Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The sierra club has an interesting view of sprawl and development. Their concern is increasing the quality of already developed areas, rather than expanding outwards. The Sierra Club makes a good point to the need to fix current roads and bridges before expanding into "nowhere". What's important is to realize is the government is providing club goods that act as public goods. In essence there creating a market inefficiency yet meeting demands. People have taken on the belief that government should provide our roads, highways, parks, etc. Because of this it is provided best fit as seen by government rather than market demand. This could be a cause of sprawl.
The sierra club also provides an interesting set of photos on what the development of certain locations should look like. I think these show a good picture of new urbanism development. I find it interesting to see how they add light rail and make the area look more congested. It is like a return to the past where buildings are close together. Although these look nice, the area will become more congested and could defeat their own purpose of reducing sprawl. If people don't respond and start taking rail, biking or walking then cars will be even more crammed causing more pollution and could create another inefficiency in the market. I think its best to let developers produce what is demanded, if that's a new urban area than great, and if a suburb than that's good to.
Working in the shadow of an airport has its problems. There are height restrictions on buildings, and residents and office workers have to put up with the noise and traffic that airports generate. But, despite those drawbacks, more and more businesses feel the need to be near a runway.
It is not surprising that airports draw market-oriented firms; in fact the article mentions that consulting firms locate near airports (thus reducing their costs to changing clients). But this isn’t the only reduction in transportation costs that airports can provide. Amazon.com is planning a plant in Irving, Texas just a short drive from DFW international airport. This is a good example of median location oriented firms. What is unusual is that whole communities are being built airports. According to the article:
When Washington Dulles International Airport opened in 1962 in rural Virginia, it was considered a white elephant; but it has spawned a high-tech corridor and now sits in the fastest-growing county in the United States. Denver's ten-year-old international airport, about 40 miles out of town, is expected to be the centre of a community of 500,000 people by 2025—almost as many people as live in Denver itself.
Could it be that living near airports isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Through the course of the semester we have tried to establish a definition for sprawl. It seems that we have come to the conclusion that sprawl is indefinable. We have been unable to find a definition that we like or that is not corrupted by the policies that are placed on sprawl. I have included the website that has many definitions of sprawl from many different aspects. We as a group have seemed to say that it is growth that moves in an outward fashion.
Who is affected by this idea of sprawl? In looking at an article titled “ Urban Sprawl: Good for Minorities” written by Leonard C. Gilroy. He says that sprawl seems to be very important for minorities especially those of African American decent. Areas that are high sprawl metropolitan areas seem to see minorities being able to buy homes in the suburban areas just like their white counter parts. In areas that are low sprawl minorities are left to live closer to the business center. They are unable to afford what lays out side the metropolitan area. This is an interesting idea that sprawl allows the minorities to achieve a better freedom. Gilroy argues that if policies are put in place to stop sprawl or overly plan sprawl those that are greatly affected is the minority. They are the silent victims that are not taken into account for.
In reading this article it is hard to believe that it is the minority that suffers. Gilroy in the article states that more African Americans today have college degrees than in the past and that their incomes seem to steadily rise. They are able to live the American dream. It makes you question wither sprawl has anything to do with the minorities. Is this even an issue of race? It seems that it is the market at work. As we said in class several times if the factors are efficient to move outward into the suburbs families will do so. As we have evolved as a society we see more equality given to all mankind. This would say that the opportunity is fair.
I think that Gilroy is missing the idea. I think people whether African American or White will stay close to the metropolitan area if it is not efficient to move outward. If market allows for the sprawl then most people will move outward. It is the American dream to spread out and have land and live the happy life. This idea is not restricted to color. The opportunity is provided to all those effected by the outward movement of a metropolitan areas quick growth. The race of a person will should not affect how sprawl affects them.
What Is Going On In New Orleans?
