Monday, December 05, 2005

The Free Market Would Choose -- Smart Growth?

A rather ingenious opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today, by Jay Bookman, deputy editor of the editorial page.

Titled "Free Market Would Never Pick Sprawl," he proposed some rather novel ideas about how an unfettered development market would act.

Bookman says that those who oppose Smart Growth attack the concept by saying, "What others deride as sprawl is actually just the free market at work, the result of millions of Americans choosing the lifestyle they prefer."

Bookman counters by writing, "First of all, the free market, left to its own devices, produces dense development, not sprawl. Developers want to put as many units as possible on their property, because that's how they make the most profit; you don't see them going to court demanding the right to build fewer homes per acre. Sprawl is only possible through intense government regulation. ... In fact, smart-growth alternatives impose fewer restrictions on developers than does sprawl-inducing zoning, and infringe less dramatically on developers' property rights. Philosophically speaking, it ought to be a conservative's dream.

"Sprawl is not a rejection of elitism; it is the expression of elitism. It is people using the power of government to protect 'us' against the incursion of 'them.'"

Some very interesting stuff. It ought to get us thinking a little deeper.


At 2:03 PM, Blogger Prof Simmons said...

I will read the whole article later and post something about it but I have a few comments for now. Neither smart growth nor traditional zoning are market approaches. Traditional exclusionary zoning restricts choices and smart grothers say that is bad. But instead of expanding choices, they substitute a new set of required choices; i,e., mandatory densities, walkability, and transit. It is a conscious attempt to recreate a pre-zoning world without recognizing how much transportation technology, preferences, and the workplace have changed. Cities no longer have central business districts but we build rail lines as if they still existed. Average commute times are not significantly different than they were 20 or 40 years ago but we claim we have huge transportation problems. Where we do have transportation problems it is because we refuse to build sifficient roads and try to force people into public transit.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Euclid said...

Yes, it's possible that the "sprawl" choice could be substituted by the "smart growth" choice...but at this point, many communities do not allow for smart growth. Smart growth advocates that would try to make sprawling growth illegal are being completely unrealistic.

Also, defining transportation problems only in terms of commute times is an EXTREMELY simplistic view. It has been documented that, regardless of transportation mode, most people are willing to endure a 20 to 40 minute commmute. The issue is much more complex than that. We have to account for the costs in infrastructure, maintenance, costs on the environment, etc...

The only reason we feel "forced" into public transit is because our land use patterns are so spread out, and so hostile to the pedestrian, that public transportation has become a "2nd class option" (in most cases).

When land use patterns foster walkability and the choice for public transit, it becomes a far more attractive option. Otherwise, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that roads are the only "sifficient" way to solve our transportation problems.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

I will be interested to see how free market forces affect the housing market in the near future when rising energy costs make auto dependency increasingly beyond the means of the average Utahn.
Much like the rows and rows of giant SUVs and pickup trucks clogging the used car lots today, there will be rows and rows of 4000 square foot McMansions in exurbia with for sale signs on the lawns while buyers bid up the prices of small easily heated homes close to stores and public transportation.
The zoning restrictions encouraging sprawl will quickly change when it becomes clear that no one is interested in buying anymore.

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Classifieds for our community. Buy, sell, trade, date, events... post anything. Adquity Classifieds.


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