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Quebec City - very beautiful indeed

ablarc

     
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#1
VERY BEAUTIFUL INDEED

I posted these as a Guess the City. Drucee, the first to respond, got it right.









So did Hceux, the second to respond. His accompanying comment probably speaks for us all: “Isn’t Quebec City great? Il est tres beau!” [gender?]

Very beautiful indeed.



Beautiful, and on well over 99.9% of the land surface of this continent, illegal. For one thing, we have to assure adequate on-site parking:


Marin County, California.

Quebec clearly falls short:



Almost everywhere we write and enforce stupid zoning and other so-called environmental regulations, promoting sprawl, waste and threadbare social life. “Order!” we proclaim, after we sort functions into neat, separated piles (and squander water to play golf in parched places):



Is this then chaos?:



We write regulations that guarantee Edge City:


San Jose, the ultimate edge city. Dimondpark, the Californian who posted this and the other aerials on SSP, had this accompanying comment: “San Jose reminds me of a place you drive through on the way to somewhere else.”

Why don’t we write regulations to guarantee Quebec?







*@#* Landscaped parking lots! [*gag*]. That was an idea of Frank Lloyd Wright’s. Here it is implemented by the master himself at the Marin County Civic Center:



Prior to Wright, we had the lucidity to regard parking lots as [supposedly necessary] evils--the destruction of intact urban fabric--like London in the aftermath of the Blitz. Now we decorate the bomb craters.

Wright was greatly influenced by shingle-style architect Bruce Price, creator of Quebec’s signature Chateau Frontenac. Price had more sense than Wright:



How about this study in segregation of parts, from Silicon Valley:


Oracle Campus and Redwood Shores.

We blame Johnny Q. Public.

But planners sold him the suburb to begin with; it wasn’t his idea. He was living in the coal-blackened city, longing for greenery. He was an easy sell. Separate you from your workplace, sir? Breathe some nice fresh air. We’ll put you on a nice train or streetcar every morning. Later we’ll sell you a car.

In fairly short order the smoke-belching factories closed or cleaned up their act, and the cars replaced them as prime polluters. But I guess planners didn’t notice. Or maybe they didn’t know anything except what they had been taught. They kept on touting the virtues of the suburbs. And having acquired clout, they drew up master plans and zoning ordinances that guaranteed Suburbia.

They picked apart the mixed-up city and designated a place for each part. They put plenty of space between all the parts, making sure you had to have a car. Detroit loved it.

In Silicon Valley, electrons pass from chip to chip along designated paths. The electrons are cars:



We have made a ****pile of our environment with our well-intentioned rules. Well, we can always flock for a weekend or a week to one of the remaining nice places. We can be urbotourists:



And we blame greedy developers.



But greedy developers will figure out how to make a buck under any set of rules they’re given. Left to their own devices, they will eventually figure out that narrow streets cost less than wide ones.



And you don’t need to plant bushes and grass all over the place. That way you have more money left over to build a better product:


(This and previous Quebec pics are from SSP. Tried and failed to hunt down photographer, so can’t give credit. Mr. Photographer, if you see these, identify yourself; you take a great picture. Subsequent pics mostly by ganjavih at SkyscraperCity.)

No, the reason Quebec isn’t done is that in most places the regulations simply don’t allow it. No one ever set out to do that, but the unintended consequences always take over when you start with a shopping list of non-negotiable specific goals, rather than a concrete and integrated formal product. Thus all the trivial considerations are optimized and the excellence of the whole goes down the drain. A better than average node in Suburbia, the rich man’s village of Tiburon exemplifies this trend. Everything here is optimized except the whole:


Everything neatly sorted into categories. Like things with like things.

Across the Bay, three quarters of a million people are packed into 47 square miles of zany and irrational townscape starring hills that are too steep because the streets don’t have the sense to recognize topography, and a dearth of parking lots (especially landscaped ones). And very few who live there would trade it for standardized, “rational” suburbia; you can see that in the amount people pay to live there. It’s an easy place to leave your heart:



It’s time to change the regulations.


“But people want convenient parking and buffers and floor-area ratios and bush ordinances and single-use zoning and permeable areas and setbacks and wide streets; that’s why we give them these things.”