Almost half a year has passed since Katrina, so there is no reason to be impatient. Yet it is impossible to escape the distinct impression that the city is adrift. It is normal in emergencies for the state to suspend or curtail municipal powers. That has not happened in
It would obviously be simpler if everything could stay as it is, and if the flooding problem could be solved by simply constructing higher levees and more and bigger pumps. The recent White House commitment to increase spending on reinforcing levees to $3.1 billion does not even begin to resolve this issue, however; it has been estimated that fully protecting the city against a Category 5 hurricane (recent reports suggest that Katrina was actually a Category 3 storm when it made landfall) could cost more than $30 billion. But absent adequate protection, many people who were evacuated from the city have been reluctant to return. The population of
What strategy to adopt? “Build levees and they will come back,” or plan for a better but smaller city?
Conversely, if people don't want to live somewhere, they are free to leave. “Demand” in New
Given weak demand and weak governmental leadership, the prognosis for recovery is not good. It’s going to take a massive federal program to deal with the hard case that is
At What Cost Suburbia?
So, Maine's planning office is working on expanding available choices. Their goal is to use better urban design to address the issues that are pushing people out of built-up areas by promoting the construction of what they call "Great American Neighborhoods. "Based on traditional towns and villages, these neighborhoods ideally will be relatively dense — a ten-minute walk across — and will be built around a civic core such as a library or a school. They will include open space, such as a town green, and small-scale commerce. They will also have a decidedly Maine slant. "We are talking probably of lower densities than what would be acceptable in Atlanta, and the neighborhood has to have linkage to nature," says Della Valle.
Such development would help to limit sprawl — without limiting growth — by promoting more compact developments while addressing some of the lifestyle concerns people are worried about." (emphasis mine)
I found this article to be very informative, covering a lot of aspects of the subject of sprawl concisely and evenly. The negative aspects of sprawl are addressed, along with counterarguments. The question of externalities is covered, not only with the topic of higher taxes on fuel and car ownership to reduce the negative effects of increased air pollution (and a possible residual effect on lessening a demand for suburban housing), but also addressing the arguments that suburban development is subsidized (indicating that there is a perceived positive externality) by the absence of these higher taxes on fuel and the home mortgage interest deduction. In addition, a stated viewpoint is that unless local governments assess exaction fees against developers, "other people bear part of the expense of the new suburbanites location decision."
It is the last item that makes me feel uncomfortable if the result is to slow economic growth. If exaction fees are levied against developers, the price is passed on to the consumer and in this way some of the externality of additional tax burden or the effects of a decreased budget that would be borne by other consumers would be internalized by those that could afford to pay the price, thus allowing for economic growth and the freedom to choose (for those that could bear the cost). I'm okay with that. What I would worry about is whether those exaction fees were so high as to prohibit economic freedoms - and from what this article states, it is very hard to put a dollar amount on the "lifestyle concerns people are worried about". So who would be in charge of quantifying these things and then assigning a dollar value? I think there is too much leeway for politics there.
I'm also a little queasy at the thought of the type of planned development outlined above. I see subsidized building as backward-thinking. If we're so in love with the idea of subsidizing something, why not subsidize existing area businesses to operate in the urban areas? If there really is competition between urban and suburban areas, wouldn't this approach make more sense?
I think that the inefficiency of the local/state legislature is to blame for the retarded action time in regard to the city and state interstate expansion. I believe that the demand for legislature pertaining to effectively timed and implemented road repair/expansion.
By the time that this project is completed in the summer of '07 I believe that the current rate of growth will overshadow almost all efforts that the city is making in order to address the already over-crowded roads. Unfortunately the legislators cannot always plan on growth or even sprawl as it may be, but I believe that it is their duty as the elected officials of the city and county to make effective and efficient use of legislation, however ill timed it may end up.
The article suggests that the developing world faces sprawl because they have looked towards the developed world for ideas of how to plan for developing, and this has caused them to fall in the same sand pit as the developed world. One solution that the article suggests the developing world should look at to help solve the sprawl problem is reusing old buildings and land in the inner cities in a more efficient way, such as turning old abandoned schools or other building into housing or other more efficient uses. The article suggests that the problem and ultimately the solution to sprawl is to look at efficient uses of land space. I agree that land should be used in an efficient manner; however, I don't believe that this solves the problem.
