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Thread: Planners living in sprawl

  1. #1

    Planners living in sprawl

    As someone who's just getting started in this field, I can't help but notice how many planners I've seen live in what can only be described as sprawl, and driving large SUVs. Now I'm not picking on anybody - as much as I care about the environment and as much as I despise sprawl and its tendency to suck the very soul out of what should otherwise be a tight-knit neighborhood, I can understand why people look at a typical, 3-bedroom house in a sprawling subdivision and think that it's desirable. Most people simply don't have a planner's education and understand the full societal effects of sprawl, nor have they experienced communities where they can have all of the good things about suburbs - better schools, safer neighborhoods, etc. combined with the good things about cities and older suburbs - walkable, bikable neighborhoods, goods and services nearby, etc.

    That being said, I am just really curious how planners justify living in sprawl. Again, I'm certainly not picking on anyone or trying to get on my soapbox and preach to anybody about anything. I'm just really curious what justifications and reasoning is used when planners create plans that specifically say that communities should stray away from this type of development, and yet this is where a lot of planners live. Is it because many planners live in metro areas where sprawling neighborhoods are simply the only feasible housing option, i.e. the only places where good schools and safe communities exist? What about commuting patterns? Lots of planners drive alone in their SUVs to work every day. Is it because they live in sprawl where public transit isn't available or feasible?

    Furthermore, for planners who do engage in these things, do you ever feel bad or guilty for writing plans that call for people to do things you are currently not doing yourself? I'm just really curious as to how all of this plays out. Again, I'm a realist - I understand good schools and safe streets generally take a priority over good neighborhood design. But I'm just really curious how planners think of this.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I live in a small metro ~100k in the city limits. I live in what could be considered classic sprawl, though the neighborhood is dense. I live 3 miles from the grocery store, closer for some other services (gas, pizza, etc.).
    I would love to live in the "city" but you nailed many of the issues, planner or not. School quality, safety, and honestly I have 2 young kids and 2 dogs so I need a bit of a backyard which isn't really an option in older downtown areas. On top of that, the price vs. quality of housing is hard to match in the burbs. Do I want to rent a historic old home with huge electric heating and cooling bills (not sustainable) or a remodeled or newer house/unit that price per sq. ft. is up there, and could still have a 3 mile drive to a grocer if one doesn't exist downtown.

    I drive one smaller SUV and have one compact car for running around town. I don't try to justify it, and one day when the kids are out and it's just my wife and myself again I would love to move to a downtown again.
    @GigCityPlanner

  3. #3
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    As a planner who has resided in many different types of locations, hopefully I can offer some insight.

    I currently reside in a 4-bedroom, 2500 sq. ft. home in the 15 largest municipality in Michigan. However, it's a township at the urban fringe of Metro Detroit.

    When we were looking for a house, we also were focusing on a inner-ring suburb.

    We chose the Township location because of the size/layout of the house we wanted. It helped that it's in a a good school district, with the elementary, middle and high schools all being within a mile to our house. The house is also only 10 minutes to my work. My drive is quicker than any transit.

    There isn't much that we can walk to, but our house is just north of a major state highway that offers two malls, and any shopping, dining and retail you could want. It's also very close to an interstate, which is helpful because we travel a lot to see family.

    There is no one right answer, and peoples' housing choices often change over time. We went from apartments right out of college, to a small, older house as we had kids, and now to a larger house as the kids age. I can see my wife and I considerably downsizing our housing when the girls leave, and get a condo in a very urban location.

    That's why we need choices; needs change over time. I don't think people wake up one day and decide they want to "live in sprawl". It's just not that simple.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    As a planner who has resided in many different types of locations, hopefully I can offer some insight.

    I currently reside in a 4-bedroom, 2500 sq. ft. home in the 15 largest municipality in Michigan. However, it's a township at the urban fringe of Metro Detroit.

    When we were looking for a house, we also were focusing on a inner-ring suburb.

