Tom Tomorrow rocks! I loved this cartoonOriginally posted by ablarc
Tom Tomorrow rocks! I loved this cartoonOriginally posted by ablarc
This article is condensed from The New York Times:
Vibrant Cities Find One Thing Missing: Children
In the Pearl District, Portland's trendiest and fastest-growing neighborhood, the number of school-age children grew by only three between the census counts in 1990 and 2000, according to demographers at Portland State University.
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Pearl District in the heart of this perpetually self-improving city seems to have everything in new urban design and comfort, from the Whole Foods store where fresh-buffed bell peppers are displayed like runway models to the converted lofts that face sidewalk gardens.
Everything except children.
Crime is down. New homes and businesses are sprouting everywhere. But in what may be Portland's trendiest and fastest-growing neighborhood, the number of school-age children grew by only three between the census counts in 1990 and 2000, according to demographers at Portland State University.
Portland is one of the nation's top draws for the kind of educated, self-starting urbanites that midsize cities are competing to attract. But as these cities are remodeled to match the tastes of people living well in neighborhoods that were nearly abandoned a generation ago, they are struggling to hold on to enough children to keep schools running and parks alive with young voices.
San Francisco, where the median house price is now about $700,000, had the lowest percentage of people under 18 of any large city in the nation, 14.5 percent, compared with 25.7 percent nationwide, the 2000 census reported. Seattle, where there are more dogs than children, was a close second. Boston, Honolulu, Portland, Miami, Denver, Minneapolis, Austin and Atlanta, all considered, healthy, vibrant urban areas, were not far behind. Officials say that the very things that attract people who revitalize a city - dense vertical housing, fashionable restaurants and shops and mass transit that makes a car unnecessary - are driving out children by making the neighborhoods too expensive for young families.
Every child a city loses, on average, can mean a loss of about $5,000 for the school district, officials say. Children also create a constituency for parks, trails and public safety improvements, and their parents tend to favor upgrading those amenities through higher taxes.
New York and Los Angeles, because of their large immigrant populations, have maintained their base of children, but demographers, pointing to falling birth rates among Latinos and other ethnic groups, say the nation's biggest cities may soon follow the others.
From 1990 to 2003 Portland added more than 90,000 people, growing to an estimated 529,121 residents, but the city is now educating the fewest students in more than 80 years.
The problem is not that children are leaving for private schools, officials said. It’s that new people attracted to the city tend to have higher incomes, having already raised a family; are retiring; or are single and unlikely to have children.
Kenton Elementary School in north Portland, Ore., is scheduled to be closed because of declining enrollment.
Many Portland families are relocating to the newest edge suburbs, where housing prices are cheapest, including Clark County across the Columbia River in Washington, Portland State demographers say.
After a drop of 10,000 students in the last decade, Portland officials called in March for the closing of six schools, prompting cries of grief from three generations of adults who say that nothing takes the heart out of a neighborhood like a shuttered school.
The pool of school-age children is shrinking so fast that Portland will have to close the equivalent of three or four elementary schools a year over the next decade, according to school district projections.
"I don't think we're going to become a nearly childless city like San Francisco, but the age structure is really changing," said Barry Edmonston, an urban studies professor at Portland State, who does demographic projections for the school district. "People are not turning over the houses like they used to. They're aging in place, at the same time that prices are really going up, making it hard for young families to move into the city."
Nationally, the birthrate has been dropping while the overall population is aging as life expectancy increases. Between 2003 and 2004, only six states had an increase in their elementary school population, the census bureau reported in March.
In that sense, the United States is following Europe and the rest of the industrial world, where birthrates now rarely exceed the rate needed to replace the population.
"If you took immigrants out of the equation, the United States would be like Europe," said Phillip Longman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a public policy research organization in Washington. He is the author of "The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birth Rates Threaten World Prosperity and What To Do About It."
Mr. Longman said a decline in children not only takes away "human capital" needed to sustain an aging population, but "having fewer children really diminishes the quality of life in a city."
