Monday, June 19, 2006

The Great Bi-Polar Sprawl Debate

Outstanding commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle by John King reviewing the book This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America, by Anthony Flint. Whether you agree with the review or not, King expresses the same thoughts that I have about how the sprawl debate is too often conducted -- extreme, polarized positions from which the proponents lob salvos at each other.

"That's what is refreshing about This Land -- and frustrating about the general level of debate about our nation's changing landscape," King writes. "We've reduced the blueprint for how we live to a handful of absolutes: Suburbs should sprawl in all directions or housing tracts should be banned. Zoning should be abolished, or the color of windowsills should be proscribed by law."

I experienced much the same thing a couple of years ago in the battle over the Legacy Parkway. Those opposed to its construction gave absolutely no quarter -- there was no middle ground, construction of the road would be the great Satan, resulting in complete destruction of the environment and would unleash extreme and unlimited sprawl. This approach virtually forced you to take the opposite extreme position in an effort to achieve some kind of balance of views.

"I'm not really worried about sprawl. The question is, are there going to be alternatives," Flint says. "We can build suburban neighborhoods where people still have their car, but they won't need to drive it as much. ... It's a nuanced argument."

I'm right there with him!

7 Comments:

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Utah Peaknik said...

Even though I'm a peaknik, that doesn't mean I hate suburbia. I grew up in a nice suburb.

I just realize that it's not sustainable. If our current model of gradual farmland depletion, perpetually growing population and rising energy use could keep going on indefinitely, then I wouldn't have any problem with suburban growth. But with finite energy supplies (which so-called alternatives can't even come near to replacing), it can't go on forever.

The truth hurts. You can stick your head in the sand, but the problem won't go away.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger google_PEAK_OIL said...

I think economic forces will soon force the growth of sprawl to a halt. It won't necessarily be due to energy problems, at least not directly. spend some time at The Housing Bubble Blog.

Flint Said "We can build suburban neighborhoods where people still have their car, but they won't need to drive it as much. ... It's a nuanced argument". But rather than building new suburban neighborhoods "where people still have their car, but they won't need to drive it as much" I suspect we will be improvising in existing neighborhoods to accomplish the same result. It will be a matter of necessity rather than philosophical preferences.

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger Outback Planner said...

I too am troubled about the loss of farmland and agricultural production.
I miss the peaceful open fields and the slower natural paced lifestyle that went with agrarian pursuits.
However, as part owner of reasonbly big ranch, I realize that market forces outside the US which are reenforced by Government policies relating to free trade are more to blame for their loss than is the often decried incesnent greed by developers and expanding cities.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

 
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