    We chose the Township location because of the size/layout of the house we wanted. It helped that it's in a a good school district, with the elementary, middle and high schools all being within a mile to our house. The house is also only 10 minutes to my work. My drive is quicker than any transit.

    There isn't much that we can walk to, but our house is just north of a major state highway that offers two malls, and any shopping, dining and retail you could want. It's also very close to an interstate, which is helpful because we travel a lot to see family.

    There is no one right answer, and peoples' housing choices often change over time. We went from apartments right out of college, to a small, older house as we had kids, and now to a larger house as the kids age. I can see my wife and I considerably downsizing our housing when the girls leave, and get a condo in a very urban location.

    That's why we need choices; needs change over time. I don't think people wake up one day and decide they want to "live in sprawl". It's just not that simple.

    Right. So are you saying that instead of trying to get as many people to move out of sprawl and live in denser communities as possible, planners should simply allow more choices? I.e. Sprawl has been such a dominant form of development that even people who DO want to live in denser communities don't have the option to do so because of developers and even because of zoning regs?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    You are right - planners should walk the walk and live in sustainable communities. However...

    Often planners advocate for building what does not currently exist. We want developers to build mixed-used projects but we can't live in them until they are done.
    Often planners live in growing cities that require employees to live within the city limits. It's hard to live in a sustainable community when you work in Gilbert AZ and are required to live in Gilbert AZ.
    Often planners live in cold climates where a 4 wheel drive SUV is a necessity and not just an option.
    Often planners are married with children and the wife's vote on where to live is more important than the man's vote.
    Often planners live in communities where the old neat neighborhoods are full of crime and run-down houses and the community is so small there is no "gentrified" area of the old town. I fall into this category.

    My ideal house is a craftsman-style with updated utilities and within walking distance to shops, bars, and my kids' schools. I advocate for this type of planning but it just doesn't exist in my little world right now. I'm working on it but it's a long process and we take every small step we can get. Convincing residents small lots with sidewalks is not a magnet for crime is sometimes harder than it looks. Convincing residents chain stores along the highway is not the most attractive option is sometimes harder than it looks, especially when those types of projects dangle new tax dollars.

    Edit - We have a generation of people who grew up in the suburbs and that's all they honestly know. They think cities (or traditional development) are bad. They just honestly don't know normal, average, families(!) can thrive in the city. Until we get over that negative perception we will continue to see zoning codes that don't even allow for choices. Right now in my community if someone wanted to build a traditional development in the older part of town we wouldn't even let them. If you grew up and had your formative years in the suburbs our culture taught you density = bad.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Right. So are you saying that instead of trying to get as many people to move out of sprawl and live in denser communities as possible, planners should simply allow more choices? I.e. Sprawl has been such a dominant form of development that even people who DO want to live in denser communities don't have the option to do so because of developers and even because of zoning regs?
    Awwww Btrage you got set up.
    @GigCityPlanner

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    This is a tough one. Its hard for me to defend driving the huge SUV (both environmentally and financially) but I suspect that one factor for the housing issue is affordability. It varies from place to place of course, but where I live, the most affordable housing is at the edge of the developed urban area. Yes, one can make the argument that one pays less if they don't have to travel as far, but if you take advantage of public transit or have a relatively efficient vehicle (and accepting for the moment that we pay a fraction of the true cost of fuel which only helps to support sprawl) the costs are not prohibitive. There is a cost in time as well, but I won't get into that here.

    Also, as mentioned, the quality of schools and having a larger yard may make a suburban or fringe home seem more attractive for people with families. There is also an axiom that often people (consciously or not) seek to replicate the setting they grew up in for their own children. A lot of people grew up in suburbs over the last two generations and that may be what feels most comfortable when it comes to raising children. I grew up in the suburbs, too.

    Personally, I live in the downtown area of my mid-sized city and am lucky enough to have a little bit of yard to boot. I am able to walk or bike to most amenities, including food shopping. And I bike to work. But I also pay a premium on my home. It ain't cheap and in the current market, I am not sure we would qualify for the mortgage we have. So affordability can certainly be a big factor and I often spend time looking in the general area hoping to find a place that is more affordable for us. But it ain't there.

