Planning in Urban Renewal
Historic PAS Report Series
PAS published its first Information Report in 1949. To celebrate this history, each month we're presenting a new report from the archives.
We hope you enjoy this fascinating snapshot of a planning issue of yesteryear.
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PLANNING OFFICIALS
1313 EAST 60TH STREET — CHICAGO 37 ILLINOIS
|Information Report No. 100||July 1957|
Planning In Urban Renewal
The professional planner of today is much involved in urban renewal. He is on the urban renewal staff; he is called upon as a specialist when the planning department or commission is consulted on renewal; and in some cities the planning agency staff is the renewal agency. Whatever his role in it, he is important to the outcome of every urban renewal program.
Urban renewal is still in its infancy, however, and in many cases local renewal staffs are so concerned with clothing themselves in the garb that the Urban Renewal Administration would have them wear — "steps," forms, and procedures — that weaving the fabric of red tape sometimes becomes more important than the product. The planning viewpoint gets lost.
Previous PLANNING ADVISORY SERVICE Information Reports on urban redevelopment and renewal — Urban Redevelopment Agencies (No. 4); Progress Reports on "Rehabilitation" and "Conservation" (No. 61), and Administrative Organization for Urban Renewal in Selected Cities (No. 76) — were factual progress reports on a new facet of urban planning and were based on questionnaires or surveys. This report, however, is a series of comments on some of the practical aspects of operating a renewal program growing out of the experience of an ASPO staff member who is also director of planning for a widely known southeast Chicago urban renewal program in the vicinity of the University of Chicago. Because these comments reflect the on-the-job experiences of an individual, rather than a resume of research, we are crediting the work to the author — Jack Meltzer.
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Critical issues have emerged as urban renewal has grown. Although it is not possible to discuss all of the issues or all of the facets of renewal as they relate to planning and planners, it is advisable at this stage in the program to take a look at where we've been, where we are, and where we're heading.
Pat answers have not been found; and it should be emphasized that a whole report could be devoted to each of the complex problems discussed here. But the comments that follow on the concepts of renewal, as well as the assessment of the experiences with specific projects, may indicate whether those experiences warrant repetition.
The significant role that federal legislation played in stimulating urban renewal is already known, and this report will not touch on it except by indirection and when necessary to emphasize a point.
We cannot, however, fail to note that the federal law and administration has helped to breed a species of renewal specialists whose approach to the program is almost entirely procedural — a one-two-three recital of the steps involved and a check list type of comments on those steps. That is the project approach, which to some degree is a natural extension of what was first a public housing program, then a slum clearance-redevelopment program, and now an urban renewal program.
For the project approach, the knowledge required is almost routine. Skills required are those of a technician. Techniques rather than objectives, forms and methods in lieu of analysis and problem solution are the factors. The vista is pretty much limited by the street layouts in the legal description. And urban renewal will fail if it is viewed solely as a project undertaking or as a set of procedures to be applied to a rigidly defined area.
It must, instead, be seen as a means of channeling the growth and the social, economic, and political forces that are the flesh, bone, and nervous system of the city's structure.
Seen from this vantage point, urban renewal is not a process of completing forms to get federal aid; of telephone calls and meetings; of schedules for relocation, acquisition, demolition. It does not become a program for saving a certain house, of statistics on how much land is in streets and alleys. Rather, it becomes a matter of schools, parks, land uses, and the economic and social place of an area within the city.
And these are problems for an urban growth expert, not a technician caught in a morass of clerical detail. Urban renewal is a city planner's business and profession.
The planner's job is to meet and plan for all the issues facing the city in terms of development. He is wedded to substance, not form. He attempts to see a problem in relation to the needs of the entire city, recognizing the necessity to keep exploring for better solutions. No solution can become a sacred cow.
Thus the planner has a distinct contribution to make to the urban renewal program and he cannot sacrifice it by permitting himself to become a captive of procedures, which, in spite of their necessity, are only guides to carry out the details of a program.
His contributions to urban renewal must be first, his professional knowledge of the whole subject of change in the city; and second, his ability to coordinate and to deal with the variety of forces, factors, and personalities that are involved in renewing a city.
But he cannot use urban renewal as an escape — as a means of avoiding the more arduous task of providing long-range solutions — and then rationalize his escape as "practical." Some planners have abdicated their planning responsibilities for an operational activity and have lost sight of the fact that an operational program cannot be successful without planning. Moreover, he cannot overlook the increasingly important part that planning plays in city administration, which is obvious from the number of cities that are making planning a departmental operation and bringing it closer to the chief executive of the city.
OFFICIAL CITY ORGANIZATION FOR URBAN RENEWAL
One of the difficult problems faced by our cities is that of putting the urban renewal operation into its proper setting. A question often raised is whether the renewal operation can be absorbed by existing departments or agencies of the city, or whether it should be assigned to a department or agency created for that function. In addition, uncertainty exists as to the relationship and role of the official planning agency to the renewal office, whether it is a separate agency or a part of another city department.
