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					Gary Lawrence presentation
Good morning. It's a great pleasure to be here, this on my first visit to Belfast, I can tell you
for certain it won't be my last, I sent pictures home yesterday to my wife who is still back in
Seattle and she made clear also that this will be not our last visit to Belfast, extraordinary
city. I have to admit upfront that I am not in any way, shape or form an expert in Belfast, the
staff from the City Council and others have done, I think, a great job of trying to show me
both the great bits that are happening, some of the warts that remain, some of the process
issues that are difficult, the relationships between Belfast and the British government and the
devolution of power kinds of questions that go on.

  All of those are critically important and may have some consequence for what I'm about to
say and if I miss the nuances, that sort of thing, I hope you'll forgive me and educate me.
The challenges, I understand it, for the centre city, Belfast, and I think this is probably true
for the entire region, is you have to come up with a politically valid, technically viable,
economically successful and coherently adaptable policy, land use and capital investment
strategy to shape the future of the city.

 Now we could spend hours on each of those elements. What constitutes a politically viable,
politically valid statement? Well, in my terms, politically valid has to do with, in making the
policy, are you expanding the constituency for the change, does the public own it as well as
the institutions own it, and will they continue it in the future even if, God forbid,
administrations may change in terms of the governments? I'll take you back to my days as
the director of planning for the city of Seattle.

 In Seattle planning is what's referred to as a full contact sport, every neighbourhood has
their own attorney and the planning process is considered to be just preparation for trial, in
order to create political validity there we had to think of the plan not just as a technical
exercise toward allocating land and ensuring that the basic infrastructure necessary to
support the land, given the types of uses we are predicting were going to be there. We had
to reach a conclusion that the people actually felt like that was in the best interest of the
future of their community and people often ask me whether my reign as planning director in
the city of Seattle was successful.

 Well, the Mayor I worked for ran for re-election based upon the city's comprehensive plan
and his plurality increased from 52% to 76%. Every member of the city council who voted
for the plan was re-elected with a larger plurality, every member of the city council who voted
against it was defeated, that plan became politically valid at that point and was owned by the
neighbourhoods and I'm not going to belabour each of these points, but a planning process,
whether it's a strategic plan for a downtown, whether it's a metropolitan plan, whatever it is,
is among the most political things a society does because it's deciding who it wants to
become, what it's willing to invest to do that and who the winners and losers are going to be.

 To start these you have to get some clarity about some key questions. The question, "Who
are you today?" is probably the most important question to ask yourselves and get clarity
about when you're starting on these processes and almost every community I've worked in
and worked with lies to themselves at this point. They work on issues like quality of life as
though there is a uniform quality of life rather than the vastly different qualities of lives that
exist within any community. The "who you are today" may not relate in any way to who other
people are in the community who have needs that need to be addressed, those sorts of
So part of the process is actually getting clarity about all the things that are good and bad
because if you're not bringing both with you into the discussion about the future you're going
to end up putting frosting on a cake that has some ingredients that are going to make you a
little ill once you start to eat it.

 The next hard bit is, "Who do you want to become?" People, myself included, always
struggle with a question of the future, they want to know, "What can we become?" rather
than choosing what we want to become. In a number of communities again I work with, and
I have the great fortune to work for a company that allows me to work with cities on every
continent and I currently am working on projects in China, in Australia, North America, South
America, Europe, Africa, this question, "Who do you want to become?" is the biggest
stumbling block to success in almost every instance primarily cause it's taken over by the
power elite who determine the answer to this question and there's a loss of transparency
and the public at large is left out of this determination. So any planning process that's going
to work over time, any strategic plan for the downtown is going to have to be inclusive of
every stakeholder, not the stakeholders who already have seats at the table.

 And the third question is, "How do you stay on course…?" assuming you answer 1 and 2 as
well as can be answered, "How do you stay on course when the winds of change and the
tides buffet you around?" because there is no straight line to anywhere, almost every
community that sets forth a plan for itself fails to recognise that the majority of the decisions
that will determine your fate are not being made within your community. They're being made
by global market forces, they're being made by financial institutions in other parts of the
world, and your job is to take those forces and nudge them in ways that keep you headed
toward the Belfast you're trying to become, but you can't take them on directly because they
are too powerful.

