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furcalchick
Nov 10, 2007, 12:30 AM
over the years, i've noticed in general that the most liberal cities in the country (new york, boston, san fran) are for the most part self sufficient and anyone could live in those cities without a car. i've also noticed the most conservative cities in the country (dallas, southern cites, etc) have some of the worst sprawl problems anywhere. i'm also aware of when these cities were established, but there was a theme that the more liberal cities (as in the makeup of the city in general) had more public transport options than the more conservative cities in general. because i also know many conservatives say that using more cars and suburb access means more freedom to choose a lifestyle, while the carless say they need more ways to get around than a car, and i would argue that more liberals would go carless. (yes, i'm making some generalizations here, doing to make a point, i know there are exceptions) valid theory?

CalBoy
Nov 10, 2007, 12:39 AM
over the years, i've noticed in general that the most liberal cities in the country (new york, boston, san fran) are for the most part self sufficient and anyone could live in those cities without a car. i've also noticed the most conservative cities in the country (dallas, southern cites, etc) have some of the worst sprawl problems anywhere. i'm also aware of when these cities were established, but there was a theme that the more liberal cities (as in the makeup of the city in general) had more public transport options than the more conservative cities in general. because i also know many conservatives say that using more cars and suburb access means more freedom to choose a lifestyle, while the carless say they need more ways to get around than a car, and i would argue that more liberals would go carless. (yes, i'm making some generalizations here, doing to make a point, i know there are exceptions) valid theory?

I object to San Francisco. Aside from downtown and a few other areas, public transit the likes of which you're thinking of don't exist in SF. SF only has about 10% (less actually) of the Bay Area's population. Most people who work in SF travel for about 45-60 minutes into the city. Compared to other major population centers, SF is quite sprawly.

Also, I can't believe you left out Chicago!:p It's quite liberal and actually has excellent public transit (I'm jealous).

Lastly, where did you get the idea that Dallas was conservative? It has been the historic stronghold of the Democrats during the past several election cycles. It is also one of the most gay-friendly cities around (according to a story in US News a few months ago).

HOWEVER, your general assertion is correct. LA is less liberal than NY or Chicago, but it is still more liberal than the average American city. What you highlighted is actually the difference between a densely populated place and a sparsely populated place.

It's really quite simple in political terms. The more people you have, the more ideas and view points you gather. As business relies more upon dollars and cents (rather than religious or other views), people in larger cities adapt to newer cultures and ideas as a mode of survival. This trend has held true for millennia.

IJ Reilly
Nov 10, 2007, 12:39 AM
I think what you are noticing is that the more urban places tend to be less conservative. This is a fairly constant characteristic of urban vs. suburban places at least since the post-World War II period, when the most affluent and mobile Americans began abandoning the big cities.

LethalWolfe
Nov 10, 2007, 01:28 AM
I don't think you are going to find very many places more liberal, full of sprawl, and lacking public transpo than Los Angeles.


Lethal

Genghis Khan
Nov 10, 2007, 01:34 AM
i know australia is VERY conservative and the australian lifestyle is that of a sprawled urban centre

i think in a densely populated area, ideas can travel quicker (TV is not a means to transmit ideas, only rupert murdochs opinion), as people are more in contact with eachother

i think society needs a balance of the two, but generally the OP's observation would seem to be correct

CalBoy
Nov 10, 2007, 01:42 AM
i think in a densely populated area, ideas can travel quicker (TV is not a means to transmit ideas, only rupert murdochs opinion), as people are more in contact with eachother
It has less to do with ideas traveling than it does being exposed to new paradigms. Someone in a sparsely populated place is less likely to encounter someone of a different race, religion, or belief, and as a result, does not have to consider other points of view. Meeting people who disagree with you helps you understand new ideas and tolerate them (even if you don't accept them).

i think society needs a balance of the two, but generally the OP's observation would seem to be correct

Does society really need a balance of sprawly areas? Urban sprawl leads to more pollution, more energy consumption and waste, and natural habitat destruction. What's actually best for the World and for society is more densely populated areas which can cut down on wasted resources.

SMM
Nov 10, 2007, 03:42 AM
< ... snip ... >

valid theory?



I think if I were studying this as a project, I would look at how much emphasis, and effort, was allocated to sound urban planning. There is an old saying, "You get what you pay for". Those cities who believe in small government and low taxes will often have poor plans. However, if the people are willing to accept this, then they have received what they wanted. The cities which want a better job done, pay for it and get the rewards. It is a matter of choice.

Genghis Khan
Nov 10, 2007, 03:54 AM
It has less to do with ideas traveling than it does being exposed to new paradigms. Someone in a sparsely populated place is less likely to encounter someone of a different race, religion, or belief, and as a result, does not have to consider other points of view. Meeting people who disagree with you helps you understand new ideas and tolerate them (even if you don't accept them).

that's what i meant when i said ideas :p


Does society really need a balance of sprawly areas? Urban sprawl leads to more pollution, more energy consumption and waste, and natural habitat destruction. What's actually best for the World and for society is more densely populated areas which can cut down on wasted resources.

you can have urban sprawl that is *relatively* environmentally friendly.........the point i was trying to make was that 'socially' we need a balance between tradition and new ideas...because either on its own is self destroying

leekohler
Nov 10, 2007, 09:27 AM
I object to San Francisco. Aside from downtown and a few other areas, public transit the likes of which you're thinking of don't exist in SF. SF only has about 10% (less actually) of the Bay Area's population. Most people who work in SF travel for about 45-60 minutes into the city. Compared to other major population centers, SF is quite sprawly.

Also, I can't believe you left out Chicago!:p It's quite liberal and actually has excellent public transit (I'm jealous).

Lastly, where did you get the idea that Dallas was conservative? It has been the historic stronghold of the Democrats during the past several election cycles. It is also one of the most gay-friendly cities around (according to a story in US News a few months ago).