While efficiency, by definition, makes the best use of the land possible, doesn't necessarily mean that it will solve or even inhibit sprawl. For instance, it depends on how efficiency is being weighed. What is more efficient, housing for people, or skyscrapers for businesses for income? From an economic standpoint, it may make more sense to use abandoned land in the inner city for enormous skyscrapers to attract more business, more taxes and wealth, which would force people to move outward because of lack of available land for housing in the inner city. In this situation, the land within the city appears to be being used in the most efficient manner (if efficiency is weighed heaviest by economics and wealth), yet sprawl will continue to exist because people are forced to live outside the city where land exists for housing. If too much land within the city is designated to housing, then it seems that you could either end up with too much housing and not enough people since there isn't enough land for businesses and thus no jobs so people don't want to live there, or if people do occupy all the dwellings then businesses would naturally follow to make profit from all the people and because people are making money, they would naturally want to move out of the concentrated areas (outside the city), creating sprawl or businesses would buy up housing within the city to build their business, which would force people to the outskirts to live. Either way it seems like you end up with sprawl, if you use the broad reasoning given in this article.
Sprawl almost seems to be a natural occurrence where cities exist. This article shows that it exists within high density cities in developing countries, and we know it happens within less dense cities within the developed world, which are two examples on both ends of the spectrum (one by necessity and one by choice of luxury). Within the developed world, sprawl happens by choice and within the developing world, sprawl happens by necessity, and in both situations would seem to still occur even if land was used in it's most efficient manner (because defining efficient land use in terms of housing doesn't curtail sprawl and neither does it seem that weighing efficiency in terms of building offices for economic benefits). Perhaps sprawl is a natural occurrence in cities by either necessessity, choice or other unknown reasons and perhaps this is why it is so difficult to address all of the major causes of sprawl and more importantly determining a solution for sprawl.
Monday, February 27, 2006
No land regulation without compensation
A constitutional battle continues to develop in the national legal arena. Disputants for "no land regualtion without compensation" celebrate the contest's latest headline.
On November 2004, voters in Oregon passed legislation known as Measure 37, requiring that citizens be paid when land use regulations diminish their property values. The legislation targets a governmental practice known as "regulatory taking," a term that refers to governments using and/or appropiating private property for public use. Including instances when governments impose rules that diminish the use and value of land without making the property owner whole. Last tuesday, February 21st, Oregon's Supreme Court upheld the measure as constitutional and stroke a powerfull blow to the hopes of smart-growth advocates, planners and new urbanists in the north-western state.
According to an article published by the Denver Post, in the days after the Court's ruling came down, "the Court's upholding [of Measure 37] lifts the burden of land use regulations off the shoulders of property owners and puts it where it belongs -on the regulators, politicians and special interests who impose their aesthetic values on others. They'll still be able to regulate -as long as taxpayers share those values enough to pay for them." Forcing governments to compensate owners when the value of their land is affected by any zoning laws or any other regulations aimed to manage the way growth occurs in a city, makes the implementation of Smart-growth policies more complicated and costly.
The article poses an illustrative question:
"What is protecting the Preble's meadow jumping mouse worth to the American people? It's impossible to say at the moment, because this costs are largely hidden, foisted on land owners living in mouse habitat. But if the federal government (read:taxpayers) had to pay when the Endangered Species Act impacts land values, we would quickly find out what value average Americans place on these plants and animals."
Practices such as regulatory taking and emminent domain appropiations face serious challenges in courts across the nation under the argument that they violate the Fifth Ammendment's "takings clause." This clause requires proper compensation to be paid when the government uses or appropiates property. Measure 37's upholding is a groundbreaking veredict in solving the debate. At the very least, Oregon just became a much more expensive playground for planners and smartgrowth advocates.
