Sprawl For All

|

New at Reason: Jesse Walker tracks the dumb history of smart growth.

NEXT: The Lesser Evil

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. An anti-tax crusader arguing in favor of duplication of government services, the inefficient laying out of public infrastructure, and a beggar-thy-neighbor model of tax base competition. All because he’s offended by the word Planning. Simply amazing.

  2. joe,

    It was “progressive” planning that CREATED sprawl in the first place.

    The government subsidizes urban freeway systems, and thus encourages migration to the suburbs. Government promotes uniform pricing of utilities, and thus in effect imposes a surtax on in-lying neighborhoods to subsidize the extension of utilities to new housing developments in the suburbs. FHA redlining favors suburban homeowners at the expense of those who’d like to fix up houses in older residential neighborhoods.

    But most of all, the “progressive” panacea of zoning was originally used to prohibit mixed use development and instead to mandate a white bread vision of split-level ranch utopia. Know why you can’t have a corner store in your neighborhood? Zoning. Why can’t low income people live in walk-ups over downtown stores? Zoning. Why are suburban houses set back a mandatory distance from the street, with golf course-sized front yards? The urban design plattes.

    Maybe there’s a good reason to recoil instinctively at the term “planning.” It makes a lot more sense than to turn to the state to fix a problem created by the state in the first place, instead of just forcing the state to stop causing the problem.

  3. Oh c’mon Kevin, they’ll get it right — NEXT time!

  4. Kevin Carson – reminds me of a quote:

    “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it.”

    -Albert Einstein

  5. Apparently, Einstein should have stuck to physics.

  6. Kevin Carson,

    Lack of planning creates places like medieval London and Paris. There is a good reason why planning came into being – the alternative wasn’t very pleasant. Now, maybe compartmentalization and the like went too far – nevertheless planning did rationalize how streets were laid out, and created a lot of needed uniformity.

  7. Joe says I’m “arguing in favor of duplication of government services, the inefficient laying out of public infrastructure, and a beggar-thy-neighbor model of tax base competition.” Needless to say, there’s a lot of buried assumptions there. They don’t necessarily stand up to scrutiny.

  8. Here in South Florida, the sprawl came about a bit differently than the way Kevin describes it. Government zoning didn’t create the sprawl layouts and the idiocy of neighborhoods without corner stores and with regulated setbacks. These things came from real estate developers.

    Just 50 years ago, today’s suburbs of Fort Lauderdale were a mix of undeveloped swamp and forest, some large citrus groves and pineapple plantations, and some horse farms. Today it’s a disconnected, car-dependent endless suburb without any downtowns or main streets and all sorts of regulations proscribing what color you can paint your house, what materials you can pave your driveway with, and what you can and can’t park in the street. All covered in municipal codes and zoning books and enforced by the towns.

    All true. Except the codes were written almost to the last by the large developnment companies.

    About a year and a half ago, the first resident of Coral Springs, Florida (founded 1963; pop. 120,000) died. His obituary in the Sun-Sentinel was a great read. The first two paragraphs start off painting him as a pioneer who roughed it in the uninhabited wilds of the late-1950s edge of the Everglades, a place of dirt roads and pineapples and fan boats. Then around the third paragraph comes the punch line: this pioneer was the right-hand man of a major developer who had bought up a huge swath of this land. The company cleared a couple of acres and built six houses on it. Six employees and their families moved into the houses and voted to incorporate the City of Coral Springs, with a charter and master plan written by the developer that ceded control over zoning and code issues to the developer until such time that all construction was complete and the developer packed up and left.

    I daresay many of today’s second-wave suburbs, the ones built where there was no incorporated town before, have similar stories. And for every Litchfield, Connecticut with its code that says you can piant your house any color as long as it’s white in keeping with a quant bed-and-breakfast-lobby driven 19th-century vision of the town, there are ten or more post-1960 suburbs where you can paint your house any color as long as it’s one particular beige because that’s what the master builder decreed before there was a town to incorporate.

    In other words, the master plans and signage rules and minimum setbacks and paint colors were drawn up by the private sector, and the original takers for the new houses and condos and storefronts were voluntarily buying into these communities because they liked those regulations. Once the roads devolve to being city streets and the comprehensive code is in the hands of some kind of local elected government, it’s mighty hard to undo those regulations since they’re seen as what keeps property values high relative to less-restrictive neighboring towns that have smaller, cheaper houses and more poor people.

  9. Yes, Kevin, I think I stumbled across those ideas while studying for my graduate degree in planning. What I object to is the assumption that smart growth is inherently more oppressive than the dumb growth favored by Mr. Bailey. What isn’t mentioned in any of his writings on the subject is that smart growth principles recommend eliminating at least as many regulations as they would add. This article, and those that precede it, are not attacks on government regulation; they are attacks on proposals to change, even eliminate, those regulations. They are attacks on a set of values, and as policy recommendations, amount to an attempt to freeze the status quo.

    For example, Mr. Walker reacts in horror at the suggestion that “it’s better to redevelop existing settlements than to launch new developments.” The primary mechanisms for achieving this goal in contemporary planning involve reducing taxation, reducing regulation, and finding ways around the government mandates that make “brownfields” unattractive to developers. You gotta problem wit dat?

    The central component of the Progressive planning model you decry, and of the sprawl I oppose, is large lot, single family residential zoning. It is this regulatory regime, one designed to limit the ability of property owners and developers to meet the public’s demand for housing and drive up prices in order to keep out lower income people, that has done the most to distort the housing market and drive sprawl. Smart growthers like myself urge the government to get off property owners backs, and allow them to built multifamily housing (rental and condo) in areas currently under this snob zoning. I defy you to find such a recommendation on this “libertarian” web site, or even an acknowledgement that such a problem exists. I think this is a little more important that telling store owners to put their parking in the rear, instead of the front.