But when people want to go someplace nice they don’t go to Edge City. They congregate in the bad places, the places that don’t meet the rules of Suburbia.



Why, look at this place; it doesn’t even have a sidewalk:



What’s a poor pedestrian to do? Ah, that’s more like it: painted yellow lines and zebra crossings (less anarchic):



Maybe all cities should have walls. Inside the walls we could proclaim the regulation-free zone. Outside the walls, virtuous suburbia could sprawl around to its heart’s content (until we run out of oil or countryside or collectively come to our senses):



Here are a few pics to gently reassure you that after all this is North America. Why, there’s even a parking lot in this one:









Even skyscrapers:



This post is a gross oversimplification, like “the government is run by bozos.”



That doesn’t make it not true.

.
* * *

How the world should look outside center cities:

 
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#2
Such great urban fabric in the Quebec City photos. I doubt most people have ever even experienced such a place, so how would they ever know what they're missing? When they think of urban living, they think of burnt out apartments, liquor stores on every corner, and shoot outs in the streets.

The current development patterns have forced me to betray my species.
 

Hceux

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#3
I wonder if we should consider the fact that there is a very small population that lives in the Vieux Quebec (English translation: Old Quebec) district...

If you go beyond the Old Quebec, I must say that there is an disgusting amount of suburban sprawl. It's massive, ugly, and monolithic. *blowing raspberries*
 
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#4
I've always wanted to go to Quebec City yet, even as a bordering state, I've never been to Canada...looks like a really great city, though. Maybe this fall...
 

BKM

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#5
Beautiful photos:

But again, ablarc, you have no sense of reality as to the forces really governing city-building today. It is not only the "planners" regulations-there are too many other factors and players that dictate "sprawl."

I remain extremely skeptical that only planners' rules create suburbia, and that not having regulations requiring landscaping would lead to a better townscape. We have to fight every day with the big chains to get ANY modicum of design quality-because their entire business model is lots of stuff, made under appalling sweatshop conditions, and sold really, really cheaply.

As for the public sector-we are talking again about public demand. "When will they "fix" the interchange so I can drive 20 miles futher out and buy a bigger, newer house with a four-car garage?" "Why don't they widen that street so it is "safer."? And, the public bureaucracies respond. Bigger streets, softer curves, more sound walls to "mitigate" the vast levels of traffic noise created by the very residents themselves. And, all of these rules and programs are easily justified-there is always some manual or code or design guidelines that REQUIRE sixty foot wide residential streets (along with the 25 mph signs and occasional, expensive police traffic cop to slow them darn kids down).

As for separation of land uses-sure zoning codes don't help. But, so does the entire structure of designing, financing, and building the suburban crudscape. There are a few scattered builders-and their numbers are growing-willing to take a chance on mixed use. But, they remain a minority, a niche who struggle to find financing from a banking system that wants the tried and true-which means sprawl.. And, it isn't only zoning rules that prevent this. No, its our entire culture of designing everything to be absolutely "safe." Heck, blame the lawyers, the chain store executives, the traffic engineers, the fire departments, and our own cultural distrust of cities. There is plenty of "blame" to go around, and to focus on one profession and one set of codes/rules is downright silly.

And, again, misleading visual-preference surveys and a few tourist-oriented or yuppie city enclaves aside, many people do, for some strange reason "want" suburbia. Outside metropolitan centers with intact urbanism and heavy traffic congestion, smaller and middle size urban American LOVES suburbia (look at Buffalo. Or my hometown. Since a new house in a new “country” subdivision can be had for less than $125,000 only 25 miles from town, why is there an incentive for infill in Fort Wayne? There really isn’t.) SUV sales continue to skyrocket. Read the REAL estate ads. "Cul De Sac Location." "Exclusive subdivision" "Golf course lot." Look at the sales figures: people WANT Big Box bargains in a "convenient" setting with lots of parking. They may go to cute tourist towns on vacation, but most are like my one friend Mike whose main complaint about San Francisco, for example, is that it is too difficult to find parking and drive everywhere in his daily life (he lives in a suburb now). Or, like my brother in the Marina District who drives to Marin County because it is more "convenient" than walking or taking transit to a city retail district (he was complaining yesterday that a new apartment may mean reliance upon a corner store-and its higher prices.