Most city leaders seem to agree. Even in San Francisco, where officials are preparing for another round of school closings amid a projected decline of 4,000 students in the next five years, city officials are aggressively marketing the city and its schools to young families.
But what they cannot do, especially after the failure last year of a ballot measure sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce to encourage affordable housing, is bring housing prices down.
[Nonsense, all they have to do is make it easier to build new housing in the world’s most nimbified and over-regulated development climate. –ablarc]
Here in Portland, the city is bemoaning the demographic cycle as it unfolds before their eyes. On the day of the announcement to close Kenton Elementary School, which has anchored a north Portland neighborhood for 91 years, some parents and residents reacted as if there had been a death in the family.
The lunch line at Kenton Elementary School.
"I feel heartbroken," said Mary Krogh, who had planned to enroll her 4-year-old son, Chase, in the school. "It's just a terrible loss."
The school and a tightknit community were among the things that attracted Ms. Krogh and her husband to the neighborhood seven years ago, she said.
But now the school will be shuttered, and improvements from Portland's beloved light rail line have contributed to rising real estate prices, defeating the broad goals of the mayor's effort to bring and keep young families in the city.
"Portland is a great city that attracts a lot of educated people," she said. "But the real estate is becoming outrageously expensive. And then you get wealthy singles and wealthy retirees. What's missing are kids. And that feels really sterile to me."
A Starbucks in the Pearl District.
I think Brooks had the trend right but the reasons wrong. He claims, They should know this is a spiritual movement, not a political one. The reality is that people vote with their pocketbook. I grew up in New England and pretty much haved lived there my whole life. It seems like a lot of young families are moving down to Florida. Basically they wanted to be able to afford some things that they couldn't ever have in Ma. Same reason for all the LA transpants in Vegas, for example. Attaching value and culture judgements to this trend doesn't seem to explain much. Digging further into the data, I'm wondering how much of the population in these "natalist" places are really transplanted blue-staters.
Ablarc- I really appreciate your contributions to this forum- so far, I have found them very interesting and lively- thank you
Breed, Liberals! BREED! The life of our cities is depending on you! Obviously there aren't enough of you!
Boilerplater, we need to start by leaning on BKM.Originally posted by boilerplater
I would never inflict quirkiness on a wife.Originally posted by ablarc
Solitary am I.
Lee, your first two sentences are probably true, depending on your exact location in the exurbs, but I'm pretty sure your third sentence is wishful thinking.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
I grew up on the edge of the wilderness in a place where some compass bearings would have lead me walking a straight line nearly 2000 miles to the next permanent human habitation (if I survived the snakes). It had its dangers and occasions for serious injury, but my parents never knew about any of them, and I thrived in my scrappy Eden.
But that isn't the experience the suburb offers my kids.There's a patch of forest a short walk from my house in the suburbs. My kids never go there; it offers a healthy dose of poison ivy, and in my wife's mind it offers lurking drug dealers and homeless child molesters (a small coterie of the former were nabbed there last year by the cops).
Are you sure you aren't confusing the theory of the suburb with the reality?
Could one margue that a traditional city neighborhood offers more opportunity for unstructured existance than today's widely flung exurbs (which require a car to get most places)Originally posted by ablarc
I think so. When we visit Manhattan, I turn my kids loose; the oldest one's sixteen. In the leafy suburbs I worry about the younger ones when they're off by themselves. No one around to look out for them; on a New York street in the daytime, there are crowds.Originally posted by BKM
The reality here in the suburb over which I preside is that the kids could run wild if they wanted to. There isn't even any poison ivy (I grew up with poison ivy, timber rattlers, copperheads - good for a kid to learn) and as long as they stay away from arterial streets and Wal-Mart, it is as safe as it can be (and it can only be so safe, regardless of the reasons, otherwise you never learn anything). The town invests a lot of money in a trail system and country parks, as well as traditional parks, so there is no lack of places to go. Most of the kids do not run wild because their parents are from the NYC metro area and can't quite get over the idea that there might be drug dealers lurking in the woods. And I suppose they could get on a bus and go downtown - where, to be honest, they would be in only a little more danger. But perception is everything.
