It's the Suede/Denim Secret Police! They Have Come for Your Uncool Niece!

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Celebrate Earth Week (it's a week now?) with this Jill Stewart expose of the efforts of the "smart growth" lobby to dominate the global warming debate in California. Stewart finds head-scratching scientific skepticism of the idea that smart growth and clustered populations cut down pollution… and then watches Attorney General Jerry Brown buy the idea completely and utterly.

Jerry Brown is so certain he's right about urban density as a method for reducing warming that he is using his office's power, recently suing San Bernardino County, largely as an object lesson. (See accompanying story.)

Brown also speaks at statewide global warming "workshops" that offer virtually no scientific data and are, in fact, promotional events presenting his view that suburbs cause global warming and urban density fights global warming.

These sessions are not financed by the state government, but by smart-growth proponents who created a non-profit group calling itself the Local Government Commission (LCG) to tout their ideas. Aside from Brown, the group's promotional sessions also feature speakers from EDAW, a global firm of some 50,000 employees that is one of the world's most ardent, for-profit peddlers of dense, urban "smart-growth."

The science offered is so thin that, at one "workshop" last month, a smart growth proponent presented online photographs comparing an ugly, suburban shopping center to a cozy block of cute, urban shops. This was offered as an example of how suburbia creates distance and global warming.

More reason on the "smart growth" dogma here.

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  1. J. Walker just did a DK headline not a week ago. Royalties may be in order.

  2. Mellow out, Dave, or you will pay.

  3. Why Are Environmentalists Wishing For The End Of The World?

    Warning: it’s a hit-piece by that arch-conservative rag Slate.

  4. That Dave refers to both Weigel and you, Dave W.

  5. Brown also speaks at statewide global warming “workshops” that offer virtually no scientific data and are, in fact, promotional events presenting his view that suburbs cause global warming and urban density fights global warming.

    Wow, now he is ripping off Al Gore, but not using the codeword “sprawl”. That is one tricky lawyer!

    So, for Lennin’s birthday we get to warm up with the CA Gov. and Attorney General Jerry Brown. I wonder how high we will get in the chain? Al Gore? The “Yuppies”? The “Yippies”? More SDS/Weather Underground folks? A “Ramparts” reunion? Perhaps coverage of an editorial board meeting with “The Nation”?

    I am refreshing as fast as I can!

  6. Jerry Brown’s still a pig-ignorant hippie after all these years? Gee, who could have guessed?

    -jcr

  7. Just clicked the link.

    Why would you link to such a weak piece? There’s nothing there.

    Some scientists think that there are better uses of public investments aimed at reducing global warming, and the proposition that less driving and more energy-efficient buildings result in smaller GHG footprints is controversial.

    Underwhelmed.

  8. Take a look at some maps of per capita GHG emissions vs distance from a city center. It’s pretty telling, and it makes sense given that people living close to their jobs don’t have to drive as far, are more likely to use public transit, are more likely to live in smaller areas and thus to heat and air condition smaller areas. I don’t think that putting smart growth mandates in place is the way to do it, but it’s silly to say that a person doesn’t emit more when they live in the suburbs than when they live in a city center.

  9. I thought Brown’s aura smiles and never frowns. That Jello guy is full of shit.

  10. joe,

    The story here is that the state government, in concert with a vested-interest private group, is acting on assumptions with conflicted scientific support. This action, by its very nature as state policy, may be well-nigh irreversible once enacted.

    It’s never happened before.

  11. Jorgen,

    A lot of things “make sense” that aren’t necessarily so. If the maps are so compelling, then why is this controversial? Got any links to said maps? I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m genuinely curious.

  12. I agree with Joe…

    Libertarians shouldn’t feel the need to reflexively defend strip malls and suburbia as somehow the result of free markets and personal decisions. Rather, libertarians would be better off pointing out how governments have subsidized people to live further away from urban centers — through the building of massive new roads and schools, expanding the electric grid etc. — thus causing an overall increase in pollution by enabling people to live in places that they probably otherwise would not.

    It makes sense (even if people like Jerry Brown are making the case) that more densely built areas would lessen the need for long commutes and perhaps automobiles in general. Now libertarians could argue that the problem of inefficient suburban living is a direct result of state intervention, and that the solution is to eliminate new road projects and other government subsidies that enable it — but one shouldn’t pretend it’s not a problem that exists just because you don’t agree with the solutions being offered.

  13. Speaking as someone who lives and works in the same structure (it’s a barn, not a house), I am absolutely opposed to single-use zoning.

    If “smart growth” means allowing individuals to do as they wish, then I have no objection.

  14. P Brooks,

    You are my hero! I wish I had a barn/home/workshop so I could begin my crusade to offer an affordable muscle car to those who can only afford hybrids. A barn could make the perfect workshop!

  15. charlie,

    There are some people who are willing to trade the space and relative quiet of the suburbs for the pace and accessibility of the city.

    On the other hand, there are people who are willing to trade longer commutes in order to have their own little castle.

    Imposing a one-size-fits all growth plan onto everyone is no kind of solution.

  16. Rather, libertarians would be better off pointing out how governments have subsidized people to live further away from urban centers — through the building of massive new roads and schools, expanding the electric grid etc. — thus causing an overall increase in pollution by enabling people to live in places that they probably otherwise would not.

    I think you’re misstating the cause and effect relationship. The government did not direct Henry Ford to build automobiles to be driven on roads which they had already built.
    The government did not exactly have to send troops into the cities to drive the populace into the countryside.

  17. I have a mallet. I have a wooden stake. I’ll I need now is to know where Jerry Brown sleeps.

  18. Careful, I heard he’s a daywalker.

  19. “Smart growth” seems to mean either “low growth” (i.e. snob zoning) or “dense growth”. “Smart” is apparently in the eyes of the beholder, and the lack of a good definition for “smart growth” tends to obscure the debate.

    I don’t have a lot of issue for non-financial incentives supporting “dense growth”. But too often, “dense growth” is a Field of Dreams scenario (if you build it, they will come), and I’m not prepared to financially support someone’s dream.

    As for snob zoning, it sucks. It’s the worst form of democratic imperialism. It’s why I despise zoning as a whole, because zoning gives rise to the unfettered impulse for everyone to attempt to force their preferences on their neighbors. And snob zoning epitomizes that impulse.

  20. Rather, libertarians would be better off pointing out how governments have subsidized people to live further away from urban centers — through the building of massive new roads and schools, expanding the electric grid etc.