So figuring out how to position yourself to recognise when these forces are changing so you
can get in your nudging strategy so you keep heading in the direction you want to go is an
art form and it requires a collaboration between your elected leadership, your other
institutions and the public, that is based upon a shared interest as opposed to a blame
strategy, and where I see most cities getting into real difficult trouble is when they start to
pretend like they're in control of what's actually going on because then they face the full
requirement to fix it when in most cases no city is actually in full control of what's going on.

Let's get in then to some issues around constituencies and you might tell by now that I'm
going to get a little technical but it's going to come a little later. Richard [indistinct] the
physicist, used to talk about how the human mind has troubles and it's polluted by its own
superstitions and it confuses itself.

 Urban regeneration is, as I said, one of the most political things a society does. Requiring
an understanding of human nature and emotions as well as technical matters, and I want to
run through some of these things that are always in the background of your planning and
change processes, but for the most part, because we're planning professionals, we ignore
them and try to substitute technique for them. Nostalgia, fear, aspiration, self-interest,
community belief and sources of collaborative action all are as important or more important
than planning statutes in terms of if you're ever going to get the Belfast you want.

 Nostalgia, there is a woman named [indistinct] who wrote a, I think, a magnificent book
called 'The Future of Nostalgia' and in it she describes two different kinds of nostalgia. One
she refers to is 'restorative nostalgia' and the other is 'reflective nostalgia'. Restorative
nostalgia, probably the worst example in recent times of restorative nostalgia is Serbian
nationalism where the government of Serbia was able to pick symbols out of their past going
back to the battle of Kosevo and re-deify those people who were perceived to have
destroyed greater Serbia and used that in an attempt to change the face of the Balkans
around these kinds of issues, they wanted to restore Serbia back to the pre battle of Kosevo
days in an actual sort of way.

 There are other, you know, less severe examples of people trying to restore things back to
the way they were. There's a fella named Michael Tracey who is an information theorist and
he talks about the three kinds of knowledge that shape how we react in any situation and the
smallest kernel of knowledge he describes as what we know we know, and what happens in
these kind of political things is that the leadership tries to change what you know you know
to some sort of historical reference that will empower you to change.

Just to finish on Tracey, the second kernel of knowledge, by the way, my wife tells me that
almost everything I know I know is wrong, but I cling to it nevertheless cause I just can't go
through life without anything to hang onto, the other kind of, the next kind of knowledge is
the stuff we know we don't know.

The stuff we know we don't know is really relevant to strategic planning for cities, those sorts
of things, because once you know you don't know it, it creates an obligation for you to find
out somebody who does know it so they can be included in the mix, it's not something you
can leave out, and I'll use my household again as an example. My wife is a professor in the
Department of Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, and she's a PhD in
Molecular Biologist and with an emphasis on infectious disease. She has stuff in her freezer
for which there is no known cure which inspires even further obligations toward fidelity in the

Over our thirty years of marriage I have developed a Pavlovian response to dinner
conversation, she'll talk about a specific enzyme and, you know, and I'll nod and she'll
mention an organism and I'll nod and I haven't got a clue what she's talking about, but I
know that if I ever need a molecular biologist, there's one close by I can, I could get her.
Those two are the smallest kernels of knowledge that actually matter for the creation of cities
of the future, the stuff we know and the stuff we don't know, because both of those
[indistinct] you in [indistinct] wisdom.

The kind of knowledge that matters is the stuff we don't know that we don't know. In the hi-
tech industry they spend up to 10% of their gross receipts on basic research, horizon scans,
because for them the first time something passes from the barrier of the unknowable to the
knowable whether as in discreet event or in combination with something else, they have four
months to gain competitive advantage before the rest of the industry catches up, and that
four months of competitive advantage might make their brand preference last for decades,
just because they saw it first. Municipal processes move much more slowly than that, but it
still is a relevant sort of concept, as you are thinking about the future of the city of Belfast
and its core, the stuff you don't know you don't know is constantly going to be popping up,
and that's why we talk in ARAP about sustainable urban centres as being ones that are
focused on a direction, but are designed for adaptation, because it is impossible to know
today what the needs of society are going to be within the spaces you're creating tomorrow.

Fear is another thing that is really relevant to this discussion of urban centres. The Minister
before talked about safety. Any police force around the world, except during those periods
where there before a council asking for budget increases, will tell you that it is impossible for
the police to make the streets safe. No society would allow for or could afford the police
state that is necessary to make sure the streets are safe, the only thing that makes streets
safe in free society is more people on the streets and you are most at risk when you're the
only person on the street.

