walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

the World and urban design and planning

Foglesong spends some time on the little film showing Walt and the little model of the planned community that was EPCOT but that Epcot bore no obvious relationship to. Foglesong does a fantastic job of laying out how that film got shown over and over and over again to convince Florida to create Reedy Creek and two cities with virtually no population that would be totally controlled by Disney in a highly undemocratic manner -- and how most of the powers involved already existed in Florida law long before Disney came along; they just hadn't been assembled in that particular way.

I had not previously seen this analysis or anything quite like it (I have high confidence that it is accurate) and it explains a lot. Among other things, it helps explain the bizarre dissonance between what analysts said about the World when it first opened (a new kind of town! we should Learn How to Fix Our Cities from Disney!) and the reality (no one lived there. Okay, slightly fewer than 4 dozen people live there. Not much of a town when no one lives there.). The absolute importance (legally) to Disney of maintaining its autonomy by having no (other than the trusted 43) voting residents also sheds an interesting light on DVC -- which is a way to have a substantial population that lives there without having a legal residence there. And Disney is _damn_ careful to make sure you can't start living in your not-really-a-timeshare: they limit the number of points you can buy in one resort, they further limit the number of points you can buy through the club, and the paperwork you sign makes you promise this isn't going to be your legal residence. If you lived there, you could vote. If more than 43 people did that, they could vote in a new government in Reedy Creek/whatever those two towns are. And all of a sudden, Disney wouldn't be running it any more.

A lot of Disney's vision was changed over the decades: there's alcohol in the parks now (altho not MK) and there are way more hotels. Foglesong points to the hotels as creating a lot of conflict with the Real World in the surrounding area, because it so thoroughly encouraged Disney to try to lock down their guests and not let them leave the place to eat/shop/be entertained elsewhere. But while Eisner implemented it, the desire to do this was always implicit in Disney v. 2. They hated not controlling everything in Disneyland; this was their chance to really go for it.

Foglesong thinks that an effort should be made to collect more impact fees from Disney, and to make some changes to the tourist tax so it isn't so readily captured by low-wage-job generating entities like Disney and Universal, and to push for more employer assistance on housing costs. He'd also like a living wage law, and to quit subsidizing the theme parks at the expense of downtown (there's a classic: this is every city's Suburban Mall V. Downtown problem of the last fifty years. Writ Really Really Large). While I don't necessarily think those are bad ideas, he's made a very compelling case that central Florida governance is not very likely to step up and actually do it. Which raises a host of interesting questions that Foglesong doesn't go anywhere near.

Like: cars are really expensive. They are expensive to cities, who have to build roads, and may supply parking. They are expensive to people, who need to buy, maintain and store them. They are expensive to businesses, who have to supply parking. If you have an entire population (and Foglesong makes a solid case that the population of the Orlando area is Working Poor, on average -- to the point of collecting housing assistance and/or food stamps even while fully employed) that can't afford a conventional US lifestyle, getting rid of the car is one of the major ways to make ends meet. There's some evidence that the tri-county area has been trying to make it possible for the Working Poor to not have a car/use their cars less/whatever by providing bus service to the low wage jobs created by the theme parks and along I-Drive. Along with a large chunk of the rest of the country, they're also putting together commuter rail on existing freight lines and creating intermodal stations. They're making at least a minimal effort to support downtown entertainment with a Church Street station for SunRail.

Not very exciting, providing buses. But given how excited I got about the actuality of a motor coach in 2010 (vs. the hypothetical of a mag-lev in 1989), maybe buses are a pretty good thing. If only political science people gave them a little more respect. (Or, for that matter, guidebooks.)

For all the bumbling incompetence in negotiating with Disney that Foglesong documents in _Married_, Orlando Housing Authority would appear to be doing about as good a job at providing public or section 8 housing as anyone else, perhaps much better -- it's tough to say from a surface check on the web from a long ways away. There would appear to be a lot of income restricted buildings in areas where the schools seem to be okay and the crime rates don't look ridiculous -- if the whole area is working poor, it's hard to imagine being one of the many would be particularly stigmatized.

One of the problems with working (and perhaps living) as a professor in Winter Park and writing about the rest of the Orlando area is the Standard Issue Middle Class Bias: living in a house you own, having a job with benefits, having an advanced degree, blah, blah, bleeping, blah. There are perfectly nice, wonderful people who have fulfilling lives while living in an apartment you rent, having a job with not as great benefits, not having a college degree, blah, blah, bleeping, blah. I'm okay with advocating for better things all around, but if you don't even bother to think about the mechanics of how these two different life trajectories work, you're going to suggest solutions that are unlikely to work.

Also, you produce things like this:


There's nothing particularly ridiculous about this compared to any number of other stories that take statistical data about income and housing prices and produce medians across very large metropolitan areas around the country and then compare them. They're _all_ ridiculous, because they treat a city like Buffalo or Rochester (wonder what fraction of the population of either rents an apartment) to cities like Orlando (wonder what fraction of the population of Orlando rents an apartment?). A city in which everyone buys must necessarily have a low ratio of income to single-family home purchase price. A city in which most people rent will similarly almost inevitably have a high ratio of income to purchase price. Standard Issue Middle Class Bias suggests that the problem is the relationship of income to purchase price (raise income, lower purchase price, reduce interest costs, provide downpayment assistance, reduce requirements on mortgages, blah, blah, bleeping, blah). It would be more useful to know what the people renting are paying and how _that_ relates to their income. Because _that_ is what they care about. Today, and tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future. If that rent is too high to support a safe life in which they can get their kids educated, they for damn sure won't be saving money for a downpayment. More importantly, they might be unsafe, their kids might not get a good enough education, and they might be skimping on things like health care.

If you read all that (wow! Thanks!) and think the subject line is wrong, I'd just note that a whole lot of urban design and planning people would agree with you. And _that_ is a pity.
Tags: disney

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