    I'm not defending the sprawl pattern of development or the fact that as long as there is continuing demand, developers will continue to build there. But I do see that for working people like planners (who really don't make a lot of money) our purchasing power is limited and we also may have other needs to try and fulfill like families or a spouse who also works and for whom the suburban location is actually a mid-point between the two job centers.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    A simple explanation is that many planners don't particularly care for how planning is done in an area. However it's often not feasible for them to ardently adhere to their beliefs when there are real world circumstances that shape their choices.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    All high minded rhetoric aside, professional planners are just white collar, middle income professionals like everyone else, and thus their choices are in line with the mean. This likely means driving an SUV or other similar appliance to work, living in a detached single family residence, and raising kids in a suburban environment. Perhaps professionals with specialized knowledge regarding the pluses and minuses of a particular lifestyle should know better, but reality is a messier place than our ideals.

    It's like asking 'Why would any doctor allow themselves to be fat?'

  10. #10
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I live in a small city. My house is pretty small but the lot is 10,500 sq ft. I live in a mixed-use neighborhood with a grocery, restaurants, small offices, drug stores, etc. within walking distance.

    But that is not what I generally see at work. I am a county planner and we don't see that kind of denser and multi-use development outside the cities and towns. We see subdivisions that require onsite water and well (try to get a community water system approved in a closed basin) and that mean 1 acre lot size minimum. Sometimes the developer wants the lots larger, to permit the equistrian lifestyle some enjoy.

    There will always be people who prefer to live away from cities, on bigger lots, and yes, in sprawling subdivisions. They don't like the guv'mint telling them what to do. My job is to try to mitigate as well as possible the impacts.

    If people want to live in sprawl, who are we to stop them? Mitigate the impacts, yes. But ban sprawl, not in my power. Encourage more dense development that is closer to existing infrastructure, heck yes. But people have the right to live as they like, so long as they aren't breeaking the law and are willing to pay the freight of their decisions.

    OT: Any greenfield development sucks. The least rewarding part of my job is I do site inspections for proposed subdivisions and know that the land will become less than it was. People are a cancer eating up land, displacing wildlife and sucking vitality from Mother Earth. A fox's burrow is better use for land than a house, IMO, but there is nothing I can do to stop it. I sometimes feel like a cog in the machine facilitating the piece-meal diminishing of the Earth. Yeah, some days I really love going to work in the morning. So ends my rant.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  11. #11
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post

    That being said, I am just really curious how planners justify living in sprawl.
    Pay me more so I can afford to live closer in. Pay me more to send my kid to a better school if there is not one in the area. Pay me more to afford a larger lot closer in so I can have a garden. If I could have all those, there you go.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Right. So are you saying that instead of trying to get as many people to move out of sprawl and live in denser communities as possible, planners should simply allow more choices? I.e. Sprawl has been such a dominant form of development that even people who DO want to live in denser communities don't have the option to do so because of developers and even because of zoning regs?
    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    Awwww Btrage you got set up.
    He asks a fair question. The answer is yes, and it depends on the community.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Often planners are married with children and the wife's vote on where to live is more important than the man's vote.

    Guys, I think this answer trumps everything anyone else has said.

    In all seriousness though, these are all very solid answers. And they are definitely good, valid responses to my questions. I guess the REAL big question, the white elephant in the room if you will, is this: if we as planners can come up with a million reasons why a sprawling neighborhood works best for us, can we really ask society as a whole to do the same?

    This answer in particular stood out to me:

    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    There will always be people who prefer to live away from cities, on bigger lots, and yes, in sprawling subdivisions. They don't like the guv'mint telling them what to do. My job is to try to mitigate as well as possible the impacts.

