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Thread: Re: "Sowell: Liberal Planners Cause Sprawl"

  1. #26
    Oct 2003
    Reminderville, OH

    Re: Re: Cheap petrol

    Originally posted by GeogPlanner
    I think that people see housing and development in black and white...overcrowding or sprawl. It's row houses or estates. No one builds the small city single family homes, circa 1920. I like my space and neighbors, but I don't want to be downtown.
    There are lots of homes like this in Canton, Ohio. They run under
    $100k for 3-bedroom houses, typically exist on a 1/4 acre lot, and I'm hard pressed to think of any that aren't in walking distance of at least a convenience store. The reason they're worth under $100k is:

    - The job market in towns like this that depended on manufacturing is poor. If these homes were in a place like California, they'd long ago
    have been razed to build big fancy expensive homes.

    - Many of the neighbourhoods are racially integrated. Unfortunately, for lots of folks, that means the neighbourhoods are less valuable.

    - The convenience store you're close to happens to be on a five-lane undivided arterial (the middle turn lane was where the trams used to run from Canton to Cleveland). Most of the businesses are not chains, but they still have deep setbacks, parking lots with faded stripes and cracked asphalt, giant pole signs, and these businesses principally seem to be providing:

    - Auto repair services
    - Used automobiles
    - Adult videos
    - Liquour (available via their convenient drive-through)
    - Firearms and ammunition
    - Short term loans
    - Cheque cashing service
    - Pawn-broker service

    There are, of course, fast-food joints scattered amongst these businesses. There are also real gems, like the clothing thrift stores I often shop at, the natural foods market (which my friends all say is cool, despite that "weird" people work there ), and the non-chain health club whose indoor swimming pool I enjoy.

    The neighbourhoods themselves would be a neotraditionalist's delight. Many of the alleys have not yet been vacated to the neighbouring property owners if the owners don't want to pay the property taxes; a vacation usually occurs once drug dealers decide the alley is a good place to hang out and drive through with their oversize-muffler-bearing vehicles. Garages are always behind the house, and probably only half of the houses even have driveways. (Some neighbours choose to share a driveway when they vacate an alley.) Most people choose to park on the street, which makes walking under the tree-canopied sidewalks pleasant--but watch out for the old, old trees whose roots have overcome the cement on top of them.

    However, I don't see many neotraditionalists living there. I do see many people who commute long distances over uncongested I-77 to their jobs in Cleveland or Akron whose current goal in life is to pay off enough of this house that they can move to a "nicer" home on a 3/4 acre lot in Jackson Twp. Canton's housing stock does an excellent job of providing starter homes for people of modest incomes. However, how many of you are planning on moving there?

    The harsh reality is that none of us really want to live in neighbourhoods with average home values under $100k. The residents enjoy working on their cars in the street or on their front lawns; they enjoy patronising the local drive-through liquour establishments; they often party with their loud music late into the night, the sounds of it permeating the thin walls of their late-19th-century-era homes. Despite per-student expenditures greater than the neighbouring wealthy townships, performance of the city schools is lags behind them, and promises to grow worse as property tax revenue from local manufacturers, busily moving their businesses to China as their only hope to survive, watch their revenue shrink. One would hope that residents of an integrated neighbourhood would be enlightened regarding matters of race, yet I frequently overhear conversations of nervous residents talking about moving to a whiter neighbourhood as they see another non-white family move in, fearing their property values will sink--or so they claim is the reason. Youths roam the streets aimlessly, although I can't much blame them; most of the job opportunities available to them involve food or retail; their parents are lucky if they have better jobs than that.

    Growing up in a wood framed 2 family in an old trolley district, I've come to appreciate the ability to walk in a neighborhood to go to the store or church. But secretly I always wanted more! When I was engaged two years ago and shopping for a house, I did look for more space, but not a sprawling estate. I just wanted a single family home with a small detached garage in the rear of the house on a tree lined street with sidewalks. The problem is that just does not exist in great supply. It was easy to find a suburban house or a run down money pit...neither ideal, but the suburban one more ideal from the other in the long term. The old peripheral city house was non-existant on the market. And no one builds new like that anymore b/c its not a sure sell. We just need to learn to build quaint single family homes again.
    Builders want to build expensive homes. Chances are that most of us wouldn't like a typical modern builder's idea of a "quaint" single family home, anyway. Your quaint homes do exist in plentiful supply--unfortunately, they happen to be in places like Littleton, WV or Jewett, OH which have no shred of economic base left to support them.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
    May 2003
    City of Low Low Wages!
    I don't like bungalows at all. They're architecturaly uninspiring, they're too low to interface the street well, they have those worthless front lawns, and the're not a particularly good use of space.