As I have heard the discussions this morning with the word 'retail' used more than any other
word, what I think about is all of the places that I have worked around the world and seen
where a focused retail strategy in the central business district has caused the city to fail,
because you invest so much in fixed assets to make the shopping experience good during
the day, that you don't get any return on those investments in the evenings, and they tend to
not provide the kind of leverage you need.

Every successful urban centre I see these days is taking the position that if we can get the
housing to work the markets will come, but just putting the retail markets in place does not
mean that the residential community is going to come. A lot of people have got the cart
before the horse there.

All over the world people are focusing 90% of their infill energy in downtowns on housing
because you need higher sales per square foot for your retailers without requiring driving
because the cost of parking is making it untenable for many retailers, particularly the smaller
retailers, to continue to exist in downtown. So getting the foot traffic downtown that can help
the smaller retailers and also serve the larger retailers during the evening, creating eighteen
hour cities as opposed to eight hour cities, those sorts of things, is a critical function. And in
places like Seattle for instance almost every class B office tower that has been sort of
replaced by a class A office tower is being converted to condominiums and apartments, and
you see that in other places all over Europe that was old office space that no longer is
competitive with new office space can have a dramatic and important new use as housing in
the downtowns.

 In Germany, particularly in North Rhine Westphalia, when they're putting in parking garages
they require 12' to 13' ceilings, makes for very expensive structured parking because in
parking you want to keep the ceilings as low as possible so you can get more decks. Why
are they doing that? Because they know over time they're going to create a much more
robust walking environment, they have this fixed cost, this embodied energy recognised in
these parking structures, and they're designed to be converted to office and residential as
parking demand goes down.

  There are all sorts of strategies you can undertake there, but in order to deal with the
issues of fear you have to increase population in the downtown. A quick aside on this,
cause I'm babbling on too long, in my planning director days in Seattle, one of the things we
did by accident that turned out to be incredibly helpful was, I had a friend of mine who was a
psychologist, and I asked her to organise a number of her friends who were in practice in the
city of Seattle and I would host a dinner for them once a quarter, and ask, and put questions
to them like, "When we say these words we get these behaviours in response, what's
actually going on here?" or "When we create these images we get these reactions in
response, they look like passive images to us, they inspire action and anger that we would
never have expected, what's, what's going on?" You know, planners didn't have a clue.

And we found things like in the winter months when it's dark in Seattle before 5.00pm transit
ridership fell off among women very dramatically, which made it much more congested in
downtown, and we were making assumptions about weather and these sorts of things, but it
turned out that the walk from the bus stop to the home on streets without good lighting
created a sense of fear powerful enough that they felt like they had to drive in order to
reduce their anxieties. I mean, there's all sorts of things that the psychological community
can tell you about how people are trying to live their lives on the stage set you're creating,
the physical forms, the buildings, the roads, they're the stage and they're not the object of
the play, the object of the play is what kind of lives are actually possible within the context of
these things going on, and in order to understand that you have to get into questions like

Aspiration, this is an ad from the Superbowl where this robot and this thing made it and
produced a little monster which was a Humber 3. In the US we've had, we've spent about
$4billion since 1980 through our environmental protection agency on advertising campaigns,
trying to get people to reduce their single occupant driving, and almost all of the ad
campaigns had been based upon the health consequences, particulate matter and

 The automobile industry has never wavered, what they're selling is the concept of more
and better sex, and in our market at least parts per billion versus more and better sex don't
stand up very well, if you're trying to get behavioural change. We don't play fair with the
markets particularly in those areas where they're trying to force growth outside of the city
centre because we don't sell city centre as an exciting place, we sell it as a place, well, if
you're brave and you want to be an urban homesteader, this is the place to come and it
tends to be less expensive.

Finding ways to link retail with residential so you're creating the same excitement with a
single brand for the downtown is something that you need to be thinking about.
Governments' primary tools have always been facts and guilt as a way to change behaviour.

Again I don't know how it is in Northern Ireland, in the US the third time somebody tries to
make us feel guilty we have a perfectly good way to rationalise away that guilt that why it's
not our fault. It is only aspiration that leads people to permanent change and figuring out
how the, whether the aspirational elements of the revitalisation of the core of Belfast, I think,
is one of the key issues that you're going to have to address.