    If people want to live in sprawl, who are we to stop them? Mitigate the impacts, yes. But ban sprawl, not in my power. Encourage more dense development that is closer to existing infrastructure, heck yes. But people have the right to live as they like, so long as they aren't breeaking the law and are willing to pay the freight of their decisions.

    Do you guys agree with this? I understand you can't ban sprawl simply because you dislike it - this is America, we have freedoms. But does this mean that there can't be any effort put up to stop it? And exactly how does one mitigate the effects of it? Once it's built, it's built. Seems much harder to mitigate the effects of existing land uses and travel patterns than to try to prevent problematic development patterns from springing up in the first place, yes? Again, just asking questions. Not trying to be judgemental towards anyone. These are just curious questions floating around in my head that I'd really like to hear answers to.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Do you guys agree with this? I understand you can't ban sprawl simply because you dislike it - this is America, we have freedoms. But does this mean that there can't be any effort put up to stop it? And exactly how does one mitigate the effects of it? Once it's built, it's built. Seems much harder to mitigate the effects of existing land uses and travel patterns than to try to prevent problematic development patterns from springing up in the first place, yes? Again, just asking questions. Not trying to be judgemental towards anyone. These are just curious questions floating around in my head that I'd really like to hear answers to.
    Sprawl is so ingrained in to the American psyche that it's hard to do much to slow its spread now. I think this will change over time but it'll be a generational thing. The people governing and those that are actually able to afford houses now still prefer suburban style development. Younger people appear to have different preferences but their influence on the situation is marginal at the present. As Millennials get older, I suspect the demand for sprawl will begin to wane.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    Sprawl is so ingrained in to the American psyche that it's hard to do much to slow its spread now. I think this will change over time but it'll be a generational thing. The people governing and those that are actually able to afford houses now still prefer suburban style development. Younger people appear to have different preferences but their influence on the situation is marginal at the present. As Millennials get older, I suspect the demand for sprawl will begin to wane.

    I suspect that with Millennials (my generation) we won't have much of a choice - for the foreseeable future, energy prices (and supply) appear to be voliatile at best and scarce at worst. This would not only create demand for land uses to be closer together, but basically require it. But yes, I suppose planning is supposed to be about trying to generate a balance between forcing everyone to live in Commie blocks versus allowing everyone to have the freedom to live in a massive McMansion while forcing taxpayers and local governments to foot the bill for services and infrastructure, all the while complaining about gasoline prices while driving 30 miles to work in their massive SUVs.

    Life sucks.

  16. #16
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    When I worked in the Cleveland area, I lived in a racially integrated, middle class, inner ring suburb; a city where development boomed in 1920, and the place was mostly built out by 1960. My address had a Walk Score of 66; I could (and did) walk to two supermarkets, several restaurants and coffee houses, a hardware store, a barber, a craft beer store, and the post office. I could take the bus downtown, or drive seven or eight minutes to a park-and-ride lot and take the train in. However, I still had a huge carbon footprint. I was a single person living in a 2,200 square foot house on a 1/2 acre lot, outcommuting to my job 27 miles away. My SO lived 30 miles away, in a middle ring suburb on the other end of Cleveland.

    Today, I live in sprawl; a rental townhouse in a rural hamlet with no sidewalks, and no commercial businesses except for a beauty salon and auto mechanic. However, I can drive to work in 10 minutes, or take public transit; there's a stop in front. I'd prefer to live within walking distance of work, but high housing costs relative to income, a shortage of rental housing for "adults" (as opposed to students), and two dogs keep me from getting close for now.

    When I buy a house here, it's probably going to be a small handyman's special in an iffy neighborhood. If I can't find anything habitable and affordable, it's reluctantly going to be someplace less challenging in an outlying area. The compact, walkable mixed use developments and TNDs I'm championing in the community where I work are still a few years off.

    In the past decade or two, urban environments became hip again. With their rediscovered popularity comes higher home values and rents; often beyond what someone making a typical planner's salary can reasonably afford. The affordability gap between the least expensive nad most expensive cities in the US has also grown by a few orders of magnitude in the past 15 years. I bought my first house in northwest Denver in 1998, an 800 square foot bungalow about 2.5 miles form downtown. Similar houses on my old block now sell in the $350,000-$400,000 range.

