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Thread: Methods to end various aspects of sprawl?

  1. #1

    Methods to end various aspects of sprawl?

    Ok, I figured it'd be good to create a new thread about this instead of trying to discuss this in an existing one... But what methods could be used in order to end various aspects/attributes of sprawl?
    Those attributes would include: lolli-pops/loops and gated communities... And could encourage other attributes such as more sidewalks, more density, more small neighborhood parks etc...

    Gates/walls around communities are a big problem not only in the suburbs, but also in the city at the public housing projects. Requiring/encouraging removal and the ending construction of these could do a lot of good and remove some isolation.

    lollipops and loops are also a poor design method for suburbs. Even the country is designed around a grid system (1mi x 1mi grids). Encouraging the removal of this poor design method would encourage better neighborhood connectivity, better traffic flow, more room for future development etc...

    So how could we do this? How could we encourage the removal of these methods in our cities?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    So how could we do this? How could we encourage the removal of these methods in our cities?
    I think you need to figure out what motivates people to want those things and then find ways to resolve those issues. Ye Olde "root cause analysis".

  3. #3
    And I think the discussion of this thread is how to remove them... Not to discover why people want them. Using those tactics (saying do one thing instead of another) is just a method of either trying to divert a thread or kill it.

    So suppose we have researched why ppl want those... And we decide to remove them. How can we go about removing them? (as that is the discussion of this thread, NOT the psychology behind them)

  4. #4
    I would vote for an incremental approach. First try to implement alternatives in most places so you can show people that the alternatives work (yes there are older developments, but these aren't real "comps"). Try to get some better developments built. Then go and try to rehab those unworkable places.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    And I think the discussion of this thread is how to remove them... Not to discover why people want them. Using those tactics (saying do one thing instead of another) is just a method of either trying to divert a thread or kill it.

    So suppose we have researched why ppl want those... And we decide to remove them. How can we go about removing them? (as that is the discussion of this thread, NOT the psychology behind them)
    I am not talking "psychology". I am saying there are reasons such features are deemed desirable -- for example, gated communities are generally desired as a protection against crime. If you don't have that fear of crime, then presumably gated communities become less desired. In which case it may be necessary to bring down the crime rate in order to start removing gated communities. If crime is the reason, then addressing that may be the only effective means to achieve the end you have in mind and all other approaches may well fail. Which is why I mentioned root cause analysis: Solutions which aren't aimed at fixing the cause of a problem generally perform poorly. Perhaps others here have more statistics at their fingertips than I do concerning the causes and can, therefore, suggest effective means to the end.

    Sorry you are so ready and willing to be offended and to attribute evil motives to my remarks. For a literal reply to your question: "To remove a wall, you bring a construction crew in and knock it down." I assume you will consider that to be as disrespectful and smart-ass as I consider your unfounded assumptions about my motives. But it is a direct reply to the question as you framed it.


    Peace.

  6. #6
    Michele, I was not questioning your intentions. I was NOT attributing evil aspects to your remarks. I was simply saying that is how you appeared. Saying you appear to be putting forward a position/intention isn't the same as saying you have that. So don't accuse me of judgement. I also pointed out that discussion on what causes these things is not the subject of this thread. The subject of this thread is how to end and remove these.

    You did address the main subject of this thread in your second post by suggesting we lower crime. However in most suburbs with gated communities, crime is non-existent. And that isn't because the communities are gated, even in non-gated communities, the crime is low.

    The objective here is not only to stop these aspects from being built again, but also encouraging the removal of gates/walls from communities that exist.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    You did address the main subject of this thread in your second post by suggesting we lower crime. However in most suburbs with gated communities, crime is non-existent. And that isn't because the communities are gated, even in non-gated communities, the crime is low.
    I said the same thing in both posts. The second time, I just elaborated. When I write my long winded posts, I am the object of ridicule and eye-rolling. When I write short posts, I get the type of response you gave me: "we aren't talking about that'; "you are derailing the thread"'; "that isn't the subject". blah blah blah. It really grates on me after awhile. Sorry if I overreacted.

    You know that scene in "Legally Blonde" where Elle Woods announces the guy is gay and then turns to her ex boyfriend and asks him "what kind of shoes am I wearing?" and he replies "uh..black?" and she then exclaims "SEE -- he's GAY!"? No one knew what she was talking about but she was right. Well, that's my oldest son to a T. If my youngest son and I are having some extremely stupid, pointless argument, my oldest may do something like start gathering up the trash and take all the trash down to the dumpster. When he comes back, the argument is over and we are getting along just fine. Most people wouldn't see any connection between the two. Most people would chalk that up to "coincidence". But it's not. In such cases, my son took the trash out because it was causing the argument. All the "arbitrating" in the world would not have been as effective as the action my oldest took of removing the trash. I live with incidents like that daily and when I make observations that make perfect sense to me, I get a lot of cross-eyed looks.

