Thursday, May 14, 2009

Suburban Heavens & Urban Planners

As one who believes that suburban living, especially in California, is really the cat’s meow, I am always interested in articles that take a critically reasonable look at the wave of urban planning that decries suburban living and seems to want us all to live in crammed together houses without cars or yards.

This article from New Geography is one such article.

An excerpt.

“Smart Growth and New Urbanism have increasingly merged into a loosely aligned set of ideas. The benefits of this high-density housing viewpoint are fast becoming a ‘given’ to planners and city governments, but studies that promote the advantages often omit the obvious disadvantages. Here are some downsides that show a much different story:

“Smart Growth or Dumb Idea?

“One goal of Smart Growth is to move our society away from dependence on cars, and many Smart Growth plans intentionally make it difficult to drive through the neighborhood, making walking more inviting. Smart Growth planners advocate short blocks in a grid pattern to distribute traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) evenly within a development. These short blocks produce a multitude of 4-way intersections, and add a multitude of those trendy “turnabouts,” to make a bland site plan look more interesting.

“But all of this together destroys “flow”. On the other hand, in a grid planned neighborhood you might drive a straight line with an occasional turn, giving the impression of a much shorter drive than a curved subdivision. But with short blocks, a driver must stop completely, pause, then when safe accelerate through the intersection onto the next intersection, then repeat… multiple times. This scenario uses a tremendous amount of energy; the car eats gas. …

“Nobody can argue against the character of a tree-lined street… no one, that is, except the city Public Works department that must maintain structures being destroyed by trees growing in close confines to concrete walks and curbs. Smart Growth/New Urbanist compact front yard spaces are typically 10 feet or less. This simply cannot provide for enough room for tree growth when there is a 4’ wide walk typically a few feet away from the curb, the area where street trees grow. Without trees to define the street, these solutions have very little organic life to offset the vast volume of paving in front of each porch”