City planning is the process of developing and designing land, the environment and infrastructure like transportation and accessibility. Downtown: On the Go’s live webinar Where the Sidewalks End will discuss how urban design — meant to prevent crime — contributes to inequality.
City planning is about how people will live and work in the land given but cities can be built in a way that hinders more vulnerable people. According to the webinar, the current way crime prevention is built into cities can have negative effects on black and brown residents.
“Tacoma has been around for more than 145 years and we’ve had an overwhelmingly white workforce throughout that time. That’s not to say our planning departments have racist people in them, but if you’re coming from a particular cultural context and a particular understanding about the resources people have, that’s going to play out in your decision making,” said webinar panelist Nick Bayard, Tacoma’s assistant chief equity officer.
Bayard will be accompanied by panelists such as the Vice-Chair of the Commission on Disabilities, Seattle’s Community Planning Manager and Tacoma’s Media and Communications Director as moderator.
Part of Bayard’s job is making sure their workforce reflects the city they serve and encouraging diverse input with purposeful community outreach. Especially groups that have been traditionally shut out by the government.
“If nobody on a design team has a disability, then they won’t be as likely to think about how that space can work for people with disabilities,” said Bayard.
A lack of diverse input has led to consequences ranging from less accurate facial recognition technology to faulty automatic soap dispensers. Both devices have at one point failed to serve their purpose correctly when presented with darker skin.
“It seems crazy before you start pulling back the layers. How can something like light rail be racist? Well, where are the alignments? Where do those lines go? What happens when you talk about fare enforcement? Who’s getting fare enforced and what is the mindset of the people doing the fare enforcing?” said webinar panelist Lauren Flemister, Seattle’s community planning manager.
Maintaining diversity in the workplace, creating trust with communities, encouraging feedback and discussing faulty design with the public are ways that inclusive design is trying to be encouraged and discriminatory design removed.
“Governments are used to being in control and having a predetermined set of outcomes without having talked to people first. It’s being in a relationship, it’s being willing to ask the community what they value and what they want to do and believing them,” said Flemister.
There’s a metaphor of a cage, if you’re against the bars you can’t see them but when you step back and see the history, planning and different design elements that lead us to where we are today you start to see the cage, said Bayard. The cage represents everything that works together to hold certain groups back from opportunity.
To learn more about discrimination in urban design and crime prevention watch Downtown: On the Go’s live webinar Where the Sidewalks End on Jan. 22 from noon-1 p.m. The webinar will be available via Zoom. For those who can’t attend, a recording of the event will be available on the Channel 253 podcast and TV Tacoma from Feb. 22 to Feb. 29.
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