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Safescape: Creating Safer, More Livable Communities Through Planning and Design
Al Zelinka and Dean Brennan

Chicago: Planners Press, 2001
285 pp., $75.00, hardcover
ISBN 1-884829-37-6
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People living in urban neighborhoods have long understood that much "planning" and "architecture" over the past 50 years have made the built environment less safe, less attractive, and has eroded the sense of community. The primary planning focus was suburban "development," including keeping land uses separate and designing for the automobile — single-family houses, shopping malls, and "superstores." The resulting disinvestment in cities has led to deterioration of older urban areas and construction of massive apartment complexes that breed the same isolation of the suburbs. There were resulting large increases in crime and violence, which led to more "security" measures that further wall people off from each other.

Some planners and architects now advocate and implement new urban design and planning that encourage "eyes on the street" and promote mixed uses and community livability. SafeScape advocates such "smart growth" strategies, and emphasizes that they have the additional benefit of crime reduction and prevention.

This exciting book is useful for planners and government officials. It discusses the theory behind the concept, lays out seven principles for understanding and implementing the theory, provides numerous examples and case studies, including examples of "extremes" that should be avoided. The 17 case studies of different cities and towns show how the principles have been incorporated into particular projects. There are three appendices: opacity guide for fences and walls; lighting design for exterior areas; and "public safety through design" guidelines. An extensive bibliography and index are included.

SafeScape is also extremely useful for neighborhood activists. The bulk of the book is dedicated to detailed discussions of neighborhoods and downtowns. Hundreds of photographs, dozens of drawings, and even a few cartoons make the book usable for those who are not professional planners and want to see examples of how to make buildings, sidewalks, alleys, and open spaces safer and more convenient for people who live and walk in their neighborhoods.

"Good" and "bad" examples are used. For example, many older neighborhoods have alleys, while newer ones usually do not. The authors note that "an alley allows for the location of garages and accessory units behind the primary unit, and creates a greater pedestrian emphasis on the street and in the area in front of the unit." Pictures illustrate both alleys that allow for "eyes on the alley" and those that do not and instead create opportunities for theft, graffiti, and entrapment areas.

Fences and walls are necessary. The authors say and show how they can be transparent and unobtrusive in order to "bind a community together, while serving the purpose of defining territory and controlling access."

Moreover, some of the concepts are useful for non-professionals. For example, "In most new neighborhoods, the homes appear to be designed for the storage of vehicles, not for people." "Diversity in architectural styles promotes neighborhood identity, and a range of neighborhood demographics reduces the opportunity for anonymity while promoting tolerance and understanding among people of different backgrounds. A comfortable neighborhood environment with moderate densities, sufficient neighborhood amenities, and organized neighborhood activity increase resident involvement and neighborhood stewardship which, in turn, creates a safer living environment." "The basic rule for downtowns is to avoid walls without windows." "The most important elements of the physical environment that provide access and movement and sidewalks and walkways."

Because of the number and quality of pictures and drawings, the book is extremely pricey for neighborhood people. Ask your local library or city planning department to get the book so that it can be borrowed and used! Then, get busy! There are helpful ideas here to improve any neighborhood and maybe even to change city zoning ordinances to make them more neighborhood friendly.

Don Hancock

Available from:
American Planning Association
122 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60603-6107
1-312-786-6344

Community Partners
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Table of Contents

"Look at the land. Our grandfather lived here. So do we. It is our land here, her we used to live. Stranger, touring around you will not come, you will not come. We lived over these hills, we still do, because the forest is our life."
--Huaorani chant,
translated by Laura Rival

"I want to stamp on the ground hard enough to make that oil come out. I want to skip the legalities, permits, red tape, and other obstacles. I want to go immediately and straight to what matters: getting that oil."
--Rick Bass,
Petroleum Geologist

1989, taken from Amazon Crude, Judith Kimerling



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