HOWEVER, your general assertion is correct. LA is less liberal than NY or Chicago, but it is still more liberal than the average American city. What you highlighted is actually the difference between a densely populated place and a sparsely populated place.

It's really quite simple in political terms. The more people you have, the more ideas and view points you gather. As business relies more upon dollars and cents (rather than religious or other views), people in larger cities adapt to newer cultures and ideas as a mode of survival. This trend has held true for millennia.

Yeah, how could you forget Chicago? I love it here and haven't had a car for going on 10 years. You may think that cars represent freedom, but here they're a hindrance. I love being free from car payments, insurance, gas prices, etc.

Desertrat
Nov 10, 2007, 10:03 AM
San Francisco cannot sprawl. It's constrained by the geography. Austin, Texas, sprawls like crazy--and it's a liberal bastion.

Just generalizing: Consider the demographic background of many major cities. The post-Civil War growth and that of the 20th century was from the idea of, "Go to the city, and get a GOOD job." IOW, the poorer among us.

Politicians want votes and so they promise goodies from the public coffers. Since promising AFDC or health care or other desirable programs are indeed vote-getters, city voters are more in favor of these and the other programs about which we've argued here. "If some's good, more's better" and the numbers of public-coffer programs increase--regardless of efficacy.

Rural people, in general, must be more independent and self-sufficient. They have no choice, by their very lifestyles. No government program can make it rain or make crops and grass grow. Small town businessmen depend on business activity which is very much up and down with weather, so they, too, tend to be cautious and conservative.

Factor in such psychological efforts as what I call "Naderism", where if we just pass enough laws and write enough regulations we'll have a safe, warm, snuggly world in which to live. We have become a risk-averse society--as is obvious from the daily papers. By and large, however, rural and small-town folks don't believe it.

Sprawl, as such, though, is partially due to geography, as the San Francisco example. Or Key West, for that matter. The caveat is that some sprawl occurred as Whitey fled the central cities. Some sprawl has occurred with the creation of bedroom communities to avoid big-city taxation.

Dallas sprawl has come about with job creation and a willingness of farmers to cash out at high land prices.

We sold out to Austin sprawl in 1980. Ranch income per acre, gross, was at most $50/acre/year. (One cow/calf per eight acres; $400 per calf.) When a developer offers $6,000/acre, why say no? You can invest that $6,000 and equal the net ranch income while you sleep. That's happened in Denver and many other sprawl-growth places.

'Rat

furcalchick
Nov 10, 2007, 10:12 AM
Yeah, how could you forget Chicago? I love it here and haven't had a car for going on 10 years. You may think that cars represent freedom, but here they're a hindrance. I love being free from car payments, insurance, gas prices, etc.

i've believed for years cars were more of a burden than a freedom when you have to depend on one to live on. i personally don't like cars and would rather live in a city where i don't need one. south florida is possibly one of the worst places to have no car, because of the sprawl and you seem to hear of cars hitting bikers more and i've had a bunch of close calls riding my bike in the better areas.

and don't forget, in about 5 years once oil probably becomes more sparse, the car expenses will be over the top. that is one of the reasons i didn't get a car.

and no, i didn't forget chicago (actually lived north of there for about 3 years, nice city), just didn't want to place a city i wasn't 100% sure on the issue.

adrianblaine
Nov 10, 2007, 10:32 AM
I've spent the last 5 years studying cities and architecture as an architecture student and I now work for an office that does a lot of urban design. One theory is that your surroundings influences your behavior. If you "live" in a car driving on a freeway 2-3 hours a day, it influences your priorities away from things that their urban counterpart finds important as they walk, take the bus/train or ride their bike. The priority of the car diminishes everything about what's nice in a city once you get out of the car. Huge parking lots, 6 lane roads, gigantic intersections are all fine in the car, but when you get out, it's a nightmare.

The person who doesn't take a car to work will care about everything that the human needs, not the car. This in turn influences how cities are designed, which attracts more people not to take their car, which in turn influences the cities design even further. It's a cyclical phenomenon in either situation.

CalBoy
Nov 10, 2007, 10:34 AM
Yeah, how could you forget Chicago? I love it here and haven't had a car for going on 10 years. You may think that cars represent freedom, but here they're a hindrance. I love being free from car payments, insurance, gas prices, etc.
Bingo. Cars are a major obstacle in most people's lives. Unfortunately, many people are left with few options in this country.

San Francisco cannot sprawl. It's constrained by the geography.

Umm...out of curiosity, when was the last time you've been to SF? It's crazy how far one has to drive to make it back "into" the city. Like I posted above, most of the Bay Area's population is concentrated in suburbs which are quite far from SF or Oakland (or even San Jose). Most Bay Area commuters spend over 1.5 hours in traffic and travel over 40 miles to get to work. That sure sounds like sprawl to me.

PS: even though it's unsafe to build in certain areas of the Bay Area, home developers have chosen to ignore such risks and build anyway (and buyers don't seem to care either :rolleyes:).

it5five
Nov 10, 2007, 03:02 PM
I think if I were studying this as a project, I would look at how much emphasis, and effort, was allocated to sound urban planning. There is an old saying, "You get what you pay for". Those cities who believe in small government and low taxes will often have poor plans.

I thought of Phoenix the whole time I was reading this. This is an incredibly poorly planned city, and a pretty conservative one at that. We have almost nothing in terms of public transportation. Currently, we have a bus line with no lines that run even close to any suburbs (because those that live in the suburbs think the only people that use busses are criminals and homeless people). We have a light-rail opening in a few years, but it will have a very very short route when it first opens. We have no bike-lanes on the street unless you get downtown Phoenix or to Tempe (which I wish we did. I get things yelled at me almost every day while riding my bike).

I hate this city.

Rodimus Prime
Nov 10, 2007, 03:33 PM
Part of the reason the US has so much urban sprawl is it is a very young nation. Unlike European cities that built up long before the invention of the car things where already compact by the time people even started coming to the US. This also explains why in the New England area a lot of those cities you can get by with out a car.
Add that to the fact that for the longest time people farmed in the US and that cause everything to spread out. By the time the west was built up the car started being a much larger factor.

