Thursday, July 29, 2010

Suburban Living

Though an editorial in the Sacramento Bee has some harsh words for developers as the ones driving planning decisions to build more suburbs, the actual drivers are the public, who—by a wide margin—want to live in suburbs (the realization of the American Dream), and the developers in our area are folks creating those communities.

This is clearly demonstrated by the facts on the ground forming the basis for many books—here are three 1) Sprawl: A Compact History, 2) Don’t Call it Sprawl: Metropolitan Structure in the Twenty-First Century, 3) War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life—and studies, most of which are reviewed at the website, New Geography.

1) An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“It's increasingly, distressingly clear who's driving the bus on far-reaching decisions that could transform a huge swath of Sacramento County – and not for the better.

“Developers and landowners would be the clear winners from a proposal to open up nearly 20,000 acres for growth, and they have the ear of county supervisors.

“Decision-makers ought to listen instead to taxpayers and residents. Taxpayers are rightly concerned that they'll pay for providing services to new far-flung subdivisions, and residents are worried about more sprawl and air pollution.

“The proposed 2030 general plan update, which supervisors will continue discussing today, calls for allowing development along Grant Line Road near Rancho Cordova and along Jackson Highway in the south.

“If approved, the expanded urban growth boundaries would be a windfall to major landowners – Teichert Land Co.; Angelo G. Tsakopoulos, nephew of master land speculator Angelo K. Tsakopoulos; and Conwy LLC. Combined they control about 40 percent of the two areas.

“At the same time, plans are chugging ahead to build a new four-lane expressway connecting the two proposed growth areas. The proposed $800 million Capital Southeast Connector would run 35 miles from Interstate 5 south of Elk Grove to Highway 50 in El Dorado County. A bypass around downtown Sacramento, it's designed to lessen traffic congestion, but it would also invite sprawl.

“Transportation and planning experts say that the county already has more than enough room to grow – particularly with the recession and housing crash – and that opening up that much more land would significantly increase the oversupply of housing. But so far, supervisors have directed that all 20,000 acres stay under consideration.”

2) Here is a wonderful quote from a book—Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir—about growing up and living in the largest suburb in the world, Lakewood, California, from the Wall Street Journal.

The quote:

“I once thought my suburban life was an extended lesson in how to get along with other people. Now I think the lesson isn't neighborliness; it's humility. When I stand at the end of my block, I see a pattern of sidewalk, driveway, and lawn that aspires to be no more than harmless. That's important, because we live in a time of great harm to the ordinary parts of our lives, and I wish that I had acquired more of the resistance my neighborhood offers. . . . Loyalty is the last habit that more sophisticated consumers would impute to those of us who live here; we're supposed to be so dissatisfied in the suburbs. But I'm not unusual in living here for all the years I have. Perhaps like me, my neighbors have found a place that permits restless people to be still. The primal mythmakers of California are its real estate agents, and one of them told me once that this suburb still attracts aspirant homebuyers because "it's in the heart of the metroplex." Maybe it's just in the heart.”