Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The New "Pragmatism"

A recent post on the Planetizen website by Joel Kotkin talks about "What Is the New Suburbanism." I've blogged on Kotkin's stuff before, in part because I think it is a pretty straightforward recognition of how the world is and how we can realistically tweak it and make it a little better.

Kotkin acknowledges the trend or "desire" of the majority of people to live a suburban lifestyle, and tries to find ways to improve the kinds of communities that are built. Along the way, he gets some pretty strong criticism from some who believe urban planning should be focused more toward turning inward to the central core and limiting "sprawl" outward.

Like in all things, there is some good in both viewpoints, but I tend to lean a little more toward Kotkin's ideas, maybe because I've spent my entire career as a planner working in suburban communities, but also because you just have to look at the numbers to know where the most growth is in most metropolitan areas. I don't believe it's due to some vast conspiracy of developers, oil industry and government to make that happen -- I really think most people like living in the suburbs. As with anything, there are some problems with it, and we need to find ways to solve those problems.

Short of some major catastrophe (what that would be, I don't know -- maybe Google Peak Oil who comments on this site a lot is right that if oil prices keep doing what they're doing, that will be the "catastrophe"), I don't see things changing all that much for a long time.


At 8:46 AM, Blogger James said...

I find Kotkin's article very interesting...for me personally, he is not introducing anything new to the discussion of New Urbanism (most NU communities seem to be in suburban areas), yet there does seem to be some distinction in many people's minds - hence all this discussion.

To me, he's preaching mcuh the same thing as the New Urbanists, but the language and the manner of his approach differs slightly. I think this is a good thing, because it provides an alternative way of approaching these issues, which seems more aligned with the mentality of those less antagonist towards suburbia. As a result, I would expect this might resonate more with the "Suburban Nation" than those who reject it outright.


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