Here is the link for the Measure 37 ballot's website:
Here is the "No on 37" site:
I did not find an electronic copy or link to the Denver Post's article. If you want to read other articles on the subject, here is a place to start:
Fifth Ammendment of the United States Constitution (Full text):
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
"Over a 20-year period, the 100 largest Urbanized Areas sprawled out over an additional 14,545 square miles. That was more than 9 million acres of natural habitats, farmland and other rural space that were covered over by the asphalt, buildings and sub-divisions of suburbia. And that was just for the half of Americans who live in those 100 cities."
However, these top 100 cities include the most densely packed cities in the nation. In fact, L.A., the "densest urbanized area," ranks number 6. New York, Washington D.C., and every other major city in America is on the list (including Denver and Colorado Springs). If you return to the homepage, there is an article about L.A. and how, despite its density (and "smart growth" planning), it has continued to grow outward. The site blames this on population growth, particularly immigration. Another page talks about Detroit, where population declined but sprawl increased. Here, it doesn't give an explanation, but only says that the sprawl would have been far worse with growth, adding that such cities should hear the "education" of the woes of population growth. If you can't tell yet, the site is quite against population growth, and very much for "smart growth" initiatives.
However, there are several issues it doesn't seem to address. The first is people's choice and why they spread out. Many people don't always like to be clustered together, especially if such clustering means living with large amounts of pollution. They make the choices they do to be better off. Such choices can increase health, life expectancy, or even just their personal happiness.
The second issue the site doesn't address is where this population is coming from. A large part of it, seemingly their most feared population increase, comes from immigration. Is this really population growth? People come to cities for jobs. They congregate, creating economies of scale and thus a potential for higher income. This congregation means they actually find it more worthwhile to move to higher denstity areas. If everyone started out perfectly sprawled (meaning the earth was divided per capita with each person being as spread out as possible), we would gather to denser areas, forming cities. This is why cities grow. This means that immigrants come to cities, which often means they see better economies of scale, which means they usually come from more sprawled out areas! Not counting immigration from foreign countries, cities would still be growing by more than the birth rate. This has been witnessed by the phenomenon of small towns disappearing as its citizens move to larger cities (I personally am an example of this). This means that the city growth which is criticized by Sprawlcity.org is actually the result of a reduction in sprawl. This doesn't mean that sprawl is decling per capita, but it does mean that the population growth of cities which such sprawlist doomsayers criticize is actually a good thing. As people gather into cities, they reduce transportation costs, economize on education, and overall become better off. If they didn't, they wouldn't make the move.
One last thing I want to point out because it is interesting to note is a comparison between Denver and Portland, which as sprawlcity states "is at the top of most Smart Growthers' list for best planning and execution of anti-sprawl efforts." The comparison comes from http://www.demographia.com/db-porden.htm. It makes a shocking comparison, since sprawlcity boasts that Portland's NEW population density was 53% better than the decade before. I capitalize new because its overall density declined by 6% according to the other site's figures. Meanwhile Denver's urbanized population density increased 16%, with the imposition of fewer, if any, smart growth initiatives. Apparently, government involvement once again hinders the goal it seeks to achieve by telling individuals how to live. Go figure.
Recently there has been quite a tempest stirring in the public regarding eminent domain. Events in
Many states have now seen the light and are finally questioning the wording and use of such eminent domain laws. Some 36 states are now considering legislation and other changes to wording in laws to limit the use of eminent domain in property seizures for the use of private development. The high-profile case of the
The cascade of politicians pushing bills through state legislatures has been overwhelming in the wake of the public uproar that followed the Supreme Court decision. In following their constituent’s voices and not the special interests that lobby for more government power in this regard, it looks like the politicians may finally be getting this one right. From an economic standpoint, using eminent domain in such a broad, ambiguous manner can be damaging to the free market system the
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Katrina's destruction was as much a policy disaster as a natural disaster: Development that sprawled into marshes, swamps and flood zones, poor citizens isolated in concentrations of poverty, neglected and overstressed infrastructure. Smart Growth America's coalition has crafted and embraced a comprehensive response for the near, medium and long term actions needed to restore the Gulf Coast and prevent similar disasters elsewhere.