    I continue to be mystified by how delivering utility and transportation infrastructure where people want it is a “subsidy”.

    If “smart growth” means allowing individuals to do as they wish, then I have no objection.

    It doesn’t. Its just a different set of zoning mandates.

  21. I don’t have a lot of issue for non-financial incentives supporting “dense growth”.

    Out of curiosity, what non-financial incentives are there besides restrictive zoning ordinances? Most dense growth results from high valued land, leading owners to try to maximize the income potential of that land by increasing the density. Or am I missing something?

  22. Rather, libertarians would be better off pointing out how governments have subsidized people to live further away from urban centers — through the building of massive new roads and schools, expanding the electric grid etc.

    I always hear people saying these things are subsidized, but they aren’t.

    You want to talk about subsidies, talk about the massive subsidies public transit agencies get, which are always increasing and are always too small. Talk about the subsidies large cities hand out with TIF districts. Talk about the corporate welfare being handed out.

    Some people like a suburban lifestyle, some like an urban lifestyle. All the jabbering on either side is nothing but snobbery.

  23. Out of curiosity, what non-financial incentives are there besides restrictive zoning ordinances?

    Actually, restrictive ordinances impede density. The best “non-financial” incentive is the removal of existing ordinances. Most limitations on density are due to existing restrictive ordinances. Even in Manhattan, it’s incredibly difficult to build a new high rise housing unit without hitting major governmental resistance.

    NIMBYism is the biggest enemy of density.

  24. P Brooks,

    Henry Ford may have mass produced the automobile, but he didn’t have the power of eminent domain to kick up to 60,000 people a year off their land to build the interstate highway system. There’s no doubt some people would still choose to live far away from cities without that highway system, but I’d wager the numbers would be much fewer than what we see now.

    And as Bill Kauffman points out in this article — http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.17332/article_detail.asp — the use of state power to drive (poor) people out of their urban homes, in addition to causing a large shift in the makeup of the United States, also stoked militant movements among people upset their land was being stolen.

  25. If you’re talking suburbs, you’re talking single-family homes. If you’re talking single-family homes, you’re talking 30-year mortgages and federal mortgage insurance – none of which existed until the FDR administration.

  26. charlie,

    kicking people out of their urban homes in favor of highways was the “smart growth” of the 60’s.

  27. Russ-

    Look, if you prefer a suburban lifestyle than that’s great, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s only possible due to massive state intervention, with the use of eminent domain and taxes to construct a national highway system — a subsidy to suburbanites and businesses that rely heavily on transportation.

    And if you look at the federal budget, taxes dedicated to public transit pale in comparison to the budget for highways and road construction.

  28. I think you’re misstating the cause and effect relationship. The government did not direct Henry Ford to build automobiles to be driven on roads which they had already built.
    The government did not exactly have to send troops into the cities to drive the populace into the countryside.

    True, but the government did start zoning the shit out of every city. Personally, I think everything started going downhill when cities started shutting down corner taverns. Seriously.

  29. Invisible finger —

    There’s no doubt the highway system was pitched as the smart growth of its time, which is why we should be wary of attempts to the use the state to impose the hot new fad among urban planners.

    That said, we should still recognize the problems associated with suburban sprawl and point out how it doesn’t represent a “market failure”, but rather typical government-mandated short-sightedness and inefficiency.

  30. Did anyone but me read the article?

    Reason Magazine is now linking positively to a piece which approvingly quotes one scientist saying that global warming is caused by overpopulation, and cannot be restrained by any means other than restricting population; and which uses the phrase “forcing density on Los Angeles” to refer to the elimination of regulation that restrict developers from building higher.

    It always strikes me how eager Reason is to abandon the principles it claims are its core beliefs, in order to defend government-engineered sprawl.

    The National Home Builders Association sure does get its money’s worth.

  31. joe | April 22, 2008, 10:51am | #
    It always strikes me how eager Reason is to abandon the principles it claims are its core beliefs, in order to defend government-engineered sprawl.

    Drink?

  32. Some living arangements do impact the environment more than others, but market forces can fix that. Just charge for negative externalities and people will decide for themselves if a neighborhood layout is worth the environmental costs. The current suburban sprawl is the result of environmentalist objections to urban development. I have seen enough urban planning mistakes to know that intelligent design is imposible.

  33. The current suburban sprawl is the result of environmentalist objections to urban development.

    Since urban sprawl began in the 40s and 50s, and there was no environmental movement until the 60s at the earliest (most people point to the first Earth Day, in 1970, as the foundation), that cannot possibly be true.

  34. joe,

    The folks around here have a hard time getting their heads around the concept that there are policy changes that involve reducing regulation and eliminating subsidies.

    Smart growth policy examples:
    Eliminate requirements to have parking spaces.
    Eliminate density restrictions.
    Eliminate restrictions on mixed use.
    Eliminate subsidies to developers in the form of infrastructure support (e.g., make them pay for the roads and power out to their development).

    Because the government would be “doing” these things, they must be bad see, because anything the government does is bad.

  35. NM,

    I think most of them would have no trouble figuring out that concept, if it weren’t for the fact that the people making those recommendations are on the wrong side of the culture war.

  36. It always strikes me how eager Reason is to abandon the principles it claims are its core beliefs, in order to defend government-engineered sprawl.

    I don’t see that as being the case here. The article is not specific in regards to proposed regulation (or deregulation). Instead, I think the article successfully criticizes the unfounded basis (i.e. that suburbanization equates to global warming) being used to drive land use policies in CA.

    The policy basis for density in CA should be efficiency instead of GW. Basing it on GW undermines the integrity of the density effort.

  37. Most people, who bother to read up on it, set the beginning of the “environmental movement” at the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin in September 1962, not on the 100th birthday of Vladimer Lenin.

  38. I got this computer thing connected to the intertubes, so my boss let’s me work overtime from home rather than drive in on weekends. I think my boss might let me work from home during the week some time soon too.

  39. The government will have policies regarding building and development.

    Those policies should be as smart as they can be.

    Most smart policies are minimal and simple.

    The current complex layering of regulations is far from simple and clean.

    Smart growth policies start, in most cases, with a concerted effort to clean out all the bad policies. Most will not be replaced with something new.

    I this is an interesting tidbit:
    A recent Minnesota study of three communities
    found that when agricultural land was subdivided,
    it cost the local government more to provide
    the newly required services than the newly
    generated tax revenues paid. More surprising,
    though, was the finding that, used for farming,
    the land generates twice as much local tax revenue
    as it demands back in public services.

