Rooftop Views and Puzzle Pieces
There's something about looking out over a landscape from an elevated place and be in amazement at the sheer magnitude of structures and infrastructure, forests, or fields that lay before us.
When we are on ground level, our view is limited to what we can see; a street, some houses, power lines. However when we can see above the tree line and see out over the rooftops, we see the big picture of hundreds of rooftops, roads, a maze of power lines, and trees spreading out in every direction. This same situation plays out no matter what environment you live in; once you can rise above the tree line, your vantage point allows you to overlook large swaths of the landscape.
From my building's rooftop I can look out and see at least seven neighborhoods. Each has their own character, even from the view above. On one side of the rooftop, I see single family houses with an endless cover of foliage. On the other side I'm looking out over a large commercial area with a sea of parking and streets buzzing with cars. Another side offers a beautiful view of the Oakland skyline and lines of apartment buildings extending into the distance.
Looking from each side I can't help but think about what changes could be made to make each location better; better for pedestrians, better for shoppers, better for commuters. For when we can see different pieces of the puzzle, we realize that if one puzzle piece is altered, it affects the pieces around it. A ripple effect is started and when pieces don't fit perfectly together, we quickly discover that the puzzle we see does not look like the picture on the box that the puzzle came in.
East Liberty is experiencing an amazing renaissance with new housing, exciting new restaurants, and posh hotels. What all of this new construction and renovation of existing structures replaces is a community of residents and businesses that are being pushed out and priced out of their neighborhood. For many, their community fabric has been torn and they are forced to find housing in the surrounding neighborhoods. As one puzzle piece is altered, the surrounding puzzle pieces are being altered and suddenly the pieces may not fit. This is when policies, planning, and community dialogue become so important for cities to utilize to ensure that when puzzle pieces are altered, others can be altered too so they can continue to fit together.
Why is this important? Who wants to buy a puzzle where all of the pieces don't fit? Likewise, why would someone's first preference be to move to an area where there is chronic homelessness or severe traffic congestion or no jobs? Many communities are facing these challenges, among others, and while planning and policies cannot fix everything, they can provide a blueprint for adjusting the puzzle pieces so they can eventually fit together.