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Thread: "What You Know About Sprawl Is Wrong"

  1. #1

    "What You Know About Sprawl Is Wrong"

    What a misleadingly titled article. The author compares urban areas, writ large including all suburban hinterlands. It should be no surprise that the suburban sprawl in Los Angeles is denser than, say, New York City's Connecticut suburbs. However, the fact remains that the City of Los Angeles, itself, is far less dense than the City of New York. Which is exactly what this misleading title wants the reader to question.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Perhaps dwelling unit density would be a more accurate picture of the urban form density of an area.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3

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    Overall this is a misleading article, but there are some truths to it.

    Western metro areas will always have less buildable land by virtue of their environment. Deserts and mountains will always define the limits of urban development in the west in ways that it will never be defined elsewhere in the USA. So western metro areas will have fewer one-acre lot developments that eat up land.

    But they also don't have core cities that have the density of a New York, Chicago, Boston or Philadelphia -- and that's the misleading part. Generally speaking, density is high in eastern core cities, and drops quite a bit in the 'burbs; density is less high in western cities, and drops only a little (if at all) in the 'burbs.

    If core city densities were looked at, there would be no comparison.

  4. #4
    Since I was born in (and often visit) San Jose and now live in Boston, I find it interesting how local perceptions can clash with the reality of development. In Boston, people see the high density core and refuse to believe that the suburbs are so sprawled, despite the fact there must be several dozen towns of about 15 - 20 square miles with about 10K - 15k population. Greater Boston is really Eastern Massachusetts, with parts of New Hampshire, Rhode Island and even Connecticut and Maine thrown in. And the sprawl is getting worse.

    In San Jose, people find it difficult to conceptualize that they live in a big city, even as the city itself is now the 10th largest in the country and the total valleypopulation is approaching 1.7 million people. Because they have run out of land, more and more high rise developments are being proposed. It will be interesting to see how perceptions might change in another 20 years.
    Last edited by Gotta Speakup; 12 Aug 2005 at 3:43 PM.

  5. #5

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    Pete Rock nails it perceptively. We just don't have much "two acre fake country" suburbia in California. Our lot sizes in OUTER suburban SF are now dropping to 3500 square foot (courtyard single family homes on parking courts). There are exceptions/pockets of "country estates" in very wealthy areas (Woodside, Atherton) and in more distant locations (the Sierra Nevada foothill counties 100 miles east of the Bay Area), but...

    Gotta Speak Up is right, too. We are seeing more infill proposals and mixed use development even in the outer burbs. Many older residents are threatened by this.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Our lot sizes in OUTER suburban SF are now dropping to 3500 square foot (courtyard single family homes on parking courts)
    At those densities you could support some decent mass transit if the land use and transportation network was planned correctly.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    At those densities you could support some decent mass transit if the land use and transportation network was planned correctly.
    Which they are typically...not The same social and economic trends (120,000 square foot Super WalMarts, the same homebuilders developing 250 identical units at one time).

    The good thing is that we are seeing more and more interest in infill and redevelopment. My employer will fairly soon be a "built out" city (with a couple of big exceptions).

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