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Thursday, April 27, 2006


Is "New Urbanism" just another fancy word for "Smarth Growt"

Has anybody noticed the reality that New Urbanism and Smarth Growth are really synonyms? I was reading an article exerpting a speech given by Dr. Steven Hayward in Jan. of 2000, when it hit me. Yes, I recognize we have been talking about this all semester, but the more research I do, the more I realize Smart Growth is just an outgrowth of the New Urbanist movement. Their goals and ideals are almost identical and radical at that. This "radicalism" is what Dr. Hayward touched upon in his speech. I would like a link to the whole text of the speech if anyone has it.

Dr. Hayward essentially contends that "better planning" is not wrong rather the immoderate applications of "better planning" that are what's wrong with the "smart growth" movement. Let me illustrate this notion for just a moment with my own experiences. It seems that in our haste to better plan we have created inefficient solutions to our problems at hand. I notice this in neighborhoods near mine that have put so many restrictions on what the neighborhood should look like, they all look the same. Is it efficient to dictate preferences? As Dr. Eubanks so aptly put it, people acting in their "self interest" are being restricted. This, I believe, will cause inefficient market outcomes in the housing arena for instance. What sorts of inefficient market outcomes you might ask?

One of the most inefficient market outcomes I can see from coming out of this is that market prices are artificially driven higher than they already should be, because preferences may well be for this type of living in the beginning, but in the long run we may well see the opposit. Secondly, if there is such a demand for smart growth preferences then why is it not the dominant development way? It seems that people have already spoken with their pocket books. Thirdly, If the smart growth people ever expect to make any significant gains their agenda don't you think that "moderation", as Dr. Hayward put it, should become the beckon call of the smart growthers?

The overriding theme I guess I see in the smart growth movement is that of overzealousness and a shove it down your throat attitude. I guess if I were to apply Dr. Eubanks idea of "own self interest" to this mix it would be that the smart growthers are probably just as profit driven as most, since it is a movement of mostly architects, hell bent, on getting the rest of the world to sign on with this movement, in the name of the environment. If it can do this then, there will be a higher demand for this type of lifestyle and more profit for them.

You ask why "new urbanism" isn't the predominant version of new development, and by your question you suggest that it is because this version of development doesn't match with consumer preferences.

I offer one caution with drawing this implication from only this sort of observation. I'm pretty sure that in at least some cities, zoning restrictions have to be changed so that the new urbanist developments can be created. Under such circumstances, the observation that new urbanists stuff isn't the norm does more to implicate the use of government coercion directly than it does to the new urbanist development itself.

I suspect there are also many efforts by new urbanists, as well as those pushing smart growth, to get local government to buy the whole approach and thereby get government to zone to require new urbanist design. If, government doesn't buy this effort, then the new urbanist developments may be allowed, but without the government's coercion behind the developments. In this case, the market would test the new urbanist designs over some time.

So, I'm suggesting that where we see new urbanist developments and designs, there may be various and different circumstances that lie behind what we see.
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