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Thread: Environmental justice/development [was: Does anyone else see the irony?]

  1. #1
    May 2006
    Chicago, Illinois

    Environmental justice/development [was: Does anyone else see the irony?]

    Does anyone else see irony in the fact that the neighborhoods that were rejected for less than wholesome reasons (mostly race) in the past are now the most often sites of new developement that is sustainable and healthy and will most liekly live longer than the 'good neighborhoods'?

    I'll use Chicago as an example because I've witnessed this all first hand. On the South East side, the area around Calumet Park to say, Gary Indiana, there are 25 EPA Superfund sites. Areas so toxic that they must be constantly monitored by the EPA. What this does mean, however, is land is extrememly cheap and underdeveloped (most of the manufacturing companies moved or closed). So now large swaths of it are being converted into Eco-preserves and one, in Slag Valley, is being converted into an alphalpha farm, what will be the largest urban farm in America. (alphalpha's deep roots will help break down the pollutants faster and make it useable soil again). Or in the former "Rust Belt" or "Color Belt" where the cities large African American populations have lived for the last 50-75 years and were more or less passed over by the post war boom that gave us wasteful sprawl-like building and tract housing. Here the old ways of Urban Design still reign as an example for redevelopement, but there is still a low enough median income to need large amounts of Public Space and small business developement is an extremely functional way to raise median income.

    So basically, when the industrialists and land owners of the past thought they were screwing over the blacks, hispanics, jews, asians and whoever else, they were just handicapping them for a generation or two while they[the developers] cut thier own legs off with plastic knives.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
    May 2003
    While the pendulum is now heading the other way for many neighborhoods, it's not as though things will stay that way either. While traditionally I have viewed neighborhoods as an exercise in geographical constraints, I moving toward an idea that there is a temporal view for them as well.

    Is a neighborhood the same as an inner ring of suburbia at its height, to when it has turned into a banlieue?

    Is an urban two-flat neighborhood the same in the mid-80's to now when you can walk your dog down to the cafe for your morning espresso?
    (no sugar added, of course)

    Will that urban yet arcadian oasis be the same when the land is cleansed and demand is pent-up?

    Like people, places change. If someone changes completely over 20 years, are they really the same person?

    The rejection of those neighborhoods so long ago had more to do with their occupants and the possibility (or lack of) of their displacement. Class and race being used as a proxy for class are what doomed those urban neighborhoods of old. It is what will doom the inner suburbs of now.

    I'm not saying that noone 'had it out' for certain groups, but as today, I doubt it would explain most people's actions who are discriminatory.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian yesteryear's avatar
    Apr 2006
    No Cal
    I suppose what you describe is ironic... although it's hardly surprising. In terms of feelings toward development, I'd say the 'green' segment of the population is in the minority, and therefore it's not all that strange that in order to get some projects off the ground it would literally have to take place on a toxic site. It all has to do with land value. Could you see a bunch of single-family homes popping up on a superfund site?

    I think what's sad to me is that these kinds of intelligent, sustainable and forward-thinking projects are only happening as a last-ditch effort, today, on land that no one else would want to come near. Oh yeah, and also sad are the thousands of people who have cancer/asthma/insert-scary-disease-here as a result of having to live near these sites for a couple generations.

    And in terms of them cutting their own legs off with plastic forks - though I'd love to see that take place - have they really done this? As far as I can see (in Northern CA), developers are still making tons of money, still buying land on the fringes of the fringes and creating more urban sprawl. I'm not sure they've paid the price at all. I'm just excited about the housing crash that's about to happen - all of the developers and spec-buyers will be sitting on their low-value-high-price homes, not really sure what to do.

    Wow - I'm a ray of sunshine this morning.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
    Aug 2006
    Gone to a better place (in my mind)
    I'm not sure it's irony. There was and is a market for suburban development. I think there will continue to be a market for it in the future, no matter what happens with congestion or energy prices. But there has also been a market for denser, urban housing and amenities that was not being met by developers.

    There are a lot of reasons (I think) why this market was ignored: Racism/bigotry that stopped and still stops affordable housing from being built in the new suburbs; developer resistance to changing from proven money-making forms of development to unproven and therefore riskier ones; FHA lending practices that directed the flow of mortgages to newly-built suburbs; lack of funding for redevelopment and brownfields cleanup; and the generally higher cost of developing denser, high amenity neighborhoods from scratch. And I'm sure there are even more reasons that I can't think of right now.

    Creative people have been coming together to overcome all the above for a while now and they're finally making some headway. They've found the right markets for urban living and have figured out how to finance redevelopment, change outmoded regulations, leverage public financing to bring in private development dollars, prove to retailers that there is an urban market, etc. Because of them, people who in the past had no real choice between a sprawling, culture-free suburb or a decrepit semi-abandoned urban environment now have some choices of vibrant urban areas. There's not enough of them, and a lot of them are too expensive for the average person, but I think that will change over time as investors see they can make money on urban development.

  5. #5
          bluehour's avatar
    Jul 2006
    Northern Ireland
    Quote Originally posted by yesteryear View post
    I'm just excited about the housing crash that's about to happen - all of the developers and spec-buyers will be sitting on their low-value-high-price homes, not really sure what to do.
    I'me excited about the housing crash too!

    Such a big change!

    Maybe I'll be able to afford a house near my family! (probably not anyway).

  6. #6

    Oct 2001
    Solano County, California
    Quote Originally posted by bluehour View post
    I'me excited about the housing crash too!

    Such a big change!

    Maybe I'll be able to afford a house near my family! (probably not anyway).
    Given that the housing boom was one of the few legs of an economy downsized, outsourced, and indebted, why do you assume you will have any kind of job if said leg collapses and brings down the rest of the economy?

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