I’m not sure why I get defensive, in that I agree with ablarc about the horrors of zoning code silliness. My perfect neighborhood would be something like San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, with cottages on a steep hillside accessible via staircases and one-way lanes. But, I listen to my friends and coworkers express their goals and desires for communities and houses, and the statement that “planners” cause suburbia makes me laugh.
 
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#6
BKM said:
Beautiful photos:

But again, ablarc, you have no sense of reality as to the forces really governing city-building today. It is not only the "planners" regulations-there are too many other factors and players that dictate "sprawl."

I remain extremely skeptical that only planners' rules create suburbia, and that not having regulations requiring landscaping would lead to a better townscape. We have to fight every day with the big chains to get ANY modicum of design quality-because their entire business model is lots of stuff, made under appalling sweatshop conditions, and sold really, really cheaply.

As for the public sector-we are talking again about public demand. "When will they "fix" the interchange so I can drive 20 miles futher out and buy a bigger, newer house with a four-car garage?" "Why don't they widen that street so it is "safer."? And, the public bureaucracies respond. Bigger streets, softer curves, more sound walls to "mitigate" the vast levels of traffic noise created by the very residents themselves. And, all of these rules and programs are easily justified-there is always some manual or code or design guidelines that REQUIRE sixty foot wide residential streets (along with the 25 mph signs and occasional, expensive police traffic cop to slow them darn kids down).

As for separation of land uses-sure zoning codes don't help. But, so does the entire structure of designing, financing, and building the suburban crudscape. There are a few scattered builders-and their numbers are growing-willing to take a chance on mixed use. But, they remain a minority, a niche who struggle to find financing from a banking system that wants the tried and true-which means sprawl.. And, it isn't only zoning rules that prevent this. No, its our entire culture of designing everything to be absolutely "safe." Heck, blame the lawyers, the chain store executives, the traffic engineers, the fire departments, and our own cultural distrust of cities. There is plenty of "blame" to go around, and to focus on one profession and one set of codes/rules is downright silly.

And, again, misleading visual-preference surveys and a few tourist-oriented or yuppie city enclaves aside, many people do, for some strange reason "want" suburbia. Outside metropolitan centers with intact urbanism and heavy traffic congestion, smaller and middle size urban American LOVES suburbia (look at Buffalo. Or my hometown. Since a new house in a new “country” subdivision can be had for less than $125,000 only 25 miles from town, why is there an incentive for infill in Fort Wayne? There really isn’t.) SUV sales continue to skyrocket. Read the REAL estate ads. "Cul De Sac Location." "Exclusive subdivision" "Golf course lot." Look at the sales figures: people WANT Big Box bargains in a "convenient" setting with lots of parking. They may go to cute tourist towns on vacation, but most are like my one friend Mike whose main complaint about San Francisco, for example, is that it is too difficult to find parking and drive everywhere in his daily life (he lives in a suburb now). Or, like my brother in the Marina District who drives to Marin County because it is more "convenient" than walking or taking transit to a city retail district (he was complaining yesterday that a new apartment may mean reliance upon a corner store-and its higher prices.

I’m not sure why I get defensive, in that I agree with ablarc about the horrors of zoning code silliness. My perfect neighborhood would be something like San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, with cottages on a steep hillside accessible via staircases and one-way lanes. But, I listen to my friends and coworkers express their goals and desires for communities and houses, and the statement that “planners” cause suburbia makes me laugh.
I visited Quebec City about 9 years ago and it is a beautiful city. However, it is a product of a different time, much like downtown Chicago, New York and other cities that got their start before the advent of the car. The car has had more of an impact on city design than any other factor, hands down.

I agree with BKM. Blaming planners for suburbia is a bit short sighted. Most ordinance have gotten away from ther mandated use separation and large lots. Most modern zoning ordinances make allowance for mixed-used, higher density and creative design elements for developers that choose the use them. Most modern ordinance allow for residences above commercial buildings and other traditional elements. However, most developers choose not to use these options. They stick with the traditional suburban home in a subdivision because they think that will sell and make them money. They are in the business of making money and there is nothing wrong with that.