    “Farmland and Tax Bill: The Cost of Community
    Services in Three Minnesota Cities.” American
    Farmland Trust, Washington DC and Land
    Stewardship Project, Marine on St. Croix MN, 1994.

  40. NM,

    My only problem is they dont go far enough. Eliminate all that stuff – fine. Now eliminate zoning. Even finer!!!!

    The good is the enemy of the perfect.

    Also, if the government would eliminate itself, I wont be complaining about its action in that case.

  41. NM,

    The government will have policies regarding building and development.

    It shouldnt.

    Those policies should be as smart as they can be.

    Okay, whatever that means.

    Most smart policies are minimal and simple.

    To paraphase Thoreau (or was it Emerson?), the most minimal and simplist would be none at all.

    The current complex layering of regulations is far from simple and clean.

    Agreed.

    Smart growth policies start, in most cases, with a concerted effort to clean out all the bad policies. Most will not be replaced with something new.

    It would be even easier to eliminate all policies. That way you dont have to judge levels of badness.

  42. MP,

    In this case, it wasn’t an embrace of regulation and its outcomes I was noting, but, for example, the scientist quoted as blaming global warming on “overpopulation.”

    Reason can usually be counted on to give hell to the ZPG people, but like everything else, that goes out the door when the subject is sprawl.

  43. MP,

    The policy basis for density in CA should be efficiency instead of GW. Basing it on GW undermines the integrity of the density effort.

    But efficiency is the primary means for reducing green house gas emissions. There is no conflict…you are just talking about how to frame the issue. The goals and methods are equivalent whether you want to increase efficiency or decrease GHG footprint…no?

  44. robc,

    Let’s call that Plan A.

    Should Plan B be the existing zoning mess (which Reason never gets around to criticizing), or the less-intrusive, more liberal regulatory system NM describes?

  45. NM,

    My point in all this is I dont trust ANYONE to be able to accurately determine good/bad and smart/dumb. For every decision they get right, they will get two wrong. I havent seen any evidence to the contrary at any level of government.

  46. robc,

    The good is the enemy of the perfect.

    A phrase that helps sustain the bad.

  47. I vote Plan C.

  48. A phrase that helps sustain the bad.

    Thats what both sides tell me when I vote LP too. I dont believe it then, why should I now?

  49. A ready example of smart growth policies.

    And yes, they started with central planning of some aspects of the city’s development. The ideas, however, were simple and effective. Good as the enemy of the bad, realizing that perfect lives only in robc’s head.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curitiba

  50. joe,

    Im not sure Plan A is actually better. It is differently bad from Plan B.

    Think Kerry/Bush. I didnt want Bush for term 2, but I didnt want President Kerry either. It was the exact same kind of choice. So I voted for Badnarik.

  51. I enjoy living in my head. Cant recommend a better place. Sure beats most other heads I have encountered.

  52. Just to clarify joe’s point for robc, Plan A is your plan of having no plan.

    Plan C would be smart growth.

    I agree that Plan A would be as bad as B for different reasons.

    Another example of successful urban planning?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haussmann's_renovation_of_Paris

  53. joe,

    So instead of focusing on bad science driving public policy decisions, the focus should have been on one quote in the article?

    Back on topic, reading between the lines it seems that suburbs might have beneficial aspects. All new suburbs around here leave significant amounts of green space in addition to all the lawns, which apparently helps more than the pave it all urban core.

    Also, I live in Houston, which has no zoning. I don’t think this town is a model, by anybody’s standards, for how to encourage density and discourage sprawl. The whole “eliminate regulation and density will come” model might have some flaws.

  54. This thread made me realize something, nothing here is a surprise, even to me, but I never quite put it in words before.

    I enjoy chaos and radical change.
    I enjoy history and stability and tradition.
    Incremental change pisses me off.

    Even applies to weather. I once said that I wouldnt mind living winters in Wisconsin and summers in Georgia. Splitting the difference actually works because we get all kinds of weather in Louisville and it seems to change rapidly, not slowly. Weather in Florida or Southern California would suck.

    My lifestyle is that way too. I tend to be a very habit oriented person who every now and then radically changes his life.

    Huh. Make of that what you will.

  55. But efficiency is the primary means for reducing green house gas emissions. There is no conflict…you are just talking about how to frame the issue. The goals and methods are equivalent whether you want to increase efficiency or decrease GHG footprint…no?

    Economic efficiency is not the same as environmental efficiency. Gains in one may tangentially relate to gains in another, but the correlation is far from 1. No one has shown that density would have anything beyond a marginal effect on GW. Yet there’s plenty of empirical evidence that shows how density impacts economic efficiency.

    Thus, it’s important to frame the issue with what’s known vs. what’s speculated in order to have your justification be better accepted by the population you are trying to convince.

  56. NM,

    I thought Plan A was smart growth. He said “lets call that plan A”. Isnt “that” referring to smart growth?

  57. Altevogt says the 2006 global-warming act requires that the California government adopt only those ideas that are technologically feasible and economically wise. “

    No problem; I’m completely satisfied.

  58. NM,

    After rereading joe’s post, I think you are right. His 2nd sentence was confusing to me because I thought the “that” in plan A referred to smart growth.

    So, I vote either the radical change of plan A, or just keep up what we are doing now. Dont futz around the edges.

  59. T,

    Neither the article nor the post offers the slightest bit of evidence that there actually is bad science driving public policy decisions.

    Did you read it?

    All new suburbs around here leave significant amounts of green space in addition to all the lawns, which apparently helps more than the pave it all urban core.

    The fact that you see more green space does not make the development pattern more beneficial.

    2000 acres of pavement and 98,000 undeveloped acres is far, far better for the environment than 100,000 acres of lawns and specks of woods. Not to mention, have you ever actually considered the paved acreage of a multi-lane highway?

  60. Altevogt says the 2006 global-warming act requires that the California government adopt only those ideas that are technologically feasible and economically wise. ”

    No problem; I’m completely satisfied.

    Yeah. Isn’t this the same state that mandated a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles? How’d that one work out?

  61. What if the Home Owners’ Association banned all vehicles above a certain GVW, and required everybody to drive a Smart Car?

  62. I also opposed Bush’s SS plan because half-assed efforts fiddling around with “private” accounts is worse than real reform.

