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The front yard

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#61
The most common housing type in the US is 1500 - 2,000 sf houses on 6000 sf lots,

Housing is not a winner take all like a presidential election so that if a majority (or in the case of at least 2 presidents since 1990, a less than majority) wants to live in single family housing we all must live like that. Housing is more like the cell phone market, some want Iphones, some want droids, some want anything that can just make phone calls.

Note that the most expensive housing in this country is higher density in safe neighborhoods. This is evidence that the supply of this type of housing is not meeting the demand.
 

ColoGI

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#62
Americans have demonstrated over the past 100 years where they want to live: a single family dwelling in a low density area. That is why we have the urban land form we have today - the sprawling suburbs. Sure, there were incentives that encouraged the growth of suburbia but most of these incentives were provided by politicians....elected directly by American voters.
Unintended consequences of Euclidean zoning notwithstanding, this built environment form is a function and result of wealth and extra disposable income. As our country declines, this form cannot be supported at past scales.

As public servants, we have to allow for more choices in built environment form to give more options.
 
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#63
You are assuming:

A. That there's a real and permanent decline.

B. That this "decline" will impact the urban form (please note that the UK has declined in relative power and wealth in the past century but still has a much larger urban and suburban footprint than in 1900).

C. That modern technological innovations will not allow the current American land use patterns to continue either by reducing the cost of the land use patterns or presenting, say, alternative energy forms. While oil prices are high, cars are much more efficient these days, after all.

I never play the doom and gloom game. The all-powerful market will be much more instrumental in the redevelopment of our urban areas than any government policies, but the planners should certainly be on the standby to help figure out how to solve problems, not invent them where they don't exist.

Unintended consequences of Euclidean zoning notwithstanding, this built environment form is a function and result of wealth and extra disposable income. As our country declines, this form cannot be supported at past scales.

As public servants, we have to allow for more choices in built environment form to give more options.
 

ColoGI

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#64
You are assuming:

A. That there's a real and permanent decline.

B. That this "decline" will impact the urban form ...

C. That modern technological innovations...
I never play the doom and gloom game. The all-powerful market will be much more instrumental in the redevelopment of our urban areas than any government policies, but the planners should certainly be on the standby to help figure out how to solve problems, not invent them where they don't exist.
All empires and societies decline on our planet. That is how it works. All declines impact societies. And thanks for the standard technological-market fix meme.
 

wahday

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#65
Americans have demonstrated over the past 100 years where they want to live: a single family dwelling in a low density area. That is why we have the urban land form we have today - the sprawling suburbs. Sure, there were incentives that encouraged the growth of suburbia but most of these incentives were provided by politicians....elected directly by American voters.
I've always wondered about the "this is what people are buying, so it must be what they are demanding" argument. Is it not possible that "what people want" is a direct reflection what is currently available within their financial means? That is not the same as saying that its what people would design for themselves given the chance. Its hard to "want" something that doesn't exist because you can't conceive of it. So, it seems that a more accurate statement would be to say that "of the choices available, people seem to want this." Even so, people make housing decisions for myriad reasons, many of which are beyond the actual form or style of the home - cost, proximity to work, highways, rail lines, schools, etc. Its certainly possible in my mind that many people feel "well, this place isn't perfect, but it fits the needs we have right now in our life" This is not the same as saying that people demanded something.

I say all of this from my own house-buying experiences and reflecting on why we made the choices we did. For us, the housing type was secondary and locale was primary. The house is cool - a hundred years old and well built - but it also is a bit small for us and was a bit more pricey than I would have liked. But after taking into account all the factors (including what was for sale at a given time, proximity to work and school and stores) it seemed like the best choice available. If there was another model of housing available, or certain forms were NOT available, I wonder how that would have impacted my perception of what we "wanted."
 

ColoGI

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#66
I've always wondered about the "this is what people are buying, so it must be what they are demanding" argument. Is it not possible that "what people want" is a direct reflection what is currently available within their financial means?
Right. That is an old talking point, refuted when you see the multiple surveys that show many folks actually prefer some other model other than the slapped-up McSuburb, usu a walkable, SG-type neighborhood.
 
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#67
My bad. The typical freehold compound villa has a very high FAR. Think 1,500 sqft footprint on a 3,000 sqft lot. Even large villas on the Palm Jumeirah may have a 3,000 sqft footprint on a 5,000 sqft lot.

The most common housing type in the US is 1500 - 2,000 sf houses on 6000 sf lots,

Housing is not a winner take all like a presidential election so that if a majority (or in the case of at least 2 presidents since 1990, a less than majority) wants to live in single family housing we all must live like that. Housing is more like the cell phone market, some want Iphones, some want droids, some want anything that can just make phone calls.

