The new challenge in sprawl

I believe in mixed use development, as long as the uses are compatible meaning we don’t put industrial activities in the heart of or close to a residential area. In the case of the latter development, conventional zoning is better able to handle that.

Baguio City, from any angle, is literally a sprawling city. Sprawl at least in the absence of government, private sector, and civil society intervention is something locals live with whether they like it or not. And the challenge now under the banner of “working within constraints” is how to achieve integrity in the sprawled areas.

The urban planner or manager or even a keen observer would see that the shape of development in these areas, notwithstanding its current chaotic form, is actually that of mixed use. Integrated into residential areas is a satellite market, sari-sari stores, schools, shops, offices, etcetera. There’s even vegetable farming and cattle herding.

What does this actual form imply? I think that because this form is shaped by the residents and no one among them is complaining (seriously at least), this form, chaotic as it is, actually works for the residents. The residents on their own mixed the uses of the land into something that works for them. Now, the responsibility of the urban planner and manager is to facilitate the integrity of this form. It’s like an architect and an interior designer being brought in to render professional redecoration of a house. But just like in the redecoration process, decision-making involves the homeowners.

This process you’d say is the antithesis of planning and that’s correct. But one has to see that there was no planning to begin with (which is why the City has sprawled and its suburbs a mess physically) and urban planning for much of the City has to be done in order to correct the negative impact of the lack of planning (and community participation). As can be seen on the City’s landscape, sitting back and handing over the absolute shaping of development to the market has created at some point monster forms that are strangling the City and its residents. That’s the lesson to be had there – City Hall thinks it can sit back and let development free form on the land and that because things are developing it follows that the City will be more competitive but that’s not the case at all.


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