paradigms are very hard to change, but there are no limits to paradigm change. It just requires another way of seeing things. Dana indicates paradigms might be changed by repeatedly and consistently pointing out anomalities and failures to those with open minds.

1. The power to transcend paradigms

Transcending paradigms may go beyond challenging fundamental assumptions, into the realm of changing the values and priorities that lead to the assumptions, and being able to choose among value sets at will. The power of this ability may be literally godlike.

More about this next time...



“The proposal to build bike lanes may sound good to ease the impact of the rising cost of fuel products to motorists. But roads in Metro Manila are not safe for biking and the air quality in the cities is so dirty,” said (Health Secretary Francisco H.) Duque.

This Manila Times article reports DOH officials saying that encouraging biking in Metro Manila is not a good idea -because the pollution is bad for the cyclists.

So, let me get this straight: pollution from cars is bad for the cyclists so we should just all ride inside pollution causing cars so we are protected from pollution?

Is it just me or did logic take a vacation somewhere?

And why does Manila Times allow Jonathan Vicente (the reporter) to publish an article that is such an awkwardly disguised press release?

"The use of the Khaos Super Turbo Charger (KSTC) is being pushed by the government and several environmentalists to save on fuel consumption and promote clean-air quality in Metro Manila."

Seriously folks. Let's get with the program here.


vancouver's vision

"It starts with having a strong vision."

"We don't want ghettoes for the rich nor for the poor."

Larry Beasley
Co-Director of Planning and
Director of Current Planning
Vancouver BC, Canada

If you have the bandwidth, and the time, download Carol Coletta's interview (in her NPR radio show, Smart City) with Larry Beasley who has led Vancouver's amazing growth and has turned it into one of the most liveable cities in the world.

The MP3 link is here, but you can also download it via iTunes Podcast Directory (do a search for "Smart City").

The interview with Larry is just the first 30 minutes but it's a revealing look at how a clear vision, that goes beyond just economic growth, can create a wonderful livable city.

The interview with Tim Jones (the lower half of the program), CEO of Artscape, a Toronto organization that develops real estate and programs for the city's artists and creative sector, is also very insightful. (I personally think we don't do enough for our artists. And creativity is a definite comparative advantage in the globalized economy.)

Image credit: Vancover, BC -Home, Sweet Home!

...oh, well...

Licuanan resigns post, palace keeps mum.

Here we go again, Subic.

Image credit: BBC News


halo-halo together

1. Mix Land Uses. New, clustered development works best if it includes a mix of stores, jobs and homes. Single-use districts make life less convenient and require more driving.

from How to achieve Smart Growth

Monocultures are bad. Whether it be in forestry, farming, society, or in thinking and discourse -single-use, single-crop systems are fragile, energy inefficient systems.

Monocultures are convenient for management and efficiency experts. One crop/product makes the system predictable and easy to harvest but the choice is often very short-sighted. The cost of maintaining a monoculture increases exponentially as the single crop exhausts the land of a particular set of resources. A single crop farm will need more fertilizer, herbicide and fungicide than a in farms where the crops are mixed or rotated.

A large swath of land turned into single-crop plantation quickly exhausts the soil and makes the local economy vulnerable to collapse when the market for the crop fails.

Same goes for cities and urban districts. Monocultures -single use districts, are easy to parcel out and sell but lead to socially stratified cities and increases vehicular traffic. Separating uses means increasing travel distance between uses.

Single use districts are a product of euclidean zoning, which is itself a product of 19th and early 20th century industrial society that saw the efficiency of the assembly line and thought this would clean up the mess of cities. (cf -Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne's "Functional City" in the 1933 Athens Charter).

Planners thought segregating uses, a response to the squalid conditions of the industrial cities, would create more livable cities. Commerce would stay in commercial zones, industry (and it's noxious byproducts) would be separated from residential areas and the city, in theory, would hum as cleanly as a Ford factory. As with all good ideas, this was of course taken too far such that, in the US, zoning separated even grocery stores from its customers and created auto-dependent development epitomized by monstrous suburban malls ringed by acres and acres of parking.