    It's possible for a planner in the United States to afford to live in a dense walkable urban neighborhood. It's just going to be in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, or another third, fourth or fifth tier city that has no growth, no buzz, and unfortunately, far fewer opportunities for employment as a planner compared to faster-growing, more expensive regions. The new generation of young, idealistic planners, those who come of out grad school versed in transects and connectivity indexes, who aspire for CNU-A over AICP, are going to find themselves disappointed when they land their first real world job, and try to find a place to live. That is, unless they have rich parents, or are starting out in Omaha or Dayton. Maybe, in 20 or 30 years, if the supply of quality urbanism meets demand, they'll have their chance at a bungalow two blocks away from a gastropub or yoga studio.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  17. #17
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    I understand you can't ban sprawl simply because you dislike it - this is America, we have freedoms. But does this mean that there can't be any effort put up to stop it? And exactly how does one mitigate the effects of it? Once it's built, it's built. Seems much harder to mitigate the effects of existing land uses and travel patterns than to try to prevent problematic development patterns from springing up in the first place, yes? Again, just asking questions. Not trying to be judgemental towards anyone. These are just curious questions floating around in my head that I'd really like to hear answers to.
    Believe me, you are not the first person to have this opinion and many have been trying to accomplish just this. But how do you get municipalities on board to pass such legislation that would curtail sprawl and encourage infill development? Ideas have come from many angles – everything from Smart Growth legislations (boiler plate language that local municipalities can borrow from to pass such restrictions in their areas) to New Urbanism, to LEED (which gives “points” for development that occurs within or at least adjacent to previously built areas to mitigate leap frog development). But here’s the rub (as we’ve been through this in my municipality):

    Municipalities, counties and other entities rub up against each other and trying to get a regional agreement on a particular goal like this is worse than herding cats. Why? Part of it has to do with competing interests and partisan politics, but much of it centers on tax revenue. If you can convince a city to adopt a smart code, for example, it only applies to their jurisdiction. In response, the neighboring muni or county might say “hey, we don’t have any kind of restriction here! Come on and build to your heart’s content! And we’ll take that property tax, too”

    That’s just one example. Another in my area might be that development companies have already purchased extensive amounts of land that have been platted as far as the eye can see but won’t be developed for many years. If you now change the restrictions on developing those lots, you (as the muni) open yourself up to lawsuits around issues of “takings.”

    Yet another example is that homebuilders may have a significant lobbying contingency such that even if a Smart Growth legislation passes, it could be so watered down as to be virtually ineffective. This was the case here where impact fees and other dis-incentives for fringe development were so compromised by the time the legislation went to vote that it has changed very little.

    The only real impact here has been the economy. Yet another thing we can’t control. Paying the true cost of fuel would also have a real impact, but I don’t see that happening soon either.

    Not to be a doomsdayer here, but just to point out how messy this can all get at the local level. In my mind, states and regional planning authorities (which in my neck of the woods can only make recommendations to area munis about responsible growth) will need to develop more teeth if we are going to get a handle on these issues. Few states have a planning entity, largely because they fear lawsuits. Oregon would be one example, though. It’s the state that has required all municipalities institute Urban Growth Boundaries to curtail sprawl – a model that I believe has been extremely effective and grew out of an unusual alliance between area farmers/ag folks, loggers, environmentalists and other interests looking to control sprawl. Its not just Portland that has a UGB. Check it out…
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Often planners are married with children and the wife's vote on where to live is more important than the man's vote.
    Why get into identity politics and insult an entire gender? I think the issue you're getting at is that planners - a slight majority of whom are female - often marry people who are less concerned about land use/transportation/sustainability issues than they are and then compromise on a housing location. I've known plenty of women who moved to the suburbs and lamented the lack of walkability but explained the decision in terms of "my husband insisted we had to move to the county after our kids were born." I personally could never love the type of person who wanted to live a sprawl lifestyle, much less raise children in sprawl.