While no one organizational set-up can be recommended that is equally suitable for all cities, every city must realize that urban renewal depends on a comprehensive planning program. It is essential, if a renewal program is to be successful, that overall city planning be a basic element of it. In cities where this is not the case, urban renewal is frustrated and hindered. In fact, renewal of any segment of a city is impossible without an overall plan for the city, Streets do not end at project boundaries nor does a school serve a project area alone.
In other words, whatever organizational set-up a city uses to carry out its renewal activities, it is of prime importance that the place of long-range planning be recognized and accepted as a continuing operation in urban renewal. Nor can the capital improvement program be ignored. The planning staff is more and more frequently expected to draw up a capital budget — a financial blueprint for city growth. Unless such a blueprint exists and if financing of renewal activities does take place, it will be either as a result of strong-arm tactics or at the expense of other needed improvements throughout the city.
But back to the question of renewal agency organization. As a general policy it is recommended that renewal be undertaken within the permanent framework of the city government, rather than through a quasi-independent or temporary and autonomous agency. And where possible, all housing, renewal, and related activities should be brought together and consolidated under the control of the chief executive of the city.
Code enforcement activities have usually been a function of either the health department or the building department. Now, however, some cities have separated the code enforcement functions for new construction from those for existing housing and have brought the existing housing enforcement work into the renewal agency.
Regardless of the organization, it is essential that code enforcement be looked at as a part of the whole. It is not a renewal program of itself. On the other hand, it is an essential part of a successful renewal program; and we need to develop new devices to bring it into closer relationship with urban renewal.
DESIGNATION OF URBAN RENEWAL AREAS
Designation of renewal areas is another difficult problem. Before any site designations are made, it is essential that it be understood that urban renewal is not competitive to nor an alternative for public housing, slum clearance, or any other program. It is an all-encompassing program that draws on a variety of facilities, a variety of tools, and a variety of techniques, which may include public housing, redevelopment, code enforcement — or may not.
Perhaps the first questions that must be settled in designating renewal areas are those of overall financial policy. With only limited funds available, a city must decide where its money can be spent most fruitfully — in the rock-bottom slums, in declining areas, in areas that have not yet shown real evidence of decline, or in a combination of such areas. And if there is to be a combination program, in what ratio should the money be spent?
Many cities have studied these questions and have decided to put a large part of their funds into slum prevention — that is, into the areas that show symptoms of decline but where there is hope of preservation and rehabilitation. Immediately available funds would be spent to prevent the total decline of salvageable areas, and rock-bottom slums would be eliminated over a longer period of time. This policy, however, requires that a city develop a program for those slum areas that will not be cleared for many years — perhaps five, ten, fifteen, or more. In these "deferred clearance" areas, programs must be developed to assure that at least minimum health and safety standards are enforced until complete redevelopment is undertaken.
In the declining but salvagable areas, other kinds of programs are required: programs with heavy emphasis on code enforcement, self-improvement, community facilities.
And in those areas that have not yet begun to show signs of deterioration, emphasis must be given to maintenance and provision of adequate schools, parks, and amenities.
It is essential to recognize that there is an objective far more important than just eliminating slums — the entire neighborhood must be balanced from the standpoint of schools, parks, parking, traffic control, and amenities, so that it becomes a desirable place in which to live.
Still another difficult question to answer: what should the function or character of a neighborhood be? Just because it has been a residential area for 25, 30, or 50 years need it continue to be? Because it has always served a given income group, should it necessarily continue to serve that group?
The answers to these questions are far more important to the success of renewal than the techniques used. No area can be designated for urban renewal and no plan can be developed for it — or for the entire city — until some determination has been made as to the purposes and functions of a neighborhood and its relationship to the rest of the city.
This problem is best demonstrated in a declining area. Is the renewal objective in a declining area to restore it to its former economic and social status, or to aid in an orderly transition to a new economic and social level; or to completely change it by changing its land uses and economic and social bases? Once a decision has been made on that subject it is easier to decide on the techniques to be used.
On the face of it, it would appear that the question of determining the role of a neighborhood is an easy one. However, the process is complicated, since it involves not only the difficult analytical questions involved in community appraisal, but also involves tampering with the prejudices of the residents. It means effecting trends rather than being affected by them. And the moment we begin to change the status quo, we bring to the surface all of the latent problems and all of the latent hostilities that probably caused or contributed to the very problems we now seek to resolve.
URBAN RENEWAL AREA CHARACTERISTICS
Urban renewal areas have several characteristics in common — the characteristics that make them renewal areas in the first place. They are usually the older sections of our cities and are usually completely built up. Thus in renewing them, we must deal with them as we find them — with the problems that contribute to decline — and do so over a period of time and in such a fashion that as land uses are changed and segments rebuilt each element contributes to the regeneration and self-renewal of the neighborhood and it, in turn, to the entire city.
