Thursday, July 24, 2008

Urban Planning's Great Leap Forward

Unfortunately, some of my fellow political and economic friends aren't aware what a serious threat to personal freedom urban planning really is. Many people don't notice or mind it because it is usually packaged with overly romanticized pictures and isn't talked about much by elite commentators. Of course, I have written before that housing supply restrictions, exacerbated by urban planning, is the only reasonable explanation for the housing crisis.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Jerry Brown's War on California Suburbs

Selected Quotes:

"In the meantime, Mr. Brown is taking aim at the suburbs, concerned about the alleged environmental damage they cause. He sees suburban houses as inefficient users of energy. He sees suburban commuters clogging the roads as wasting precious fossil fuel. And, mostly, he sees wisdom in an intricately thought-out plan to compel residents to move to city centers or, at least, to high-density developments clustered near mass transit lines.

Mr. Brown is not above using coercion to create the demographic patterns he wants. In recent months, he has threatened to file suit against municipalities that shun high-density housing in favor of building new suburban singe-family homes, on the grounds that they will pollute the environment. He is also backing controversial legislation -- Senate bill 375 -- moving through the state legislature that would restrict state highway funds to communities that refuse to adopt "smart growth" development plans. "We have to get the people from the suburbs to start coming back" to the cities, Mr. Brown told planning experts in March."

FYI - "Smart Growth" means development is centrally planned by the government.

The article isn't just about Mr. Brown, Joel Kotkin offers some other good points to rebuff the urban planners.

"Research by Mr. Modarres, co-author of the powerful book "City and Environment," demonstrates that people living in nodes -- Pasadena, Torrance, Burbank and Irvine -- often enjoy considerably shorter average commutes than do a lot of inner-city residents."

"Mr. Modarres also points out that forcing developers to build near transit lines, a strategy favored by "smart-growth advocates," does not mean residents will actually take the train or bus. A survey conducted last year by the Los Angeles Times of "transit oriented development" found that "only a small fraction of residents shunned their cars during rush hour.""

"There is also little punch behind the science used to justify the drive to resettling the cities -- and plenty of power behind the argument that suburbs are better for Mother Earth. Several prominent scholars -- including University of Maryland atmospheric scientist Konstanin Vinnikov, University of Georgia meterologist J. Marshall Shepard and Brookings Institution research analyst Andrea Sarzynski -- have found there is little evidence linking suburbanization to global warming, pointing out that density itself can produce increased auto congestion and pollution."

Great Leap Forward?


Anonymous said...

To read Jerry Brown's response, visit the this link.

Brian Shelley said...

Thanks for the link.

"That is why I make no apologies for promoting efficient building standards, ..., and communities that work for people and businesses, not just oil companies."

I have found virtually no evidence that any of this summary statement by Mr. Brown is accurate at all. The idea that the government could plan buildings and cities that work more efficiently than the market is simply perposterous.

I wouldn't have such a problem with "Smart Growth" advocates if they simply admitted that there are large costs to what they want to do. If they were willing to say, "Yes, this is very expensive, but we think it's worth the costs". Then I think an honest debate could happen.