Lastly the US is big with a lot of land per capita. The continual US is larger than all of Europe and has a smaller population to boot. This makes land cheap and lets us has more area to build on an spread out. This makes public transportation very difficult to make cost effective. It requires it to cover more of an area with few people.

adrianblaine
Nov 10, 2007, 03:33 PM
I hate this city.

I wouldn't even classify Phoenix as a city. It's an area of urban sprawl. City implies some sort of civic presence and dignity. I had not known that is where you are from, so now I can understand your desire to leave the US altogether.

Part of the reason the US has so much urban sprawl is it is a very young nation. Unlike European cities that built up long before the invention of the car things where already compact by the time people even started coming to the US. This also explains why in the New England area a lot of those cities you can get by with out a car.

This is exactly why it is so sprawling. If you go into the historic cities of America, they are very similar to Europe but very much "American" at the same time. The car changed everything at a very critical point in our history. Some for good, but mostly for bad.

it5five
Nov 10, 2007, 03:48 PM
I wouldn't even classify Phoenix as a city. It's an area of urban sprawl. City implies some sort of civic presence and dignity. I had not known that is where you are from, so now I can understand your desire to leave the US altogether.


Oh what a relief. If only other Phoenicians would realize the same. I feel so alone here, especially when I share my thoughts about Phoenix with others. A lot of people that live here love it; and I have NO ****ing clue why.

adrianblaine
Nov 10, 2007, 04:03 PM
Oh what a relief. If only other Phoenicians would realize the same. I feel so alone here, especially when I share my thoughts about Phoenix with others. A lot of people that live here love it; and I have NO ****ing clue why.

Maybe if they left Phoenix for awhile they'd change their mind. I spent a month in Europe which changed my life forever. We spent 10 days in Rome and walked 30 miles (probably more) while we were there and it was the most incredible experience of my life.

Living in Pasadena has actually been one of the best things I've done. It's expensive where I live, but for quality of life it is worth it. I have an 8 minute walk to work and everything from my dentist, doctor, grocery store, video store, movie theater, 40 restaurants, even an Apple store all with in a 10 minute walk or a 15 minute bike ride (that's how long it took me to get to my dentist). My wife and I only own one car which I drive maybe once a week. The rest of LA is a different story, but some cities in the LA area still have some semblance of an actual civic city.

You are not crazy, those poor poeple around you have just been brainwashed into think the American dream is to own a fancy car and a big house. The American dream is to be happy, and I am more than happy to not live in sprawling suburbia.

Rodimus Prime
Nov 10, 2007, 04:19 PM
I wouldn't even classify Phoenix as a city. It's an area of urban sprawl. City implies some sort of civic presence and dignity. I had not known that is where you are from, so now I can understand your desire to leave the US altogether.



This is exactly why it is so sprawling. If you go into the historic cities of America, they are very similar to Europe but very much "American" at the same time. The car changed everything at a very critical point in our history. Some for good, but mostly for bad.

you missed the other part. in the US there is a LOT of land per capita. This is another huge factor in why people spread out. Land is cheap

adrianblaine
Nov 10, 2007, 04:30 PM
you missed the other part. in the US there is a LOT of land per capita. This is another huge factor in why people spread out. Land is cheap

But we were only able to spread out so much because of the car. Farms were the only sprawling thing before the car. First American cities were very, very dense, even with the abundance of land.

Just because we have so much land should not have given us the thought to exploit and waste land. Our nonchalant attitude about wasting land just because we have so much of it is disheartening.

That wasn't directed at anyone by the way

Rodimus Prime
Nov 10, 2007, 05:12 PM
But we were only able to spread out so much because of the car. Farms were the only sprawling thing before the car. First American cities were very, very dense, even with the abundance of land.

Just because we have so much land should not have given us the thought to exploit and waste land. Our nonchalant attitude about wasting land just because we have so much of it is disheartening.

That wasn't directed at anyone by the way
true the car allowed us to do that but even so look at Europe and japan. Even with the car they can not spread out. Land cost way to much to allow for it. I was trying to point out that the simple land area plays a huge part in allowing for it.

Even before the car people in the US where more spread than most other places in the world for the simple fact it was very easy and cheap to do so.

that being said I personally one day want to own a house and have some space to spread out. For me personally having a car is not an option for the career field I am entering I need the car just to get to work. it will be impossible for me to really live close to where I work for a very long period of time. I am going into constitution management which means my "office" so to speak moves around. That along with I just have to be able to go places at odd times.

adrianblaine
Nov 10, 2007, 05:22 PM
true the car allowed us to do that but even so look at Europe and japan. Even with the car they can not spread out. Land cost way to much to allow for it. I was trying to point out that the simple land area plays a huge part in allowing for it.

Even before the car people in the US where more spread than most other places in the world for the simple fact it was very easy and cheap to do so.

that being said I personally one day want to own a house and have some space to spread out. For me personally having a car is not an option for the career field I am entering I need the car just to get to work. it will be impossible for me to really live close to where I work for a very long period of time. I am going into constitution management which means my "office" so to speak moves around. That along with I just have to be able to go places at odd times.

When I traveled through Europe I noticed that there is plenty of land to be spread out over. It may be expensive, but if they wanted to, they could.

Before the car, American cities were very geographically spread out, not the cities themselves.

In the last 15 years, the amount of retail space has doubled per capita and we've only increased in population 15%. We are wasting our resources.

I'm not even arguing against abolishing cars. While I don't use one, they are needed. My point is that there are tens of millions of people who have jobs that don't require having a car but our society is not set up correctly to be able to let them live without a car. I'm arguing for the ability to have a choice in the matter.

IJ Reilly
Nov 10, 2007, 07:34 PM
When I traveled through Europe I noticed that there is plenty of land to be spread out over. It may be expensive, but if they wanted to, they could.