When replanning totally cleared areas, a complete new plan can be used. Rigid street patterns and useless utility layouts can be abandoned and new ones designed within the limits of the money available. And there is a degree of freedom in planning new land uses, such as housing, schools, and parks. In a sense, the task corresponds to laying out a new subdivision.
In developing a renewal plan for an old, built-up area, however, the same cannot be done, except to the degree to which there is clearance. And there is the added complication of providing necessary community facilities.
PROBLEMS AND PRACTICALITIES
The first step in dealing with a declining community is to determine the physical condition of the structures and decide which, if any, are slums and must be torn down. The next step is to determine the most desirable residential density and then the school, park, and other community needs in relation to that density.
After that, an attempt must be made to reconcile site requirements for community facilities with the sites available through clearance. Unfortunately, they rarely fit. Any concentrations of slums in a fairly sound though declining area are usually located along boundary, peripheral, or commercial streets. And rarely do sites on such streets meet the long-range requirements for schools, parks, and other community facilities.
Since the objective of renewal is to help preserve and extend the useful life of an area, the plan for it must do more than fit the expediencies of available sites. The plan must provide long-range solutions that will wear well for the immediate area and that will help carry out the overall city plan.
Therefore, if slum cleared sites are not suitable for community facilities, it is necessary to consider sites that are not characterized by slums. This raises a whole series of other problems. Sites suitable from a location standpoint may be built up with good, standard housing, and an attempt to take them may bring on strong resistance from the residents. Furthermore, acquisition costs are high and relocation problems many.
But these problems cannot be avoided. There is no shortcut to the provision of needed facilities in locations that will serve not only the present generation but also the next. (And experience indicates that far more people flee to the suburbs from central city areas because of inadequate schools and other community facilities than because of scattered slums in their neighborhoods.) Since well planned community facilities are the most important ingredient in a long-range renewal plan, no choice exists but to use suitable sites for them.
The choice of a site, now developed in good housing, for a new community facility is bound to bring on an uproar. The most frequently leveled charge at public hearings in this connection is that the renewal program is supposed to save the good house — not destroy it.
The only answer, of course, is that while it is true that the objective of renewal is to save and prolong the life of good housing, the good house can be saved only if the entire neighborhood is saved; that to halt the forces of decay and decline — which include inadequate schools and play and recreation facilities — good structures may have to be sacrificed.
Closely related to the problem of community facilities is that of open spaces, which are needed throughout built-up areas. In some respects the provision of small open spaces is far more difficult than schools and parks, since there is an element of drama to the latter. (By open space I mean a single lot here and there for "green" space, a tot-lot, a small off-street parking area.)
Some such areas have been provided by closing alleys and portions of streets and planting them to grass for play or keeping portions of them for parking. Such a device is usually part of "block interior" programs.
There are a number of difficulties, however, in the use of this device. One is the problem of getting legal agreements from each property owner in a block to use his backyard for common purposes. Closing streets and alleys has been of considerable help in getting such agreements.
It may be possible to find one deteriorated building in a block that can be demolished and the space used for a small tot-lot or off-street parking. But this is no solution for the blocks or sections in which there are no really deteriorated buildings to be cleared.
There is the possibility of removal, on a planned basis, of sound structures to provide this kind of small open space. But this too creates legal and political problems. Although the planning staff may think that the building selected for clearance is the one that from the point of view of location provides the greatest opportunity for service to the block or sector, the citizens and city officials may think the choice is purely arbitrary. This reaction may be buttressed by legal complications if the building owner contends that his building (which admittedly might be no worse than others surrounding it) has been arbitrarily selected. This form of resistance is less intense when a relatively large area is set aside for community purposes.
Another device that is being considered and studied in some cities is that of "special assessment" type legislation that would permit sites to be taken for off-street parking and play facilities. Under such a plan, the city would acquire properties and improve, operate, and maintain them for the benefit of adjacent users, who would be expected to contribute to the cost of the operation. This is similar in practice to the special assessment, frequently used for sidewalk, alley, and other improvements.
Another problem that is inherent in built-up renewal areas is that of streets and traffic. Many renewal areas are relatively close to the center of the city and many of the streets cutting through them are not only essential to that area but also are important to the overall traffic pattern of the city. In some cases, the streets may be of little or no concern to the renewal area but of great importance to the city as a whole. This makes traffic changes and street improvements that would help prolong and enhance the renewal area more difficult.
Since renewal may involve selective clearance, with some houses remaining, it is impossible to completely change the basic street pattern and at the same time provide access to existing structures. In turn, this makes it more difficult to carry out a long-range plan.
Experience indicates that in renewal areas that include some clearance but in which the majority of the houses and structures are retained, a plan should be devised that does not change the basic street layout but does shift the through character of many of the streets. This can be done by dead-ending streets; by cul-de-sacs, circular, and U streets; by closing off some streets; and by so locating schools and parks that they interfere with the through pattern of interior streets. By these means, service to residents is retained, heavy through traffic is cut, and costs to the city are kept to a minimum.