 There's the issues of avarice and self-interest come into this a lot. One of the things, when I
teach, I tell my students is that the key to sustainability is finding ways to harness avarice in
the public interest. There is a desire and it is built within our, we're all hardwired toward
trying to improve ourselves for ourselves and for our families, there is no doubt about that
and there is no shame in that. The question is, can we do it in such a way that the external
cost, the pollution that gets spun off of that and all those other things, can somehow be
captured and recognised in the cost of the transaction so that it isn't a zero sum game, the
private sector gains and the society loses, and this goes way beyond job creation, this goes
to public health, it goes to educational opportunity, it goes to a variety of other things.

And self-interest in terms of motivating staff is also a key thing, in many places, and I have
no idea how it works in Belfast, but in many cases governments are shifting their pay
systems to a modified version of gain share so that if, and gain share related to reduction of
poverty, gain share related to overcoming some of the negative parts of society as opposed
to gain share in terms of increasing income.

Customary belief is a difficult problem, you know, to a hammer everything looks like a nail, to
a profession every problem that comes up looks like it has to be solved within that
profession, to a planner every problem is a planning problem, to an economist every
problem is an economics problem, those sorts of things. And none of that is possibly true.

ARAP is a firm that was created to deny the existence that every problem is found in a single
sector. ARAP exists solely for the purpose of integrating our approaches so that whatever
the tool, that needs to be brought together to understand and solve a problem is at the table
at the same time. We often times as institutions, and I think this is going to go back to your
sessions about governance and public administration reform, those sorts of things, just
moving the boxes around does not solve the problem of integrated approaches to problem

Shared interest in problem solving is the key and community expectations about who is
going to be there is the key. Again back in my planning director days I wouldn't ever let a
planner go to the community without having an engineer by his or her side because most of
the physical changes had to do with interface between planning and engineering. And often
times we lose credibility because we feel like we have to know the answer, the world is
random and chaotic, the future is not determined.

 When we do plans we're trying to essentially bound possibilities rather than saying, "This is
what is going to be" and the world might be dramatically different the day after you adopt a
plan or a strategy than it was the day before. The adaptation capacity and creating an
environment where elected officials can actually say, "Well, based on what we knew then
this was the right approach, we know more now and we have to go a different direction and
help protect the elected leadership from the risks associated with necessary change", is a
key part of surviving any downtown area because it will keep changing and again in the rest
of Europe, in North America, in China, the political risks of saying, "I was wrong", have
driven politicians to never admitting they were wrong, and we maintain policy far beyond its
useful life because the world has changed.
 It's critically important you create an environment so that honesty and transparency both in
terms of what's going right and what's going wrong can occur and it's not enough to praise
elected officials when they're doing right, you also have to step in there and protect them
when things have gone a little wrong if the mistake was well intended.

Sources of collaborative action. You talked earlier about some of my close friends and
people I admire greatly, Michael Parkinson who can provide data sets that help you really
understand what's going on, Bruce Katz, another close friend. Almost everything we need to
do has to be rooted in some case in science, but there is a phrase that I rail against
continuously and that is, "If it can't be measured then it doesn't matter". There are huge
number of things that matter to the future of your community that right now we don't know
how to measure.

 Happiness, contentment, hopefulness, all these sorts of things are as important as units per
thousand and means of production and earnings per square metre. Finding ways to blend
social science research with the research of business is going to be a key.

Communication strategies are a key. I have a slide I sometimes use that has a person
standing on a podium giving an address to a community, but the community has a parade
that's going by perpendicular to the platform. We seem to think if we communicate to that
subset of the parade we've communicated to the rest of the parade. When society keeps
going by and continuous communication is a critical part of making this change. You have to
say it over and over and over and you have to practise the first rule of communications and
that it is never the audience's obligation to understand you, it is always your obligation to
make yourself understood. Any time you say, "I told them but they just didn't get it", it's you
that have failed, not them, and you have to find a variety of different ways to reach out to
people. In Seattle we had live call-in television shows, we did all sorts of things like that.

Message proxies. There are people in your community that will politely listen to you but
cannot hear you with what you have to say, you know, traditional rivalries, whatever. In
those cases you have to find a proxy to send your message. Never get so stubborn that you
think you have to be the deliverer of the message. If the message matters you have to find a
person who they can hear. And the decision model, I think, in pluralistic societies, the only
decision model that makes any sense is informed consent, consensus is impossible.

 Informed consent has to do with a three step series. One is that you ask people what they
think, provide them education so maybe they can make an informed position and you take in
what they said, and then you go back to them after you've considered it and say, "Here's
what I heard you say, I, or we don't agree with this and we're going to do something
different, but we want you to know we didn't ignore you", and what we find in almost every
political environment with regard, without regard to the system, that if you follow an informed
consent model, if you close the loop, people will not punish you for doing something different
than they wanted, but if you don't close the loop then people will assume that the whole
public process was a charade and you're treating them cynically and you're going to either
create anger or absence from every next process you need to have them in. Now that ends
up being expensive.

