Matt adds, "One thing I wish she emphasized more, however, is the legal impediments
to this kind of adaptation. I think a lot of people will look at her
presentation and say “if transforming these uses is so great, why don’t
developers/businessmen/’the market’ do it on their own.” And a big part
of the answer is that the prevailing land use regulations don’t permit
So, Urban specialists and academics know how suburbia should be retrofitted, but localities aren't doing it. Why not? Why aren't we building more walkable downtowns and losing the empty parking lots?
It's a bigger problem than simply restrictive and outdating land use laws. Local planning boards and town councils aren't thinking long term. They just want more ratables. Unless there is a very organized and powerful group of local citizens who halt bad planning, town governments are going to let any asshole developer build ugly shopping centers or drive through Wendy's in order to bring in more tax money. Often the guys on the planning boards are the contractors that will later be hired to build the shopping center. There are mind boggling conflicts of interest going on.
Also, the people who serve on these planning boards aren't watching TED talks. Very often, local officials are small business owners in town or the guys who volunteer for everything. There is little long term planning.
Local politics slow down these efforts to redesign suburban down towns.