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I made a run at creating an updated list of smart growth principles a couple of years ago, and for a short while there was a low buzz in the smart growth community about whether we should actually do such an updating. (My new list placed more emphasis on equity, healthy living, nature, and resource efficiency.) More recently, Bill Adams came up with his own list of new principles for “smarter smart growth.” And preceding all these definitions and lists was the Charter of the New Urbanism, about as good and complete delineation of excellent urban design principles as you will ever find. (To the extent that I have occasional quarrels with new urbanist practitioners, it is when the Charter’s principles are violated in practice. It was, and is, a magnificent document.)
Are such definitions important? Well, yes, because we advocates are a self-referential sort, and we need to have a vision to advocate. When we do, we reinforce each other and become stronger and more effective. And principles articulate that vision.