    Ditto tax code changes. Even if they didnt eliminate the income tax, I would prefer a tax reform plan that starts from scratch. Dont modify the current code, throw it out and start over.

  63. MP,

    Economic efficiency is not the same as environmental efficiency.

    Not equivalent, sure, but nearly so.

    Thus, it’s important to frame the issue with what’s known vs. what’s speculated in order to have your justification be better accepted by the population you are trying to convince.

    I agree.
    That is what baffles me about some of the attitudes I see on this issue. The people who argue against the economic inefficiency of many government policies advocate many of the same changes in policy that those who argue against the environmental harm of those policy suggest. But because they have different motivations and come from different sides of the culture war, they can’t get together and make the change they both want.

    robc,

    “that” typically would refer to the most recent possible referent, in this case your suggestion to get rid of all regulations.

    joe can correct me if I read that wrong.

  64. NM,

    See my post at 11:50

  65. Since urban sprawl began in the 40s and 50s, and there was no environmental movement until the 60s at the earliest

    Grrr! Fucking arrogant hippy baby boomers, ignorant of history.

    As a rational environmentalist I’d like to point out Ducks Unlimited, Michigan United Conservation Club, and many other environmental organizations existed prior to the ’60s. The “environmental movement” should be groveling at the feet of sportsman clubs. Unless preserving wetlands and forests by said sportsman, doesn’t count.

  66. John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1898.

  67. JsubD,

    I would say you need to go back at least as far as Walden by Henry David Thoreau – 1854

  68. 1898 is an obvious typo for 1892.

  69. NM,

    Agreed. Walden may be a legitimate starting point.

  70. robc,

    Muir, is, of course, another excellent benchmark.

    I’ll recommend a good read on the history of environmentalism from an old friend.

    http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300053708

  71. JsD,

    In modern terms, “environmentalist movement” is reserved for the most unreasonable, inconvenient, business killing, Socialistic approaches that one can devise. That’s why it starts with Silent Spring and gets worse.

    The reasonable groups you mention, by being reasonable, exclude them from the modern movement. When has a Isaac Walton League member ever burned a subdivision under construction or an SUV lot (other than to collect insurance money)?

  72. joe,

    Neither the article nor the post offers the slightest bit of evidence that there actually is bad science driving public policy decisions.

    But joe, some reported stated that the science was shaky. They even found a couple of scientists who would go on record supporting their assertion. It must be true.

    ;^)

  73. Guy M,

    That was the most idiotic thing you have ever written…a high bar. Kudos my friend. Kudos.

  74. Why, yes, joe, I did read the article. Perhaps you missed lines like

    despite what California leaders are saying, there’s no certainty about the relative roles of dense urban living and suburban living in reducing global warming.

    and then this

    Despite Altevogt’s assurances, the governor’s Climate Action Team has already concluded, largely ignoring the shaky science, that about 12 percent of the total reduction in transportation-related global-warming emissions in California must come from changes in land-use patterns.

    So, nobody knows what the various density patterns do for global warming, but fuck it, 12% of the reductions are going to come from land use changes. Yeah, I’ll definitely chalk that one up under bad science driving public policy decisions. More precisely, an inability to understand science driving public policy decisions. It’s classic California public policy: wishing makes it so.

    Yes, joe, I’m aware of the paved acreage of a multi-lane highway. I’m also aware that realistically, the choice isn’t a 2%/98% split. Houston is 600 square miles and LA is almost 500. These are not places where you’re going to fix the problem by density increases absent draconian measures. If the choice is pavement or neighborhood greenspace, which is better?

  75. I meant that the Rainbow Puppy Island system of land use robc endorses is Plan A for reforming our zoning problem.

    It might be worthwhile to consider a Plan B, if you actually are against the status quo.

    robc, smart growth is not a half-step. It is as fundamental a change of direction as one could imagine. Just because most of this change is not aligned along the axis you are primarily interested in (more vs. less regulation) does not mean it is only a trivial change – although some of it is. There are other issues out there.

    The earlier conservation movements were not what we would call “environmentalist” organizations in contemporary terms. Nor did they play any role in promoting sprawl.

  76. uhm,

    that is “some reporter”

  77. Some scientists think that there are better uses of public investments aimed at reducing global warming, and the proposition that less driving and more energy-efficient buildings result in smaller GHG footprints is controversial.

    Joe’s idea of aimed public investment is government telling people where they can build their homes on their own land.

  78. T,

    Neither of those quotes provides any evidence. They provide mere assertions. My statement was about “evidence,” not the opinion of a writer for a free weekly.

    If the choice is pavement or neighborhood greenspace That is not the choice. That is a false choice.

    If the total amount of development – in terms of housing units and retail space – is a given, all you do by leaving green spaces in your neighborhood is to move that development somewhere else, whether by cutting down an equal amount of greenspace somewhere else (for example, by eating away at a larger, less degraded area of open space further out, or by densifying an existing developed area.

  79. Joe’s idea of aimed public investment is government telling people where they can build their homes on their own land.

    …and therefore, it cannot be true that smart growth results in less carbon emissions than sprawl.

    This basically sums up Reason’s position on the issue; bad “statist” people have made an observation, so it is false.

  80. joe,

    Don’t forget.

    Someone has made assertion that a proposed policy is bad…therefore their assertion is based on sound analysis.

  81. Jerry Brown is so certain he’s right about urban density

    Moonbeam is also primarily responsible for California’s transportation woes. He spent his 8 years as governor canceling every highway project he could. It worked. We now have horrific traffic but it didn’t get anyone out of their car and onto the bus.

  82. TWC,

    Yeah…only 250,000 riders a day on LA’s subway.

    Add buses and there’s not even 500 million rides a year.

  83. Also, I live in Houston, which has no zoning. I don’t think this town is a model, by anybody’s standards, for how to encourage density and discourage sprawl.

    Amen to that. Houston is a sprawling nightmare. That said, the lack of zoning regulations has little to no effect compared to the massive, massive, massive highway structure when it comes to sprawl.

    I’m all for reducing or eliminating zoning regulations, but if you really want to have any effect on sprawl, the conversation begins and ends with roads. Of course, not only would the gov’t have to stop building roads, but they would also have to prevent private businesses from doing same. I am unconvinced that forcing people to live in increasingly dense conditions is good for the environment or for the people.

  84. joe,

    robc, smart growth is not a half-step. It is as fundamental a change of direction as one could imagine.

