Thursday, January 14, 2010

EPA video spotlights Charlotte, Dilworth

New video posted on the EPA's Web site lauds the city's Urban Street Design Guidelines and the East Boulevard Road Diet, which illustrates the city's transportation design goals. Check it out. Mayor Anthony Foxx, ex-Mayor Pat McCrory, council member Susan Burgess, ex-council member and current city department head Patrick Mumford and others talk about how great the Urban Street Design Guidelines are.

It stems from the city's National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, announced in December, in the "Policies and Regulations" category for the USDG.

Yet the developers' lobby, the local Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, as well as influential, long-time real estate magnate John Crosland Jr., are still urging the city to dial back – or un-adopt, or never actually codify into ordinances, or otherwise eviscerate – those same USDG. They don't like the requirements for modestly shorter blocks, or the width of the planting strips (wide enough so street trees will survive) or the general policy to build more streets and sidewalks in new developments. It'll add cost, they say. And yep, it will.

But what's the cost of congestion? What's the cost of not being able to ride a bicycle or walk anywhere? What's the cost of street trees that die? What's the cost of having to retrofit streets and build sidewalks into already built neighborhoods - at taxpayer expense. The costs exist. It's just a question of where you inject them into the growth process: at the start, or later on and spread among a wider group of payers, i.e. us taxpayers.


Anonymous said...

Mary - Please explain: you say developers trying to "dial back" the USDGs and you also say they are trying to "eviserate" them. Which is it? There's a big difference.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Mary. The REBIC wants all of us to have to subsidize the hidden costs of poorly planned and wasteful suburban sprawl.

All of us are subsidizing the much larger carbon footprint that suburbanites have. All of us are subsidizing the smog and poor air quality that are a product of car-centric suburbs. All of us subsidize rising cost of food and fuel that come with car-centric sprawl. All of us subsidize the runnoff pollution and storwater problems created by sprawl. If these costs were not hidden, and were reflected in the price of the suburban sprawl McMansion and cul-du-sacs, then people would see the ugly truth of the cost of sprawl.

Anonymous said...

Funny how it's the same people who are against incorporating these guidelines that come out holding signs that say "no new taxes."
Simply can't have it both ways.

Design guidelines are only as effective as the person interpreting them.

It's a sexy issue to talk about - but as history illustrates, backroom deals and the good-ol-boy system prevails. Hopefully we'll see a real change by the time development ramps back up.

Anonymous said...

I would think that someone like John Crosland with deep Charlotte roots would see the value in a more liveable, more beautiful city.

john huson PE said...

When I started getting involved in multifamily development in the mid ‘70’s the site plans tended to be regimented and unimaginative.
In the intervening years planners became much more insightful in marrying the sites to the topography and creating park like atmospheres around the buildings.
I’ve not seen a decent multifamily site plan since the passage of the New Urban Street Standards. These ordinances ignore the fact that most Charlotte sites have significant topography and existing tree cover. The new site plans tend to be regimented and unimaginative leaving no decent sized spaces for the residents to enjoy.

The new standards require more clearing and thus more destruction of trees.
They require much more grading and thus erosion of soils.
They require much more paving and thus additional storm water runoff.
They require many more streets to nowhere thus increasing the propensity for crime.
They have the impact of reducing density and thus contribute to urban sprawl.

And thus we are now proposing new ordinances to reduce the impact of tree clearing, erosion, storm water runoff crime and urban sprawl.

All of these requirements certainly make development significantly more costly with its obvious impact on housing affordability, but I’ll leave that for others to quantify.

The key issue is that these ordinances mandate bad plans. Proponents argue that these street patterns will encourage pedestrians and reduce traffic on the major arteries. In most cases the former is not true and if you believe the latter I’ve got a bridge in my home town that I’d like to sell you.

Anonymous said...

It's very important. So either the builder makes $3,000 less per house or the buyer pays $3,000 more. Better yet, they split the cost.