I acknowledge that it is a different world than when I was a kid, and safe enough everywhere I went as long as I took responsibility for my actions. I also acknowledge that your situation is undoubtedly different. But all sequestering the kids does is make the world more dangerous. Another example of how our world is structured so that the incentives to the individual run counter to the community interest and the long term interest.
Are there suburbs in Vermont? Are you sure you don't preside over a town?Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Williston - which lives in infamy as the site of the first Wal-Mart in Vermont - may be the only true suburb in this state, although others (Charlotte, Milton, Jericho) are evolving. It all started with a decision to site an interstate exchange. It is about 12-15 minutes to downtown Burlington. About 75% of the town is still more or less rural and we are making an effort to keep it that, but about 25% is a suburb with McMansions, box stores, traffic congestion, a growth management system, etc. We also have a very suburban style, manager-form government (town meeting is layered on) and the generally affluent population you would expect. I am trying to think of places that are analogous in appearance. It isn't that much like North Jersey, for reasons I'd have to think about, and I don't know the MA and NY 'burbs. If it wasn't for the Green Mountains on the horizon, I would be thinking of the rapidly growing north side of Columbus, OH, which is at a larger scale, but is another place where true suburbanization started late enough that it at least partly skipped the enclosed mall (although they tried for years to build one here - it isn't that easy in VT!) and strip mall phases (the strip mall phase here is mostly in the older small cities like South Burlington). Other in this forum have seen Williston and can chip in, but while it is a Vermont town, it is also very much a suburb.
One of the interesting parts of working here is that people in Vermont are still in denial about having suburbs. But that is another story.
Sorry to hear that. I'm working on a largish project in a county newly hell-bent on preserving its beautiful rural character against the depradations of Suburbia (This, the newly-enlightened locals have discovered, is equally destructive of country and town). Though there's zoning, it looks like this and other future projects in this county will be done as PUDs. The upshot: much higher densities are possible, while preserving the environment and character of the land, because design can be site-specific instead of prototypical. Thus, for example, you can hide a whole clustered village behind a hillock. The key: concentrations of picturesque density interspersed with areas forever unbuilt. This is the exact opposite of suburbia, which (whether intentionally or inadvertently) promotes more-or-less even dispersal of fairly uniform density.Originally posted by Lee Nellis
Maybe you could try this in Vermont.
We have the perpetual open space half of the equation working for us, both via acquisition of development rights - of which the town has been able to do quite a bit - and via a newly adopted mandatory clustering requirement for subdivisions in the rural part of the town. And we have a reasonably decent visual impact element to the clustering criteria. Clustering is by-right, not a PUD, so that the process is relatively easy. The number of new rural homes is also limited to 12 per year by the town's growth management system. Overall, Williston is beginning to take care of the rural part of town.
Our problem is on the other end of the equation. People in Vermont - despite the fact that there are good examples in the small cities like Burlington and Montpelier - are wary of permitting enough density. Williston has been trying vainly to build a real town center (which this town never had, just a small village with a few home occupations and a corner store - Williston was mostly farms and sugarbush), at a major crossroads, BUT with a 36' height limit, a 65% lot coverage limit, and a five unit per acre limit on the residential component (there is a bonus possibility that would raise that to seven, but no one has used it because it is so vague). This is coupled with a lack of developers who know how to build on even a moderate scale. We are going to take another run at these issues over the next few months, but it is not going to be easy. Even my most enlightened board members (who are, for example, in favor of increasing the height limit to allow one more story for mixed use buildings) are not comfortable with too high a lot coverage and are queasy about bumping up the residential density enough to make a difference. A lot has already been built that doesn't work well because the intensity is not high enough.
Any suggestions on how to make people who grew up in a much more rural state and are now returning from the cities to raise their kids love density would be appreciated.
Why don't you do a post, complete with pretty pictures and an impassioned argument, post it here to get feedback for fine-tuning, and then turn it into a power-point presentation?Originally posted by Lee Nellis