    Again, this is not one sprawl-related issue; it is THE central issue, and all I hear around these parts are crickets chirping. By the way, the similarity between the landscapes this regime produces, and Howard Rourke’s antisocial vacation community in “The Fountainhead,” are noted. As is Arthur Levitt’s statement that providing working class people with single family homes on large lots prevents them from meeting on the sidewalk or the common areas of apartment buildings and talking politics.

    Mr. Walker gets it exactly wrong; smart growth is not a continuation of Progressive Era social engineering, but a rejection of it, and a desire to return, in updated form, to the less forced, more organic urban patterns of pre-zoning cities. Mr. Walker’s latest column, like those before it, does not delve into the methods of achieving this goal, and their cost to individual liberty. He simply assumes that a planning pattern that seeks to preserve rural and natural landscapes is inferior to one that encourages paving them over; that a system that gives people the opportunity to walk or take transit is inferior to one that forces them into cars; and that a city in which time is regularly spent in public spaces is inferior to one in which we drive out of our garages to the parking lots of office parks, chain restaurants, and big box stores.

    And Kevin? Your deliberate conflation of Progressive Era theory with the word progressive, as used in contemporary discourse, is an attempt to steal bases. The two are not remotely similar in theory or practice, and attempting to undermine progressive politics by pointing out failures of Progressivism does not help in a search for truth.

  10. American cities transform themselves all the time, with some form of government involvement in planning or without it. Government involvement if it does not take place in the planning stages is inevitable anyway — in growing communities schools have to go somewhere, roads have to be widened, bodies of water in the area have to be kept clear of massive amounts of effluent.

    A growing economy and population mean growing cities, period. It is no argument against planning to argue that it has often been done wrong in the past; communities that grew rapidly with much less government planning have their problems too. Anyone who disagrees with me is welcome to spend a few hours creeping through metro Atlanta traffic with me someday and discuss the matter.

  11. Joe has just attributed a host of views to “Mr. Walker,” at least 90% of which I don’t hold and approximately 0% of which appeared in the article he’s discussing. I’ve written about these issues many times before, and yes, I’ve criticized the pre-“smart growth” varieties of planning as well. Sometimes I’ve even criticized both at once. I have nothing against living in urban neighborhoods or walking a lot; I do both myself.

    To reply to the one point that actually involved something I wrote in the piece: Yes, I do support reducing taxes, reducing regulations, and allowing the redevelopment of brownfields. You didn’t mention easing back on subsidies to outlying development, but yep, I’m all for that too.

    I’m rather less impressed with urban growth boundaries, with zoning aimed at “saving” farmland that farmers would rather sell, and with regional governments that undermine our rights of both “voice” and “exit.” Not to mention the ridiculous hubris involved in creating a 20-year plan.

  12. joe,

    For what it’s worth, I would like to make clear that I have NOT only gotten my info on “smart growth” via its opponents. “Smart growth” was associated with a ballot initiative here in Colorado a few years ago that would have required localities to come up with growth control plans, similar to what Jesse described having taken place in Wisconsin. So I heard plenty of stuff on both sides of the issue then quite apart from Mr. Walker or Reason Magazine, including from my mostly lefty friends who were almost uniformly in favor of the measure. I don’t remember relaxing of zoning being discussed then, but if some or even all smart growthers are for it, well, more power to ’em.

    As far as who picked a fight with whom, it’s not really my place to play referee so I won’t, but I sure do wonder why you express yourself the way you do sometimes….

  13. Joe: Rather than reply to your comments about “political liberty” and “not all,” I’ll just suggest you read my statements again, this time while trying to understand what I meant. I’ll give you a couple of hints. “Political liberty” has something to do with self-government, a topic I’ve raised in connection with rights of voice and exit. And the “not all” bit had to do, not with defending particular suburban regimes, but with pointing out that you were painting with an enormous brush.

    Neotraditionalism and smart growth are different beasts, though there’s obviously some overlap. As far as I can tell, most of the neotraditionalists who have actually tried to put their ideas into law have not reduced regulations; they’ve simply revised the rules to fit their aesthetic preferences, which often means making them even stricter than before. The only neotrad-influenced government I know of that has probably done more to reduce regs than to increase them was John Norquist’s Milwaukee. If there are others, I’d love to learn about them.

  14. “They don’t want to live jammed up next to each other in some urban neighborhood.”

    I would agree with this if you added the phrase “like rats” to the end of your sentence.

    joe,

    Do you actually believe that people live in suburbs mainly because zoning laws have made it cheaper and easier than living in the city?

  15. Wow, Baltimore, huh Jesse? It’s too bad you didn’t attend the Congress for New Urbanism’s conference there last month. (New Urbanism being yet another term, like smart growth, transit-oriented development, and neotraditional neighborhood design, for undoing the Progressive Era regulatory/subsidy system that created sprawl). At that meeting, Andres Duarny, the “Father of New Urbanism” delved into his desire to form a political alliance with libertarians based on their mutual desire to undo Progressive Era planning and zoning regulations, and allow the types of communities to be built that humanity lived in for the 6000 years that preceded the codes drawn up by Herbert Hoover’s Commerce Department (which formed the basis of American zoning). My colleagues tell me that the room was split 50/50, with the huge number of for-profit developers that have swelled CNU’s ranks in the past few years (drawn by the massive profits that have been made by walkable, mixed use anti-sprawl developments) siding with Duarny. It seems that, once again, the people who actually put thier money and effort on the line are way ahead of their ideological cheerleaders.

    Those opposed to Andres’ ideas made two major arguments. First, libertarians are self-marginalizing loonies who turn on their closest allies for the slightest deviation in policy or rhetoric, and who would never associate themselves with smart growth for fear of admitting that liberals and environmentalists are right about land consumption, fuel consumption, and the value of public space. Thanks for putting that myth to rest, Jesse. The second argument is that libertarians, with their distaste for government spending that changes how the market operates, would rather continue to pour money into highway projects than fund transit, no matter how much of the cost can be recovered by providing a building mix and density that allows the system to be self sufficient.

