14 July 2006

A new paradigm in urban planning

IN MY previous post, I pointed to a network of experts that the city can tap as we update our development and land use plans. I failed to mention somebody I consider a mentor in this undertaking: Washington, D.C.-based Filipino urban planning professional Benjie dela Peña, also known as Urbano dela Cruz. His blog can be found here.

His most recent post, which talks about a new paradigm in urban planning with Subic as context, is a must-read for those interested in building a more livable and sustainable Naga. Let me highlight what I believe is the most essential part:

In the new paradigm, it is connectivity by bits, access to the information as well as investments in human capital that is the edge. Creativity trumps low cost labor. Cities are pursuing creative industries—and attracting creative talentas part of the economic strategy. So rather than investing in industrial parks and ports, cities are investing in livable downtowns and arts districts and in broadband and fiber optics. Several cities (Philadelphia, San Francisco) are opening up citywide wifi access. Apart from asking "What will make it easier to do business here?" cities are asking, "How do we get young people to live and work here?" Instead of investing in industrial muscle, cities are looking for enriching intellectual capital.
The point he made is important for three reasons: one, it practically reaffirms the directions the city government has taken by sheer instinct, largely without the benefit of a local development plan that is supposed to provide long-term guidance; two, it outlines an alternative economic strategy that will fit Naga (with its lack of natural endowments) quite well; and three, it underscores what I believe is the essence of urban planning: the focus on people by proactively addressing their needs in an urban setting.

Naga may not have what it takes to be a Philadelphia or a San Francisco, and it does not have to. But it can be just as livable and sustainable in its own right. The key, I think, is for its citizens to come together and answer Benjie's questions for Subic, which can very well be our own:
  • What kind of city are we building?
  • Who will live here? Where will they live?
  • What will they do? Where will they work?
  • How will people travel to get to where they work?
  • Where will people go to buy their daily needs?
  • What kind of place will this be?
  • How do we attract the highly educated, 25-35 year olds (the cadre of the tech industry and breeding ground of entrepreneurs) to live, work and invest in Naga?
  • How do we make this a center of research?
  • How do we make Naga a showcase of sustainable urban development?


Urbano dela Cruz said...


I am honored. thanks. I hope I can be of some help to Naga City.

Here's another great resource: CEOs for Cities - the site looks at both the urban development and business innovation aspects of city management. Carol Colleta (who chairs CEO for Cities) also has a great radio show/podcast called Smart City. (free download, available on iTunes.) The topics for discussion range from city art programs, to innovations in education, to city branding and marketing.

I listen to the show regularly and find it really helpful -particularly for small cities looking for their competitive edge.