This is usually not a problem in traditional asian cities - walk through Hongkong, Shanghai, Seoul or Tokyo and the residential areas mix right in with the retail and services. Tokyo zoning, in fact, prescribes only what land use is NOT allowed and lets the citizens go their merry own way. The result is a more vibrant street life with residential needs closely knit to the places providing for those needs.

In our own city, this happy-mixing is captured by the corner sari-sari store in the projects of Quezon City. Manila's older parts have enough chaos that there are stores and groceries almost everywhere.

That state of affairs though is fast being lost in the suburbs north, south and east of Metro Manila, where land use plans took their cues from single-use zoning. From Better Living down to the new villages (with fancy, english sounding names) in Laguna and Cavite, finding the nearest grocery store means stepping into a car or a tricycle and driving out for a few kilometers. The subdivisions east of the metro - from Marikina to Antipolo also share the same problems arising from this same formulaic response: Master planned areas will neatly chop up areas for housing from areas for stores from areas for jobs then lay down wide roads in between to ferry people from one use to another.

Planning hindsight sees that mixing uses was not so bad after all as it allows residents to walk to get to their everyday needs -gives retail and restaurants a steady set of consumers -and more importantly puts more life on the street.

(I am glad that the Ayala Business District has lately turned to zoning rules mixing uses in the Legaspi and Salcedo districts. The ground floors are now allowed to sport restaurants, coffee bars and laundromats, it makes the street life all the more active.)

As the metropolis goes through it's cycle of new development and re-development, I hope we take more to Shanghai and Hongkong than to L.A. or Atlanta.


livable cities

Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, Oregon

Cebu city's goal to be the most livable city in Asia by 2015 leads to the question: "What makes a city livable?" or more aptly, "What kind of city do we want to live in?"

Most people know what kind city they don't want to live in. (The quick answer: Metro Manila in its present state. See batjay's commentary on living the auto-driven life in the real O.C. for comparison.) Few really think about what kind of city they want -moreso how to get there.

Here's one of my favorites from the Smart Growth movement - it's a roadmap to getting to smart growth, but I think it also serves as a measure of livability. Not everything is completely applicable to Metro Manila but they serve as good take-off points for discussing the future of our city:

  1. Mix Land Uses. New, clustered development works best if it includes a mix of stores, jobs and homes. Single-use districts make life less convenient and require more driving.

  2. Take Advantage of Existing Community Assets. From local parks to neighborhood schools to transit systems, public investments should focus on getting the most out of what we’ve already built.

  3. Create a Range of Housing Opportunities and Choices. Not everyone wants the same thing. Communities should offer a range of options: houses, condominiums, affordable homes for low income families, and “granny flats” for empty nesters.

  4. Foster “Walkable,” Close-Knit Neighborhoods. These places offer not just the opportunity to walk—sidewalks are a necessity—but something to walk to, whether it’s the corner store, the transit stop or a school. A compact, walkable neighborhood contributes to peoples’ sense of community because neighbors get to know each other, not just each other’s cars.

  5. Promote Distinctive, Attractive Communities with a Strong Sense of Place, Including the Rehabilitation and Use of Historic Buildings. In every community, there are things that make each place special, from train stations to local businesses. These should be protected and celebrated.

  6. Preserve Open Space, Farmland, Natural Beauty, and Critical Environmental Areas. People want to stay connected to nature and are willing to take action to protect farms, waterways, ecosystems and wildlife.

  7. Strengthen and Encourage Growth in Existing Communities. Before we plow up more forests and farms, we should look for opportunities to grow in already built-up areas.

  8. Provide a Variety of Transportation Choices. People can’t get out of their cars unless we provide them with another way to get where they’re going.More communities need safe and reliable public transportation, sidewalks and bike paths.

  9. Make Development Decisions Predictable, Fair, and Cost-Effective. Builders wishing to implement smart growth should face no more obstacles than those contributing to sprawl. In fact, communities may choose to provide incentives for smarter development.