Further, modern homebuyers have chosen to buy these homes, for whatever reason. This further enforces the developers reason for buiding these type of developments. Also keep in mind very few people of homebuying age grew up in a "traditional" city. I'm 40 grew in subdivisions and went to shopping centers and malls. Unfortantely, these are my points of reference. It's what I know and comfortable with and I'm a career land use planner. Blaming planners for choices made by developers, home buyers and other factors, is short sighted. Especially since most modern ordinances give developers choice they do not use.
 

BKM

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#7
Of course. It isn't just the Prophets of Doom like Kunstler anymore. Every business section in the mainstream press is full of doom and gloom stories about the coming oil shortage.

My fear is the post-Automobile world will not look like Quebec City, but more like crowded Latin American favellas.
 

Michele Zone

     
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#8
BKM said:
Of course. It isn't just the Prophets of Doom like Kunstler anymore. Every business section in the mainstream press is full of doom and gloom stories about the coming oil shortage.

My fear is the post-Automobile world will not look like Quebec City, but more like crowded Latin American favellas.
The world spent 50 years belly-aching about how we were running out of fuel for fires -- that there was a firewood shortage. We transitioned to coal and that resolved the fuel crisis. Then the world began bellyaching about coal (which, ironically, we still have lots of -- but it is pretty poisonous stuff). We transitioned to oil. People don't cough up the dough for the research and development of expensive new technologies and fuels until it is imperative that we do so. We already have a lot of alternative fuels in working order for some things. They just haven't become popular because oil is still the easy answer. When it stops being such an easy answer, things will change. And, just as we have both Quebec City and Latin America favellas now, we will surely conitnue to have both in the future.

My hope is that the computer will replace some travel needs -- that GIS will make for better decisions about how to appropriately design public transit such that usage will be high and that online classes and the like will reduce the need to go somewhere in order to do things. :)
 

BKM

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#9
Off-topic:
Off Topic Digression. Only somewhat off-topic, because urban form is largely dominated by transportation and economic resources :)

Your answer, Michelle, is certainly the technocentric, positive, hopeful one :)
Although, the computer cannot replace the "Warehouse on Wheels" or the "3,000 mile Caesar Salad" :)


Still: modern science has absolutely no idea as to a replacement for the cheap oil era. Biofuels? Still require something to (inefficiently) grow all the corn. Hydrogen -again another energy negative typically manufactured out of petroleum right now. Even if we built huge nuclear plants to provide the hydrogen from other (non-petroleum) sources, some resource economists posit the Hubbert Curve for Uranium is only 50 years. (Although, could fusion become a reality-or the infamous Breeder reactors? I'm not an engineer).

So, do we go back to the past like Kunstler and his crews suggest?

The biggest problem with going back to the past, of course, is that we have 300 million Americans now. Kunstler always burbles happily about the Sunbelt running out of electricity for air conditioners but he never responded to my query about how Upstate New York will heat itself once the fuel oil runs low. Is there THAT much timber??
 

Michele Zone

     
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#10
BKM said:
Off Topic Digression. Only somewhat off-topic, because urban form is largely dominated by transportation and economic resources :)

The biggest problem with going back to the past, of course, is that we have 300 million Americans now. Kunstler always burbles happily about the Sunbelt running out of electricity for air conditioners but he never responded to my query about how Upstate New York will heat itself once the fuel oil runs low. Is there THAT much timber??
There is supposedly several thousand years worth of coal. So heating isn't my big concern. A much bigger concern of mine, personally, is the hug amount of artificial fertilizers we are dependent upon. I don't remember when, but some time in recent decades, use of artificial fertilizers jumped about 600% and continued to steadily increase. If large scale starvation sets in, people will find things to worry about other than the car. Then we can revisit movies like "Solient Green". :-#

Also, the water wars are likely to be uglier than the oil wars we are seeing at present. :-c 8-! Less than one percent of the world's water is truly available for potable purposes -- and we are doing all we can to poison the rest. There is good evidence to suggest that the dramatic increase in things like Asperger's Syndrome is due to the fact that we are poisoning our planet. But, really, that is good news: all these malformed mutants are better adapted to our toxic environment and some of them are brilliant enough that they just might resolve some of the these sticky wickets you bring up. :-\
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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#11
For an instant, the second picture looked like a HO scale model of QC. It's almost too perfectly preserved. Where's the grit? :p

As for ablarc's commentary, I would echo BKM's response about where the blame is to be laid.

