Comprehensive El Paso

Urbanism/Urban Design/Public Policy/San Antonio

Tonight we (in the royal sense) attended the lecture at UTSA’s downtown campus concerning El Paso’s new, celebrated comprehensive city plan1. It is ambitious. It is ground-breaking. It is also a study in politics. The impetus was the Department of Defense basically saying El Paso had a “sprawl code” and needed to change it to accomodate the influx of troops slated for the next five years or so. Armed with this information and federal money to play with, the city got the best and brightest to work on it. Guiding the process was Matt McElroy, director of the El Paso City Development Department, El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, and El Paso City Council Rep. Susie Byrd among others. The real gems of insight aren’t the New Urbanism principles used. Those are already well documented and much discussed. The implementation of those principles in a comprehensive plan in a town, and in a state so staunchly individualistic and government-free is the real amazing tale. Anyone in a Texas town will likely be hearing much about the El Paso plan soon.

Planning leadership in the city and in the university took the time to drill the panelists with questions in the hope of replicating the effort in our sprawling city. Without a similar influx of cash that will no doubt be incredibly difficult. Anything is possible with some dynamic leadership here. Apparently El Paso had the critical mass of talented people who could fight for Smart Growth principles successfully. San Antonio certainly has the knowledge, but it is yet to be seen if it has the same political talent2 to make a similar push here.

This was originally published here

  1. UTSA Today 

  2. Or luck. I mean, it’s hard to look at the results and make accurate judgements about the causes. El Paso seems fortunate to have had the right group of people to lead this thing and certainly lucky to have lots of help from the DoD. SA Mayor Castro’s SA2020 plan is not quite a comprehensive city plan in the URP sense. UTSA’s John Dugan led the panel Q&A. He is also on the SA planning commission thing. He is a talented guy from what I hear. ↩