A typical renewal area may well include a ribbon development of commercial uses in outdated, uneconomic, and partially vacant stores. Such developments cannot be permitted to continue if an area is to be renewed, even though the problem of the commercial tenant is a tough one.
Most commercial occupants in such areas are small, independent merchants who have maintained their businesses for many, many years and are almost institutions as far as the neighborhood is concerned. Theirs are the stores in which the children shop, in which the parents have shopped, and in which the grandparents shopped before them.
Every attempt must be made to help these merchants, by working with them and assisting them financially in relocating. But it is only realistic to recognize that many such merchants, whose stock-in-trade is good will, unfortunately cannot compete with large-scale merchandisers.
Frequently, new shopping areas have to be built, or old ones replanned and expanded. Every attempt should be made to use existing commercial areas as the nucleus for an expansion to provide off street parking and loading. This is quite often possible with a little ingenuity.
Often (and our experience supports this) commercial areas are adjacent to at least some deteriorated structures that can be torn down — sufficient at least to provide space for loading and off-street parking; and room enough at best for additional shopping facilities.
In no way do I suggest that this is possible in every case. In many areas there is no alternative to reduction of the amount of space for commercial use and perhaps a change in the physical form in which it is provided.
An unusual situation in the University of Chicago area is that of some small merchants — in specialty restaurants, music stores, art and gift shops — who depend upon poor but "arty" buildings. Not only are the rents all they can afford, but the very "artiness" of the structures lends a flavor and character to the area.
No satisfactory way has been found to assist them to continue to serve the community. (Some federal financial assistance is available for relocation.) But an all-out attempt to keep such merchants should be made — even at the expense of retaining old structures for their use because they give a distinctive quality to the area.
Codes and Compliance
The problem of housing code standards and compliance with them in renewal areas is a thorny one. Invariably the question arises as to whether the housing code can and should legally be a part of the renewal plan itself. That in turn brings up the question of whether the minimum standards for existing housing for the city as a whole are the maximum standards that can be enforced; or if higher than the minimum can be enforced. Many people believe that higher standards and stricter enforcement can be applied in renewal areas, but this is a question that must be resolved on a legal basis in each city attempting it.
Actually, standards can legally be above the minimum and be adopted as part of the renewal plan in the same way that covenants running with the land require higher standards for new construction in one area of a city than in another. In some subdivisions, for instance, standards far above those required in the subdivision regulations or zoning ordinance are maintained.
It is important, however, to establish standards — and the level of enforcement — at the point at which they can be justified, both in terms of the kind of community that is wanted and the marketability of the housing, once it has been improved through a code enforcement program. The standards must be those of the minimum housing code, or if higher, they must be justifiable on the basis that the improvements are economical as far as marketability is concerned in the community in which they are located. A useful test in determining the reasonableness of standards for an area is the degree to which mortgage financing can be secured for existing housing and for improvements.
Rehabilitation — upgrading of structures — is not a substitute for slum clearance where slum clearance is indicated, nor is it a substitute for adequate community facilities. It is an important part of a total urban renewal program — a complementary tool. But it must be more than paint-up and fix-up, more than housing code compliance, more than maintenance that has been deferred in the past. It must remove some obsolescence. It must, for instance, remove unsightly old porches or alter outdated interior layouts. But at the same time, it should retain the "character" of the buildings and the neighborhood.
Economics is the real deciding factor in the amount of rehabilitation to be undertaken in a renewal area. First, it must be economically feasible to the owner. He must be able to afford it and he must be able to see that he will get a fair return on his investment. Second, rehabilitation must result in a product that will produce a rent or sale price that is within the means of the people who can be expected to live in the neighborhood. Third, it must be justifiable to bankers and other money lenders who provide the financing for the improvements. And fourth, it must, in the overall, make sense to the federal government if the government is to make money available for other parts of the renewal project.
There must be a balance of all of these factors — a balance that is not always easy to achieve. However, if it is possible to settle on an amount of rehabilitation that will make or keep a house marketable, from both owner's and tenant's standpoints, the other factors will come into line more readily.
Owners of single-family houses and cooperative apartments, of course, view their property and investment in a way different from rental owners. The owner-occupier sees his house as his castle — his place to live and one in which he wants all the amenities he can afford.
Owners of rental properties in a declining area, on the other hand; frequently see their properties as opportunities to make a fast dollar, not as long-range capital assets.
The necessity for convincing lending institutions that rehabilitation is a sound investment is extremely important, and a problem in rehabilitation programs. While many bankers and lenders are interested in rehabilitation and believe it to be a sound investment, they can, and frequently do, get better returns on their money through other kinds of investments. A tremendous amount of work has to be done to convince lending institutions that they must play their part if the rehabilitation job is to be done.