  16. “planning … created a lot of needed uniformity.”

    Yessiree, boy! And how!

    And that’s the whole motivation behind bureacratic planning, Jean Bart!

    The impetus behind any gubmint plan is to make everyone and everything uniform. The more they can make us conform, the better they can exercise CONTROL over us, regardless of whether such control is justified or not.

    (Ask the grinning planners in China.)

  17. “People live spread out in the suburbs because that’s how they WANT to live. They don’t want to live jammed up next to each other in some urban neighborhood.”

    “Do you actually believe that people live in suburbs mainly because zoning laws have made it cheaper and easier than living in the city?”

    Research on this subject confirms what common sense suggests, that people who choose sprawling suburbs over urban neighborhoods do so for three main reasons: School quality (far and away the biggest reason), lower crime, and neighborhood quality/stability (meaning, being sufficiently capitalized to avoid blight, building deterioration, and poor services). None of these three attributes is naturally or necessarily more prevalent in suburbs than cities. It has broken down this way because government subsidies and regulations have kept the suburbs artificially wealthy, while preventing poorer people from moving out of the cities, and because the externalities of the sprawl model have been dumped on central cities, lowering their quality and affordability.

    “An urban environment is no more a “natural” order of things than a suburban one.” Then why did humanity live in urban settlement patterns (except for truly rural areas, which the suburbs are not) for its entire existence, until the Interstate Highway Act, subsidized home mortgages (but not subsidized rents), redlining, and urban renewal policies of the 1950s? In the period between WWI and the Great Depression, mass production and ownership of cars was already established, yet the “natural” growth that occured during that period remained true to the traditional urban forms that came before. If you get a chance, look at a neighborhood built in the 1920s. Like rats? I don’t think so.

  18. Joe – WAKE UP! We don’t want to live in your damn cities. The vast majority of people LOVE the suburbs – that’s why we choose to live there. It is really that simple. The surburb is the perfect mode of development – you get all the benefits of city and country, with none of the problems.

    If you think people will ever want to be crammed into your urban boxes and ride buses and trains like a bunch of filthy Europeans, you are nuts. Give people the freedom to choose, and they will pick the suburbs every time.

  19. Duany’s an odd character. I agree with him about many things, disagree with him about many other things. I could see an alliance with him on several issues.

    But of course, “New Urbanism” and “smart growth” are not the same thing. One is a design philosophy. The other is a political movement — or, more exactly, a political buzzword. Not everyone who praises “smart growth” is also a New Urbanist, and not every New Urbanist supports the political proposals commonly associated with “smart growth.” I’m not a New Urbanist myself, but I do recognize that many New Urbanists and I share common ground.

    My last comment: Before assuming that libertarians don’t want to cooperate with you because they’re afraid of admitting liberals might be right about something — one of the stupidest strawman arguments I’ve heard lately — you might consider the notion that they really are willing to cooperate on issues such as zoning, road boondoggles, and subsidies to sprawl. They’re just not very keen on 20-year plans, getting another flavor of restrictive zoning, rail boondoggles, and regional government.

  20. Oh, actually I do have one other comment. Sprawl was produced by a mix of public policy and individual choice. Lots of people do prefer the suburbs, which is not the same as saying that everyone does. Sprawl-style development has taken place in parts of Canada and Europe too, despite some very different policy choices.

  21. The market is driving home prices in older cities and neo-trad developments up at a much faster rate than sprawling nowheres like Phoenix. Quality urban neighborhoods are in extremely high demand, and the homebuilding industry (traditionally one of the most conservative segments of the population) is responding by abandoning the old model, and adopting the new (er, the even older).

    “you get all the benefits of city and country, with none of the problems.” You can’t walk to the store, but the roads are jammed at rush hour. You can’t go anywhere without seeing houses, yet the commute is 40 minutes each way. People without a car can’t get to work, yet nobody owns enough land for viable agriculture. Yeah, best of both worlds. Mid to late 20th century suburbs are pale imitations of the rural frontier.

    Keep in mind, none of the above applies to “streetcar suburbs” of 1890-1929, which were built on the model of urban neighborhoods and are the most in-demand communities in the country. Care to venture a guess why they were called “streetcar suburbs?”

  22. Common sense seems to suggest that most people don’t like crowding. If you want to reduce zoning laws and build mixed use builings and better neighborhoods in cities, more power to you. I’m sure that city dwellers will prefer them. Most people will still prefer a little land of their own.

    The divide between people who like to eke out a meager soul destroying existence in cities and those who prefer a less claustraphobic life of happiness and plenitude is as old as civilization.
    Didn’t your mother ever read “City Mouse, Country Mouse” to you?

    As for who is subsidizing whom, I’m fairly certain that the average tax burden of the wealthy suburbanite is considerably higher than the average tax burden of the poor shmucks who are stacked like cordwood in the living hell of the average metro area, even if it is harder for leftists to make the most efficient possible use of the money they have confiscated from the suburbanites.

  23. Why the hell would you list “you can’t walk to the store” as a negative? That’s the benefit of living in the suburbs – you don’t have any damn stores in you neighborhood. You have houses, and families, and dogs running around – not traffic and noise and delivery trucks and filth.

    In the suburbs you get quiet, clean air, dark nights, wildlife (I have had cougar, bobcat, deer, raccoon, geese, and eagles in my yard), tons of open space, no crime, no crowding, and your kids can run around unsupervised, while at the same time you can get to a quality bookstore, supermarket, Costco, and high paying job all within a 30 minute drive. What, exactly, is the downside again?

    Oh, yeah, I lived in one of those supposedly in-demand 1920s neighborhoods a couple years ago – Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. I sold my house there for $450,000 and that house is now worth about $350,000. Meanwhile, the $590,000 house I bought on one acre out in the car-dependent suburbs has appreciated to $685,000. Nothing appreciates faster than a single family home on a big piece of land, especially in a close-in suburb.