    There are varying levels of commitment to ideals. The state of our infrastructure, development, and zoning codes in contrast to the content of popular planning literature and college and graduate planning courses makes clear that planners as a group are not particularly committed to seeing their ideals through to fruition. We all have to make some compromises in life, but our profession collectively has made a lot both in terms of our professional and personal choices. We need more people in this field who are genuinely passionate about improving the quality of our built environment and are not willing to settle for greenwashing excessive consumption - and more who are willing to hold each other accountable and start the tough conversations. It takes a whole community - and one that is not afraid of controversy or discomfort - to build and sustain progress.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pedestrian Error View post
    Why get into identity politics and insult an entire gender? I think the issue you're getting at is that planners - a slight majority of whom are female - often marry people who are less concerned about land use/transportation/sustainability issues than they are and then compromise on a housing location. I've known plenty of women who moved to the suburbs and lamented the lack of walkability but explained the decision in terms of "my husband insisted we had to move to the county after our kids were born." I personally could never love the type of person who wanted to live a sprawl lifestyle, much less raise children in sprawl.

    There are varying levels of commitment to ideals. The state of our infrastructure, development, and zoning codes in contrast to the content of popular planning literature and college and graduate planning courses makes clear that planners as a group are not particularly committed to seeing their ideals through to fruition. We all have to make some compromises in life, but our profession collectively has made a lot both in terms of our professional and personal choices. We need more people in this field who are genuinely passionate about improving the quality of our built environment and are not willing to settle for greenwashing excessive consumption - and more who are willing to hold each other accountable and start the tough conversations. It takes a whole community - and one that is not afraid of controversy or discomfort - to build and sustain progress.
    Welcome to Cyburbia!

    That's a pretty strong 1st post. Hope you stick around and warm up to us planners who live in "sprawl"
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  20. #20
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Not to be a doomsdayer here, but just to point out how messy this can all get at the local level. In my mind, states and regional planning authorities (which in my neck of the woods can only make recommendations to area munis about responsible growth) will need to develop more teeth if we are going to get a handle on these issues. Few states have a planning entity, largely because they fear lawsuits. Oregon would be one example, though. It’s the state that has required all municipalities institute Urban Growth Boundaries to curtail sprawl – a model that I believe has been extremely effective and grew out of an unusual alliance between area farmers/ag folks, loggers, environmentalists and other interests looking to control sprawl. Its not just Portland that has a UGB. Check it out…
    The opposite of Oregon then would be how about 10 years ago in Nevada a state legislator pushed for a "ring around the valley" for the Las Vegas Metropolitan area to help better manage the growth and deal with the local municipalities there acquiring BLM land in a race to see who could expand to Utah/Arizona, etc. The irony here is that the local governments wanted none of it. I even remember the planning director of the "smart growth" community there at the time basically saying the state legislator should stay out managing sprawl as the race to expand to Arizona was on. Had a "ring around the valley" been put into place, the housing bubble that Vegas had wouldn't presumably have been so severe.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    There will always be people who prefer to live away from cities, on bigger lots, and yes, in sprawling subdivisions. They don't like the guv'mint telling them what to do. My job is to try to mitigate as well as possible the impacts.

    If people want to live in sprawl, who are we to stop them? Mitigate the impacts, yes. But ban sprawl, not in my power. Encourage more dense development that is closer to existing infrastructure, heck yes. But people have the right to live as they like, so long as they aren't breeaking the law and are willing to pay the freight of their decisions.
    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Do you guys agree with this? I understand you can't ban sprawl simply because you dislike it - this is America, we have freedoms. But does this mean that there can't be any effort put up to stop it? And exactly how does one mitigate the effects of it? Once it's built, it's built. Seems much harder to mitigate the effects of existing land uses and travel patterns than to try to prevent problematic development patterns from springing up in the first place, yes? Again, just asking questions. Not trying to be judgemental towards anyone. These are just curious questions floating around in my head that I'd really like to hear answers to.
    I find it interesting that so many young people who have never really lived in inner-city neighborhoods want to essentially force everybody else to live in them. Unless you are upper middle-class in income or inherited a house in an upper middle class urban neighborhood, living in "dense urban neighborhoods" can generally suck. Unless you can afford to send your kids to private schools, you will likely find yourself moving outside the city limits probably sooner rather than later when you have kids.