Moreover, the trade unions need to recognize the special role that they play and meet it through adjustment of their practices. Rehabilitation of old structures is far more complex than new construction. There is no set order in which the various trades can do their work as there is in new construction — the electricians, then the plasterers, and so on. Rehabilitation requires that a variety of trades be on hand at the same time, if the work is ever to get done.
In many cities a buildings trades council represents all of the local construction unions. If these councils would recognize the special problems of rehabilitation work and develop, for instance, a special unit to handle it, or permit a "generalist" to work on a large variety of the building trades, some of the problems of rehabilitation construction might be lessened.
Architectural and building firms also prefer to deal with new construction. And either they must be "educated" to the need for participation in rehabilitation, or new firms, especially equipped to handle rehabilitation work, must be organized. Unfortunately, rehabilitation work has often been the domain of the marginal builder-operator.
Rehabilitation, it must be underscored, will never be possible unless an overall plan for the area is developed and unless all of the other elements of the plan provide the setting for the rehabilitation operation. Property owners and financing institutions cannot be expected to invest their money unless assurances are provided that good community facilities will be available and that the neighborhood environment will protect the investment.
It is quite possible that a successful renewal program may add to the housing burden of the rest of the city; and yet failure to deal with the overall housing problem of a city can compound the problems of renewal. However, the housing shortage cannot be permitted to halt renewal activity. The city's responsibility for declining areas continues.
Relocation must always be undertaken with an awareness of the problems of the people affected. No project can be permitted to get to the "mud and debris" stages until the residents of the renewal area who must move are adequately rehoused, even if it means changing the timing of the project. It is essential that the residents be considered, not only in terms of the obligation to them, but also in terms of citizen acceptance of subsequent projects. Moreover, not to rehouse adequately those who must move is to create slums in other parts of the city at a more rapid rate than they are being eliminated in the renewal area.
In undertaking relocation, such factors as how transient the residents of the area are, family size, and incomes must be considered. Low-income families are hardest hit in any public program involving dislocation. And the city must face up to rehousing low-income families. If sufficient public housing is not available for low-income families, more must be built or private housing provided.
Renewal programs require market analysis — as do redevelopment or other "construction projects." In renewal areas studies must be made to determine if proposed uses for cleared areas will find a market; and if houses and other structures that remain will continue to be marketable. It is pointless to make plans for buildings unrelated to costs and the ability of buyers and renters to pay for them.
Market analyses frequently upset preconceived notions. For example, a planning staff may have many reasons why it thinks multi-story buildings are preferable to one- two- and three-story structures. But studies may indicate that no market exists in a particular renewal area for elevator type apartments. Although the results of such a market analysis do not necessarily mean that a proposal for an elevator building has to be abandoned, it does serve as a warning that special efforts must be made to stimulate interest in such housing.
Questions of land use, of costs and prices of buildings, of locations, should be answered as the result of the joint work of the planning staff and the market analyst. And a great deal of consideration should be given to the market analyst's conclusions and judgments — based on the studies. The market analyst can be helpful in finding solutions to problems of how much and what kinds of businesses should be permitted in the area, where they should be located, and how the buildings themselves should be laid out. These are the kinds of questions he is trained to handle — to analyze and discuss.
The planner, of course, can influence and work with the analyst from the planning point of view, and thus together can reach more desirable long-range solutions.
One of the most difficult problems, however, that a planning staff has in working with a market analyst is in getting him to visualize the new plan for the area and get him to blot out from his mind the picture of the neighborhood as it exists. A market analyst often is unable to make this transition. He sees the problems of the area as they are — in terms of conditions as they exist. rather than in terms of an overall plan that eventually will be supplemented with bricks and mortar.
Design — The Old and the New
If renewal is not exclusively outright redevelopment, an architectural "blend" must be achieved. With selective clearance (one or two buildings torn down here, another a block away) and new construction, the "finished" product may have a 50-year old building alongside a brand new one. The two must blend into a harmonious whole.
It is the architects' and landscape architects' and site planners' responsibility to create the harmonious whole. But the planning staff must be the watchdog: keep their eyes on the long-range plan; encourage site layout and building design that is imaginative and useful yet consistent with the character of the neighborhood and old buildings; see that setback lines contribute to an emerging pattern; and that the overall effect of houses, stores, community facilities, and open spaces has a pleasing unity that is both dramatic and new but wedded to the old.
For the real test of a renewal plan will come 20 or 30 or more years from now — when the public hearings are forgotten, when the squabble over whether Mrs. Thompson's "fine old brick house" should be torn down is a thing of the past, when the compromises that the planning staff has had to make have been relegated to the "dead" files.
The real answer to where we are heading will come 20 years from now when the kindergartner of today looks down a tree lined street and says: "This is a charming neighborhood that has much to offer me. I'd like to live here."