I guesstimating on the cost. But how much could it really be per house when you divide it up among the entire community ?

Don't know him but Crosland sounds like a rich arrogant fool. Typical.

Anonymous said...

Although I am not crazy about much of the suburban development we see in Charlotte I do have a hard time understanding why the large lots and large homes in Myers Park or Eastover (and those lots and homes are as large or larger than many suburban dwellings)are not objectionable while suburban homes are the object of much wrath. Granted the Myers Park homes are closer to town, but I'd be willing to bet most who live there drive to town, to Southpark, and to their kids' schools, especially the private ones. And don't those homes use as much power as suburban homes? (perhaps even more since many are older). Just wondering--couldn't we all tone down the trashing of the suburbs a bit! I actually would like to hear what Mary has to say about this.

Anonymous said...

john huson PE,

I am confused. Are you referring to Dilworth and Myers Park when you say "The key issue is that these ordinances mandate bad plans. Proponents argue that these street patterns will encourage pedestrians and reduce traffic on the major arteries. In most cases the former is not true and if you believe the latter I’ve got a bridge in my home town that I’d like to sell you."

Or are you referring to Suburbia?

Ever walk through Dilworth or Myers Park ?
Bicyclist, joggers, walkers, mothers with strollers are everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Replying to Anonymous at 2:38, I did not post the comment you were referring to but as to "Bicyclist, joggers, walkers, mothers with strollers are everywhere" I see the same thing in my little corner of suburbia, along with kids running from yard to yard.

Anonymous said...

john h:

When you say they require more clearing, grading, drainage, hardscape, and roads to nowhere....are these requirements due to the fact that in the 70's the neighborhood developments were built upon .5acre sites and now they're built upon .125acre sites?

Does the density of the proposed development have an impact in on the requirements?

Anonymous said...

So after having 50 years of local leaders breaking their backs bending over for Crosland and the like, letting them build a city however they wanted, they are upset that there is a movement to force them to build differently. What a complete shock!!!!

I'd like to see some REAL numbers that prove building neighborhoods and street plans that allow for multiple transportation modes cost inordinately more than building the car-only city we have now. I'm no architect or engineer but I have a hard time believing the developers have a real argument with cost as opposed to them really just being upset at not having the run of the house like they have had for so long.

Anonymous said...

Crosland doesn't spend much time in his office, the building won't allow his dogs

Cato said...

Anonymous at 2:35 gets to a point I've wondered about as well: why is Myers Park regarded as such a model of design?

Don't get me wrong - most of the homes are beautiful and the owners do terrific jobs keeping them that way. And the trees are great.

But many of the streets are, contrary to smart growthy principles, actually fun to drive. There aren't any significant pedestrian-friendly mixed-use areas. Walking the stretch of Providence from the old hardware store to the Starbucks at Cherokee can be more than a little harrowing with traffic whizzing by.

JDC said...

Cato: According to the Myers Park Homeowners Association website, lots east of Providence Road are not in Myers Park. So if you were walking down the east sidewalk from the old hardware to Cherokee you apparently were in plain old Eastover or maybe bourgeois Cotswold.

The unusual thing about Charlotte is trying to determine in which neighborhood you reside. Realtors have a way of expanding boundaries to boost prices (and commissions).

For example, I once saw a sign on Park Road just north of Selwyn touting some apartments there as "the best kept secret in Myers Park". If you accept the MPHOA definition of Myers Park, it doesn't extend in that direction beyond Colony Road. No wonder they were a secret.

I live in an older subdivision that borders the Barclay Downs neighborhood. We have our own homeowners' association, but I noticed that the BDHOA website showed photos of houses for sale in my 'hood as being in Barclay Downs. Apparently you get a bigger commission if you can convince the buyer they will be living in Barclay Downs.

If I were a developer in Union County, I'd name my subdivision "Gleneagles Park Sharonview Quail Hollow" and get some big bucks.

consultant said...