After the war both Britain and France made concerted efforts to protect their agricultural lands as a matter of national planning policy. The US essentially did just the opposite, by subsidizing suburbanization through the FHA, the GI Bill and federally-funding interstate highway construction.

valdore
Nov 10, 2007, 07:40 PM
The first step towards rectifying the agoraphobia-inducing crudscape that is the contemporary American built environment of strip mall gulags, franchise fry pits, and huge traffic sewers - would be to take all the stupid, moronic single use "Euclidian" zoning laws that outlaw land use mixture, roll them up real tight, and flush them down the crapper, which incidentally is the exact same place you can find the modern American public realm.

latergator116
Nov 10, 2007, 07:40 PM
Umm...out of curiosity, when was the last time you've been to SF? It's crazy how far one has to drive to make it back "into" the city. Like I posted above, most of the Bay Area's population is concentrated in suburbs which are quite far from SF or Oakland (or even San Jose). Most Bay Area commuters spend over 1.5 hours in traffic and travel over 40 miles to get to work. That sure sounds like sprawl to me.


I think he means the actual city limits, not the whole metropolitan area. Even dense urban cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc. have sprawling suburbs.

I don't think I could ever live in a city (or in any suburb) where a car is required for getting around. Some people might feel "free", but I find it a lot more constraining.

valdore
Nov 10, 2007, 07:42 PM
Some people might feel "free", but I find it a lot more constraining.

Most people, that is the blithering, slobbering public at large, is/are too stupid to have the scintillating revelation that cars are the masters, not the servants.

CalBoy
Nov 10, 2007, 07:46 PM
I think he means the actual city limits, not the whole metropolitan area. Even dense urban cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc. have sprawling suburbs.

There's a big difference between NY, Chicago, etc, and SF. SF has most of its population spread out over a vast area. Even the city proper isn't as dense as most major cities. If you look at the metro area of NY, its population is about 22 million. NYC proper is above 8 million. That's a ratio that's more than 3:1. SF has only 700k. The Bay Area is something around 8.5 million. That's a ratio of less than 10:1. That's very sprawly.

pdham
Nov 10, 2007, 07:58 PM
After the war both Britain and France made concerted efforts to protect their agricultural lands as a matter of national planning policy. The US essentially did just the opposite, by subsidizing suburbanization through the FHA, the GI Bill and federally-funding interstate highway construction.

I was just going to make this point...

but beyond historical land use policy there is one big cause of sprawl everyone's missing. Our societal value is land. Jefferson actually wanted the dec. of independence to read "life, liberty and the pursuit of land.." (not making that up). One of the very cores of our nation's foundation was the linking of land and democracy. Today, the private property rights movement (wise use movement for Westcoasters) has done an excellent job of injecting land use issues into the popular media by cloaking them in this idea of land and democracy. Thus, there is this belief that land use controls, which limit the ability to get and use land, are essentially un-American.

Yes the car has allowed sprawl to extend further, but the historic reality was we had "sprawl" before the automobile, it was the street car neighborhoods at the edge of cities. Granted those neighborhoods had to be denser becasue they needed to support the street car insudtry, but at the time they were edge city development. Now they are integrated into the fabric of the urban form as the boulevard neighborhoods in many of the older Midwestern and East coast cities.

As a planner I can tell you the problem at its core is the social idea of using land without hindrence of government. (and drastically low food prices but that is another topic) Certainly the car excaberates the problem, but everything about our system; tax structure, land use decision making paradigm, hell even the planning profession to a large degree enforce the "Jeffersonian ideal" of land and democracy. The same ideal the private property rights movement has reshaped and popularized to frightening efficiency.

Don't get me wrong, I certainly believe a big first step would be to capitalize the social marginal cost of sprawl development into land prices for developers and future home owners, but I just want to make clear that the problem is far deeper and more complex than amount of land and advent of the automobile.

latergator116
Nov 10, 2007, 08:23 PM
As a planner I can tell you the problem at its core is the social idea of using land without hindrence of government. (and drastically low food prices but that is another topic) Certainly the car excaberates the problem, but everything about our system; tax structure, land use decision making paradigm, hell even the planning profession to a large degree enforce the "Jeffersonian ideal" of land and democracy. The same ideal the private property rights movement has reshaped and popularized to frightening efficiency.

Great post. I think big business also plays a significant role. Sprawling suburbs require more cars, trucks, roads to be paved, houses to be built, new shopping malls, etc. Where I live, Providence (and many other cities I'm sure), there used to be an efficient trolley system running throughout the entire city before the bus companies came along and killed that off. There just seems to be so much incentive for businesses to NOT have people live in cities.

pdham
Nov 10, 2007, 08:29 PM
Great post. I think big business also plays a significant role. Sprawling suburbs require more cars, trucks, roads to be paved, houses to be built, new shopping malls, etc. Where I live, Providence, there used to be an efficient trolley system running throughout the entire city before the bus companies came along and killed that off. There just seems to be so much incentive for businesses to NOT have people live in cities.

Great point. That is actually what I was refering to when I said the paradigm of the planning profession itself contributes to the problem. On most municipality's plan commissions you see the same general make up; bankers, real estate developers, businessmen with a stake in development, real estate lawyers, etc. Essentially, the people that most benefit from growth are the ones making the rules they have to play by. How are concerned citizens and even professional planners supposed to institute change when the decision making body has differnet motives? This occurance is certainly most pronounced in areas where there isn't a real planning department, but none the less, it is counterproductive to say the least

kainjow
Nov 10, 2007, 08:59 PM
I'm glad this topic came up, because the other day I was talking to my dad about selling my car and using my scooter only. But winter is approaching and it's already in the 40s. I really hate owning a car now. I'm still in college, but I think as soon as I realistically can, I will be selling my car and moving to a city with better public transportation and without cold winters. Any tips on where I should go? (Berkeley, CA is looking nice.) :)

CalBoy
Nov 10, 2007, 09:55 PM
(Berkeley, CA is looking nice.) :)

It gets pretty cold there too. Granted the bus service is pretty good, and BART can take you pretty far, so you'll probably be fine on a bike. But we warned that the rent is pretty steep as it's a college town.

adrianblaine
Nov 11, 2007, 12:57 AM
Any tips on where I should go? (Berkeley, CA is looking nice.) :)

Here in Pasadena I'm living without a car, but it is also very expensive. Portland, Oregon is extremely pedestrian/bike/public transportation friendly as well. Someday I'd like to move back. The weather is a little dreary in the winter, but it only snows about once a year.