    You dont know my imagination. 🙂

    It is a fair point though, maybe “smart growth” is equivalent to the “fair tax”, in that it is a radical change, but just not in any direction Im interested in. However, the smart growth developments Ive seen dont seem radically different to me.

    Now, an arcology, that would be radically different.

    BTW, If I can ever afford to buy a private island, I am going to rename it to Rainbow Puppy Island.

  85. The only “smart growth” plan I can get behind is a Dyson Sphere. Even a ringworld in only a half-assed incremental plan. 🙂

  86. “Jerry Brown is so certain he’s right about urban density as a method for reducing warming that he is using his office’s power, recently suing San Bernardino County, largely as an object lesson.”

    Since when does the scope of duties of an Attorny General include trying to influence real estate development patterns?

  87. Right cause, wrong reasons. It does nothing to affect climate change except encourage unnecessary driving. People should shun urban sprawl simply because it’s clone-like, uncreative and ugly, and it takes too long to get from point A to point B, and because suburbia only supports mega-corporations, hence independent enterprise is suppressed. It’s an inefficient way to live altogether, and there are plenty of reasons to detest it. Climate change isn’t one of them.

  88. Neu Mejican,

    So you think sporting groups are unreasonable like eco-terrorists?

    Talk about idiotic posts.

  89. I could never figure it out: are suede and denim what the secret police wear, or are they taking away kids who are wearing suede and denim?

  90. Smart growth policy examples:
    Eliminate requirements to have parking spaces.
    Eliminate density restrictions.
    Eliminate restrictions on mixed use.
    Eliminate subsidies to developers in the form of infrastructure support (e.g., make them pay for the roads and power out to their development).

    That’s all good, but I suspect “smart growth” is far too amorphous to be useful.

    I have heard it used in the past as the marketing wrapper for pro-density restrictions on lot and house size, and to mandate no-development greenbelts around urban cores.

    I think its really hard to sustain an argument that what drives suburban sprawl is zoning requirements and roadbuilding. Both of these respond to, rather than drive, generational migration out of cities.

    Those zoning requirements are generally pushed by developers who have a pretty good idea what their target market wants; namely, to live in a certain kind of neighborhood. A lot of what people may think are government zoning requirements may actually be private development rules.

    Same with roadbuilding. By and large, roads are built to and from where people want to live and want to work. For the most part, new roads are built either where (a) existing roads are inadequate for existing demand or (b) in an effort to get ahead of clear trends in where people are moving.

  91. People should shun urban sprawl simply because it’s clone-like, uncreative and ugly, and it takes too long to get from point A to point B,

    Subjective and irrational aesthetic judgments are no basis for public policy.

    and because suburbia only supports mega-corporations, hence independent enterprise is suppressed.

    This certainly begs for some kind of supporting data.

  92. joe,

    At some point in every thread, it becomes pointless to have a discussion with you because you won’t accept the premises of the discussion. If the writer is lying or inaccurate, provide evidence. If the people she cites are not informed on the subject matter, provide evidence. If the facts as listed in the article are wrong, provide evidence. In the meantime, you’re not adding to the discussion by claiming everything you disagree with is an assertion and needs evidence to back it up. You’re the one claiming the article lacks credibility. Provide evidence of your assertions or crawl back under your rock.

    Moving right along, discussing how to handle the situation if the total amount of retail space/living area remains constant doesn’t seem like the relevant discussion from here. California still has population growth last time I checked. Depending on which set of trends you believe, the population around here is projected to hit 8 million in 4 more years. The total amount of space has to increase, and changing the regulation to remove density discouraging measures like NM suggested hasn’t worked here. In the case that more space is needed, what’s the solution? Either jam people together in urban cores, which empirically few people here want, or they spread out. Leaving aside any other ideological or practical considerations, how do you stop the sprawl? Short of telling people, “no, you can’t build that there”, there’s no practical method that I see. Maybe you and NM have a solution, but whatever it is, it either hasn’t been applied or doesn’t work, because I know of no growing metropolis in this country that is not subject to sprawl to some degree.

  93. Dang, Joe said everything I wanted to say. This is weak tea, guys.

  94. Guy M,

    So you think sporting groups are unreasonable like eco-terrorists?

    I spoke too soon.

    See the problem is you are equating “”environmentalist movement”” with “eco-terrorists.”

    And idiotic thing to do.

    It would be more apt to equate the “sporting groups” with the “environmentalist movement” see…and keep the discussion of “eco-terrorism” where it belongs…in discussions of eco-terrorism.

  95. T,

    changing the regulation to remove density discouraging measures like NM suggested hasn’t worked here.

    It seems to be working in Seattle…which recently lifted its restriction on how tall buildings could be…tall building instantly started springing up everywhere they were allowed. Since most are mixed use, this increases density…

    Smart growth policies, of course, are more comprehensive that what Houston has. They would look at both requirements and restrictions and work towards a best solution for a particular area rather than slavishly committing to a particular strategy.

    Different solutions will be effective dependent upon the local context.

  96. I am unconvinced that forcing people to live in increasingly dense conditions is good for the environment or for the people.

    The studies of rats and population density are fairly interesting and possibly relevant here. With rats, as you increase population density, intraspecies violence also increases. Crime rates in large cities compared to suburbs and exurbs indicate (do not prove) that the same thing happens to people.

    Hmmm.

  97. They would look at both requirements and restrictions and work towards a best solution for a particular area rather than slavishly committing to a particular strategy.

    The best way to not slavishly commit to a particular strategy is to let each individual property owner decide. Strategies galore!

  98. Plus, all of them will be the smartest* use for the individual properties.

    *smart here means “what the property owner wants”. I cant get think of a better definition. If you are using a different definition of smart, you are wrong.

  99. RC Dean,

    Same with roadbuilding. By and large, roads are built to and from where people want to live and want to work.

    This doesn’t ring true to me.

    A random (simplified) example.

    Albuquerque has a large sprawl to the West, Rio Rancho. Historically people moved to Rio Rancho because of the lower taxes and lower prices of homes compared to Albuquerque. They chose to move there despite the lack of roads and infrastructure. It was a community built without any thought for these issues. As years went by, people in Rio Rancho started getting tired roads inadequate for the traffic, lack of services, and lack of infrastructure.

    What did they propose as a solution?
    Have Albuquerque tax payers pay to build them a road, some bridges, a school system, etc…after all, they worked in Albuquerque.

    What were they unwilling to consider?
    Increasing their local taxes to pay for those services themselves.