  24. “Common sense seems to suggest that most people don’t like crowding.”

    Crowding is a fascinating concept, one that touches on but is not the same as density. What counts as crowded varies from person to person, but a common point of reference is the idea of control. A person in a living jammed packed with their 20 closest friends is less likely to feel crowded than if they were in the same room with 12 strangers.

  25. JDM, fairy tales are written by people seeking to advance their ideology, from the Puritan Mother Goose to “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse.” You’ve done a very good job internalizing Victorian morality.

  26. Joe – fairy tales wouldn’t become popular unless the populous agreed with their themes. You’ve done a very good job of allowing cognitive dissonance to obscure your thinking.

  27. PLC & JDM: Now hold on thar!! I live in Denver, and I like it just fine! Who you calling a rat, finks? Plus, while Joe may overstate his case, there’s no contradiction between saying that government interference CONTRIBUTED to urban sprawl and saying that people like suburbs. Hey, different folks like different strokes, what’s to understand? And Joe, now I see where your preconception came from, which is probably why you reacted the way you did. But lemme say this: if there’s a movement here to remove your “snob zoning,” I’ll most likely back it!

  28. “You’ve done a very good job internalizing Victorian morality.”

    At least you are tacitly acknowledging that not all people want to live in the city. I was foolish not to realize that the crux of the issue is that the desire is illegitmate, and should not exist, rather than that it does not exist. Thank God for deconstruction.

    And yes, people don’t mind living with their families, some enjoy it. But an imposition is an imposition, whether it is made by a mechanical horn, or your upstairs neighbor’s kid.

  29. “Smart Growth” and “Individual Liberty” have both been adopted as political buzzwords. That doesn’t mean there aren’t coherent principles behind them.

    Rail projects are only boondoggles when there isn’t the density of jobs and homes around the stations to make them worthwhile – in other words, when the design principles are sprawl, rather than urban design. Was Boston’s T a boondoggle? How about metro-NYC’s commuter rail lines? I’m no more in favor of bad rail designs than anyone else. But to dismiss all rail reflexively, without looking at the details, has more to do with ideological opposition to a conveyance that’s publically owned than to sound reasoning.

    A rail system was recently built from Philadelphia and Camden out into the middle of nowhere in New Jersey. Boondoggle? Hint: over the next 20 years, do you expect the population of New Jersey to remain the same? How will those extra people get to work? Where will they work? What do you think will happen around the stations along the line? Please keep in mind, the term is Smart GROWTH.

    When we think about what’s going to happen over the next 20 years, is it better to let developers continually jack up the demand for travel lanes on the highway (if you think the homebuilders are going to chip in for their widening, please hit yourself in the forehead with a hammer) and develop the open space that PLC likes so much, or would it make more sense for homes to cluster around rail stations? If my tax dollars are going to pay for other people’s transportation (which they are), I’d rather have them do so in a manner that protects the air and open space I value, and increases the desirability of central cities for residential and commercial development, than to support a pattern which increases pollution and habitat destruction, while continuing to suck the vitality out of cities.

  30. “And Joe, now I see where your preconception came from, which is probably why you reacted the way you did.”

    Why? To judge from their comments here and on other threads, JDM and PLC are conservatives, not libertarians, and would never claim otherwise.

  31. Joe,

    I didn’t make myself clear. I was talking about what you heard about from that conference. People there said libertarians won’t cooperate cause they’re just not that kind. Then you automatically cast Walker in that light without first making any attempt to find common ground. Coincidence? I don’t think so! 🙂

  32. fyodor,

    I used to live in the city as well, but I wouldn’t want to raise a kid there.

    In a perfect world, free from coercion, where the free market handles everything, (or even one where user fees are perfectly executed) do you think more or less people would live in cities than do now? If you think more, do you think the left would be happy to stop once that balance was achieved?

    The idea that the left is trying to herd everyone into cities because that’s what the individual would choose for themselves, and older policy has caused an imbalance and not because it fits with the left’s continued struggle to control mankind is absurd on its face.

  33. There are many good reasons not to want to live in an urban area. But nighmares of filthy Europeans, being stacked like cordwood, and having your soul sucked out by walking on a sidewalk are not included among them.

  34. Gilbert Martin:

    The total tax the average suburban homeowner pays is beside the point.

    The reason for running services on a cost basis is that the cost of each particular form of consumption is reflected in the price paid for it. Unless cost and price are specifically tied together, the market feedback mechanism can’t work. When they are directly associated in this way, the consumer can make a rational decision as to whether the real cost of what he consumes is worth it to him, and adjust his consumption accordingly.

    JDM,

    The reason there aren’t any stores in your suburb is that they are prohibited by zoning. So that’s pretty far from an ideal world without coercion.

  35. “The total tax the average suburban homeowner pays is beside the point.”

    Not in my book it isn’t. If someone is complaining about “subsidizing” some activity or situation and that some govt policy should be adopted to rectify that, then I say not unless you’re going to deal with every single other subisdy activity that’s going on as well. I’m paying a lot of property taxes to subsidize other peoples kid’s education. An activity that provides me with no benefit whatsoever.

  36. “”An urban environment is no more a “natural” order of things than a suburban one.” Then why did humanity live in urban settlement patterns (except for truly rural areas, which the suburbs are not) for its entire existence, until the Interstate Highway Act, subsidized home mortgages (but not subsidized rents), redlining, and urban renewal policies of the 1950s?”

    Humanity hasn’t come close to living in “urban” settlement patterns for it’s entire existence. In fact for most if it’s existence to date humans lived in nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers. Humans living patterns change over time based on technological capabilities and desires. The industrial revolution catapulted growth of cities – not because people had a burning desire to live in close proximity to each other but because that was where the factories and jobs were and the level of technology available and nature of the work being done required close physical proximity. Subseqent advances in techology allows those of us who want to live more spread out to do so and we therefore have done so. It’s as simple as that.