These are some of my favorite cities I've been to that I liked that were easy to get around in by foot (with mild climates). There are more of course, but this is the short list:
Savannah, GA
Charleston, SC
New Orleans, LA
Seattle, WA

solvs
Nov 11, 2007, 06:59 AM
I don't think you are going to find very many places more liberal, full of sprawl, and lacking public transpo than Los Angeles.
Ah, but we're a densely populated, somewhat liberal, sprawled out area with horrible public transportation.

San Francisco cannot sprawl. It's constrained by the geography. Austin, Texas, sprawls like crazy--and it's a liberal bastion.
But SF is liberal, and Austin isn't that sprawled compared to the rest of the area around it.

Factor in such psychological efforts as what I call "Naderism", where if we just pass enough laws and write enough regulations we'll have a safe, warm, snuggly world in which to live.
I kinda like knowing my car won't explode or flip over if hit.

I don't have a choice, I need my car for work, but don't have to drive around that much.

IJ Reilly
Nov 11, 2007, 11:49 AM
but beyond historical land use policy there is one big cause of sprawl everyone's missing. Our societal value is land. Jefferson actually wanted the dec. of independence to read "life, liberty and the pursuit of land.." (not making that up). One of the very cores of our nation's foundation was the linking of land and democracy. Today, the private property rights movement (wise use movement for Westcoasters) has done an excellent job of injecting land use issues into the popular media by cloaking them in this idea of land and democracy. Thus, there is this belief that land use controls, which limit the ability to get and use land, are essentially un-American.

Even more to the point, almost to the man the founders, as landed gentry, were married to agrarian ideals (the most notable exception was Franklin, the only actual city-dweller of the lot). The idea that rural is good and urban is bad is at the heart of a lot of American thinking about these issues. Cities have always been the problem, not the solution.

Street-car suburbs can be seen as the progenitors of modern sprawl, but they didn't represent sprawl in the way we know it today. The main point of comparison is that they created transportation-driven growth in the urban fringes. Street cars created suburbs which could support new town centers. Automobile-created suburbs obliterated that concept, atomizing cities far more completely and rapidly than fixed-rail transport could ever have done.

BTW, I was trained as a city planner and practiced as one for ten years, until it finally occurred to me that actual city planning has virtually no constituency in the US, and probably not in many other places either. I had to give up the profession -- just too futile.

hulugu
Nov 11, 2007, 06:27 PM
I thought of Phoenix the whole time I was reading this. This is an incredibly poorly planned city, and a pretty conservative one at that. We have almost nothing in terms of public transportation. Currently, we have a bus line with no lines that run even close to any suburbs (because those that live in the suburbs think the only people that use busses are criminals and homeless people). We have a light-rail opening in a few years, but it will have a very very short route when it first opens. We have no bike-lanes on the street unless you get downtown Phoenix or to Tempe (which I wish we did. I get things yelled at me almost every day while riding my bike).

I hate this city.

Yep. In Tucson, Phoenix has a nickname: Mordor. ;)

BTW, I was trained as a city planner and practiced as one for ten years, until it finally occurred to me that actual city planning has virtually no constituency in the US, and probably not in many other places either. I had to give up the profession -- just too futile.

I wonder if it's time for a renaissance for city-planning. As people become more aware of the automobile's pollution, especially considering global warming, city-planning may become a necessary profession.

pdham
Nov 11, 2007, 07:05 PM
I wonder if it's time for a renaissance for city-planning. As people become more aware of the automobile's pollution, especially considering global warming, city-planning may become a necessary profession.

Not surprisingly I couldn't agree more (although I think as it is right now it is a necessary profession). ;)

furcalchick
Nov 11, 2007, 08:45 PM
I wonder if it's time for a renaissance for city-planning. As people become more aware of the automobile's pollution, especially considering global warming, city-planning may become a necessary profession.

don't forget the coming oil crisis. i think that's going to cause more of a near future impact with possibly 10 dollar gas in the next 5-10 years.

thanks for the responses, macrumors is an awesome community, because i know if i asked this exact same question on some other forums i'm on, i would have been laughed at to say the least.

and another thing, especially for those of you with children, will you be giving your children drivers license when they hit 16 or will you give them other options to work with? i had the option of driving at 16, but i felt that cars were more frustrating than liberating (at least on short trips, i think if car use was more for city to city traveling, i wouldn't have a problem with cars). the massive driving restrictions and my little need to drive at the time (still don't really have a desire to drive, but i would like to at least get a license to have the skill in case of an emergency) kinda put me off of it. cars i think are going to be a bigger burden in the coming years and giving teens cars will be questionable within a generation.

the other reason i ask is that alot of right leaning folks say that car dependent cities are the free market at work, while i think it's the complete opposite, stripping freedom away.

IJ Reilly
Nov 11, 2007, 10:25 PM
I wonder if it's time for a renaissance for city-planning. As people become more aware of the automobile's pollution, especially considering global warming, city-planning may become a necessary profession.

It's long past time, but I doubt very much if it's going to happen. Our system of making land use decisions is almost entirely about one side beating the other. It's about protecting vested interests to the maximum degree, it's about winning. Planning is just the opposite. Planning is about all sides understanding that if everyone agrees to give up something, everyone gets more in the long run. The mindset required to make real city planning work in the US is essentially absent. I don't see one, single sign of a change in attitude. In fact I see the anti-planning method of doing business becoming more firmly entrenched every day.

adrianblaine
Nov 11, 2007, 10:48 PM
I wonder if it's time for a renaissance for city-planning. As people become more aware of the automobile's pollution, especially considering global warming, city-planning may become a necessary profession.