    So I can't personally see how you can come up with effective solutions with no discussion whatsoever as to what causes these things. And I don't know any way to gracefully bow out of the discussion and suggest you carry on. Any closing line I can think up at the moment sounds sarcastic to me.

    Peace.

  8. #8
    Because the objective here is to simply get rid of them. It isn't to get public opinion to sway with you or get people to understand why you want it to change. The objective is simply to change it.

    If we wanted to sway public opinions on the issue, then we would have to look at why they prefer these neighborhoods.

    My personal belief is that much of the gated communities come from a desire for isolation which is completely wrong and doesn't ever need to be provided.

    It's almost as though you are suggesting we provide another solution to their desires as an alternative in order to remove the aspect we don't like.
    For example, if we wanted to know the cause for gated communities, and it turned out to be a desire for isolation and prevention of crime. Then from what I understand in your posts, they suggest compensating by providing that isolation and prevention of crime through alternative methods.

    The idea here is to eliminate gated communities alltogether and remove anything that provides opportunity for isolation. Those who want isolation either have to change their opinions or move.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Because the objective here is to simply get rid of them. It isn't to get public opinion to sway with you or get people to understand why you want it to change. The objective is simply to change it.
    If you're looking for the best course of action to "simply get rid of them" without bothering with looking at the reasons that they exist in the first place - I'd suggest finding someone who agrees with you (as well as some highly placed military officials) and initiating a military overthrow of the current government. Then, you don't have to bother with finding out the reasons for the way things are, and can simply focus on changing it.

  10. #10
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    I think you need to figure out what motivates people to want those things and then find ways to resolve those issues. Ye Olde "root cause analysis".
    She's absolutely correct. It's basic data collection and analysis...then determine if these are issues to resolve.
    Just my two cents.

    EDIT: And you know my position...I enjoy living in the suburbs.
    Last edited by Richmond Jake; 07 Oct 2007 at 7:55 PM.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Heartland, me thinks you haven't understood a word I have said. So I will just defer to RJ's opinion, since he's a professional with years of experience and I'm just some loudmouthed cage-rattler.

    Carry-on.

  12. #12
    IF these are issues to resolve? These are issues that need to be resolved. The only thing is how to solve them. And I will concede that studying why ppl choose/develop them that way would help.
    But these are problems that need to be solved, it isn't if they need to be, they just need to be.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    OK, I’ll play. Taking HCB at face value…

    Problem: lollipops/loops
    Solution: Outlaw cars or enforce 10 mph speed limit in residential areas / alternatively: outlaw children playing in a non-enclosed/protected space

    Problem: gated communities
    Solution: Sharia law

    Want to:[have] more sidewalks, more density, more small neighborhood parks
    Solution: see the bit about outlawing cars.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Captain Worley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    The idea here is to eliminate gated communities alltogether and remove anything that provides opportunity for isolation. Those who want isolation either have to change their opinions or move.
    Does this strike anyone besides me as being...ummm.....a little over-authoritarian. If gated communities exist, people must want them. All you are really doing by "eliminating them altogether' is just moving them further out, increasing the sparawl you so desire to curb.

    Gated communities are trendy and people like them because they can say they live in a gated community. That sounds exclusive to some people. Its marketting.

    I just don't think it is right to try to outlaw something just because you don't liike it.
    Navy collier
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  15. #15
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Because the objective here is to simply get rid of them. It isn't to get public opinion to sway with you or get people to understand why you want it to change. The objective is simply to change it.

    If we wanted to sway public opinions on the issue, then we would have to look at why they prefer these neighborhoods.

    My personal belief is that much of the gated communities come from a desire for isolation which is completely wrong and doesn't ever need to be provided.

    It's almost as though you are suggesting we provide another solution to their desires as an alternative in order to remove the aspect we don't like.
    For example, if we wanted to know the cause for gated communities, and it turned out to be a desire for isolation and prevention of crime. Then from what I understand in your posts, they suggest compensating by providing that isolation and prevention of crime through alternative methods.

    The idea here is to eliminate gated communities alltogether and remove anything that provides opportunity for isolation. Those who want isolation either have to change their opinions or move.
    You seem to have an unrealistic perception of how much power planners actually have. Generally, planners recommend things, as opposed to actually setting policy. As we live in a democracy, its nearly impossible to make sweeping changes without even considering public opinion. And there's a good reason for that.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  16. #16
    Cpt Worley, I'm not an authoritarian, i'm a Communitarian.