  10. Encourage Citizen and Stakeholder Participation in Development Decisions. Plans developed without strong citizen involvement don’t have staying power.When people feel left out of important decisions, they won’t be there to help out when tough choices have to be made.

In future posts, I'll discuss each item to see how we might apply it to Metro Manila.

Image credit: Project for Public Spaces.


konting ipit lang po*
(...disorganized transport iii)

The Boundary System as a city shaper.

Cities are self-organizing systems. With the exception of planned cities like Brasilia or Chandigarh, very few cities arise ex-nihilo.

Cities respond to the needs of the individuals that comprise it and one of the key needs is mobility -to get from one point to another.

Cities are shaped by the current mode of transportation available when they grew up. So older european cities have narrow winding streets, suitable for carts and donkeys or walking. London grew up around the tube, and New York around the subway system. L.A., like Metro Manila, grew up around the automobile -so roads (at least in the newer parts of the metropolis) are wide and traffic fast.

The mode of transportation shapes the city and the demands of the city also shapes the transportation -particularly public transportation.

In our own city, public transport, as I previously discussed has been given over to the free market. The rewards/remuneration system of this particular urban sub-system, has shaped our city in ways that may have been invisible to us all these years.

The Boundary System is basically a vehicle rent system. The driver is "hired" by the transport operator, to run and maintain his jeep, bus, or FX cab. The driver can run as many trips within the boundary period (standard is 12 hours) as he wants but he basically has to pay the "boundary fee" (usually, daily) to the owner -and his source of income is whatever he makes over and above the boundary fee. The driver covers the cost of gasoline and minor repairs.

This remuneration/rent system has shaped metro-manila in subtle and not so subtle ways.

The boundary system brings a logic to earning money that shapes the driving habits of the renting drivers. If the driver only earns above the boundary, then logic dictates that he must get as many passengers as he can in as many trips as possible . The driver also benefits by having the vehicle on the road as many days as possible - as repairs and shutdowns mean no income for the day.

So, a driver will:

  1. soak up passengers by basically waiting as long as he can in a high traffic/passenger volume area and then
  2. speed up to the next high volume pickup point to soak in more passengers.
  3. he will also see other public utility vehicles plying the route as competition so waiting in a line does not make much sense,
  4. he will try to get ahead of the line (usually by doubling up on the pickup lane) so he can be closer to the "source" of passengers and so
  5. he won't be tied down on the line and can speed up to the next destination.
  6. It also means that shorter trips are preferred to longer trips and
  7. vehicle downtime and thus vehicle maintenance is kept to a minimum (=inefficient engines, =more pollution).

This system is behind the traffic chokepoints at the major junctions and intersections. The underpass in cubao, the flyovers in ortigas, the overpasses in santolan, even the grade separations in EDSA in Makati were driven by the logic of separating the buses, who spent an inordinate amount of time at the intersections waiting for passengers, from the rest of the road traffic.

The government has also probably thrown millions of pesos in soft costs at trying to manage the behavior of the public utility vehicles by throwing hundreds of traffic enforcers and by coming up with several management programs (from Oscar Orbos' bus numbering system, to Bayani Fernando's Organized Bus Routes).

The flyovers/overpasses/underpasses have made EDSA completely un-friendly to pedestrians, and the accumulation of vehicles in the intersections have concentrated exhaust/pollution in the areas around these passenger pickup junctions so these have become some of the worst parts of the city. (Ordinarily, the high pedestrian traffic junctions would be the most suitable places for commerce and retail.)

A serious re-thinking of the boundary system (legislating a wage based system seems the easy way out -but that will create it's own problems) would go a long way not only in solving intractable traffic problems but also in re-shaping the fabric of the city.

*-Part of "Konting ipit lang po, pituhan yan."

Roughly translated, "Please squeeze your thighs a bit more, this jeepney fits seven to a side."

Image credit:Manfred's Travel Pictures

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