Okay, just for the sake of discussion (and venting my frustration), I will briefly present a project in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago. It involves 2 former manufacturing buildings on west Belmont Avenue--this is a decent middle-class neighborhood with CTA access, yet still not yet gentrified. It has retail but has relatively less density than its cousins to the east.
A developer plans to convert one of the former factories, pictured below, into residential lofts with ground level retail:
A second adjacent building (not pictured) will be demolished. Due to demand by locals for more PARKING (YUCK!) in the neighborhood, it would be replaced by a single-story retail center with plenty of parking (the retail buildings front the street, but otherwise YUCK!). However, in a recent community meeting the developer proposed instead to replace the second building with a 10 story residential building with ground level retail. The city's head of Economic Development, a newly appointed gentleman with a long history of supporting TOD, presented the benefits of TOD and density to the community.
A friend of mine named Shawn was at the meeting, and this is what he described:
"The community was outraged, and I was one of a very few who spoke in favor of the project, although I did get some applauds when I finished with some other people yelling critizisms at me...../.......nearly everyone has had thier minds completley warped by car-culture. IT was ****ing ridiculas. They complained that not enough parking was provided even though 40 spaces are to be provided for retial customers. Alot of people even laughed at the the thought that some of these residents 'would have no car'. Some stupid bitch even said that "Albany Park down the street has an over extreme level of urbanity and parking is impossible."
......./........Jefferson Park needs more poeple to reactivate the retail district, which many pople did aknowledge, but they complained about the traffic and said most people drive rather than take the train. I guess that is because so few of these morons actually use public transportation on a consistatant baisis. Another stupid bitch said she wont take CTA because its unsafe.
Don't expect this project happen in its current form. My anti-density alderman dosen't want a 10 story building, even though the planning department is working with the developer on this.."
The Alderman himself has tried to STOP previous projects that were urban and mildly dense, simply because he wants to appease these kinds of people who don't know what's good for them. He tried to block a multi-level condo project that was NOT out of character of its area, even though it was appropriate for its zoning assignment--the Alderman failed and the project was built
Anyway, this kind of garbage is an example of what may pan out to be the greatest obstacle to urbanization this country will ever face. Americans have been so subdued by car culture and anti-density jargon that I honestly think people have no clue what really makes a community function any more. Cities are pervaded with suburban-minded people, and this is a sad truth. I hope municipalities can learn to overcome these obstacles, even if it requires a mild abandonment of the democratic process--because to be honest, I think most voters are just too goddamn stupid to even deserve a say in many of these types of issues!!!