    Also, It is not about what people want, it is about what they actually need. Humans were created as social creatures. We aren't meant to isolate ourselves and shut others out.
    Isolation can also cause many things: depression, prejudice, racism, sheltering etc...

    Planners, activists, developers and architects all have more power than they think. Sway the public towards your viewpoint, convince them change has to be made, and change will occur. There are a lot of ways to sway the public... (and no, not all propoganda/persuasion etc... is bad)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Just out of curiosity, are you a practicing planner?
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Captain Worley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Cpt Worley, I'm not an authoritarian, i'm a Communitarian.

    Also, It is not about what people want, it is about what they actually need.
    If you only got what you need, we'd still be hunter/gatherers, living in caves. Everything above that is a want.

    It most definitely is about what people want. Some people (not me, I think they're dopey) want gated communities. You don't want them, you want them to go away. But you hide your desire to eliminate the choices of others behind "we know what's best." That's the kind of attitude that will give planners a bad name. I think it'd be more producttive to find ways to intergrate these communities, insular though they are.
    Navy collier
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Because the objective here is to simply get rid of them. It isn't to get public opinion to sway with you or get people to understand why you want it to change. The objective is simply to change it.

    If we wanted to sway public opinions on the issue, then we would have to look at why they prefer these neighborhoods.

    My personal belief is that much of the gated communities come from a desire for isolation which is completely wrong and doesn't ever need to be provided.

    It's almost as though you are suggesting we provide another solution to their desires as an alternative in order to remove the aspect we don't like.
    For example, if we wanted to know the cause for gated communities, and it turned out to be a desire for isolation and prevention of crime. Then from what I understand in your posts, they suggest compensating by providing that isolation and prevention of crime through alternative methods.

    The idea here is to eliminate gated communities alltogether and remove anything that provides opportunity for isolation. Those who want isolation either have to change their opinions or move.
    First, I never said anything about swaying public opinion. Yes, you may have to do that to actually implement change. But the example I gave of my son removing the trash to end the argument did not involve him asking what I thought or asking what his brother thought or getting us to agree or cooperate or anything of the sort. He realized what the cause of the problem was; he did something about it; the silly argument stopped. On other occassions, that specific solution might not work because on other occassions there are other causes for the arguments my youngest son and I are prone to having. Again: Root cause analyis is the key to coming up with effective solutions.

    Isolation: Yes, humans are "social creatures". They also have a long history of living in relatively small groups. Living in large cities is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Tipping Point cites evidence that the human brain is biologically geared to function best in a "tribe" (or group) of about 150 members. Gated communities may simply be an effort to bring their living situation in line with this biologically rooted need. The typical human brain cannot follow all the relational interactions of a group larger than that. For that reason, larger groups typically start having problems that you don't have in a group of "optimal size".

    IF crime prevention and a certain amount of "isolation" are needed in order for people to function adequately AND that is the reason you have gated communities, yes, providing another means to get those may be the only effective way to "get rid of gated communities" (one of your stated goals). You cannot simply control other human beings or simply deny them what they want and/or need. The Far East has highly developed forms of unarmed combat because, historically, people in power forbade The People from owning weapons or learning to use them. As I understand it, some of the exotic weapons from The Far East began as farm implements. You cannot forbade farmers their tools if you want them to grow food for the nobles. So, no, it doesn't work to simply outlaw something or simply take it away. Nature abhors a vacuum. It will be filled with something. Often, the something that replaces what has been removed is even less desirable. Therefore, if you want to have some control over the outcome, the way to do it is to offer viable solutions such that your way is more desirable.

    Last, if you cannot salvage this thread and get it back on topic and get it off of you/your behavior, I will suggest that you consider dropping it for now and starting a new thread in a week or two with a related question. At that time, it would be best if you don't insult and dismiss the very first person who replies to you. Your choice in doing that is why your thread is turning into something so unproductive.

    I'm really sorry the thread has gone this way. I hope my remarks, above, help get it back on track. And if you also want to get it back on track, it would be in your best interest to simply refrain from replying to me if you are unable to restrain your tendency to speak contemptuously to me, like I am some kind of idiot.

    Good luck. You've got quite the mess here.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    HCB, I would have to agree with the majority responses to this thread in that changing people's attitudes towards issues as large and complex as this does require understanding why people have made certain decisions in the past. People who don't know history...