Note that the most expensive housing in this country is higher density in safe neighborhoods. This is evidence that the supply of this type of housing is not meeting the demand.
 
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#68
Uh - but they keep buying the slapped up McSuburb, no? And besides, what makes you think the McSuburb can't be walkable? Nothing's preventing you from getting out of your car and walking, no?

Sure, if you were to ask people if they like pretty images of walkable neighborhoods, most would say yes. Few people are going to argue against requirements that you put in sidewalks. But however you dress up the suburbia with new form requirements most people are still going to get into a car and *drive* somewhere. I grew up in a very walkable older neighborhood in Baltimore, laid out by none other than Olmstead's firm, with a core community business center, schools, libraries, shops, restaurants and other amenities within walking distances.

Guess what, most people still drove. Many of my classmates were driven all of .25 miles to school by their parents. Most of the residents work elsewhere, not just five miles away in downtown Baltimore but a hour away in Washington or elswhere in the suburbs. Most of the shopping is elsewhere. People drove.

The car is not going to disappear. The car offers people the most flexbile range of choices for our options and lifestyles as possible. You can design as many TOD developments as you want but even those will have to factor in the car. The TOD stations along DC are filled with commuters who hop off the metro and then get into a car and drive elsewhere. I do not forsee that the car will be come a rare luxury within our lifetime. Petrol prices are very high in Europe, much higher than in the US, but the Europeans have put up with it by driving much more fuel efficient cars and spending less on other budgetary items. Americans will do the same.

Right. That is an old talking point, refuted when you see the multiple surveys that show many folks actually prefer some other model other than the slapped-up McSuburb, usu a walkable, SG-type neighborhood.
 
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#69
Europe has been in a "decline" since the height of its imperial powers in 1900.

It's still a quite rich and lovely place to live with much higher incomes and QOL than any rising economic powers in Asia outside Japan. People who think the US is going to turn into a poor second world country are sadly mistaken.

All empires and societies decline on our planet. That is how it works. All declines impact societies. And thanks for the standard technological-market fix meme.
 

ColoGI

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#70
Uh - but they keep buying the slapped up McSuburb, no?
We've been over this a billion times here. That is all that can be built under most land-use code. The SG developments are bid up like crazy to obtain them and hold their value better. This is obvious. And basic..


And besides, what makes you think the McSuburb can't be walkable? Nothing's preventing you from getting out of your car and walking, no?
Nobody said McSuburbs can;t have a sidewalk or a bike lane or trails. The basic, most elementary difference: Destination. Walking to somewhere, not in a circle til the dog craps. That's what it means. To somewhere. To a destination.


The car is not going to disappear. The car offers people the most flexbile range of choices for our options and lifestyles as possible. You can design as many TOD developments as you want but even those will have to factor in the car. The TOD stations along DC are filled with commuters who hop off the metro and then get into a car and drive elsewhere. I do not forsee that the car will be come a rare luxury within our lifetime. Petrol prices are very high in Europe, much higher than in the US, but the Europeans have put up with it by driving much more fuel efficient cars and spending less on other budgetary items. Americans will do the same.
Thanks for the car commercial!
 

Howl

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#71
Personally I don’t have a problem with large lot detached suburban developments. I’ve designed quite a few in my time. The problem is it costs a LOT of money to live like that: the cost of building and maintaining roads and pipes, the cost of providing soft services to low density areas, the loss of wilderness and farmland. If people had to pay the full cost of living on a ½ acre estate lot most people would not be able to afford it, let alone a 3,000 sq.ft. lot - yet many Americans do somehow.

The reason they can afford it is two-fold. 1. Traditionally the full cost of suburban development isn’t paid for by suburban home dwellers, it is paid for by the entire community, and therefore the urban dwellers are subsidizing the suburban dwellers; and 2. Most people go into huge amounts of debt in order to live on their own piece of land in the American dreamscape. That is one of the major reasons for the debt crisis we are now in.

I find many people feel threatened when planners and urban designers talk about creating more vertical communities and fewer horizontal communities, as if the big bad government was going to come in with a bulldozer, level every suburban home and put up dozens of apartment building with a Starbucks on the ground floor. That obviously isn’t the case. 95% of American suburbs will look exactly the same in 50 years as they do now. It’s only a very small percentage of built-up areas that will ever evolve into urban neighbourhoods. The move to build more urban-type places is NOT a threat to suburbia – it is a re-balancing of urban forms so that people will have the choice of living in suburbia or and urban environment.
 