    Have you ever lived in a high-crime, inner city neighborhood with deteriorating housing, constant noise, and scary neighbors? Have you ever had your home or apartment robbed? Have you ever had your car windows smashed or hit by a hit-and-run driver because you have to park out on the street because you don't have off-street parking? Since you don't sound like you have kids, did you attend substandard inner city public schools with armed guards patrolling the halls? These are all reasons why people flock to suburbs.

    That's NOT even counting the people like me who are farmers at heart and stuck living in urban areas because these are where the jobs are. I was gardening long before kids like you decided it was "green".

    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    Sprawl is so ingrained in to the American psyche that it's hard to do much to slow its spread now. I think this will change over time but it'll be a generational thing. The people governing and those that are actually able to afford houses now still prefer suburban style development. Younger people appear to have different preferences but their influence on the situation is marginal at the present. As Millennials get older, I suspect the demand for sprawl will begin to wane.
    The American motto should be: sprawl is us. We have been sprawling out across this country since the first settlers landed in Jamestown, VA in 1607. Much of my area of NYS wasn't really settled until the 1830s ... at the same time that other Americans were pushing the frontier back in places like Illinois and Wisconsin. Heck, western Oregon was settled almost 30 years before there was much settlement on the Great Plains.

    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    I suspect that with Millennials (my generation) we won't have much of a choice - for the foreseeable future, energy prices (and supply) appear to be voliatile at best and scarce at worst. This would not only create demand for land uses to be closer together, but basically require it. But yes, I suppose planning is supposed to be about trying to generate a balance between forcing everyone to live in Commie blocks versus allowing everyone to have the freedom to live in a massive McMansion while forcing taxpayers and local governments to foot the bill for services and infrastructure, all the while complaining about gasoline prices while driving 30 miles to work in their massive SUVs.
    Don't knock SUVs until you have to shovel 6+ inches of snow out of your driveway before and after work for a winter or two -- or gotten stuck in slushy snow on a hill.

    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    Life sucks.
    The alternative is worse.

    PS... I'm NOT a planner, just a butinsky.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I find it interesting that so many young people who have never really lived in inner-city neighborhoods want to essentially force everybody else to live in them. Unless you are upper middle-class in income or inherited a house in an upper middle class urban neighborhood, living in "dense urban neighborhoods" can generally suck. Unless you can afford to send your kids to private schools, you will likely find yourself moving outside the city limits probably sooner rather than later when you have kids.
    I don't think all the young want to "force" people to live in density; some are too young and naive to understand what they think they want is not possible at this time. Others are simply young and think everyone is like them.

    "Forcing" is what the right-wing ideologues and Agenda 21 nuts project on to our profession because they don't care to know enough beyond cheap talking points like 'communitarian' and 'socialism' and 'prop'ty riiiiiiights!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'. Let us not confuse these groups or hastily generalize.

    It is likely that resource scarcity/environmental forces/social forces will "force" some into dense urban areas out of necessity due to decreased buying power. We should try and make nice density because that is likely what will happen for some. Others won't move there, no way, no how, nuh-uh no sir buddy. We should try and make nice places for them, too. That's all we can do. Nothing more. People will migrate to where they want if they can.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  23. #23
    The standard postwar single family house lot of 6,000 square feet provides sufficient density to support communities where most people can walk to some retail, the local park, and a neighborhood elementary school (cul de sac designs and large size zoning districts aside). This means that most middle class suburban areas built between 1945 and 1975 can be considered non-sprawl or modestly sprawled. That even this density level is not attainable in many comunities suggest there are many people and places who love sprawl. The ones who are forcing people to live certain ways are those communities, IMHO.