To some extent there is one happening. If I continue in the architecture office I work at now, I most likely will end up with "urban designer" as my job title. They have done several big projects in Southern California and are finishing a big infill project in San Antonio.

Some cities are waking up to the fact that the sooner they clean up the mess now, the easier the future will be. Money is the greatest hurdle (as always). It will take time to penetrate deep into our culture, but I think it will get there.

IJ Reilly
Nov 11, 2007, 11:00 PM
Some cities are waking up to the fact that the sooner they clean up the mess now, the easier the future will be. Money is the greatest hurdle (as always). It will take time to penetrate deep into our culture, but I think it will get there.

Which ones? I don't see this happening anywhere frankly. Just so we're clear, I'm talking not about a good and successful project here or there. I'm talking about how major land use and public facilities decisions are made. This system is broken, and I haven't heard anyone say that they know how to fix it.

adrianblaine
Nov 11, 2007, 11:21 PM
Which ones? I don't see this happening anywhere frankly. Just so we're clear, I'm talking not about a good and successful project here or there. I'm talking about how major land use and public facilities decisions are made. This system is broken, and I haven't heard anyone say that they know how to fix it.

I'll admit, I have idealistic mindset, but that's mostly to keep my morale up. I know it won't be for awhile. I refuse to believe it is a hopeless cause though. Cities like Portland are at least promoting it to the best of their ability. I read an article about the Mayor of Ventura, CA wanting to turn his city into the Portland of Southern California, so the ideas are spreading. The middle class tends to be the leaders in changes like this. It was the middle class that drove the big boom of the suburbs when every Tom, Dick and Harry could own a car. Now there is discontent with suburban living with people flocking into more urban areas. The Pearl District in Portland is a prime example of this. It might be that one city spurs change in other cities. Without a good example to follow, there is nothing good to emulate. One city needs to exemplify everything good a city could be.

furcalchick
Nov 12, 2007, 07:49 AM
I'll admit, I have idealistic mindset, but that's mostly to keep my morale up. I know it won't be for awhile. I refuse to believe it is a hopeless cause though. Cities like Portland are at least promoting it to the best of their ability. I read an article about the Mayor of Ventura, CA wanting to turn his city into the Portland of Southern California, so the ideas are spreading. The middle class tends to be the leaders in changes like this. It was the middle class that drove the big boom of the suburbs when every Tom, Dick and Harry could own a car. Now there is discontent with suburban living with people flocking into more urban areas. The Pearl District in Portland is a prime example of this. It might be that one city spurs change in other cities. Without a good example to follow, there is nothing good to emulate. One city needs to exemplify everything good a city could be.

i personally think florida and the south are going to be among the last to give up the car culture, since they are stubborn to change and there is such an anti-anything else mentality around here. recently, miami had an option to expand public transport...they turned it down to expand the freeways. it's like south florida is building away the future, and the everglades at the same time. they have sold out to developers and that's not changing anytime soon.

IJ Reilly
Nov 12, 2007, 11:03 AM
I'll admit, I have idealistic mindset, but that's mostly to keep my morale up. I know it won't be for awhile. I refuse to believe it is a hopeless cause though. Cities like Portland are at least promoting it to the best of their ability. I read an article about the Mayor of Ventura, CA wanting to turn his city into the Portland of Southern California, so the ideas are spreading. The middle class tends to be the leaders in changes like this. It was the middle class that drove the big boom of the suburbs when every Tom, Dick and Harry could own a car. Now there is discontent with suburban living with people flocking into more urban areas. The Pearl District in Portland is a prime example of this. It might be that one city spurs change in other cities. Without a good example to follow, there is nothing good to emulate. One city needs to exemplify everything good a city could be.

Some of the trends are encouraging, but the underlying issues are unresolved and not changed. The planning and development process is still entirely about pitting one vested interest against another. This is one of the main forces driving sprawl. We can talk all we like about the value of higher-density urban living, but in reality hardly anybody wants to live near this density and they will fight every proposal to build it with every fiber of their being. The system is far more likely to respond to these pressures than some loftier planning goals. Development gets pushed to the fringes because that's where it's in the fewest backyards.

One city I know sets its significant environmental impact thresholds for traffic at one trip. That's right, if a project adds one vehicle trip, the environmental impact is considered to be adverse. It's not difficult to stop a development if each and every one has been determined to have an adverse environmental impact.

Talking about Ventura as "the Portland of Southern California" just goes to show how vague and meaningless this rhetoric can become. What is this model, really? I know a lot about Ventura. They're trying some progressive things downtown, but they are still ripping up farmlands on the fringe to build single family homes.

FrankBlack
Nov 12, 2007, 11:08 AM
I must respectfully disagree about Boston. We have sprawl, lots of it, in fact.

When I was growing up in the 60's, you were considered to be "out in the country", if you were outside route 128. (Background information: Route 128 is a beltway around Boston. It was built in the early 50's, as "the highway of the future".)

Today, there is traffic congestion out as far as route 495 and beyond. (Route 495 makes an even bigger beltway, through the far western 'burbs) Everything is built up with shopping malls, enormous parking lots, sub-divisions, and of course, McMansions. Formerly Bucolic towns such as Franklin, have just as much congestion as downtown Brookline. Long-time residents of Franklin just can't believe what's happened, all within the past twenty years. I know two people who live there. They'd like to sell, but can't right now.

Some old, wealthy towns have passed iron-clad zoning laws to combat sprawl. The Town of Carlisle is one such place. They would not even permit cell phone towers to be built there. (No bars showing in Carlisle.) Other places, such as Framingham, are built up and congested beyond belief. There's a long-defunct GM assembly plant in Framingham. Some would like it turned into park land, but I suspect the high-powered developers will win out, as they did in Danvers with the old state hospital. (Luxury Condos! Luxury Condos!)

