Sprawl Is Not an Endangered Species

Today on the Streetsblog Network, member blog Sprawled Out takes on haters of New Urbanism — specifically, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Patrick McIlheran, who wrote a piece lauding a designer of subdivisions named Rick Harrison.

McIlheran
quotes Harrison saying, "People don’t want to walk five minutes to a
park. They want to see it outside their window. And they don’t want to
see
their neighbors and they don’t want to sit on their porch all day."

Sprawled
Out’s John Michlig points out that there are already plenty of places
where people can buy houses that offer just that neighbor-avoiding
lifestyle (including much of his home turf in Franklin, Wisconsin).
Denser development models aren’t taking that option away, as
fear-mongering sprawl advocates like to imply:

3911008071_23f775a09f.jpgOld-fashioned suburbia: Space still available! Photo: Charlie Essers via Flickr

Like
others who lobby for Sprawl, Inc., McIlheran conveys the ludicrous
notion that — in a region overrun with non-planned, non-sustainable
suburbs that have grown at the whims of developers and their desire for
increased and quicker profit (a condition that has created the need for
cuts in services while property taxes continue to climb) — creating
provisions for New Urbanist or Traditional Neighborhood Development
subdivisions somehow limits our choices rather than increasing them by adding another flavor to the mix.

You see, in McIlheran’s worldview, the appearance of a non-standard choice in some way magically eliminates countless existing subdivisions — and their ready-to-buy vacancies.

In other words, no one is going to make you sit on a porch if you don’t want to. But wouldn’t it be nice to have the choice?

More from around the network: Second Avenue Sagas on the subway’s din. Smart Growth Around America on how public transit creates more jobs for the stimulus dollar than highways. And Copenhagenize
on the heart-warming story of a bicycle thief who stole a cargo bike
with three sleeping children inside, then shepherded them home. Only in
Denmark?

  • DJB

    Wandering through some suburban blocks off of Victory Blvd. the other day I noticed there were no sidewalks. It’s bad enough that destinations are so spread out there that walking is a herculean task, but that is a final, bitter insult. I wonder if I could get the UN to classify that as a human rights abuse. Absolutely unfit for human habitation . . .

    Where’s the choice there? Suburbia is about coercion. Live in a one-story cookie cutter ranch house and drive everywhere damnit! That’s the American Dream.

  • DJB

    Maybe they already did declare it a human rights abuse . . .

    “Article 3.
    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
    — UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    Security of person. My “person” isn’t very secure walking in the street with cars. It doesn’t feel very secure biking down most of LA’s streets either.

    “Article 27.
    (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”

    Hard to do for a disabled person when the bus comes every hour, if at all. That is, unless the “cultural life of the community” has been reduced to television :)

  • Erik G.

    The darn thing is, these houses are in many cases packed tighter than the older streetcar neighborhoods of L.A. (yes, L.A. has those!), but you are induced to drive by the street systems and by the cheapo sidewalks, if there are any.

    I have seen “cookie-cutter” housing in many European suburbs, with similar square footage and amenities, but built with the pedestrian in mind!!

  • DJB

    I’d just take issue with one part of that. LA HAD streetcar suburbs, it doesn’t have them anymore. Some of the buildings still exist, but they don’t function the same way they did at the turn of the 20th century. LA has some suburbs with light rail going through them. However, I think streetcar suburbs, properly so called, died with the popularization of the automobile.

    LA was built up in pedestrian scale along streetcar lines and only the rich had cars. Then almost everybody got a car, the gaps between the lines filled in, the pedestrian scale of streetcar suburbs was lost, and here we are today, trying to make walking, biking, and transit viable modes of transportation again.

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