Let me give you a range from the early 1990s. In the city of Seattle it cost us $8.5million to
do a citywide comprehensive plan. Of that $8.5million we had to construct transportation
models and all that sort of stuff and Seattle is a very rich city. That $8.5million constituted
two-tenths of 1% of the total city budget, but the most critical thing was of that $8.5million
$3.5million was spent on public involvement because we knew that if our plan was not
politically valid at its end then it wasn't worth the paper it was written on. We're closing here.

Tale of Two Cities. Seattle lost over 100,000 jobs in 1969 and there was a famous billboard
on one of the interstates saying, "Will the last person leaving this city please turn out the
lights". Seattle, that ended up being economically the best thing that ever happened to the
city because our quality of life was such that those 100,000 highly trained engineers at
Boeing had to find a new way to make a living cause they didn't want to leave the community
and those engineers in part created the information technology industry, Microsoft, Real
networks, all those other companies that are now the foundation of Seattle's economy, plus
Boeing is back. The quality of the life that's possible can be an attractive factor in helping
educated people be entrepreneurial and keep your community going.

Essen in Germany is a different kind of an example. I spent six months in Essen. Essen
has a quarter just outside the city that was the entry point to the Kroch steel mills. Essen is
desperately in need of redevelopment but because they can't get past the historic meaning
of Kroch who was the creator of all the wealth in Essen, paid for the synagogues, paid for
the, all of the religious institutions, those sorts of stuff, because of the linkage to the Second
World War, they cannot come to terms with trying to recreate this idea of what we should do
with Kroch's land.

Now from a North American perspective, you know, that was yesterday, let's get on with it,
but from a German perspective it's such a torturous thing in terms of their history, they can't
do anything with it.

The questions here about the troubles and the different divisions and all that sort of stuff
come back to this question of nostalgia and whether you can do what Seattle did which used
restorative nostalgia, or reflective nostalgia, and used that bad thing as a launching point, or
restorative nostalgia and get stuck in the past.

What everything I've seen so far suggests that you're moving very much forward to being
successful in the future. Here are some key lessons I learned from all over the world.
Education and optimism combined is the only insurance policy you have against the fates of
change. If you do not have an educated workforce, a workforce that has the ability to retrain
itself and the ability to adapt to new markets, then you will not be successful over time.

 Every other major metropolitan market in the world is pouring every conceivable dollar into
educating their populous so that they can be adapted to change. Every bit of energy you
spend competing among yourselves creates competitive advantage for those other
metropolitan areas who would rather get your business.

This idea of collegiality, whether it's the central city versus the surrounding counties and, you
know, investment here is a zero something because you invested in the downtown you didn't
invest over here and therefore we're losers, all of that is bunk because metropolitan
economies succeed or fail together and your competitors are not within the, within Ulster,
your competitors are in Manchester or in Liverpool or in Glasgow, and in other parts of the
world, and unless you can change your competitive posture so you focus on who you're
really trying to gain market share against, it's very unlikely that you're going to be successful
because the other places, and I actually work in all those other places, have figured it out
and have aligned themselves.

 And the last thing there is you really need to avoid getting caught up in fads and trends, so
many communities decide things like, "Well, we're down so we must need a casino or we're
down so we must need a convention centre". Well, those are nice and very helpful in the
tourism industry but they don't actually replace investment in basic infrastructure so your
water systems work, those sorts of things, and the education system that will be the source
of your wealth in the future.

 Finally, let me just say that what we recommend is this idea of sustainability which isn't just
a green agenda, we say that it's a focus on value creation which is what this downtown
strategy is about, coupled with values amplification. Who are you? Who are you trying to
become? Those two things together can be dedicated toward the only valid reason to do
sustainability which is to optimise conditions for human development over time. It's the most
robust of all possible risk management frameworks if it's used as an analytical tool and it can
be the rudder that keeps you on course.

So as you're undertaking this discussion about sustainability don't divorce it from the
meeting that's happened here and all the other meetings you're going to be having in the
community about the future of Belfast, it could be the intellectual framework that allows you
to create the kind of cohesion across communities, across sectors and across interest to
make you the successful community that you need and will become.

Thank you very much.

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