Copyright, American Society of Planning Officials, 1957.
Special Report July 1957: What Industry Expects From Community Planning
By Robert J. Whan
Associate for Municipal Governments, Ford Motor Company
The following is the text of a talk given by Robert J. Whan, Associate for Municipal Governments, Office of Civic Affairs, Ford Motor Company, at the annual dinner meeting of the Lorain County Regional Planning Commission, Lorain, Ohio, January 23, 1957.
It is reproduced by permission of Mr. Whan.
It seems to me that the subject you have asked me to discuss tonight, "What Industry Expects From Community Planning," indicates on your part both courage and a sincere desire to do a good job. Courage — because whenever you ask a customer what he or she expects from your service or your product, some of the answers are sure to make you question your sanity or your choice of occupation. A sincere desire to do a good job — because a flashy performance that ignores the customer soon finds itself shunted onto the side tracks with a sorry loss of time, money, and effort.
However, I'm sure that you will not find us at Ford too demanding in this field of community planning. On the contrary, we very much appreciate the fact that you and the citizens of Lorain County are under way in what we believe to be an essential task in the achievement of better living and better communities.
Community planning is on the march, and, like the automobile, it's here to stay. However; we know from experience that it is still considered either unnecessary or a luxury in many places in the country. I can tell you that we are always glad to know that in a particular community or area there exists both a consciousness of the need for careful planning and an organization to carry it out for the good of all.
Planning is just as vital to us as it is to you. Ford Motor Company, for example, is very much in the planning business. All of our activities are backed by planning groups that are concentrating on the future. Day-to-day decisions are strongly influenced by projected thinking and planning.
There is no doubt in our minds that planning is well worth the effort. No modern business or industry could operate long without it. The same applies fully to government at all levels. I think local government has been slower to appreciate and accept the ingredient of planning than has business — probably because the element of product competition that we have in business has been lacking. And I think planning groups as such have still not come into their own in terms of having their decisions and recommendations given full recognition and weight, particularly by the citizenry.
However, competition has now come to municipalities. Competition for residents — workers — competition for business and industry. And one of the great factors in successfully meeting competition is planning. Also, the tremendous rise in prices and costs is beginning to force communities and governments to undertake planning in order to realize greater economy and efficiency.
We in business appreciate the efforts of planning officials here in Ohio and throughout the United. States. We not only notice good planning, but take it into account when considering plant sites, contributions, or expansion of existing facilities. The city or county that is planning well and trying to change with the times is likely to be a better industrial location than the city that is perfectly willing to maintain the status quo with no realization that there is something wrong with it — or that lacks the conviction that it should always continue trying to improve.
I think that the businessman's interest in these matters is more intense than that of the average citizen. We are more sensitive to it because we have large amounts of capital at stake and because we are more likely to be concerned with an entire area, as against a limited local concern.
It is a practical consideration for us for these reasons:
- Our employees perform better in an attractive community environment.
- Good highway, school, and park planning means employees' family satisfaction, and that pays dividends in better work attitudes.
- Proper planning will prevent subsequent disputes between a plant and neighboring residents. Good planning, or zoning, prevents the rise of problems concerning such things as smoke, noise, and traffic congestion.
- A well planned community should result in an efficient community, and that means either lower taxes or a better expenditure of funds, which makes more monies available to business for expansion and improvement.
We know there is plenty of room for both industry and homes in a community. We fully realize, of course, that a community does not exist just for industry, but most people in government and planning are cognizant of the fact that communities cannot exist satisfactorily without a balanced amount of business and industry. A well balanced community is one that provides for a tax paying base of commercial and business, as well as residential, income.
Generally speaking, we believe that industry today plays a responsible role in the community. The old era of being interested exclusively in profits is past. We believe that organizations of business cannot retain the rights of a corporate citizen unless they accept the civic and social obligations that go with legal rights. We believe that there can't rightly be two kinds of citizens.
The Ford Motor Company accepts its share of an equitable taxload cheerfully wherever we reside. We fully expect to pay our share of the bills required to wisely operate and improve a community.
A common measurement of an individual's progress these days is the size of his take-home pay. This gauge can also be applied to a community. A community's take-home pay is the sum available for public works, improvements in educational facilities, recreational facilities, and aesthetic and cultural improvements. This take-home pay is what provides new schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, roads, art-galleries, parks, and better health facilities.
Because our payrolls, local purchases, and taxes constitute a sizable portion of a community's take-home pay, we welcome an opportunity such as this to tell you some of the things we find desirable in the communities in which we live.
Speaking in generalities, our appetite consists, first of all, of a liking for the bread and butter things — the basic ingredients needed for industrial life: water, sanitation, power supply, streets, employees, and transportation facilities.
Then we like a little jam on our bread: Beauty in addition to utility attractive surroundings, air, light, space.
