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Wednesday, September 21. 2016
Urban planners are central planners, meaning that they usually are arrogant and get things wrong. Nowadays, few people wish to live full-time in the countryside or in the woods except for misanthropes. People like a vibrant, human-scale community whether in New York City or in Rumford, Maine.
Jane Jacobs’s Street Smarts - What the urbanist and writer got so right about cities—and what she got wrong.
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In my small town they hired some west coast urban planner type to create rules about our nice, old fashioned 'down town' that made no sense. Let me mention that 95% of the people in my county live in individual homes or trailers. This planner dude decided that any new construction must have 'apartments' on the 3rd floor, offices on the 2nd floor and storefronts on the first floor.
Completely useless. No one lives on a 3rd story around here. We need apartment complexes, rather than oddball apartments on a 3rd floor no one wants to live on. We are not New York City.
Also, they created the WORST rules about sidewalks I've ever seen. They want to narrow the streets (where most of us drive trucks and 4WD vehicles), create 'bump out' curb ends so that 'pedestrians' are seen better, and natural 'swales' to take place of the on-street parking we used to have.
Plowing these streets is a nightmare. Pretty much impossible for two trucks to pass each other at a street corner due to narrowing street at bump out curb.
Remember that those urbanites no doubt also are greenies and their rules for laying out streets are designed to "encourage" people to buy smaller cars...
From their perspective then those rules make perfect sense, in that they serve to "punish people for buying gas guzzlers".
And of course in the places they come from such rules have been in effect for decades so they're perfectly natural to them, as are those small cars (which are a mere step on the way to mass transportation and a total ban on vehicles downtown of course, the ultimate nirvana of the urban planner).
From my blog - maddogslair.com
URBAN PLANNING MAKES HOUSING UNAFFORDABLE
If you want affordable housing, you must stop the planning, the growth boundaries, and all the other containment nonsense.
We all know, and hate sprawl, that is what happens in LA. Except it isn't. LA has the densest metropolitan area, by both population, and jobs.
How it became so dense is not hidden, it happened because LA grew during the period of the streetcar, and rail transit. People could not afford personal transportation in the urban/suburban environment, and so relied on streetcars, and rail transit. Because of this, land was expensive near street car lines, and lots accordingly small. The city built many streetcar lines, and once the land along the line became filled, the line was extended. This resulted in suburbs full of small lots, and high density.
Portland, and other Smart Growth meccas long ago decided they did not want to look anything like LA, so they adopted light rail, streetcars, among other transit modes, and mandated suburbs build on small lots ensuring density. Sound familiar? It is just unnaturally capturing the pressures which built LA. They don't want it, but everything they do creates it.
The urban growth boundary, the zoning all walk hand in hand to limit the supply of land. This is what the Smart Growth Urban Planner wants, because he hates sprawl, you know exactly what he is building. This limitation on supply drives up home prices, and land prices, making the cost of living higher than it need be. Grocers, and business owners need to use land, and these costs add to the local cost of living.
In a doubly interesting twist, Smart Growth, density, and the transportation planners elimination of roadways in preference for transit also does not result in greater transit ridership. I am detecting a trend, whatever the planners want they will attempt to get through a plan which will actually get exactly the opposite of what they want. This is fueled by a religious belief, because nothing but religion would allow such idiotic beliefs to override the facts on the ground.
In 1980, transit in Portland had a commuter share of 9.5%, by 2007 that share was down to 6.8%. In 1982, transit in Portland had a total market share of 2.8% (de minimus), by 2007 it had a total market share of 2.1% (less than de minimus). This means that if one were to eliminate all transit one could sit at any local roadway count 100 cars, add two, and that would be the average addition to congestion.
The rail component of transit is about 40-45% so it accounts for less than 1% of total trips, undoubtedly less than the total number of trips made by skateboard in Portland every day. Imagine that, and all for something more than $3 billion dollars! For that money we could be up to our fundaments in skateboards.
The transportation planner's forced shift from roadway to transit, has been a dismal failure.
The planning only makes for inconvenience, higher costs of living, strife, and struggle. Urban planning is a failure. Transportation planning is a failure. We need to move on and turn these 19th century thinkers out to pasture.
I think Gopnik missed some things that Jacobs got wrong, and erroneously said she got some things wrong that she was right about.
One huge error of Jacobs's which I noticed decades ago when I first read her books was her notion of "import-replacing cities." This is the idea that businesses start off in big cities to supply local demand, and then can use that as a basis for wider expansion.
Trouble is, that's simply not how businesses work, and haven't really worked since the Civil War. Henry Ford didn't start making cars to supply the demand in Detroit. Random House didn't start out publishing books just for New Yorkers. Since the invention of the railroad all businesses have at least kept one eye on the national market right from the start. About the only exception I can think of is restaurant chains.
So that's an error by Jacobs which Gopnik missed. But I think he also incorrectly blames her faith in the invisible hand of an unplanned city for problems which actually are the result of planning and government meddling. How much of the inflated price of real estate in NYC and San Francisco is due to controls on land use, rent control, steep city taxes, zoning, and NIMBYism? (And, to be fair, also the result of dumb policies in the suburbs of those cities.)
Jacob accomplished great good because she was an opponent of central planning and government power -- but since she came at it from the left rather than from the right, she outflanked the planners and left them with few allies on either side.
re Nowadays, few people wish to live full-time in the countryside or in the woods except for misanthropes.
That must be me.
I live in the country and have zero desire to live in town.
I live in town and have no desire to live here. Can't wait to return to the country and enjoy my misanthropic life.
Hear, hear. It's true that, when I've had to live in a city, I most enjoyed a mixed-use area and am particularly fond of apartments above commercial spaces. It's the suburbs that didn't do that much for me. I want either to be close enough to shops to walk, or far enough that I can't see or hear anything outside my own property.
Here in Israel we are awakening from the Tel-Aviv metropolitan area's laissez-faire boomtown era to the realization that much of what "just happened organically" needs to be rectified - at great expense, now that the city is built up. (Since moving here I have worked at several hi-tech industrial parks built on orange groves... often you can see the abandoned trees nearby.)
Being in a tiny country where a "very large" house lot is roughly 1/4 acre focuses your mind on the problems of letting your neighbor do whatever the hell they want with their property.
The Tel-Aviv - to - Haifa corridor is also eating up a significant chunk of our arable land... many a well-situated kibbutz has flaunted existing land-use laws to create suburban subdivisions on what was leased to them as a public asset. What politician is going to turn people out of their homes?
So count me as one who realizes the importance of some sort of central plan and zoning laws.
Misanthropes? haha It seems that the author has been marinated in New York "We're-so-special sauce" since birth.
Coming from California I too was skeptical of zoning regulations and the lot until I spent a few months in New Orleans pre-Katrina.
"Organic" maybe but one huge mess to my eyes and in my experience.
For those interested in the subject...
Here is a website with a different take on Urban Planning that might be more in line with the political philosophy here;
They had a podcast on Jane Jacobs recently;