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#72
I would offer one challenge to follow up on the notion that large-lot developments are pretty much all people want - if we are so confident that the vast majority of Americans absolutely want a large-lot single-family development with large setbacks, let's lift zoning and HOA controls like minimum lot sizes and maximum densities because they are unnecessary. Why, after all, would developers build something people don't want? Just keep basic health and safety requirements - no rendering plants next to residential.

Then, if there is demand for apartment or condo living in these neighborhoods, what if we simply allowed it? If someone wants to open a shop or pub right in the middle of these neighborhoods because the market is there, and the developer feels they can stay in business with minimal parking, what if we allowed that too? If enough people want to bicycle to these destinations, lets stripe bicycle lanes or better yet install trails, just as we provide lanes for cars (hard to do after the fact, so we may want to plan for them). If it appears that developers are willing to build at transit-supportive densities, let's provide a transit network (again, hard to do after the fact so lets plan for this contingency too).

I know, its overly simplistic and just meant to illustrate the counterpoint ... but no more simplistic that what we have done for the past several decades, a system built not just on market demand, but on government planning, strict land controls, and subsidies. I think market studies are showing increasing demand for both small-lot housing (less than 5,000 sq. ft.) and apartments and condos, as we have a new generation coming into the market and as 73% of households don't have children at home. IMHO, our best bet seems to be to accommodate the range of housing while removing subsidies that are counter to sustainability (such as subsidies for larger mortgages and for auto transportation). If we make our cities more attractive, I think more people would choose this option (stop building highways along the waterfronts, for example), but I think the U.S. is far from any political situation where planning would be used to force people into urban areas.

I think as planners we also have a duty to plan - not simply regulate in response to forces like NIMBY. While many people in my growing metro area may have liked those roomy single-family neighborhoods, for example, did they also like the eventual 8 lanes of congested highway traffic at a standstill during rush hours? The appearance of their commercial corridors? The inability to walk to a destination such as shopping or schools? Street networks that are very difficult to retrofit for transit? The eating up of open space nearby for new neighborhoods while their governments didn't have the foresight to set aside and protect some lands? My guess is they didn't know this is what they were choosing. I think people are expressing preferences for a variety of housing types, including single-family, as well as neighborhoods where one can walk to destinations, and that accommodate the rail transit we voted for and preserve the open space voters have supported. This is where the profession of planning comes in, if we are to create livable cities as we face growth.
 

Linda_D

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#73
Uh - but they keep buying the slapped up McSuburb, no? And besides, what makes you think the McSuburb can't be walkable? Nothing's preventing you from getting out of your car and walking, no?

Sure, if you were to ask people if they like pretty images of walkable neighborhoods, most would say yes. Few people are going to argue against requirements that you put in sidewalks. But however you dress up the suburbia with new form requirements most people are still going to get into a car and *drive* somewhere. I grew up in a very walkable older neighborhood in Baltimore, laid out by none other than Olmstead's firm, with a core community business center, schools, libraries, shops, restaurants and other amenities within walking distances.

Guess what, most people still drove. Many of my classmates were driven all of .25 miles to school by their parents. Most of the residents work elsewhere, not just five miles away in downtown Baltimore but a hour away in Washington or elswhere in the suburbs. Most of the shopping is elsewhere. People drove.

The car is not going to disappear. The car offers people the most flexbile range of choices for our options and lifestyles as possible. You can design as many TOD developments as you want but even those will have to factor in the car. The TOD stations along DC are filled with commuters who hop off the metro and then get into a car and drive elsewhere. I do not forsee that the car will be come a rare luxury within our lifetime. Petrol prices are very high in Europe, much higher than in the US, but the Europeans have put up with it by driving much more fuel efficient cars and spending less on other budgetary items. Americans will do the same.
I think that you've hit on the fundamental problem with all the plans that individuals with urbanist agendas spin: they aren't couched in reality because the urbanists don't understand people. They assume that most people want what they want: walk to work, proximity to restaurants and bars, little or no outdoor maintenance.

The fact is that people who have enough economic resources to live outside of public housing or the cheapest private rentals, make their decisions on where to live based on a variety of factors that don't necessarily include proximity to their employment or "bars and restaurants". First and foremost among those decisions are perceptions of safety and local schools. Most people sacrifice "lifestyle" to live where they feel safe and/or the schools are considered at least "decent", especially when we're talking 3.5-15 mile commutes rather than 35 mile commutes.

IMO, rising gasoline prices are likely to revitalize first and second ring suburbs, especially those that have school districts with good reputations and that have used strict code enforcement to maintain the quality of their housing stock. There may also be some higher density residential redevelopment in these suburbs, possibly in remediated brownfields.
 
