Monday, November 28, 2005

Have You Considered Majoring In SUBurban Studies?

Great story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press last Friday about the growing popularity on college campuses of SUBurban studies.

"The suburbs may not be cool -- yet," the story says. "But on campuses across the country, interest in studying suburbsis, well, sprawling."

Professor David Lanegren at Macalester College in the Twin Cities area, and a founder of a suburban studies program, said that for too long, suburbs have been dismissed for political reasons. "Professors tend to be liberal, and they prefer to study urban areas where Democrats dominate. So they focus on issues such as crime, diversity and poverty." Lanegren, by the way, is also a Democrat.

"No matter how you might pretend suburbs don't exist, they do, and they are driving the economy," Lanegren says.

New Urbanism and Smart Growth may be the politically correct things for planners to espouse, but working and planning for the suburbs is the place to make a mark, in my book.

8 Comments:

At 6:07 AM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

A great way to start a class on suburbia would be to play the documentary END OF SUBURBIA on the first day. That would certainly start a lot of lively discussion.

Have you seen END OF SUBURBIA yet, Wilf? I would be interested in hearing your views of the issues discussed.

It's available to rent on NETFLIX

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger Urbatron said...

Wilf, I'm confused. Isn't smart growth and new urbanism meant for the suburbs as improved design standards for sub-urban areas? I'm curious as to your distinction between suburbs and new urbanism.

 
At 12:47 PM, Blogger floodplain said...

Actually, new urbanist developments about half infill (building in previously-developed areas) and half greenfield (building in undeveloped areas). You can find lists of new urbanist developments here:

http://www.newurbannews.com/ProjectsPage.html

and here:
http://www.tndtownpaper.com/neighborhoods.htm

 
At 6:36 PM, Blogger Wilf said...

Urbatron & Floodplain:

Urbatron, you got me. At least somewhat. Yes, some of those same principles can and should be applied to development of the suburbs. But much of smart growth focuses on directing growth to the urban core, rather than spreading out at the fringes. That's fine, as far as it goes. But, like Joel Kotkin points out in his essays, central city resurgence has lead to population increases there of about 3 million over the past decade or so. That's great. But the suburbs have increased by over 17 million at the same time. So let's figure out ways to make the suburbs better places to live.

Peak Oil: I have heard about END OF SUBURBIA, but not seen it. I will try to take a look at it. However, this is not the first doomsday scenario I've heard about oil. I started out life in college as a geology major, and back then there was talk about how we were close to the end of useable oil production.

I don't mean to say that someday we won't run low -- don't know if that time is yet. But I think we will find other sources of enery (solar electric, fuel cells, something) and we will still have milions of cars running around, powered by something else. Different fuel source, same planning issues.

 
At 7:54 AM, Blogger Former Centerville Citizen said...

I don't know if you heard Wilf, but last night the Salt Lake City Planning Commission voted to deny the request to rezone 13 acres of Mount Olivet Cemetery property for Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School. If the commission had voted in favor of the rezone, it would have changed the zoning from open space to institutional. I'm so glad that the Planning Commission had the balls to stick with the old zoning, especially considering that SLC is a big urban area that's going to need all the cemetery space it can get.

Here's an idea - why doesn't the Mount Olivet Cemetery Association LEASE the land, so that they can make money off the land but still be able to use it in the future when they'll need it for burials?

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

I don't mean to say that someday we won't run low -- don't know if that time is yet. But I think we will find other sources of enery (solar electric, fuel cells, something) and we will still have milions of cars running around, powered by something else. Different fuel source, same planning issues.

Since you are continually advocating a pattern of development that requires high per capita levels of consumption of electricity and natural gas as well as continued and increasing dependence on automobiles, I hope your faith that we will always be able to support a system of cheap energy and universal automobility is well founded. Suburbia could quickly turn into a real tough place to live if energy became painfully expensive.

We should take note that our major oil companies, including Chevron and ExxonMobil, are beginning to state publicly that we may be reaching peak oil. -- Senator Orrin Hatch

 
At 1:09 PM, Blogger Wilf said...

Peak Oil:

I am not so much advocating as I am arguing that we must recognize the reality of where the vast majority of growth in this state and country goes, and that as planners we should spend more of our time making those places (the suburbs) better places to live. I am all in favor of doing what we can to minimize the use of cars -- transit, walkable neighborhoods, mixed use. There is no way we are going to be able to cram all the people we expect in the next 20 years on the Wasatch Front into the core urban area without DRASTIC changes in the way we develop. That just ain't going to happen, so let's make the best of the places where all these people are choosing to live.

And if your doomsday scenario comes to pass, then I guess we'll find ways to deal with that, too. But right now, most are not seriously taking that view.

 
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