    I think the perfect housing unit for a family is the rowhouse, provided it has an ample back yard accessible by an alley.

    I figure when I "settle down," I'll buy a greystone two-flat and convert it to single-family. Ideally, I'd like to live in a rowhouse, but the two-flat neighborhoods are much closer in than the rowhouse neighborhoods, and tend to be more mixed-use. Also, most of the rowhouse neighborhoods aren't served by transit well and tend to be built out of wood. With a converted twoflat, I'd get the benefits of a rowhouse without those disadvantages.

  3. #28
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
    Dec 2003
    'I have a theory that the desire to sprawl is innate to human nature'

    I think keeping in mind the innate human nature there has to be some kind of regulation from th3e govt( local or state) which should regulate and reflect thorugh the planning principles and policies.( spatial as wella s economic)
    Aslo by sprawl do we alwasy mean negative growth. Yes The whole word sprawl is being used( or maybe it should be ) used as a negative unplanned chaotic congested growth.

    I think large urban agglomerations have a innate characteristic to attarct more and mroe development with time and therefore they have these sprwals. These cities are like magnets. They keep on adding on the periphery adn redeveloping within itself.
    The core may also redensity with time etcetc.

    Therefore keeping a regional plan in mind small towns cities need to be planned and encouraged by spatio economic methods so that in a region onlya few cities are large and have sprawls.
    Ideally speaking if there is a efficent regional transportation network then this way there will be choice for people to stay in the sprawl or stay away in single lot single use houses in smalelr towns and travel up and down.
    If we want people to trade off then we need to give the options first.
    Otherwise sprawl will continue to be a problem forever and we will keep talking about it.

    Also in mycity the Development agency ( govt) has started shifting its activities.
    Earlier it was develop the land, put hte infrastrcuture, build and sell
    Then it was develop the land with infra and sell the lots
    Now it justs regulated private developers to buy land and comply with basic standards. If I am not wrong hte govt agency controls and regualted development of the whole urban area( it may not own the land, but hte land laws are really draconian- police power , eminent domain and public purpose etc etc).
    I think right now within the urban developnment area around 70 percent or even more of the housing and 90 percent of the commercial development is by the private sector.
    Only the industrial areas have been traditiionally controlled, developed and sold by the govt agency. But now even those are being developed like the earliermentioned.

    Its important to have a clear economic policy for the urban area dn link it directly to the spatial plans and the physical standards.
    Its time to accept the sprawl as a factor of planning( time to convert the bane into aboon )
    Sprawl also indicates huge demand.
    CAn we do it.
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

  4. #29
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
    Jun 2003
    NSW, Australia
    Originally posted by jordanb ....Most planning programs teach solid theory and it's just that the existing regulatory environment that planners are required to work in basically enforce sprawl, so they become agents of sprawl in a way. Now it's just a matter of the slow process of changing that regulatary environmet and public education as to why the changes need to be made.
    JordanB is rightly getting a lot of positive reinforcement for his early comment in this thread - hope it's not too disorienting for you J. There hasn't been too much comment about his reference to public education (my emphasis in the above quote). This is easily the biggest challenge we have in presenting consolidation strategies that support shopping centres, local employment, green fields conservation and public transport. In today's local paper for example, there is a letter to the editor in response to an article two days ago about the 'development boom' in our city. There is an upswing in multi-dwelling buildings (of about 6 to 12 storeys) but total dwelling production is not so high to really constitute a boom. My main concern about the letter is that it comes from one of the more informed local stirrers. He claims the tall buildings we are permitting around our shopping centres represent a failure of planning and that they are all about developers making money. To paraphrase the letter:

    It is sad to see another headline trumpeting the development boom. The new rush for high rise buildings is more of an example of failed planning regulations than a promise of future benefits. ....

    He goes on to compare taller buildings in our city to those along the Parramatta River in Sydney.

    These appear to be modelled on slum construction from a Thirld World city - but they do have a lovely view and they made a fortune for the developer.

    We have been successful in informing small groups elected by planning districts to participate in design workshops about the pros and cons of consolidated urban forms. Generally people in those groups become supporters of more density around centres, mixed use etc. Their contributions have been included in the changes that are facilitating the 'boom'.

    We have made no inroads into increasing general community knowledge about consolidation, however. Our goals are modest (40% of new housing in multi unit developments), but we haven't convinced the majority of our residents. We will continue to have plenty of sprawled neighbourhoods for people who want that sort of lifestyle BTW. Based on our modelling, our multi-dwelling housing stock will still be less than 20% of total housing in the City.

    Does anyone have a success story they can share about increasing general public knowledge on the issues of consolidation vs. sprawl?

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