Jun 28, 2008

An Interesting Thought

"Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading … Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots … For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until recently) leaving cities behind. But today the pendulum is swinging back toward urban living, and there are many reasons to believe this swing will continue. As it does, many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s—slums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay … As conventional suburban lifestyles fall out of fashion and walkable urban alternatives proliferate, what will happen to obsolete large-lot houses? One might imagine culs-de-sac being converted to faux Main Streets, or McMansion developments being bulldozed and reforested or turned into parks. But these sorts of transformations are likely to be rare. Suburbia’s many small parcels of land, held by different owners with different motivations, make the purchase of whole neighborhoods almost unheard-of. Condemnation of single-family housing for ‘higher and better use’ is politically difficult, and in most states it has become almost legally impossible in recent years. In any case, the infrastructure supporting large-lot suburban residential areas—roads, sewer and water lines—cannot support the dense development that urbanization would require, and is not easy to upgrade. Once large-lot, suburban residential landscapes are built, they are hard to unbuild…”

From spaceandculture.org

Jim Kunstler mentioned this in The Geography of Nowhere. I wonder...

6 comments:

Sarina said...

Several years ago when I lived out west (during a HUGE suburban sprawl period) I remember thinking that one day these developments would be suburban ghettos. Totally isolated, buildings (because they aren't built as well as the old homes) dilapidated. And that was before high oil prices made the 'burbs seem totally impractical.

I really hope the oil crunch makes these developments undesirable. I'm repulsed seeing our gorgeous farmland turned into hundreds of monstrous homes. Why, when the size of the American family is shrinking, do people want ever larger homes? Yuck!

Mrs. Dottie said...

I always wonder when I see some of these huge monstrous houses, why would anyone need so much space? Well, I guess for some it's about appearances and being a big shot.
Things seem so out of whack in this country, the huge divide between the ultra rich and the rest of us. Hope things go back to "this land was made for you and me"

Sarina said...

Nice quote of Pete Seeger, a classic troublemaker and great American.

Joyce Marin said...

Other good books that everyone should put on their summer reading list are: Save Our Land, Save Our Towns, by Tom Hylton, Suburban Nation, by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck and the Death and Life of America's Great Cities by Jane Jacobs. The first book is basically a picture book about PA. These last two books are ones that people say have changed their lives, or, "I knew something was really wrong, but until I read these books, I couldn't put my finger on it.

People don't realize that local economies are build one dollar at a time. If we shop at local growers' markets in cities (that we walk to) we save our cities and our farms. If we are going out to dinner, we should go to a local place in a city.

Bernie O'Hare said...

With Peak Oil, people will begin returning to the cities, where living is more economical. That's why it's foolhardy to offer tax incentives for businesses to relocate to A-town or any other city. They already have an incentive.

Sarina said...

I agree, Bernie, they do have an incentivem, it just many businesses and people aren't realizing it yet. They will when they look at their expenses. I'm so glad I can walk to a lot of places here in A-town. It's good exercise, a good way to know what's going on in your community, and free!!