I must admit that having been born and raised in this town, when the class began I had a natural disinclination towards sprawl, and didn't tend to think of it as a political issue. However, after reading a variety of 'anti-sprawl' articles, I see now that many of the proponents of 'smart growth' often use this sort of argument, generalizing situations into contextual oblivion. I was under the impression that the Katrina disaster was the fault of inept FEMA leadership, and negligent local government, however, apparently the disaster may also be evoked to prove the danger of many environmental platforms. I recently heard that the hurricanes are getting stronger due to warmer water from global warming. I don't know if this is the case, however, clearly the above instance seems an irresponsible use of a national tragedy to further a political agenda.
Monday, February 13, 2006
This would be a funny story if it weren’t for the fact that throughout the western states, this little brown acrobatic mouse has been holding up construction jobs in the name of conservation. The fate of protection for the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse has important implications in El Paso County. The northern portion of the county, especially along the Interstate 25 corridor, contains a good chunk of the 31,000 acres of mostly private land along Colorado’s Front Range that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey have declared as areas of critical mouse habitat.
By no means am I advocating the destruction of a mouse for the sake of commerce. However, I have a disregard for a government that will dictate how private citizens use their land. Critical habitat is highly controversial, spawning lawsuits from groups such as the National Association of Home Builders and exemptions from the law for the military. Fortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service has rarely opted to designate critical habitat on its own accord. Overall, it has not seen to be sensible to eliminate the free use of land strictly because a creature has been placed on the endangered or threatened list. However increasingly, it has been forced to issue designations under tight timelines as a result of litigation from environmental groups.
The developers and property owners of northern El Paso County should be given the freedom to use the land as they deem fit. However, if the regulations will not be revoked, then it is the responsibility of the government to make private citizens whole. Also, if the government dictates an alternate course of action for construction companies, the government should compensate for the deviation from the original plans.
The greatest issue here is a lack of trust. The bureaucrats and environmental lobbyists do not believe that the private citizen will make smart choices with respect to conservation. The approach that has been taken since the Endangered Species Act has been one of government’s coercive power. Instead of trying to control Americans’ lives from the cradle to the grave, these bureaucrats and lobbyists must choose a strategy of education. As Pope Pius XII said, “The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish acts.” When provided with a true problem, the populace and the market will find answers without government intervention.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
A Definition of Sprawl
"The low-density, car-dependent development that characterizes most U.S. metropolitan areas. . . ."Do you like this definition?
"Poorly planned development threatens our environment, our health, and our quality of life in numerous ways.I think there are at least a couple of things to note in this quotation.
Sprawl spreads development out over large amounts of land; puts long distances between homes, stores, and job centers; and makes people more and more dependent on driving in their daily lives.
Sprawl pollutes our air and water. As reliance on cars and pavement of more and more roads increases, so does smog and pollution from water runoff. Today, more than half all Americans live in areas where the air is unsafe to breathe. Sprawl destroys more than two million acres of parks, farms and open space each year.
Sprawl increases traffic on our neighborhood streets and highways. Sprawl lengthens trips and forces us to drive everywhere. The average American driver currently spends the equivalent of 55 eight-hour workdays behind the wheel every year.
Sprawl wastes tax money. It pulls economic resources away from existing communities and spreads them out over sparse developments far away from the core. Taxes subsidize millions of dollars worth of new roads, new water and sewer lines, new schools and increased police and fire protection at the expense of the needs of the core communities. This leads to degradation of our older towns and cities and higher taxes."
No clear definition of sprawl is emphasized. Perhaps the Sierra Club defines sprawl simply as "poorly planned development."
Note also the choice of language. It seems as though sprawl has human abilities and characteristics: sprawl threatens, sprawl spreads (perhaps sprawl is viral), sprawl makes people more and more dependent, sprawl wastes money.