    To the degree that Albuquerque gave in and provided those services, they subsidized the costs of living in Rio Rancho.

    Eventually Albuquerque stopped footing the bill. Rio Rancho now has to raise the funds and provide the services for themselves.

    So how does this relate?

    People didn’t “want to live” outside the city in an inconvenient village with no infrastructure…they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. The urban center (not that you can really call Albuquerque urban) subsidized the freeloaders in Rio Rancho for decades, encouraging sprawl. Building them roads and bridges for free. They made their choices without having to see the true costs because government subsidized this kind of development.

    If development policy in Albuquerque had not subsidized Rio Ranchos development, people would have lived where there were already roads and infrastructure because the cost of moving to Rio Rancho would not have been so attractive without the subsidy.

    Historical note: Rio Rancho’s origins are largely the result of a land scam…scammers bought worthless land in the middle of nowhere and sold it to people promising them much that they never delivered on.

  100. Smart growth policies, of course, are more comprehensive that what Houston has. They would look at both requirements and restrictions and work towards a best solution for a particular area rather than slavishly committing to a particular strategy.

    Strategy? Houston has a strategy?

    Well, I guess pour more concrete could be considered a strategy. It’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction around here, though.

  101. robc,

    If you are using a different definition of smart, you are wrong.

    Let me see–

    smart = what everyone “wants”

    An unusual semantics rumbles around in your head for sure.

    Hate to tell you, but many people want things that are not “smart” in any sense of the word.

  102. T,

    Strategy? Houston has a strategy?

    The lack of a strategy is the strategy that robc is advocating. So in the context of this discussion, Houston has a strategy.

  103. NM,

    Interesting story. It does run counter to the Houston model, which lets outlying suburbs develop until there’s a tax base, then ETJ or annex them and provide a crappier level of service than the suburbs had before. It’s happened to both Clear Lake and Kingwood, and was about to happen to the Woodlands, although there are water issues to consider with The Woodlands as well.

  104. NM,

    smart = what everyone “wants”

    No. smart = people know what is best for themselves

    I trust people to do what is right. Or to live with the consequences. Seems smarter than trusting some elected/appointed official to do the same. Especially since he doesnt have to live with the consequences.

  105. The urban center (not that you can really call Albuquerque urban) subsidized the freeloaders in Rio Rancho for decades, encouraging sprawl. Building them roads and bridges for free. They made their choices without having to see the true costs because government subsidized this kind of development.

    Proving my point from my previous post. Thanks!

  106. robc,

    No. smart = people know what is best for themselves

    Sure, sure.

    But the aggregate results of what is best of those property owners is not always what is best for the community. So, when we are talking about what policies are smart for the community there is not a one-to-one mapping.

    But you know that.

  107. Proving my point from my previous post. Thanks!

    We have not been disagreeing on the fact that many current policies are counter productive.

    Or that getting rid of many of them is the right choice.

    Many will be replaced with nothing.

    Some, may need to be replaced with a restriction for best results.

  108. NM,

    hypothetical:

    Lets say someone want to build a pub in the empty lot next to my house (it does exist outside the hypothetical). Zoning (even under smart growth, mixed use isnt allowed everywhere) prevents it.

    If the pub was a successful business, then that would make the owner smart and the zoning dumb. And even if it wasnt really successful, I would think it was smart because I would have a pub in walking range.

    How can the planners (whether zoning or not) no better than an owner what should go on a property? Who are they to think they qualify as “smart”. They didnt even have the forethought to buy the property.

  109. NM,

    Fuck the community.

  110. robc,

  111. best results

    Best, according to who? Who gets to decide? This comes down to the basic premise of libertarianism, methinks. And, I (and libertarians generally agree) claim that property owners get to decide.

  112. robc,

    Not sure where that last post went, but…

    Who gets to decide?

    Why, the government of the people, for the people and by the people, methinks.

  113. NM,

    We have not been disagreeing on the fact that many current policies are counter productive.

    Of course. My response is “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Why will the new policies also not be counter productive?

  114. aka,

    The Community

  115. NM,

    Why, the government of the people, for the people and by the people, methinks.

    Well, as you are well aware, rights override the will of the people. Tyranny of the masses and all that. I think Im just arguing for wider scale property rights (absolute even, I oppose ED – and not just Kelo style, but the “good” style to).

  116. Smart growth has been in effect for nearly 20 years in Washington state and the end result is more costly housing with no benefit.

    Joe sees this and his first reaction is to ask for more.

  117. Why will the new policies also not be counter productive?

    Well, if they are truly “smart growth” policies, that would be because the are smarter policies.

    If they are counter productive, then they aren’t smart growth policies.

    Duh.

  118. NM,

    Fuck the people too then.

  119. Smart growth has been in effect for nearly 20 years in Washington state and the end result is more costly housing with no benefit.

    No benefit?

    Why have prices gone up then?

  120. NM,

    If you want to call something “smart growth”, you need to prove it in advance of implementing it. You cant wait until its been implemented and doesnt work and then say “Just Kidding!”.

    Otherwise, call it, “some new growth we hope might maybe be better”.

  121. NM,

    How about you just let everyone decide for themselves and embrace the chaos?

    Its not like developers wont be deed restricting everything anyway.

  122. T,

    Also, I live in Houston, which has no zoning. I don’t think this town is a model, by anybody’s standards, for how to encourage density and discourage sprawl.

    Houston doesn’t have centralized zoning (though I’m pretty sure another try at it is coming, according to Sunday’s Chronicle). That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a patchwork of land-use controls via deed restrictions that restrict land that is now urban core to the suburban densities that made more sense decades ago when those areas were suburbs. Unlike silly, misguided zoning (which we have in Austin, and exists to some degree or another in just about every sizable city), the deed restrictions are nearly impossible to change via a political process, and don’t have any sort of variance process, except by the forbearance of all parties with standing to sue to enforce the restrictions.

  123. the government of the people, for the people and by the people

    Change that to “of the activists, for the activists, and by the activists” and I will listen to you.

    Less than half of the people vote, and the “winning” side gets less than fifty per cent of that. I’m pretty sure the half of the population who decline to vote are not all doing so because they think everything is going fine. It’s more likely they have something more productive to do on election day than make a special trip to the polling place so they can cast a write-in vote for Pat Paulsen. Or Ron Paul.

  124. If you want to call something “smart growth”, you need to prove it in advance of implementing it. You cant wait until its been implemented and doesnt work and then say “Just Kidding!”.