  37. “But nighmares of filthy Europeans, being stacked like cordwood, and having your soul sucked out by walking on a sidewalk are not included among them.”

    Funny you should mention it.

    Yesterday as I walked to lunch, there was a PETA-like group, or maybe even PETA itself, handing out flyers on one of the main plazas in downtown Seattle. Behind them were three 8’x6′ posters. One was of a bunch of dead European Jews, victims of the holocaust, stacked like cordwood. The second was of a bunch of dead pigs, also stacked like cordwood, and the third was a full frontal image of a naked holocaust victim, and words to the effect that we don’t have an excuse to not be aware of the “Second Holocaust,” and “What will we say to our grandchildren?”

    Personally, if I were older, and I’d had a grandchild with me who had to see that, I would say that I was sorry that people of such idiocy were allowed to put on such a visually and morrally obscene display, and that I remembered a time when the country was still free enough for people who were not millionaires to live in a decent home and a decent community.

  38. Kevin,

    My point is just that there are a lot of people who don’t want to live in a city. I’m not trying to say that we already live in a perfect world, nor that the types of suburbs we have now would even exist in it. Just that some people will always prefer more open space. Density will always be a negative for some people, however planned.

  39. Also, there are lots of stores in my suburb.

  40. The fact that there are no stores anywhere near my home has nothing to do with zoning laws. Twenty years ago, Woodinville and east Redmond were nothing but trees and few isolated farms. Developers purchased huge tracks of land and built single family homes because that is what they could sell. To have built a store in my neighborhood would have been absurd. The value of the single family homes would have been destroyed and the store would have failed. Government regulation really had very little, if anything to do with the pattern of development in East King County. That is, until smart growth started artificially limiting the number of single family homes and pushing up prices.

  41. I can’t believe you Americans have duplicate services such as car manufacters and porn production companies. Wouldn’t it be more efficiant to just have one and have the state run it?

  42. Fair enough, Gill. How about “for the entire history of civilization?” Actually, looking again, my qualification about people in rural areas pretty much covers your objection.

  43. PLC, zoning aritificially limited the number of housing units by limiting developers’ choices to single family homes, and compelling them to build on large lots. If you want to complain about market distortions driving up prices, be honest.

  44. Actually, most contemporary planning is about resisting the uniforminty being imposed on the landscape by the private sector. “Look, a Dairy Queen, a Wal Mart, a Taco Bell, and a Jiffy Lube. Which state are we in?”

    Jesse, please link to your voluminous work denouncing snob zoning.

  45. “Yes, I do support reducing taxes, reducing regulations, and allowing the redevelopment of brownfields. You didn’t mention easing back on subsidies to outlying development, but yep, I’m all for that too.” Well, I’m glad a libertarian can be convinced to admit to these beliefs, though I’m a little baffled as to why it took such arm twisting. Actually, no I’m not.

    ‘I’m rather less impressed with urban growth boundaries, with zoning aimed at “saving” farmland that farmers would rather sell,’ What you didn’t mention was that these farmers are being offered the opportunity to sell the development rights to their properties to the government or conservation groups, allowing them to reap profits without being forced to abandon the way of life that the overwhelming majority want to continue, and that the overwhelming majority of the public want to see continued.

    “But wait,” says the libertoid, “you’re imposing a cost on the public.” Yes, but it is much less of a cost than if the land was built on, and the public forced to pick up the cost of maintaining the new infrastructure and services that go along with its development. Channeling this growth into the urban growth boundary means fewer miles of road, pipe, school bus route, etc etc per person, allowing massive savings through efficiency. If developers are going to make their profits and leave the public to pay for the upkeep, shouldn’t the public get some say in what they’re going to be paying for? By the way, Portland really should have expanded its UGB, or created a satellite UGB, last time it came up for a vote.

    “regional governments that undermine our rights of both “voice” and “exit.” I fail to see how expanding the jurisdiction of a democratically elected government makes the citizens now voting for that government any less represented. In fact, the residents of the former suburb now have a voice in the affairs of the central city, while the residents of the central city now have a voice in the affairs of the outlying areas. Since this isn’t the 18th century, and the periphery and core now function as parts of an integrated system, the borders which used to define what were legitimately separate communities are now arbitrary lines that lead to duplication of services. The people effected by the suburbs’ snob zoning include the inner city residents who are not able to improve their living arrangements. Why shouldn’t they have a say in that zoning?

  46. Leaving aside the silly comment about “arm twisting” — the article didn’t mention my views on the drug war either, but that’s not because you have to twist my arm to make me express them — you’ve just done a pretty good job of summing up the differences between us. I’d like to see the same political liberty enjoyed by the suburbs extended to urban neighborhoods. You’d prefer to yoke the suburbs to the same enormous, unresponsive government that misrules the city. The bigger the government, the less say any individual citizen has in what it does, partly because it takes more votes (and more money) to change public policy, and partly because it’s harder to vote with your feet by moving to a different jurisdiction.

    I hate to break it to you, Joe, but not every urban government is a well-honed planning machine stymied only by the recalcitrance of the districts that surround it, and not every district surrounding it is an upper-class suburb with monstrous zoning rules.

    The old planners loved regional government just as much as the new ones do. (Go look up what Jane Jacobs had to say on the subject, back before “smart growth” was a gleam in Parris Glendening’s eye.) There’s a considerable literature out there by people who don’t care for either flavor of intervention. If you’re genuinely interested, you might look, for example, at this interesting paper on how the city I live in might revitalize itself.