Most of our contemporary big developers are of the same mindset as our bankers. Mostly men in full, and full of it.

This is why we need a steady, effective govt. hand in establishing and enforcing development rules that work for the community and not just the bottom line of one particular developer.

Anonymous said...

Effective and efficient government is Never going to happen.

consultant said...

"Effective and efficient government is Never going to happen."

Let me guess, you don't like govt.

Again I ask the question, "Why aren't you living in some remote location here or abroad that's outside the reach of "govt."? Why?

Anonymous said...

I plan on it. Thanks for asking.

BooneCountyGirl said...

If you let me know exactly where it is that you can be 'out of the reach of government' I'll pack my bags today...

Rebecca said...

Hey JDC - what is it exactly that makes Cotswold "bourgeois" ? I think that is a stretch...although no doubt would be taken as a compliment by most Cotswoldians. Not to mention everyone in Cotswold thinks they live in Myers Park, Eastover or South Park!

Anonymous said...

I'd say Cotswold is more 'petit bourgeois'

consultant said...

BoonesCountyGirl, 12:13pm;

There are a lot of places you can go:

Most of Central America, large parts of South America, some of the Caribbean Islands, most parts of Africa, large parts of south, central Asia and a few of the Pacific Islands.

You can push up into the tundra region of Canada where hardly anyone, govt. included will bother you (you will become an illegal however). Same thing for the outback in Australia.

There are still lots of places on this planet, including here in the USA, where you can live off the grid, away from blogs, ordinances, govt., smart growth and people.

So. Start packing.

consultant said...

I couldn't watch the whole thing, but there was that movie called "Dumb and Dumber", which should have been called "Stupid and Stupid" because both characters were pretty stupid.

Anyway, most people who "hate" govt. are, to be charitable, "dumb and selfish". They don't want the rules of govt. but somehow they want the benefits brought by govt.

That's what the "haters" don't get. This is where the dumb part comes in. They somehow believe that roads, sewers, a fairly high degree of literacy among the populace and clean drinking water, just to give a few examples, just happen. That somehow if you took away govt., Walmart could take care of roads.

The selfish part of the "hater" crowd is that they don't want to pay taxes so that others in their area can enjoy those same benefits. In other words, they want their taxes to pay for stuff only they benefit from.

Well "haters", if you had been paying attention in your high school civics class, you would have learned that's not the way govt. or democracy works. I know this is a big revelation for you, and I take credit for bringing it to your attention, but that's the way it is.

So to all the govt. "haters", make 2010 the year you commit to getting off the dumb and selfish list and become a citizen of your community again. You know, like back when you were a kid and went to play in the park on the swings. You weren't thinking about taxes and this or that, you were just having fun and glad the park was there.

High school civics teachers will be glad you quit "hatin'" and started to get involved in democracy.

Anonymous said...

"If we can no longer control the government that is supposed to be serving us, we have lost something far more precious than money - our freedom" Howard Ruff

consultant said...

Anonymous, 4:11pm;

We lost control of our govt. Who controls it? When did we lose it?

Anonymous said...

Still no answer as to why big lots and big homes in Myers Park, Eastover, Southpark, etc. are good but are bad in the 'burbs.

Anonymous said...

John Huson - I looked up some of your company's projects (for example Steelcroft Apartments) on Google Maps and from what I can tell your projects clear cut the entire site. Seems there was barely a tree left standing. It also seems in your projects you fill every square inch of land with apartments....doesn't seem like you leave much green for people to enjoy. So, it is hard for me to believe it is the ordinances that are the problem and not your "maximizing profit" apartment designs that is the problem. Somehow I trust the City planners to protect our water, tree canopy and create better streets than I do some apartment developer.

JDC said...

To Anonymous who wonders “why the large lots and large homes in Myers Park or Eastover are not objectionable while suburban homes are the object of much wrath”:

First off, not all homes in the neighborhoods generally defined as SouthPark, Eastover and Myers Park (SPEMP) are “big” homes with “big” lots. Size is not necessarily the issue, and I’ve never seen where Mary claims it is. Can you cite the source of this wrath?