We like a changing menu, too. What we have now will not necessarily be adequate 10 to 20 years from now. We want to find willingness to consider change. If we grow in a community, we expect the community to grow with us, to be willing to accept the change that comes with growth.
As industry grows, however, so do the fixed costs of an area. These, as we all know, have been rising constantly in recent years. Industry is well aware of this problem — considers it a serious one, and is willing to help where it can. We believe that one way to increase the community take-home pay mentioned earlier is to concentrate on the fixed costs and seek ways to reduce them through cooperative effort and better planning:
- By governmental units.
- Between government and industry.
- By enlisting citizen cooperation.
It can be said with certainty that until recent years one of industry's most neglected resources had been the places and people where its operations were conducted. We can no longer ignore this facet of our operations or be dis- interested. Business today is an important partner in the life of the community.
Ford Motor Company has played a leading role in making cars available at prices that make ownership possible at all income levels. We accordingly must and do accept our share of the social and economic consequences that have evolved in American living.
Among the most important changes today is the shift in population from the cities to the suburbs. This has been made possible to a large extent by the automobile, although city congestion and obsolescence and the tremendous job of promoting suburbs have had substantial influences. The trend seems to be increasingly away from the teeming metropolitan centers. Americans are demanding — and getting — more single-family homes, more sunshine and air, more and better roads. Where people go, so also go shopping centers and services formerly available only in the city.
You in planning are particularly aware of what this means for municipal governments: shifts in political power, redistricting, considerable loss in tax revenue for the city, decreased sales for downtown merchants.
Industry too, has followed the flight to the suburbs but in a different way. The days of smoke pouring into the windows of company houses are relics of the past. Today residential districts and plant districts are both suburban, sometimes right together, sometimes apart, contingent to some extent on the planning that has been exercised in the area.
In the old days there were four basic objectives in planning a city:
- A place to live.
- A place to work.
- Means of transportation.
- Some minimum recreational facilities, such as parks.
Let's consider now some of the past mistakes in planning or shortcomings caused by lack of planning:
- Overcrowding of the land.
- Lack of zoning.
- Monotony of layout.
- Failure to acquire sites for schools, parks, and recreation soon enough.
In all fairness to your predecessors, however, we must admit that they had neither the facts needed for realization of potential growth nor the tools to uncover facts such as you have today. And I'm sure that in the main, business and industry neither encouraged nor helped our early planners.
Even with the modern tools of measurement, you have a tougher job today than they had. Many of your problems spring from the fact that you are not starting with vacant land. You are starting in many instances with land misused or overcrowded and you must tear down or await removal before change can begin. Destroying can be as costly as building. When basic, difficult changes become necessary, the planner must have courage and the ability to take criticism.
The job today goes far beyond the four fundamentals of our early planners. You must consider and plan for airports, heliports, rapid transit, parking, and in this area the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The need today is for broader planning. We in the automobile business look for big growth in the 1960's. There should be many more two- and three-car families. War babies will be reaching their maturity. This general expansion of the economy will mean more houses, more autos, more highways, and more of all kinds of goods. The past decade should prove modest by comparison with the next decade. We at Ford are betting more than $4 billion on this future. That covers our capital expenditures only up through the end of 1957.
Too, bigness and broadness in planning is what makes the citizen "catch fire." His imagination can be aroused by the vision of his community planners. Our own city of Detroit, for example, is downright excited about its new civic center. We can't arouse and maintain enthusiasm without imaginative change, planning, and new additions to the landscape.
Paper planning isn't enough. To mean anything, it must be taken off the drawing board and put into reality. Implementation is necessary to sustain interest, enthusiasm, and cooperation on the part of our people.
Plans have to relate to others. There must be an interrelationship between communities; perhaps planning that overlaps state borders in some instances. The old era of living in a vacuum is gone. Towns join each other at the borders so contiguously that we move from one to another without realizing it. Relationship between communities must be an established part of our planning. This, of course, is particularly true in metropolitan areas.
And now, let's approach the subject somewhat more specifically. I divide it into three parts:
First, the question of industrial sites, both as to availability and as to characteristics. In discussing this, I assume you are interested in the location of more business and industry in your area. For various reasons, as, for instance, price hikes, we do not always directly avail ourselves of the services provided by a regional planning commission such as yours. However, if you have worked toward this end you will be much more likely to reap the benefits, if not the credit.
Your work would be reflected in the desirable wares that could be presented to us by a railroad, a utility, or a chamber of commerce representative, each individual situation determining which of those people we contact. Certainly, however, regardless of whom we choose to work through, your work makes available the kind of information we need.
These are the basic points of my own company's industrial site investigation — in no order of priority, the priority again depending on the particular situation.
- Land: the ideal site from a topographical and construction point of view is shaped so that maximum use can be made of the acreage, a minimum of grading is necessary, the subsoil provides adequate foundation, and the elevation, with respect to the surrounding land, permits proper drainage.
- Utilities: the immediate availability of adequate quantities of water, gas, and sewers at economical rates.
