I’m cross-posting this older essay here so that you can find all of my writing in one place. Please visit Crosscut to read the full essay.
Neighborhood development is fascinating work. The people who choose to spend their lives making places for people can be motivated by many factors beyond simple financial advancement. Yet planning policy provides only numerical parameters for good behavior, creating a world where a developer’s first task is not to visit a site’s neighbors, but to open an Excel spreadsheet; where an architect begins not with a drawing pen, but with a computer model of zoning envelopes.
The language of our regulatory framework suggests that real estate development is for financial wonks and Microsoft Excel masochists, reflecting a civic dialogue over developer motivations that leaves one important factor out — how individual developers respond, as social creatures, to their neighborhoods and to each other.