Thanatoast
Nov 12, 2007, 02:46 PM
I'm glad this topic came up, because the other day I was talking to my dad about selling my car and using my scooter only. But winter is approaching and it's already in the 40s. I really hate owning a car now. I'm still in college, but I think as soon as I realistically can, I will be selling my car and moving to a city with better public transportation and without cold winters. Any tips on where I should go? (Berkeley, CA is looking nice.) :)
You know, you might not even have to move to a different city. What you need to look for is a place near where you work or vice versa. Last time I moved (in the spring) I specifically chose an apartment building close to our light rail system here in Denver. For six months I rode it to work daily and quite enjoyed it. Now that my wife is back from school in MT I drive, but I'm also looking for a job closer to where I live. Come next April we'll only have one car, she works ten minutes away by foot and the only reason I drive now is because my commute time is drastically reduced and we get more time with eachother. (3 hrs round-trip vs. 1 hr, 10 min) Also, I work 7:30-4:30, which makes a noticeable difference in commuting by car. If I worked 8-5 I might still be taking the rail for my own sanity.

BTW, I was trained as a city planner and practiced as one for ten years, until it finally occurred to me that actual city planning has virtually no constituency in the US, and probably not in many other places either. I had to give up the profession -- just too futile.
Denver is starting to do some urban planning, starting with the light rail. We opened a line along I-25 through town to the tech center last year which is very popular. If I lived in the southern suburbs and worked downtown (like a lot of people do) I'd never consider driving. Southbound I-25 in the afternoon is a parking lot from 3:30 until 6:30. We also approved light rail lines (http://www.rtd-fastracks.com/main_26) up US-36 to Boulder and further to Longmont, one to the airport (thank goodness), one west to Golden and one north up I-25 from downtown, which has the same problem as the south in reverse.

We've got three new ~40-50 story residential towers going up downtown (the first ones in 25-some-odd years) and east Colfax has been designated a multi-purpose mixed residential/commercial "small town" style area. We also just approved last week measures for cleaning up and improving pedestrian thouroughfares all around town.

So in Denver we're having a real new-urbanist revival. I'm excited, I'd love to stop driving so much (only 30 mile round-trip commute, but still).

mactastic
Nov 12, 2007, 03:45 PM
I question whether there is actual causal effect in the relationship between density and political affiliation.

It's pretty well established that larger cities generally trend more liberal. But do dense cities make people liberal, or are liberals simply drawn to dense cities? That's the question I think we're asking.

Outside of something like Portland's Urban Growth Boundary, what forces cities into densification is availability of land. Let's face it, it's cheaper to build on virgin land than it is to build an infill. Cities that have room to grow tend to go the sprawl route. Others (like San Francisco) have no room, and so must densify in order to grow. There it makes economic sense, since there is no alternative (since they stopped filling in the bay anyways). In Phoenix, where I also lived for a few years, it makes little sense to spend more to go up when land on the fringes is cheap.

That's not really a political-identification issue. That's just self-interest economics.

adrianblaine
Nov 12, 2007, 03:58 PM
Some of the trends are encouraging, but the underlying issues are unresolved and not changed. The planning and development process is still entirely about pitting one vested interest against another. This is one of the main forces driving sprawl. We can talk all we like about the value of higher-density urban living, but in reality hardly anybody wants to live near this density and they will fight every proposal to build it with every fiber of their being. The system is far more likely to respond to these pressures than some loftier planning goals. Development gets pushed to the fringes because that's where it's in the fewest backyards.

One city I know sets its significant environmental impact thresholds for traffic at one trip. That's right, if a project adds one vehicle trip, the environmental impact is considered to be adverse. It's not difficult to stop a development if each and every one has been determined to have an adverse environmental impact.

Talking about Ventura as "the Portland of Southern California" just goes to show how vague and meaningless this rhetoric can become. What is this model, really? I know a lot about Ventura. They're trying some progressive things downtown, but they are still ripping up farmlands on the fringe to build single family homes.

I agree 100% with you. I will admit as well that I'm very new to this. I just refuse to give up when I've barely started. Talking about Ventura was only trying to show that at least people are talking about it and learning from other cities that are trying. For it to be changed permanently, it has to become more profitable for people to build denser cities. That will require significant change in mindset, but it has happened before, and I think it will happen again.


It's pretty well established that larger cities generally trend more liberal. But do dense cities make people liberal, or are liberals simply drawn to dense cities? That's the question I think we're asking.


I think it goes either way. Suburban life tends to be more self centered and less community driven (ironic since it claims to be the opposite, and there are exceptions of course). If you live there, it could either mean you were that way to begin with, or it has the chance to make you become that way.

Cities actually have places that all residents share such as squares, public buildings, stadiums etc. In suburbia, the majority of shared elements between residents are parking lots, strip malls and office parks. People tend to be more passionate towards things important to civic life for all to enjoy, which is a very "liberal" idea.

IJ Reilly
Nov 12, 2007, 04:29 PM
I agree 100% with you. I will admit as well that I'm very new to this. I just refuse to give up when I've barely started. Talking about Ventura was only trying to show that at least people are talking about it and learning from other cities that are trying. For it to be changed permanently, it has to become more profitable for people to build denser cities. That will require significant change in mindset, but it has happened before, and I think it will happen again.

Sorry, I don't mean to rain on your parade. I spent ten years in the profession and grew steadily more cynical about it over that time. Nobody but nobody really wanted planning. They wanted their interests protected, to the exclusion of all other interests, if necessary. I found myself thinking more and more of Harry Truman's answer to the question of why he took up politics -- because his other choice was to become a piano player in a whorehouse.

