The Bureau printed this in the first issue of Autonomy//253.
Tacoma implemented a new program in 2006 called “Complete Streets” to redesign all streets in Tacoma wherever an area is undergoing redevelopment.
Last Thursday Complete Streets offered a tour of the Broadway LID project and public comment session, so the Bureau of Taking Back Public Space went along with in order to study and review their methods.
Most of the lobbyists on this tour were representing various departments from within the city (public utilities, water, internet, cement, etc.) Only one bicycle lobbyist was present, but the Bureau did not see any of our constituents from the skateboard lobby, the homeless lobby, the pr0-fun league, graffiti lobby, chalk lobby, hopscotch lobby, re-wilding lobby, the anti-condo consortium, anti-capitalist bloc, the black-owned businesses, the public-drinking lobby, nor the couch-surfing lobby, and so (as always) none of their voices were heard.
All over the downtown Broadway area, streets look like this right now.
But what exactly makes the completed streets any different from the uncompleted streets in terms of livability, neighborhood identity, and other potential?
Most of the real work the planning establishment did was bring the power lines, cable lines, and piping underneath the sidewalks into a single conduit area, although the name “Complete Streets” suggested it was an initiative that would encourage “mode shift” from cars to bicycles, promote democracy and public use, and make the city more “green.”
According to their handout, these are the goals of Complete Streets:
- “Provide transportation choices & make mode shift possible”
- “Accommodate larger vehicles without compromising pedestrian and bike safety”
- “Improve public health”
- “Reduce environmental impacts”
- “Support livability and neighborhood identity”
- “Support community vitality and growth”
We see none of this actually happening.
Social relations have become impossible in most cities. The redeveloped neighborhoods in Tacoma have only two all-pervasive themes: automobile traffic and condominium comfort. These are merely expressions of bourgeois contentment, lacking any sense of play, “livability” or “neighborhood identity.”
Does your neighborhood identify with tree panels or shrubs? These are questions the Bureau is not asking!
Why build fences instead of benches?
And mini parks, and pedestrian-only zones, and overgrown plants, and jungle gyms, and something to explore. Condemned to die of boredom on this corner, the Bureau must find adventures elsewhere.
We might imagine “government regulation” as our enemy for imposing costly rules for every conceivable human activity (ADA compliance, etc.) Yet Complete Streets prefers to pay for the regulations related to automobile activity instead of pedestrian activity, making this “mode shift” impossible.
The automobile is at the heart of all this propaganda, both as the supreme good of alienated life and as an essential product of the capitalist market. Parking on Broadway, they say, will be increased by 7%. Whereas the only bike lane they were able to add stretches for just one block!
Across the street from the Municipal Building on St. Helens Ave., there is one of these “Happenings” boxes. The Bureau asked Complete Streets if they planned on introducing “Happenings” boxes, or something similar, in newer areas, perhaps even in neighborhoods.
The answer was no.
Instead, they told the Bureau they were dismantling the Happenings on St. Helens Ave. as shown in this picture.
Why, the Bureau asked, would you take down something vital to neighborhood identities when your stated goal is to “support” neighborhood identities? They agreed that the box is “definitely important,” but shiftily added that the boxes are not requirements of the Complete Streets model, and of course, reminded us they would cost more to build. Some of their “stakeholders” wanted the Happenings taken down, they reasoned, and so these shitheads are taking them down.
In conclusion, there are some cities exploring an urbanism designed for pleasure, but Tacoma is not one of them. Complete Streets does not have a social conception of urbanism, and hence is only “complete” in the sense that it is completely ridiculous to claim any of the benefits it has announced. We do not see what or where the “green infrastructure” is, or the democracy, or neighborliness, or any of this. Down with these stupid “beautification” projects.
Don’t forget – when more streets are completed, not only will it add to the boringness of the sidewalks, and clang! clang! clang! in the morning, but also increase the rent. We do not see how they arrived at the “trade-off” – increased ugliness and increased rent – because the social cost is higher than the social benefit! We can see, however, that the result is sterile and dismal.