In a recent post, I suggested caution that the engineering and design ideals of the "new suburbanism" model of suburban growth would present a temptation to London planners to regulate the fashion into existence not only because of its appeal to the professional planner's predisposition for templates but also because their pretensions to authority over people's living choices would be flattered by sympathy from urban elites and activists. In response, James Bow, who himself was educated as a planner, wrote in a comment that the existing sprawl of suburban development is as much or more the product of planning regulation as any remedies that would be imposed by planners in the form of "new suburbanism." Indeed, the worst aspects of post-war suburban development — the homogeneity and indifference to location — have been entrenched by regulation. However, new models of suburban growth that advocate higher density are themselves tendered to regulatory interests and are designed as commercially acceptable surrogates for the demands of far more interventionist agendas. Where Bow and I would depart is that where he suggests that sprawl is driven more by regulation than consumer demand, I would maintain that sprawl itself is driven as much or more by demand for low density suburban housing and that only the worst aspects of sprawl are driven by regulation. Typically, however, the worst aspects are made to be representative of the whole and the causes entirely misattributed by those vocal interests whose own advantages compel them to condemn sprawl — "urban elites on aesthetic grounds [and] activists of progressive or socialist stripes who find little common ground with or support from residents of self-owned property." Their dominance of media, academic and local political venues has imbued their agenda with the pretended authority of common wisdom — "it's so, so I know that it's so" — and invested their anti-sprawl policies with enough general sympathy to countenance even tighter restrictions on the free market and property rights.
Read the rest here — also recommended is The Costs of Sprawl Reconsidered: What the Data Really Show which debunks some of the economic planning rationales for limiting low density suburban growth.
One of the great myths spread by opponents of suburban development is that the land-use patterns we have today are the result of free-market forces, greedy developers, and unregulated property rights. Contrary to urban legend, gaudy strip malls and tacky subdivisions are more often a consequence of over half a century of zoning and land-use planning conducted under the guidance of professional planners in cooperation with elected officials. What repel us today are not the unintended consequences of free enterprise, but planning concepts from the 1960s that have dropped out of fashion.
This too, from a review of Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History in the Weekly Standard, Vincent J. Cannato writes:
HT Liberty Corner whose comment on urban sprawl is appropriately snarky.
Critics charge sprawl with all manner of sin: causing global warming, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources, aiding the nation's so-called obesity crisis, increasing economic and racial inequality, destroying the family farm, and despoiling open spaces, killing off American cities, encouraging "big-box" retailers like Wal-Mart who underpay their workers and kill "mom-and-pop" businesses, and creating conformist communities whose residents neglect the public interest for their own personal "privatopia." On top of that, they argue, suburban sprawl is just plain ugly.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Posted by MapMaster on Sunday, March 26, 2006