- Transportation: the availability of railroad and highway facilities, the provision of public transportation for employees, and access highways for personnel to get to and from the plant.
- Freight economy: this includes the cost of both inbound manufactured products and outbound freight costs for the finished vehicle or product.
- Tax structure: a favorable comparison of the present and anticipated tax structure with respect to our own existing locations and the locations of our competition elsewhere in the nation. A forecast of future tax possibilities should be available, based on probable residential and industrial growth and anticipated expenditures for schools and other public projects.
- Labor market: the adequacy of the labor market to serve the plant requirements in skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled classifications. This should include labor "atmosphere." It is not very difficult to assemble data as to the number of workers available and whether they are male or female. It is difficult to report accurately the state of employer-employee relations in a community, since there are likely to be conflicting opinions.
- Community relations: a favorable community attitude toward industry and an expressed desire on the part of the community to welcome the proposed facility.
Item 7 lends itself directly to the activities of the office with which I am associated, and I would like to enlarge upon that point just a little.
We do not want to locate where we are not wanted. Where the old opinion still exists that industry deteriorates an area and a community, no company can expect to obtain maximum cooperation. We are sensitive to a community whose populace has what we believe to be the modern and correct concept that a balance between business, industry, and residences is both necessary and desirable, who regard industrial plants as a prideful community asset rather than an unwanted eyesore, where an industry is regarded as a welcome civic participant and its business a builder of-the area's economy.
We regard existing and proposed zoning as an indication of a community's attitude toward industry, as, for example, where planning as implemented by zoning has created areas for business and industrial development with adequate protection from residential encroachment either by virtue of "stepdown" zoning or buffer strips. Most people in the past have thought in terms of industry encroaching on residential areas. We are concerned with the reverse, because where zoning is wide open to the encroachment of residences upon industry, we know from experience that trouble and poor public relations can ensue, regardless of the fact that we were there first or that we are doing everything possible to avert disagreement. This, then, is a specific indication to us of a community's desire to attract and keep industry and of its awareness of industrial problems and rights.
Assuming, then, that industry has taken up residence in the community, what then do we hope for and expect from planning? We have now gone beyond the basic requirements for locating the facility. Next come the tangibles, which are usually present in a community that fills the billing of "a good place to live." We are thinking now of the factors that influence the morale, happiness, absenteeism, tardiness, etc., of our employees. I list these in no particular order of importance.
- Housing: sufficient in numbers, with good quality and fair price in relation to the population and living standards of the community; an absence of slums and substandard areas.
- Schools: adequate in number and quality of construction; properly financed; reasonable proximity and accessibility of college facilities.
- Churches: enough of various denominations; practically located to permit full emphasis on the moral and religious life of the community.
- Utilities: modern and properly financed.
- Cultural facilities: libraries, museums, auditoriums, theaters.
- Good parking: in residential, commercial, and business areas.
- Recreation facilities: adequate in number, size, type.
- Service institutions: banking facilities, hotels, restaurants, shops.
- Health and charitable facilities: for children, indigent, aged through competent agencies and efficient facilities — with emphasis on a united fund program, which allows for a "give once for all" corporate contribution or employee solicitation.
- Hospitals, clinics, health services: commensurate with community size and needs.
- Roads, thoroughfares: sufficient to handle the movement of vehicles and with proper safety devices and installations; good upkeep and maintenance.
- Zoning and planning: modern, to permit proper development of residential, commercial, and business areas with protection against encroachment and deterioration.
- New industrial and business development: to provide sound diversification and increased tax base.
- Metropolitan area planning: relative to those things best provided, financed, and planned for on an area rather than on a community basis.
- Tax structure: balanced between the demonstrated needs of the community and the financial means available.
Third, and last, the intangibles. I full well realize that all of the things I have mentioned are not necessarily the prerogative of a community planning group. However, I believe that they are all part of a well planned community and the planning group, as well as or better than any other civic body, understands and can create the proper and necessary climate or public opinion for these things. You know the good that planning can bring, you know that it is essential if a community is not to fall by the wayside, you know that the average citizen has not enjoyed exposure to the subject and hence does not understand or appreciate the benefits to be derived. Yours, then, in addition to a planning job, is a selling and a "climate-creating" job, which is highly important because without public support plans do not become realities.
Finally, even though theoretically you have done your job when you have drawn master plan, you must strive to see it implemented. Here again, no one has lived with the study as you have, and those who have not, even in government, will need the benefit of your enthusiasm and your continued efforts to get the job done finally and fully. Certainly all this places you in the category of "unsung heroes," and we — all of us — are expecting a lot of you. It behooves every citizen to aid in whatever way he can. Yours is the job of making realities of dreams, and it is a hard one.
We wish you well here in Lorain County and we appreciate this opportunity to discuss the subject with you. You may be certain that we at Ford consider community planning of major importance now and in the years ahead.