Home size only becomes an issue when one neighbor, either in SPEMP or the outer burbs, builds a three-story 5,500-square foot dwelling that towers over his or her neighbors’ one-story 2,100 square-foot houses.

That has become quite a problem in SPEMP. The larger footprint not only affects water runoff and flooding on other properties. It impacts the value and quality of living of the smaller households that were there first. That’s probably why the city is considering an ordinance to limit the size of rebuilds in existing, older neighborhoods.

As regards houses, large or small, in the Outer Mongolia regions of Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, they become an issue when they are there unnecessarily.

Is it really necessary to destroy thousands of acres of wetlands, forest and farmland when there are plenty of infill sites closer to the center of this area in which to build housing, either standalone houses or low-footprint high-rise multi-family towers?

(By the way, just how many children are people having nowadays that requires 5,500-square feet in which to raise them?)

Frankly, I think the luxury of living in detached houses in Charlotte or any major city as opposed to efficiently consolidating the populace into multi-family high rises will be a thing of the past, especially given this nation’s economic outlook. (If you must have 5,500 square feet of living space, you can buy up a whole floor or two.)

Along that line, did you read the Observer’s lead article in its printed version a week or so ago about the Clean Air Act and the possibility of Charlotte’s compliance officer having to impose some strict sanctions if we continue to allow vehicle pollution at the present levels?

With Charlotte’s air quality among the nation’s worst, we could even experience a restriction on when and where we could drive vehicles in the metropolitan area. That pollution is caused by the long lines of automobiles that clog interstates and roadways, carrying workers from Outer Mongolia to jobs in or near center city. Workers who probably, if they or their employers demanded it, could live instead in or near center city.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. Yet we insist on locating in the boonies and cutting trees down so we can drive 40 miles roundtrip to work, creating more carbon dioxide from our automobile emissions to kill us.

When the crackdown comes – and it will - living in a close-in neighborhood such as SPEMP will pay off. For starters, that area has far better mass public transportation that the far suburbs. Or you can drive 200 miles a week at $3- to $4 a gallon, if you’re allowed to.

Meanwhile, SPEMP residents do drive to private schools, the mall, and uptown as you suggest. The difference between their trips and the ones in the suburbs is that SPEMP was laid out with interconnecting streets and few cul de sacs. Travel requires less polluting stop-light time and mileage to get from one spot to another, and better accommodates emergency and safety services.

My gripe is that both traditional single-family SPEMP housing and the few high-rise condos located there are too expensive to lure more Charlotteans closer to uptown jobs. Problem 2 is that it’s the realtors, not the newcomers, who decide where in this metropolitan area folks will live. Realtors tend to direct transplants to the outer fringes, which increases the pollution, safety and green space problems.

Anonymous said...

JDC:"(By the way, just how many children are people having nowadays that requires 5,500-square feet in which to raise them?)"

Actually, almost all of the people, couples, and families living in the suburbs either have children or had them in the past - often 2 or more. Your status as an urban-dweller is really an outlier because the White urban-dwelling class actually has few to no children and thus isn't replacing itself.

"as opposed to efficiently consolidating the populace into multi-family high rises"

Just wondering...are you a Communist or something? Have you ever been to Eastern Europe? Because that is EXACTLY what the Communists tried to do, and did; now those multi-family high rises are decaying and abandoned, and the people have returned to single family homes surrounded by greenspace.

You just don't understand that Westerners want to be surrounded by nature, ad even have their own little patch to play in instead of being crammed in to urban apartment towers.

Anonymous said...

JDC:"That pollution is caused by the long lines of automobiles that clog interstates and roadways, carrying workers from Outer Mongolia to jobs in or near center city. Workers who probably, if they or their employers demanded it, could live instead in or near center city."