  47. joe,

    You seem to have a prediliction for picking fights with people with whom you ostensibly agree. Of course libertarians would be in favor of reducing zoning regulations and taxes. If it’s your contention that these ideas are part and parcel of “smart growth” (must admit it’s the first time I’ve heard those ideas associated), well then bully for smart growth, let’s all clink glasses and join forces to advance the issues on which we agree!

    Your complaint seems to be that libertarians are somehow prejudiced against anything to do with “smart growth” or “planning”, but maybe it’s you who’s building walls instead of bridges because you feel you MUST be opposed to the “libertoids.”

  48. Only a snob would want to forcibly zone away my local Jiffy Lube, Walmart, Dairy Queen, and Taco Bell. I like these places.

  49. ^I’m not talking about zoning them away, but about doing away with the zoning and infrastructure spending that makes them the only legal or rational choice.

  50. metro has been an exemplum of ‘smart growth‘ and it’s served portland well. i can understand reason’s slant against federal government and even state government, but when it comes to municipal government, and successful ones at that i’m left scratching my head at reason editors’ practical experience in covering the reality of business friendly local government.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/92nov/portland.htm
    http://www.wweek.com/html/25-hwy.html

    sustainable growth, urban renewal and city liveability aren’t just buzzwords that city gov’t toss around to bilk taxpayers. they’re something that citizens demand and cities have to be responsive to and which (sadly enough) aren’t the priority of business and like it or not aren’t fulfilled by the private sector.

    sure it’d be nice if it were, but it’s just not the case. and, in fact, private business oftentimes appreciates the effort of local gov’t in, yes, even regulating some aspects of commerce for the benefit of all. i know that might sound sacreligious to some here, but jesus, i daresay to those that it does don’t have the entrepreneurial experience in having to run a business, e.g. the reason editors. what’s more i doubt they’ve even played ‘sim city’. it’s harder than it looks.

  51. “I’d like to see the same political liberty enjoyed by the suburbs extended to urban neighborhoods.” By “liberty,” I assume you mean the strict regulation against multifamily housing, small lots, and mixed use buildings/zoning districts; the huge setback and parking requirements that impose an automobile-dominated urban form on the landscape; and the strict imposition of low density levels on the land property owners wish to develop. “not all…” you write. Nice dodge.

    It is also disingenuous of you to say that smart growth wants only to move decision making to larger governments, when it equally advocates moving authority down, to the neighborhood level, when appropriate. A region’s water supply, for example, is relevant to core, suburb, and exurb alike. Decisions made by one effect the others, yet you argue that each part should be able to make its decisions in a vacumn, regardless of its impact on its neighbors. Tragedies of the Commons can occur among governments, as well. But the strong links between smart growth and neo-traditionalist neighborhood design (two sides of the same coin, really, both dedicated to undoing the mistakes of Progressive Era top-down planning) make the devolution of decision making on the individual building level a central part of smart growth.

  52. No, I’m not done yet.

    fyodor, tell the babushka that this fight was not picked by me, but those authors who look at a movement built around pruning back the distorting effects of previous social-engineering-driven, top down planning, and feel the need to attack it based on the fact that some of its proponents are liberals and environmentalists. I did not write a screed attacking libertarian urban policies (many of which are now known as smart growth); Jesse has written a number attacking a movement with which he should be agreeing. (I’m assuming Jesse’s a guy.)

    If this is the first time you’ve heard that smart growthers want to reduce the government sprawl machine, then you should stop getting your information entirely from its opponents.

  53. anon 1201,

    You can stop scratching your head when you get down to neighborhood government.

    joe,

    “Yes, but it is much less of a cost than if the land was built on, and the public forced to pick up the cost of maintaining the new infrastructure and services that go along with its development.”

    The public shouldn’t be “forced” to pay it anyway. Developers and utility consumers should be forced to pay the full cost of extending services.

    “Channeling this growth into the urban growth boundary means fewer miles of road, pipe, school bus route, etc etc per person, allowing massive savings through efficiency.”

    Paying for these things on a cost basis with user-fees also means fewer miles of etc etc per person, since people use a lot less of what they have to pay for themselves.

    “I fail to see how expanding the jurisdiction of a democratically elected government makes the citizens now voting for that government any less represented.”

    The larger the unit of government, no matter how formally democratic it is, the less actual democracy exists. The only real democracy is one that allows face-to-face participation, direct control of decisions, and immediate recall. Once you introduce the “representative” principle, what you have is government by the people who actually run the day-to-day machinery and the fat cats who know them on a first-name basis. The only “democratic” part is getting to choose between the suits every year. I think this was at the heart of what Jesse said about the Progressive era “good government” reforms, because they were explicitly designed to be anti-democratic in just this way.

  54. Replacing taxes with user fees is not even close to the realm of political possibility within our lifetimes, regardless of the merits. I’m trying to improve the way the system works, not build a New Jerusalem.

    Though when they do build New Jerusalem, they need to focus on mixed used neighborhoods, sidewalks, and enough density to support a rail system with minimal subsidies. 😉

  55. “Developers and utility consumers should be forced to pay the full cost of extending services.”

    Yes, they should, and usually do, but that’s not the issue. I’m talking about the cost of maintaining them once the city or county takes them over.

  56. s.m. koppelman,

    I thought that WAS the way I said it came about.

    joe,

    I don’t have a problem at all with scaling back taxes and regulation and allowing mixed development. But to call ceasing to interfere with spontaneous activity “planning” is a stretch. It’s kind of like ordering your dog to do what he was gonna do anyway and then talking about how well-trained he is.

    I wasn’t intentionally conflating the “progressivism” of the totalitarians of a century ago with the nauseating term used today by NPR liberals, but I can see how you got that impression. My intended point was that all the evils produced by zoning over the last few decades reflected a earlier vision of how best to engineer society for everyone’s good, and that the law of unintended consequences came into play.

    But what Jesse said about big-P Progressive changes in local government was quite relevant. Another Progressive era innovation he didn’t mention was the intergovernmental authority. The guy who designed the Long Island highway system, and suburbanized it (I forget his name) made early use of this form of organization precisely because it was so insulated from democratic control.