The work I do now is planning-related. I get to stay out of the day-to-day business of city planning, but even so I am dismayed by the way my work is so frequently used not as a planning tool, which it should be, but as a cudgel to beat someone or something up, for people to get what works for them and to hell with everybody else. I still sit through way too many depressing public hearings to be cheered by the planning process, or to think it's been improved in any meaningful way over the years.

adrianblaine
Nov 12, 2007, 04:41 PM
Sorry, I don't mean to rain on your parade. I spent ten years in the profession and grew steadily more cynical about it over that time. Nobody but nobody really wanted planning. They wanted their interests protected, to the exclusion of all other interests, if necessary. I found myself thinking more and more of Harry Truman's answer to the question of why he took up politics -- because his other choice was to become a piano player in a whorehouse.

The work I do now is planning-related. I get to stay out of the day-to-day business of city planning, but even so I am dismayed by the way my work is so frequently used not as a planning tool, which it should be, but as a cudgel to beat someone or something up, for people to get what works for them and to hell with everybody else. I still sit through way too many depressing public hearings to be cheered by the planning process, or to think it's been improved in any meaningful way over the years.

Getting a dose of reality isn't a bad thing, just makes me realize how much is ahead of me in my career. I'm not a planner, but I will be working with planners. One of the Senior Associates in the office I'm working for used to be a city planner over in the Ventura area (not sure where exactly) so you might actually know him come to think about it. He sounds very frustrated about the whole situation as well.

Urban projects are making a lot of money though. It isn't quite as profitable as suburban development quite yet, but I think it will get there as long as fuel prices keep climbing.

IJ Reilly
Nov 12, 2007, 05:00 PM
Getting a dose of reality isn't a bad thing, just makes me realize how much is ahead of me in my career. I'm not a planner, but I will be working with planners. One of the Senior Associates in the office I'm working for used to be a city planner over in the Ventura area (not sure where exactly) so you might actually know him come to think about it. He sounds very frustrated about the whole situation as well.

Urban projects are making a lot of money though. It isn't quite as profitable as suburban development quite yet, but I think it will get there as long as fuel prices keep climbing.

If you concentrate on urban design you can probably get some satisfaction out of seeing some of your projects built. But I warn you, keep your asbestos undergarments close at hand. You someday will find yourself in a public hearing defending against attacks on your integrity, intelligence and parentage. People will say things in public hearings that they would never dream of saying if they had to look you in the eye, or if they really cared about the outcome beyond how it affects them directly.

If your firm's partner worked for the City of Ventura, there's a pretty good chance I know him. I've also worked with a lot of architects over the years. Drop me a PM if you like and I'll let you know.

valdore
Nov 12, 2007, 05:13 PM
Well, hearing these stories makes me kind of glad I dropped out of urban planning graduate school.

pdham
Nov 12, 2007, 07:29 PM
Outside of something like Portland's Urban Growth Boundary, what forces cities into densification is availability of land.

Unfortunately there is really no empirical evidence that the Portland UGB has done anything to curb land conversion or promote densification. The problem is in how the metro manages the boundary. Every five years it revalutaes available land and adjusts the boundary to ensure a 20 year supply remains. Therefore, it never actually constrains land supply. Running regression models also shows there is no actual affect on land prices despite popular belief.

adrianblaine
Nov 12, 2007, 08:11 PM
Unfortunately there is really no empirical evidence that the Portland UGB has done anything to curb land conversion or promote densification. The problem is in how the metro manages the boundary. Every five years it revalutaes available land and adjusts the boundary to ensure a 20 year supply remains. Therefore, it never actually constrains land supply. Running regression models also shows there is no actual affect on land prices despite popular belief.

Agreed. I've always thought the UGB has done next to nothing for Portland. At least the downtown is seeing some much needed infill done. The suburbs of all cities are either forever damaged or will take 200 years to convert into decent towns.

IJ Reilly
Nov 12, 2007, 11:10 PM
Agreed. I've always thought the UGB has done next to nothing for Portland. At least the downtown is seeing some much needed infill done. The suburbs of all cities are either forever damaged or will take 200 years to convert into decent towns.

It's probably done something to limit leapfrog development and to allow land to remain in productive agriculture longer. In this county we've got greenbelt agreements which do much the same thing, and they've been around longer than Portland's UGB.

mactastic
Nov 13, 2007, 11:36 AM
Unfortunately there is really no empirical evidence that the Portland UGB has done anything to curb land conversion or promote densification. The problem is in how the metro manages the boundary. Every five years it revalutaes available land and adjusts the boundary to ensure a 20 year supply remains. Therefore, it never actually constrains land supply. Running regression models also shows there is no actual affect on land prices despite popular belief.
I was making no judgement about the effectiveness of Portland's UGB. I understand that there are many people who feel strongly on both sides of that issue. My point was soley that absent a self-imposed or physical barrier (such as a UGB or being on a peninsula) cities will expand outward rather than upward or inward for the simple reason that it is cheaper and less risky to develop on undeveloped land than to re-develop infill sites, and it is cheaper and less risky to build low-rise rather than high-rise buildings.

pdham
Nov 13, 2007, 02:02 PM
I was making no judgement about the effectiveness of Portland's UGB. I understand that there are many people who feel strongly on both sides of that issue. My point was soley that absent a self-imposed or physical barrier (such as a UGB or being on a peninsula) cities will expand outward rather than upward or inward for the simple reason that it is cheaper and less risky to develop on undeveloped land than to re-develop infill sites, and it is cheaper and less risky to build low-rise rather than high-rise buildings.

Sorry Mac, I was't directing my coment towards anything you said. I agree completely with you.

It just so happens I have been spending the last few weeks reading empirical studies on the effictiveness of Portland's UGB and thought it was an interesting point to make.

Current regulatory schemes aren't really working (i dont think anyone will disagree there). But I do think regulation has potential. Mostly because very, very few communities actually test the limits of what is legally possible (for obvious reasons). If some progressive cities/regions can get some balls and try to craft a regulatory framework that actually has teeth (I am thinking about some version of land banking) then maybe we could see some progress.