    People who want 10,000 or quarter acre lots mor larger simply want to live in rural areas or in sprawl. They should "come out" and not be afraid to say so. But saying that the standard Leave it to Beaver era lot is insufficient in space is a bit self deluded.


    Safe good schools are important for about 20 years of an average adult's life. Then they m any choose to stay in these communities because they feel rooted there (a good thing).

    Life is trade offs. Many planners live in sprawl because they like it.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I find it interesting that so many young people who have never really lived in inner-city neighborhoods want to essentially force everybody else to live in them. Unless you are upper middle-class in income or inherited a house in an upper middle class urban neighborhood, living in "dense urban neighborhoods" can generally suck. Unless you can afford to send your kids to private schools, you will likely find yourself moving outside the city limits probably sooner rather than later when you have kids.

    Have you ever lived in a high-crime, inner city neighborhood with deteriorating housing, constant noise, and scary neighbors? Have you ever had your home or apartment robbed? Have you ever had your car windows smashed or hit by a hit-and-run driver because you have to park out on the street because you don't have off-street parking? Since you don't sound like you have kids, did you attend substandard inner city public schools with armed guards patrolling the halls? These are all reasons why people flock to suburbs.
    Well first of all, I thought I made it quite clear in the beginning that I wasn't seeking to pass judgement or crticize anyone - I simply thought this would be an interesting topic of discussion. Nothing more, nothing less. The NU and anti-sprawl ideologues a lot of planners hate irritate the hell out of me too, believe me. But since you asked - actually, yes, I do know what it's like to live in a rough neighborhood. Spent a good part of my childhood in one. Yeah, we had drugs, gangs, etc. in the neighborhood. I had a stray bullet come within a few inches of piercing my skull once when I was about 8 years old. I could recognize gang graffiti almost at the same age that I learned the alphabet. Yes I am young - during the most violent period in urban American history anybody can remember, the crack epidemic of the '80s and '90s, I was a small child living in a neighborhood that was contributing more than its fair share to our city's sky high violent crime rate. A lot of the things you describe are things that I experienced by the time I was in third grade.

    That being said, our family was very fortunate in that we had the means to move out to a neighborhood that was much nicer (and very sprawling). I can point out both good and bad things about both neighborhoods, but that's all besides the point. The point is, I simply wanted to open up a discussion and ask questions - not because I want to chastize, but because I just want to hear people's perspective on something that you never hear talked about, ESPECIALLY in planning school.

    Don't knock SUVs until you have to shovel 6+ inches of snow out of your driveway before and after work for a winter or two -- or gotten stuck in slushy snow on a hill.
    I live in a cold climate with just FWD, but frankly I couldn't care less about someone choosing to drive an SUV because they live in a cold climate - most of the sprawly areas where people are most likely to drive massive SUVs are in the Sun Belt where they rarely see snow. But again, I'm not really trying to argue or debate the merits of those actions - I'm just curious about planners' perspective on these things, considering how many planners do them. Just seeking a little discussion, I have no desire to preach to anybody, trust me.
    Last edited by Jazzman; 29 Aug 2012 at 10:45 PM.

  25. #25
    On further thought...

    For most of the 20th century, urban planning and architecture had a very strong anti urban bias. To name a few:

    Burgess and Park: neighborhoods and a lifecycle and inevitably decayed.

    Frank Lloyd Wiright: cities should empty out and everyone should live on one acre lots and grow the own food.

    Le Corbusier: let's bulldoze Paris

    Lewis Mumford: cities make people mentally ill.

    How bout all those urban renewal and highway planners?

    Read the first two pages of Jacob's book for more.



    Interestingly, the women of this era, Catherine Bauer, Jacobs, Edith Elmer Wood, were much more pro urban

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