In an age and time of multitudinous choice and easy accessiblity, people/consumers are able to choose what they want. It is unfortunate that the underlying desires of the typical American gravitates toward the auto-oriented suburban development form, but that is what most people are comfortable with.

Hell, my dad grewup on Buffalo's Eastside in the 1950s, doing everything as a pedestrian (no family car until 1960), but him and my mom choose to live in an exurban townhouse outside of Lapeer, MI.

Now, my wife and I have chosen to live a more pedestrian lifestyle in a fully developed, fine-grained(ish) first-ring suburb of Chicago (Oak Park, IL). We have chosen this because it is what we want, and I am loathe to tell others that they must live like I do, but if they ask I shall delineate its superiority to auto-suburbia.

Hope that makes sense - Btw, beautiful city, must visit soon

EDIT: Upon further reading of your commentary, ablarc, I appreciate that you are making overly generalized comments, but you may need to make that more explicit in the future. Most of the posters here are intelligent/experienced and can handle a more thoughtful and balanced debate.
 
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jresta

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#12
8-| . . . and all that really concerns me is this -

Arrêt? Are you kidding me? Even in France the friggin' stop signs read S-T-O-P
 

BKM

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#13
jresta said:
8-| . . . and all that really concerns me is this -

Arrêt? Are you kidding me? Even in France the friggin' stop signs read S-T-O-P
La Belle France is not surrounded by, nay beleaguered by, an Imperialist English-Speaking Conspiracy of 315 million cultural hegemons. :) First the signs read "Stop," next Montreal is a suburb of Toronto.
 

Tranplanner

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#14
Yes - BKM pretty much summed it up. Les Quebecois didn't want to "stop" like les anglais, even though there is such a verb in French. I had to deal with a similar issue in Northern Ontario - had to tell the francophone communities to get rid of their Arrêt and Arrêt/STOP signs as they did not comply with the Highway Traffic Act. Had a nice debate as to whether stop was an acceptable french word.
 

christopher dewolf

     
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#15
"stopper" is indeed a perfectly valid french verb, but it has never been widely used in canada. stop signs in quebec have always read "arrêt" -- or more commonly, "arrêt-stop."
 
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#16
BKM said:
Off-topic:
So, do we go back to the past like Kunstler and his crews suggest?

The biggest problem with going back to the past, of course, is that we have 300 million Americans now. Kunstler always burbles happily about the Sunbelt running out of electricity for air conditioners but he never responded to my query about how Upstate New York will heat itself once the fuel oil runs low. Is there THAT much timber??
What is this crazy notion that upstate NY is the arctic circle? I wouldn't be worried if this area here ran out of oil. There is always the hydro-electric plant in Niagara Falls that could power electric furnaces. We'll just have to see how much control of the plant and its power we can get in 2005, damn NYS politicians :-@ .

BOT:

BKM said:
Outside metropolitan centers with intact urbanism and heavy traffic congestion, smaller and middle size urban American LOVES suburbia (look at Buffalo. Or my hometown
Yeap its sad but true. This MSA continues to decline, but it continues to consume land. No county plan for growth either, unless they hid it somewhere. Crappy built houses on swamps, that sink after a while, when the Corp of Engineers told them that's what would happen. Yet people still build out there.

Sprawl and suburbia seems like a way of life for the people out here, like they're moving up in the world and getting out of _________, wherever they're fleeing from. But I also think its taught to kids that the city is bad, and the suburbs are safe. The media doesn't help the situation either, as Dan can tell you that those in the range of T.V. stations from Buffalo, in Canada, think the city is burning down. Then there is the constant murder this and murder that. OMFG :-C , I'm going to die if I live in the city. People have this stereotype and perception, when in reality they have no idea what the hell they're talking about. I'll stop before I rant on and and try to get back to whatever point it was I was making.