    For example, if one has the objective of attracting more people to settings which are more public and dense, then it is important to understand why folks (and especially people with money because they have more of a choice in their living arrangement than others) have decided to live in suburban settings and/or gated environments. Is it a perception of crime? Is it safety from vehicles in the streets? Is it the sense of inclusion (which also involves exclusion of others)? Knowing the answer to these questions will help one better design more urban environments or otherwise engage in dialogue that directly addresses peoples' concerns and perhaps changes their opinions and perceptions about dense urban living.

    Telling people that they are wrong and that you know what is best for them does not win many allies and is likely to result in people not even being able to hear what may be some very good ideas. It is unfortunate, but the presentation of information is as important as the content put forth. In generations past, people had to take classes in "elocution" which is exactly this - how to present yourself so that people are moved to listen.

    Bear in mind that the propagation of fears that lead to White Flight from urban centers in the past are based in many cases on rhetoric. People have absorbed many perceptions of "the city" that may be incorrect or inaccurate and if you want to change minds, you also need to engage in understanding this rhetoric so that you can change the nature of the conversation.

    Lastly, I would also say that removing these suburban or sprawl environments based on the premise that it is "unhealthy" for people is just not going to happen. The entirety of human history shows that things that are built on the landscape are not easily undone. Many major roads throughout the US were simply built where Native peoples had established roads when first occupying these spaces. Europe abounds with cities built on top of cities and with a careful eye, one can spot the pre-existing patterns evident in the contemporary environment.

    What *I* think you should be considering is how the suburban environment can become a denser and more livable place through adaptation. Populations will increase in our cities and finding a strategy to fit more of them within the existing fabric will increase efficiencies and decrease resource use. Think long range - 50 or 100 years. In this time, the most distant sprawl may very well be within the "urban core" of many American cities. If we can make the sprawl of today the urban environment of tomorrow (and it won't be attached townhomes down every block, but it may be more dense and efficient than what we see in many places today) than we will have planned well.

    You can take some of the sprawl attributes and see how these concepts might be craftily reinterpreted to make for better places. This to me is a far more challenging and potentially successful strategy than dreaming of the "blank slate" - as enticing as this is. For example, a great criticism of suburban sprawl is that it imposing single uses (mainly residential) over very large areas such that residents must drive significant distances to meet their needs encourages over-use of cars, poor air quality, increased risk of traffic fatalities and potentially isolates neighbors. Could that be changed? Could zoning be altered to allow for smaller commercial activity within these large residential areas? What about zoning that allows for secondary units on suburban lots (ie. mother-in-law quarters)? I read an article recently about mall sites being reinvented as town centers - there is another possibility. Get creative, dream big, but try to be realistic (forcibly removing hundreds of thousands -maybe millions - of people from suburban living around the country to be relocated in denser living environments is not realistic).

    Another criticism of sprawl is that the commercial areas that do exist often take the form of auto-oriented strip malls along major thoroughfares that make pedestrian use not only unsafe,but harsh and undesirable. How can one adapt these streets to be more "multi-modal" and/or the scale be altered to make for a more intimate, neighborhood feel that encourages pedestrian use and social interaction? Take a look at "Great Streets" by Allan Jacobs and "The Boulevard Book" by Jacobs and Elizabeth Macdonald for ideas and inspirations.

    These large thoroughfares also contribute to traffic problems as cars cannot get through the residential areas on local streets and so everyone floods the collectors. Could a process be initiated to encourage more through-streets and less deadends, loops and lollipops? Could a municipality establish a land bank such that when properties that would allow for establishment of a grid system go up for sale they could be purchased and held until through-roads can be created?

    People in this forum are trying to engage with you, even if they are disagreeing with your content. Try not to be too defensive and instead respond directly to the points they raise. If you feel people are not understanding exactly what you are saying, it is probably because you have not been clear enough, not because people are ganging up on you (at least that is the way I like to operate in my own life - give people the benefit of the doubt before accusing them of wrong doing or ill will).
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  21. #21
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Educate the market and offer a variety of choices. Americans will not cotton to forced change.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  22. #22
    I understand what everyone is saying, and I'm listening to it, but a lot of it is wrong because while it makes sense for the American government and economy, it just doesn't make sense psychologically.

    I also realize that gated communities generally come from the idea that it provides a sense of security and inclusion, it also comes from the idea of having a mini-village within the city itself.

    However having these gated communities is really just a bad thing all around. Sure we have a free-market economy that is based on consumers and what they want. However we can change what they want, and we can also limit what they want or eliminate it alltogether.

    Lets look at some of the gated communities in the form of projects in the inner-cities. The people living in the public housing have no sense of belonging outside of their little project. The projects also encourage more crime, and the gates/fences do not keep crime in or out.