    Otherwise, call it, “some new growth we hope might maybe be better”.

    The perfect as the enemy of the good again.

    Policies with evidence-based support may not always work out as planned, but they have a better chance than policies that have been shown NOT to work.

  125. How about you just let everyone decide for themselves and embrace the chaos?

    Part of that chaos is the inevitable development of coercive coalitions who will restrict the actions of members of the community.

    Embrace that if you want, but I would hope that policies are put in place that limits the harm those coalitions can cause for the rest of the community.

    Of course, you can always join the most violent gang, and maximize your gain, I guess.

  126. It’s more likely they have something more productive to do on election day than make a special trip to the polling place so they can cast a write-in vote for Pat Paulsen. Or Ron Paul.

    If it is more productive, then I guess they won’t complain about the decisions made by those who bothered to cast a vote. Their cost benefit analysis said that the issue being voted on was less important than whatever they were doing that day, meaning that whatever policy is implemented as a result is fine with them.

    Not voting is a vote for the winner’s side by default.

  127. N M- it seems to me you refuted your own point with the Rio Rancho example. The city of ABQ did not build roads and services first, in order to entice people to move out there to the river bottom; the people went first, and then, as people do, clamored for access to the public teat. I would be quite happy to see ABQ shrug its figurative shoulders and say, “Tough- you ought to have considered things more carefully.”

    Governments react to development patterns, they do not cause them.

  128. P Brooks,

    Governments react to development patterns, they do not cause them.

    They provide the regulatory context in which those development patterns emerge.

    In the case of Albuquerque/Rio Rancho it was unregulated development that allowed a problematic development pattern to emerge on Albuquerque’s outskirts. Maybe (probably) Albuquerque should have ignored the problem and let Rio Rancho deal with it, but that would have required that they ignore the problems Rio Ranchos development caused within Albuquerque as well.

    Albuquerque city government had to react to the problem because they did not have policies in place to prevent the problem from arising in the first place. When they reacted, rather than planned, they made the wrong choice.

  129. Their cost benefit analysis said that the issue being voted on was less important than whatever they were doing that day, meaning that whatever policy is implemented as a result is fine with them.

    You’re much too smart to believe that.

    And I propose to perpetually protest the perfidy of politicians.

  130. Smart growth has been in effect for nearly 20 years in Washington state and the end result is more costly housing with no benefit.

    No benefit?

    Why have prices gone up then?

    Paying more for a thing today that would have cost less 5 years ago is not an increase in value it is inflation. In this case it is inflation due to the state artificially constraining the supply of buildable lots. By your same logic it would be beneficial for the state to limit the amount of crops that can be grown because it would make the crops more valuable.

  131. Paying more for a thing today that would have cost less 5 years ago is not an increase in value it is inflation. In this case it is inflation due to the state artificially constraining the supply of buildable lots.

    If people do not see sufficient value added by what an area has to offer they will not build in the area. They will choose a different community. The fact that Washington continues to grow and property values continue to go up indicates that people see the benefits of living there inclusive of the smart growth policies.

    Supply restrictions only raise prices to the degree that demand supports those increases.

    But you know that.

    P Brooks.
    I find the voting abstinence argument to be silly and counter-productive.

  132. In the late seventies, I lived for a while outside of Aspen, Colorado where I got an invaluable lesson on government “control” of growth. The Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission decided they could no longer stand by and permit runaway growth in their beloved, quaintly trendy village of Aspen. They imposed a “moratorium” on growth.

    What do you think happened? Almost overnight, houses began to spring up just across the county line, in Basalt. The result was more traffic, more commuters and cars in Aspen, and the already high house prices went out of sight.

  133. Even in Manhattan, it’s incredibly difficult to build a new high rise housing unit without hitting major governmental resistance.

    Manhattan I just don’t get. The politics of development there are certifiably insane.

    Trump was talking about one of his buildings (I think it was 40 Wall St) which is currently 52 stories, but Manhattan downzoned the area to 19 stories in the 1960s. It meant he couldn’t replace the building with a new one like he wanted, because it would have to be a lot smaller. What I don’t get is why? What possible reason did Manhattan government have for stopping development of high-rise buildings in an area already populated with high-rise buildings? It severely limits their tax base, for one thing, since a 50-story building is going to pay a lot more property tax than a 19 story one, and Manhattan has never been shy about grinding down its citizens for more taxes.

    Trump also built (or is building) a condo-hotel in a warehouse district, but he had to prove to the government and the activists it wasn’t going to be a regular residential building. I don’t understand why the activists would care. What possible harm would come if a residential condo tower were built instead of a hotel? Why would anybody object to a shiny new building replacing a dilapidated old one?

  134. which uses the phrase “forcing density on Los Angeles” to refer to the elimination of regulation that restrict developers from building higher.

    That, Joe, is simply a lie. The plan doesn’t merely eliminate restrictions on density, it mandates it. A develop who wants to develop at less than the minimum required density can’t. Moreover, it will prevent rural landowners from developing their land, in order to stop developers from going leaving the super-dense zone.

    That’s why your claim that smart growth is merely a lifting of restrictions is an outright fraud. Smart growthers don’t merely want to lift restrictions, they want to mandate new ones. Every smart growth activist that’s actively lobbying government (ones that don’t lobby are irrelevant no matter what their views are because they aren’t affecting policy) wants to mandate density in order to force people to live in ways approved by them. All of them. I am not aware of a single one that publicly says lifting density restrictions is sufficient.

  135. But the aggregate results of what is best of those property owners is not always what is best for the community. So, when we are talking about what policies are smart for the community there is not a one-to-one mapping.

    But you know that.

    Actually, I know no such thing. The collective activities of the community, including the development decisions of its landowners, is in fact what’s best for the community. That’s what a free market is, after all. You aren’t smart enough to know what’s best, and neither is any other bureaucrat. Get out of the way and the market will tell you what the community wants. If it isn’t what you or some bureaucrat think they should want, too effing bad.

  136. Part of that chaos is the inevitable development of coercive coalitions who will restrict the actions of members of the community.

    In the absence of zoning, how will they do that? That’s why government power to drive land use policy is bad, it makes such power susceptible to capture by coercive coalitions.

  137. Bob Smith,

    Pretty circular there.

    The coercive coalition is the government.
    They will impose some policy.
    It will happen.

    Given that fact, it should be a policy crafted to do the least harm and create the most benefit.

  138. The collective activities of the community, including the development decisions of its landowners, is in fact what’s best for the community.