  57. “WWI to Great Depression, when automobiles were already ubiquitous”

    Don’t you usually call that stealing bases?

  58. Open space and density IS contradictory. The open space that I want to see and that counts is lots of open space between my house and the other houses around me.

    Automobiles and the road network were nowhere near as “ubiquitious” before WW2 as they were afterward. The buildout of roads, the interstate system and more widesread car ownership allowed people to do something they already wanted to do – spread out. Those things didn’t create the demand in the first place – they just allowed it to be fulfilled.

    Zoning regulations developed to meet the desires of the property owners. They wanted to live spread out and anyone who moves into one of those developments knows what the regulations are before they get there.

    If there were as much of a demand for more jammed up living as you claim, it would already have been done. Zoning regulations follow the desires of the area’s constituents. They weren’t created in a vacum.

    You can try to spin it anyway you want but the fact is that the so-called “smart” growth schemes are still nothing more than liberals doing what they always do – trying to socially engineer everyone else into their preferred method of living. Instead of supporting the selective development of some of these type communities along with having the more spread out suburbs to continue being built as well and letting people decide which one they would rather live in, the legend-in-their-own minds elitists want to steer everyone into their “smart growth” schemes by not letting them have the choice of a “regular” suburban development.

  59. Automobile ownership was virtually universal among people moving into new suburban develompents in the 1920s, though not necessarily among people who remained in the older cities and small towns. And those people’s desires were met largely by building homes of lots of 4000-8000 square feet, with neighborhood parks, schools, and corner stores within a few blocks. Sure, yard size is one factor that people consider when choosing a home, to varying degrees. But so are convenience, walkability, neighborhood quality, and neighborliness.

    If large lot zoning was so universally demanded as you claim, then there would have been no need to pass zoning to prevent developers from building in the traditional manner. The types of suburbs you’re advocating for were created by social engineering, by Progressive governments and developers seeking to eliminate the “street life” that defined older cities and towns, and impose an atomized, car-dominated geographic and social order, which they viewed as morally superior and modern. If my advocacy for eliminating regulations is social engineering, so be it; at least the social engineering I’m alleged to support is my own, and not some dead guy’s whose biases and assumptions I’ve accepted without even being aware of them.

    “If there were as much of a demand for more jammed up living as you claim, it would already have been done.” It was done, and only came to an end with the imposition of government regulation. Where that regulation is being removed, it is being done again, to the delight of builders and the people lining up to buy into New Urbanist neighborhoods. Have you seen what builders are getting for the houses in neo-trad neighborhoods? The market is shouting in your ear, but you refuse to hear, so horrified are you to admit that liberals might be right about something.

    “Zoning regulations follow the desires of the area’s constituents.” Yes, it did – the desire to keep housing costs artificially high in order to achieve economic and racial uniformity. The desire to keep poorer people from moving to, or even being able to walk to, the new subidivisions. I though small government conservatives were supposed to be against using the government to impose someone’s vision of the good life on everyone else. “Don’t let any housing that poor people can afford” is a pretty shitty basis for building a community.

    I am confident that my vision will win out in a free market – in fact, it’s what won out when the market was free. Yours took generations of government regulation to become accepted as normal. Let me ask you, Mr. Conservative, Mr. Anti-Social-Engineering, Mr. Don’t-Socially-Engineer-Everyone-Else-Into-Your-Preferred-Method-of-Living: Should your neighbor be allowed to add a rental unit or three onto his house on his own property, or would you file a lawsuit to stop him?

  60. Actually, it’s not about city vs. suburb. Smart Growth accepts, and plans for, the growth of founding of new suburbs. It just does it better. Check out Peter Calthorpe’s “The Next American Metropolis.” Lots of open space (more than in a sprawling layout), and lots of density. Small town feel (which is what many suburbanites want, but don’t find), family neighborhoods, homeownership, less traffic, lots of green. Also, less restrictive zoning (at least within the developable area) that doesn’t forbid multifamilies or corner stores in residential neighborhoods. (PLC, no one wants to put a KMart on your cul-de-sac). And, the towns are surrounded by actual rural land, not just subdivisions with “country” architectural flourishes.

  61. “The types of suburbs you’re advocating for were created by social engineering, by Progressive governments and developers seeking to eliminate the “street life” that defined older cities and towns, and impose an atomized, car-dominated geographic and social order, which they viewed as morally superior and modern. If my advocacy for eliminating regulations is social engineering, so be it; at least the social engineering I’m alleged to support is my own, and not some dead guy’s whose biases and assumptions I’ve accepted without even being aware of them.”

    Bullshit.

    They weren’t created by the market demand of the people who wanted to live that way in the first place. Regulation followed demand – not the other way around – as you acknowldeged yourself (and contradicted yourself) when you said:

    “Yes, it did – the desire to keep housing costs artificially high in order to achieve economic and racial uniformity.”

    “I am confident that my vision will win out in a free market – in fact, it’s what won out when the market was free. Yours took generations of government regulation to become accepted as normal.”

    Not on your say so buster. YOU’RE no authority on anything.

    “The market is shouting in your ear, but you refuse to hear, so horrified are you to admit that liberals might be right about something”

    The only one shouting in my ear is you – and you aren’t the market or a proxy for it. YOU are one who wants is require ALL development to follow YOUR model by selectively removing regulations you don’t like and keeping ones you do. People who want to live in a development like that can go to development X that was developed on that basis and those who want the more spread out version can go to development Y that’s developed on that basis. That way , they have a choice. You’re the one who doesn’t want them to have it – not me.

    Oh and I’ve never had to admit a liberal was right about something because none of them ever have been.