    Whereas in the suburbs, little crime already exists, thus people who assume gated communities prevent crime may see the lack of crime as being caused by the gated communities rather than just a general characteristic of social and economical conditions.

    It's simply just a little security blanket like little children might have. It makes them feel safer, but realistically, they aren't any safer.

    For loops and lollipops, they might discourage large amounts of traffic going through neighborhoods, but they also add to the exclusion and isolation. Not to mention add to the auto-oriented nature.

    One of the ways to solve these problems is to simply tear them down. Which although it wasn't an option even in the Middle Ages, is a simple option today. (and attractive seeing as how the vast majority of subdivisions and post-WWII neighborhoods look horrible)
    There is also the option of not demolishing the streets and simply demolishing some homes to connect streets together.

    No matter what, demolition will have to occur, and since most modern suburbs including less dense housing with 1 floor sprawling homes, the demolition of those homes is likely the only option, even if the streets are left in their current locations.

    There are a lot of ways to do this, and that is simply all I'm asking, not whether or not we ought to eliminate them... But how can we do so?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Dude, it seems the sprawl and gated commuities are being forced upon you against your will...

    ...you don't like it, do you?

    NOW, think about your plan of forcing urbanism and community down others' throats, taking down the walls of existing gated communities, and tell a lot of happy Americans that their way of life is wrong and you're hear to change it....

    ...they wouldn't like it, would they?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  24. #24
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    One of the ways to solve these problems is to simply tear them down. Which although it wasn't an option even in the Middle Ages, is a simple option today. (and attractive seeing as how the vast majority of subdivisions and post-WWII neighborhoods look horrible)
    Why do you think it is a simple option today? It seems to me that this would have been easier in the Middle Ages when individual property and ownership rights were less protected. On what grounds would you suggest acquiring and tearing down privately owned property? Where would these people go?

    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    No matter what, demolition will have to occur, and since most modern suburbs including less dense housing with 1 floor sprawling homes, the demolition of those homes is likely the only option, even if the streets are left in their current locations.
    Why do you think demolition "has" to happen? I'm unclear about your conclusions here, which is why I have a hard time engaging in...

    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    ...that is simply all I'm asking, not whether or not we ought to eliminate them... But how can we do so?
    Personally, I am having a hard time responding to this question because I do not agree with the premise that the suburbs need to be razed. I think if you present your reasons why you are taking such a dramatic stand here (and one which would require the exercise of state or even federal authority on a level I personally find draconian and terribly frightening for the precedent it sets - give the government the power to condemn and take your land at will? I think not...) you will be happier with the responses.

    Anyway, think about explaining a bit why you think this type of measure is the only way to proceed and I think you will have a more productive discussion. There are a lot of steps leading to your conclusions and I think many of us disagree with some of the assumptions you present along the way to the idea that "we need to knock it all down and build again."

    I might ask, for example, what the environmental impact of razing millions of suburban homes and replacing them with new construction is. Where will all that refuse go? Where will the new materials come from? Will the costs of building all this new construction with materials that are not affordable or potentially even sustainable make them too expensive for most? Aren't we wasting an incredible amount of resource in such a process rather than retrofitting existing structures to make them more efficient? Where will the owners of demolished homes live? Who will pay for all of this work? Couldn't one allow second quarters or even lot splits in areas with large properties instead to fill in this space with more density? Again, I think the "start over from scratch" approach, while appealing, is unrealistic in terms of the tremendous impact this would have on the environment, public health and housing costs, to say nothing of the legal ramifications.

    It helps me to know that you espouse a Communitarian philosophy as I see how your concepts fit into that line of thought. Still, I think that determining what is "best" for society at large is a tremendous challenge and something that needs to be determined through civil discussion in the public sphere, not just because one person says so. I think what people here are doing is challenging your conclusions, which I think is in the spirit of public discussion and communitarianism.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  25. #25
    They could not easily tear down in the Middle Ages or before. Today we have all sorts of equipment that allow us to demolish quickly and thoroughly.

    Also, here is the only way to solve the loops and lollipops... Which requires the demolition of buildings:
    http://img236.imageshack.us/img236/2...cuttinghb9.png

    The single family houses are all in a state where they will probably need to be demolished. Their longest sides are all facing the streets, they have large yards, often they are set back from the streets.

    How can we possibly change suburban single family houses to make them multi-family and also go right up to the streets? How can we make dense single-family housing with units that are set so far from the street that there is no way to change them w/o demolition?

    Another issue, is what can we do to get people to leave these suburban areas? Make urban areas much more desirable and deny far out suburban areas any infrastructure. If people don't want to live there, the existing houses will remain vacant, and eventually would have to be demolished.

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