    That’s why anarchy is the most common form of societal organization on the planet…because it provides the best results.

  139. Supply restrictions only raise prices to the degree that demand supports those increases.

    Again by that same model people have to pay for food or they will starve….so the state should constrain the supply to add value.

    The fun thing about what your saying is that smart growth was sold to the public as a way to keep Californians from moving to Washington.

    So you are correct…a shit load of people did not move to Washington because the prices are to high. This in no way changes the fact that homes in Washington have inflated prices due to smart growth with no benefit….well i guess we have less Californians…is that the coveted amenity that planners are always talking about?

  140. joshua,

    You framed this in terms of “smart growth” equaling supply restrictions, not I. But given that premise…

    Washington’s development policies seem to have resulted in an area that people want to move to…that they are willing to pay high prices to live in, increasingly high prices.

    The only way your analogy to food works is if Washington’s policies reduce the overall supply of land for development (even outside their jurisdiction).

    But they don’t.

    They just regulate the development within their jurisdiction. If this has resulted in no benefit, but higher prices, it has made Washington less desirable as a place to live.

    The growing population and increasing prices seem to provide evidence to the contrary. People continue to want what Washington has to offer, including “smart growth policies” and are willing to pay high prices to get it.

    Might be because the prices buy a good quality of life that is worth the cost. In other words, those policies seem to have contributed to a tangible benefit that is reflected in price of property.

  141. For some rough data:

    Approximately 63 percent of Washington’s population growth between 1990 and 2000 was due to net migration – more people moving in than moving out.

    http://www.ofm.wa.gov/trends/tables/fig302.asp

    Net migration – people moving in less people moving out – has accounted for about 58 percent of Washington’s population growth since 2000.

    http://www.ofm.wa.gov/trends/tables/fig303.asp

  142. Another look at the issue…

    In the final analysis, Eicher believes Seattle’s regulatory climate exists because its residents want it. “My sense is land-use restrictions are imposed to generate socially desirable outcomes,” he says. “We all love parks and green spaces. But we must also be informed about the costs. It’s very easy to vote for a park if you think the cost is free.”

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2004181704_eicher14.html

    Joshua will use this study to support his position. But it doesn’t really do so. It demonstrates how much the benefits the smart growth plan cost, not that there is “no benefit.”

  143. For what its worth.

    Urban living has higher housing costs, but overall costs may not be that much more.

    In denser neighborhoods you can get by without a car, have lower utilities, more free time, more quality time with your family. All benefits that offset the some of the high housing costs.

    Smarter policies would mitigate the costs without eliminating the benefits by eliminating the inefficiencies that increase cost without contributing to the benefits.

  144. NM,

    Neither Bob Smith nor I were arguing for anarchism (although I did suggest the government eliminate itself somewhere above, but that was a joke). It is possible to not have zoning without descending into anarchism (although Houston may be a counter example). Hell, the property rights I was talking about REQUIRE a government to exist to enforce them.

    The chaos I was referring to was the chaos of people naturally creating mix-used neighborhoods via their right to use their property however they see fit.

    Bob Smith hit something dead on, I tried to say it, but his version was better – leaving it up to the individual owner is the smartest decision:

    The collective activities of the community, including the development decisions of its landowners, is in fact what’s best for the community.

    Whats best is to not plan and let everyone do what they think best with their property.

  145. In denser neighborhoods you can get by without a car, have lower utilities, more free time, more quality time with your family. All benefits that offset the some of the high housing costs.

    I agree with the first 2 (although the 2nd is only true due to smaller living areas, I think). I have no idea how you can claim the last 2 though. I, for example, live in the suburb and commute 10 minutes to work. If I lived in a dense downtown neighborhood, I would have a 30 minute commute. Longer if I didnt have a car. Much, much longer.

    Of course, I refuse to work downtown. I like the suburbs and I hate communting, so I live near work on purpose. Or, actually, I work near where I live on purpose.

  146. robc,

    Neither Bob Smith nor I were arguing for anarchism

    I know. Libertarianism suffers, however, from its reliance on the ideal of anarchy to make its arguments. Once you let in governance, then the debate moves to which policies are “smarter.” Makes a poor foil to “smart growth policies,” imho. Minarchy is always in the eye of the beholder in other words. You want certain restrictions on freedom and not others…it is really just an argument about where to draw the line. If someone doesn’t buy your axioms, your arguments fall apart.

    All natural complex systems include regulatory mechanisms. Communities are part of that class of objects. Occasionally you need to clean house to get rid of the detritus, but the process will re-instate regulations no matter what you do. The more evidence-based (smart) those regulations are, the less negative effects they will have. Communities have lots of history to examine to choose strategies that have worked out well in the past. There is no reason not to take advantage of that resource.

    If I lived in a dense downtown neighborhood, I would have a 30 minute commute. Longer if I didnt have a car. Much, much longer.

    Why would you choose to live farther from your office if you moved to a denser neighborhood. I thought you didn’t like commuting?

    Working in close proximity to your home saves lots of time. Easy to do in dense communities. If the grocery store and all your other needs are as close, then you can see how time is saved for free time and family. When I lived in Manhattan, there were no basic needs that could not be met within 200 yards of my apartment. I did, by choice, work in Harlem so I had more than a 10 minute to work commute, but that was by choice. I could have worked closer to where I lived or lived closer to my work had I chosen. No need for a car.

    On average, those in a dense community will be more likely live near their work because the have more choices. Off course, some people live in the city and work in the suburbs, or work all the way across town.

    But on average I would be willing to bet most city dwellers have shorter commutes than suburb dwellers. Particularly in communities that have used smarter growth policies.

    LA, Phoenix and similar cities don’t count, of course.

  147. But on average I would be willing to bet most city dwellers have shorter commutes than suburb dwellers. Particularly in communities that have used smarter growth policies.

    In terms of miles, probably. In terms of time, doubtful. The pundits for great density think your time has no value, or they wouldn’t wax ecstatic about public transportation. It’s terrible for getting anywhere in reasonable time.

  148. Bob Smith,

    Do you use public transportation?

    Let’s meet in Manhattan.

    You get in your car, I’ll get on the subway at 5pm and we’ll see who can get from my old job in Harlem to my old apartment faster.

    Winner buys dinner at any restaurant of your choice.

    Of course, public transportation only works when density is high enough.

    If you are in Albuquerque, the car is faster.

    Kinda the point of the “planning” aspect of development.

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