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#74
How can anybody be expected to wade through all this holier-than-thou melange? Makes no sense. It's all mental masturbation.


OK, give me the yellow card.
 
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#75
There is a large and rich literature on how people chose where they live. Though these vary by study, they tend to be: cost, proximity to employment, schools, race (many Whites don't want to live in neighborhoods with more than 15% or so African Americans), crime, and amenities such as parks, stores to walk to, etc. Strangely enough, large lot size or the presence of sidewalks don't appear on these lists.

These describe how people as a whole decide where to live, not any one individual.
 

ColoGI

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#76
I think that you've hit on the fundamental problem with all the plans that individuals with urbanist agendas spin: they aren't couched in reality because the urbanists don't understand people. They assume that most people want what they want: walk to work, proximity to restaurants and bars, little or no outdoor maintenance.
I agree, and I don't think this phenomenon is restricted to urbanists. It is very common across all SES groups. And docwatson has nailed it: remove Euclidean zoning and allow more choice, and see what happens. I'll wager you'll see much more argy-bargy then, with folk coming out of the woodwork defending their little reality via interesting power relations.
 
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#77
A while ago, I posted a link to ESRI's Tapestry system of population segmentation. And, the clear fact is that different people like different kinds of places: urban, rural, and everything in between. The problem is that the cars, oil, and freeways, along with Euclidean zoning, create endless and homogeneous suburban sprawl. For people who want that kind of place, the United States is full of it. But, for people who want anything different, they have to pay a premium for that way of life because the Linda_D's and PennPlanners of the world are here to ensure that the supply is artificially limited and that the oil companies stay fat and happy.

Setbacks are one more way to keep people auto-dependent. They, along with maximum lot coverage, parking ratios, F.A.R.(.... by God, the list goes on and on)... are all designed to force people into cars and to make them good little American slaves handing their cash over to their masters even in the face of gas prices upwards of $5 per gallon. So, when are planners and politicians going to realize that, over the last 50 years, these special interests, through think tanks and other apparatuses, have been methodically using the power of law to lock American citizens into a built environment that can't be changed very easily, quickly, or cheaply?
 
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#78
So, when are planners and politicians going to realize that, over the last 50 years, these special interests, through think tanks and other apparatuses, have been methodically using the power of law to lock American citizens into a built environment that can't be changed very easily, quickly, or cheaply?
You mention planners... let's be simplistic here, but...who pays planners? Cities.
Who runs cities? Politicians? Who elects politicians? Residents? What do most residents want? Single family Euclidean zoning districts which force us into our cars.

In theory planners should create great societies of the fossil fuel free but in reality we are told what to do by people without planning knowledge elected by people without planning knowledge.

I hate to say it but if YOU (the proverbial you) wants to change this you need to become a developer.
 

ColoGI

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#79
You mention planners... let's be simplistic here, but...who pays planners? Cities.
Who runs cities? Politicians? Who elects politicians? Residents? What do most residents want? Single family Euclidean zoning districts which force us into our cars.

In theory planners should create great societies of the fossil fuel free but in reality we are told what to do by people without planning knowledge elected by people without planning knowledge.

I hate to say it but if YOU (the proverbial you) wants to change this you need to become a developer.
stroskey, FTW.
 
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#80
What do most residents want? Single family Euclidean zoning districts which force us into our cars.
I think this is where one of the tenets of planning ethics that is often overlooked comes in - our duty to inform and meaningfully involve the public and decision makers, particularly informing them of the consequences of choices. I won't repeat my earlier comment, but choosing strict largish-lot Euclidian zoning and cul-de-sacs also means choosing more VMT, more congestion, less walking, and potentially more chronic illness (according to recent studies), while consuming more land over time. Scenario planning and other tools can address this. I think a recent survey showed that 58% of homebuyers want walkability to shopping and other destinations, although they may not understand how this works (i.e. 4 du/ac, arranged in an unconnected street network, does not support the neighborhood bakery they all want!).

I think there are also politicians at a higher and less parochial level who are recognizing this. Obviously one leader is Oregon, among others, where local Comp Plans must be approved by the state for conformance with the state Planning Act. The HUD-USDOT-EPA planning grants have provided funding for many regions to plan for sustainability. Virginia's legislature has outlawed the cul-de-sac. Etc. Even around here, we have health districts and other governments and foundations interjecting public health and walkability concepts into planning.

Although intriguing, I am not sure simply becoming a developer will further the cause, because a developer could potentially go bankrupt fighting against low-density, single use zoning and NIMBY's. Perhaps starting a YIMBY movement or working in another capacity to reform planning would be more effective?
 
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