Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Growth, Sprawl and Planning

Year after year, the Census reports that the fastest growing cities in America are the ones that many might describe as the most "sprawling". Last year, Gilbert, Arizona, came in first. Do they sprawl because they grow or do they grow because they sprawl? Whereas elite opinion equates growth and sprawl with the lack of adequate top-down controls (revealing a touching naivete about the possibilities of top-down planning), it is probably safe to say that people are moving to these places because they like them.

So what is the problem? Are these places unduly subsidized? No. Most public subsidies, in fact, go to projects designed to prop up the older and declining cities and neighborhoods.

Another line of attack is that new and low-density settlements are expensive in terms of their infrastructure costs. Yet, whenever people bother to take a serious look, they find the opposite -- as recently reported by Cox and Utt.

Besides, are any of us simply cost-minimizers?

As if on schedule, this morning's LA Times reports: "Higher Density Projects Urged ... Regional Planners say such a strategy is needed to deal with growth issues ... To help Southern California cope with growth in decades to come, regional planners Tuesday unveiled a strategy that calls for more high-density development in urban centers and near transportation corridors ..."