Sunday, October 12, 2008

Suburbs are the Future

A new law passed by a Sacramento legislator, reported by the Sacramento Bee, hopes to reduce the historic move to the suburbs that has been characteristic of America since the beginning, and, as so many things done by the legislature, it is going counter to the preferences of most people, who love the suburbs and continue to want to live there or already do.

SB 375 will build more dense housing for those folks who want to live in mid or downtowns and that is a good thing; but it will have a negative impact on the development of suburbs—where an overwhelming majority of families want to live—and that is a bad thing.

This recent article notes the facts about the love affair Americans have with the suburbs.

An excerpt.

“I entered the field of futures research in 1981. No, not futures – contracts to deliver a certain commodity at a certain price at a date certain (God, I wish I had) – futures research, as in scenarios, trends, strategic planning and market planning. Unfortunately the place was soon lousy with what I call “futurism”: extrapolations of the unsustainable to make the improbable look inevitable.

“A current example: suburbs are doomed because of high energy prices (peak oil!), the housing bubble, the obsolescence of the internal combustion engine, and yes, global warming (and what hasn’t been blamed on global warming?). Besides, the urban renaissance is underway; people want to live in the city for the culture, food, music and hipness, don’tchaknow. This is what I read in the Freakonomics quorum on the future of suburbia (New York Times, 8/12/08), and in The Atlantic magazine (“The Next Slum,” Christopher Leinberger, March 2008), The International Herald Tribune (“Life on the fringes of U.S. suburbia becomes untenable with rising gas costs,” 6/24/08), and elsewhere, ad infinitum.

“Well, I could be clever and say that predictions of the demise of suburbs are premature, be in fact they are just plain apocalyptic and absurd. Suburbs are the nexus of American life, have been for decades, and will certainly remain so (because, like, where else are we going to put the next 100 million Americans). Suburbs are where the majority of Americans today, and in the future, live, work, shop, create, consume, recreate, educate and, perhaps most importantly, procreate.

“Suburbs remain home to a majority of Americans and a plurality of American families. Suburban population, business and job growth each outpace those of cities, have done so for decades and will likely continue to do so. In fact, from 2001 to 2006:

• 90% of all metropolitan population growth occurred in the suburbs (American County Survey, US Census Bureau)
• Job growth in suburbia expanded at 6 times the rate of that in urban cores (Praxis Strategy Group)”