Some people don't want to work downtown if there isn't parking close enough to their destination or if its not cheap, and some businesses do not want to be downtown unless they can level a building for a surface lot so their employees can park for free. Its a culture I guess, that people must be able to get into their car and park at their destination without a hassle, for free, which is why you see these crappy suburban office parks with loads of parking. They are OWN3D by their cars.
 

H

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#17
BKM said:
My fear is the post-Automobile world will not look like Quebec City, but more like crowded Latin American favellas.

[very very curious]please explain? I know what favellas are, but why do you think this might be a comming trend versus a fading trend? [/very very curious] 8-|



...and I do agree with you above statements.


I think given the chance most planners would curb sprawl but often the 'job desciption' is to encorce it. :p

The public tells the developers what they want (via market forces), the developers tell the politicians what they want, they politician tell the planners what they want, and the the planners give it to them.

This can slowing be reversed by education, generally a change happens when the developer changes their development becuase of market forces, not the planner telling anyone what to do. :p
 

jresta

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#18
the mass of suburban sprawl isn't boutique builders building custom homes on 5 acre lots much less jane and john newlywed running to the builders office and asking for a vinyl clad piece of crap on a cul-de-sac. It's McDeveloper building subdivisions of hundreds of units on speculation.

The only market force at play here is land speculation. There's more profit to be made buying relatively cheap farm land on the fringe and squeezing as many houses on it as possible.

Read your local newspaper's business section. The development racket is just the same as any other - shareholders demand growth of 5%+ per year.
 

H

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#19
jresta said:
the mass of suburban sprawl isn't boutique builders building custom homes on 5 acre lots much less jane and john newlywed running to the builders office and asking for a vinyl clad piece of crap on a cul-de-sac. It's McDeveloper building subdivisions of hundreds of units on speculation.

The only market force at play here is land speculation. There's more profit to be made buying relatively cheap farm land on the fringe and squeezing as many houses on it as possible.

Read your local newspaper's business section. The development racket is just the same as any other - shareholders demand growth of 5%+ per year.

I agree and disagree. While custom homes certainly are not the 'force' and while land spec. is a powerful force, people do speak with their pocket books. If people didnt want a 'vinyl clad piece of crap on a cul-de-sac', they would not buy. But the fact is, not only do they buy it, they cant wait for it. And once they get it, they love it. (at least for a few years while it is new, then they feel the need to 'move up'). ;-S
 

BKM

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#20
H said:
I agree and disagree. While custom homes certainly are not the 'force' and while land spec. is a powerful force, people do speak with their pocket books. If people didnt want a 'vinyl clad piece of crap on a cul-de-sac', they would not buy. But the fact is, not only do they buy it, they cant wait for it. And once they get it, they love it. (at least for a few years while it is new, then they feel the need to 'move up'). ;-S
Everyone already knows this, but here's my rant/response :)

Well. I think its partly a vicious circle thing. People want NEW! NEW! NEW!, and the population in the sunbelt sprawlburbs are growing rapidly, so we have to build new. To get affordable new homes, they have to buy the standardized "product" put out by the large homebuilders. They have no real choice. Where the libertarians have a point is that onerous rules narrow the market to participation only by deep pocketed large homebuilders whose very success is predicated on a standardized product. They have no incentive to do anything different, particularly as said new residents are vigilant to prevent anything but more of the same stuff they just bought, and particularly since their financing is based on standardized products and they have had success in the past getting standardized products and subdivisions through often onerous, expensive planning entitlement processes.

We certainly help The Machine keep running, tinkering with the silly little rules here and there, ensuring that the boring (but amazingly successful) WalMart boxes have, if we're lucky, a few extra pieces of trim and maybe some slight variations in wall plains

The other comment I would make: Quebec City is hardly a major economic center. Real economic activity in today's consolidated and corporatized world, (and no, souvenirs and teddy bears are not a real economic force) would in reality not do as well in Quebec City. Unless you want the old economy to come back somehow (small businesses, local owned firms, etc.) Which I would actually like to see :) ablarc: you even complain when national chains do try to "fit in" to an old, quaint business district. Their attempts are never good enough (see the drug store in that cute southern town).
 
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