Real Urbanists Don't Require
This came up in one of those forums where I'm spending way too much time. I'm responding to an RG4N officer who, I honestly believe, does in fact want more urban development.
You want to claim urbanist bona-fides? It's all about loosening rules to ALLOW people to build higher or denser or more mixed-use; not requiring it. When you start requiring people to build what you want, you leave yourself open to the possibility that they'll tell you to build what THEY want.
Allow? Great. Encourage? Even better. Require? No, and this is where
you rubbed a hell of a lot of people who would normally have been your
allies (like me) the wrong way.
Can't emphasize this enough. Banning or requiring should be a last resort and very very very infrequent. For instance, I'm marginally OK with requiring street-facing retail on downtown parcels largely because it falls under "Encourage" as in "We'll let you build very high and very dense and in return you will do XX". But I could sympathize with a view of that as "Require" in which case it's harder to defend (still possible given the expected duration of these land uses compared to the suburban model, but much more arguable).
Take another example: parking. Currently, we require suburban levels of parking almost everywhere. Very stupid and very restrictive of the market. But it's just as bad to have a maximum level of parking like Portland does. If somebody wants to build parking, they ought to be allowed to do so. Under "encourage", it'd be OK to give additional height in exchange for fewer parking spaces per capita, sure. But the base entitlement should be that you do what you want, within some very loose public-safety constraints.
If you focus too much on the "make them build what I want them to build" path, you confirm the worst fears of every suburban Neanderthal out there - that smart growth really is about forcing people to live in big hives and giving up their cars. Not good for the brand, as it were.