    “Let me ask you, Mr. Conservative, Mr. Anti-ocial-Engineering, Mr. Don’t-Socially-Engineer-Everyone-Else-Into-Your-Preferred-Method-of-Living: Should your neighbor be allowed to add a rental unit or three onto his house on his own property, or would you file a lawsuit to stop him?”

    Sure let him do it – as long as then I also have the freedom to do absolutely anything I want with my propety – such as build a high-powered rifle shooting range in my back yard or a dymamite factory in my basement.

    If the rules are going to be thrown out – then they ALL get thrown out and literally anything and everything goes. Otherwise no. The people that move into those developments know and accept what the restrictions are when they move in there. No one stuck a gun to their heads and made them buy a house there to begin with.

  62. 1. People who don’t qualify for a mortgage pose the same threat to a neighborhood as a dynamite factory? Very revealing.

    2. I’ve spent this thread arguing for the removal of regulations, and expressed confidence in the success of “my” model in a free market. Your accusation that I want to force people into anything doesn’t make sense even on its own terms.

    3. Your understanding of planning and zoning history has a lot of holes in it, and you need to read up on the subject.

    Bye.

  63. “People who don’t qualify for a mortgage pose the same threat to a neighborhood as a dynamite factory? Very revealing.”

    The only thing that’s being revealed is that your talk about wanting to “remove regulations” and that you’re a champion of “property rights” is BS.
    If property restricitons are going to be removed under the banner of property rights, then they ALL will be removed or it’s NOT being done in the name of “property rights” but merely done selectively in an attempt to engineer the outcome YOU want. If my next door neighbor gets released from zoning restictions and wants to use his new found property right to fill in his back yard with a multifamily rental unit then the high-powered rifle shooting range that I set up in my back yard is EVERY BIT as valid an exercise of MY choice of property rights as his is since generically, property rights are about govt not preventing people from doing WHATEVER they want with their property – not about a selective freedom to create denser housing units.

    The other poster here a while back said it quite succintly – all you really want to do is selectively reshuffle requlations to ensure the outcome you desire.

    “2. I’ve spent this thread arguing for the removal of regulations, and expressed confidence in the success of “my” model in a free market. Your accusation that I want to force people into anything doesn’t make sense even on its own terms.”

    It certainly does make sense and you never addressed my point highlighting exactly that. People that want YOUR desired type of neighborhood can have delevopment X laid out on that methodoly and those that want the more spread out version can have development Y laid out on that model. YOU want a specific set of regulations that would make all developments be type X and not allow any type Y developments at all. If there are no type Y developments around then that certainly DOES restrict the choice of those who want to live in that type of development.

    Oh and by the way there is another type of development going on out there that IS more compact than the traditional suburb – but with a slight difference – the so-called “gated” communities that have walls and security guards to make sure that no one can get in except those that live there or those that have some legitimate business or connection to those that live there.

    I’m sure you don’t like those people’s particlar freely made choice to create that arrangement either and would try to “selectively” change regulations to torpedo them.

    LOL

  64. “If my next door neighbor gets released from zoning restictions and wants to use his new found property right to fill in his back yard with a multifamily rental unit then the high-powered rifle shooting range that I set up in my back yard is EVERY BIT as valid an exercise of MY choice of property rights as his is since generically, property rights are about govt not preventing people from doing WHATEVER they want with their property.” That’s just deranged. If you can’t distinguish between a law that prevents people from subjecting others to danger to life and limb, and a law that prevents people from subjecting others to neighbors who can’t afford an Audi, then I think you need to take a few steps back. “Dynamite factory” vs. “rental unit.” They sould be viewed exactly the same in the eyes of the law? Please.

    “People that want YOUR desired type of neighborhood can have delevopment X laid out on that methodoly and those that want the more spread out version can have development Y laid out on that model.” No, they can’t. Zoning laws allow your Type Y, and preclude my Type X. I would allow both. Giving property owners and the business partners the choice of what to build is what I’ve been arguing for all along.

    “YOU want a specific set of regulations that would make all developments be type X and not allow any type Y developments at all.” Not once have I advocated anthing but the easing or removal of regulations to achieve my vision. I notice you haven’t pasted any quotes from me in which I suggest requiring mixed and varied neighborhoods. I believe the saying is “put up or shut up.”

    “If there are no type Y developments around then that certainly DOES restrict the choice of those who want to live in that type of development.” Sprawl developments have the dominant suburban form for three generations now. Even if all growth occurred on the neotrad model from now on, there would still be plenty of houses for the sprawl people to choose from.

    But even if there weren’t, from a free market perspective, too f-ing bad for the sprawl people. I want fast food restaurants to sell burgers made of organic free range beef, in fat-free two pound patties, with all the taste of highly marbled steak and no carbos, for 39 cents each. Can I count on you to defend my right to choose, by forcing retaurants to sell the Mcjoe burger?

    I despise gated communities, and the chickenshit racists who live in them. But property owners and developers have the right to build them, as they should.

    They’re not always more dense, you know. (The commmunities, I mean. Not the chickenshit racists.)

  65. Chickenshit racists?

    LOL

    A liberal calling somebody else a chickenshit!

    Hilarious since liberal guys are all limp-wristed pantywaist wimpy punks. There’s no such thing as tough liberal.

  66. EMAIL: krokodilgena1@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://www.TRY-PENIS-ENLARGEMENT.NET

    DATE: 12/10/2003 07:15:07
    In his errors a man is true to type. Observe the errors and you will know the man.

  67. EMAIL: krokodilgena1@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://penis-pill.nonstopsex.org
    DATE: 12/20/2003 10:37:31
    Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.

  68. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    IP: 68.173.7.113
    URL: http://online-privacy.privacy-online.biz
    DATE: 01/09/2004 06:07:13
    Just because there’s a pattern doesn’t mean there’s a purpose.

  69. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    IP: 203.162.3.148
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/19/2004 04:34:52
    Just because there’s a pattern doesn’t mean there’s a purpose.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.