Or we could just move the jobs out of the cities and in to the suburbs closer to where people live; this is happening more and more lately, and with telecommuting and so on it will only continue. This is how it used to be before the rise of the automobile in the 40s/50s, with people living in small towns and suburbs and always working near where they lived.

Commuting in to cities for jobs is a result of the very trends you oppose, centralization of wealth and economies in cities instead of traditional American decentralization.

We can both agree that people ought to work nearer to where they live.

It is absurdly counterproductive that tens of millions (or even more) Americans are basically forced in to leaving their local suburban and/or exurban communities every single day during the work-week to make the mundane, soul-crushing, and grinding trudge in to America’s cities and metro-urban areas just so that they can make a decent living. Americans ought to be working and making a living to support themselves and their families in the local communities where they live as much as is possible, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why they must make the daily drive in to the cities just to earn enough to live and eat in a place that is safe and nice for their families (the suburbs/exurbs), and there is no reason why we cannot set up fully viable businesses in the suburbs/exurbs for many (even the majority) of these Americans to work in. Every morning during the work-week I hear the faraway yet still incessant dull-drone and machine-piston hum of the congested traffic on the local/regional highways, all of them of course leading in to the city where the masses must labor under the yoke of fake FED urban-money must trek just to make a decent living-wage — this constant low-drone of faraway work-week traffic leading in to the city is extremely depressing and weighs heavily on my mind and soul, and it is hugely wasteful in terms of resources (oil, gasoline, auto wear-and-tear, air pollution, etc). By setting up a better economic system where a lot more people have the ability and freedom to work closer to home (in their immediate communities and neighborhoods) we will thus save them massive amounts of time, money, and resources, and we will also reduce air pollution along with unsustainably high amounts of daily gasoline consumption due to the resulting huge reduction in pointless daily auto traffic.

Anonymous said...

"carrying workers from Outer Mongolia to jobs in or near center city."

Strawman. Most jobs are no longer in or near the center city, they are out in the suburbs where the growth and development is still occurring (suburbs are some of the ONLY places in the USA where growth is still occurring).

Most inner cities have been anemic black holes of tax revenue and economic stagnation for decades now, not just Charlotte but very many other cities. Cities also consume a lot more than they produce per capita - how much food is shipped in to cities daily and the only thing shipped out is waste, sewage, and endless amounts of paperwork from big gub'mint cubicle slaves?

JDC said...

To Anon who posted at 2:02 am in the morning:

My argument isn’t with suburban jobs. If, FOR EXAMPLE, you choose to build a house in Hemby Bridge because your job is out there, that makes perfect sense. But if your job is in uptown Charlotte, or in SouthPark, or in any other major job center in the metro area, why are you living in Hemby Bridge? Is that really necessary? Is that best for society as a whole, or just for you?

Why are you driving long distances to work, creating expensive traffic and infrastructure problems, not to mention generating more carbon dioxide to pollute the atmosphere and create additional health problems? Why, when there are housing options in the aforementioned job centers, are people tearing down forests and wetlands so they escape having to contribute to solving the problems of the urban center that attracted most newcomers here in the first place?

You complain about big government. So do I. Why are you and I wasting tax dollars on building or expanding highways that will only carry more cars to cause more pollution, to require even more tax dollars to pay big government to solve the resulting health and environmental problems?

Yes, there are jobs in the far suburbs. But I doubt it was the opportunity to be a checkout clerk at CVS in the Outer Mongolian ‘burbs that attracted hundreds of thousands of newcomers to greater Charlotte. It was more likely because of the major employers who pay the big bucks and who are located in uptown, or in the SouthPark business center, or in similar existing job centers in or close to center city.

At last count, and even given the recession, there were an estimated 60,000 -70,000 jobs in center city, with uptown employers expected to add another 30,000 over the next 20 years. That certainly doesn’t support your contention that uptown Charlotte is stagnating. SouthPark alone, which is an urban center in its own right, has an estimated 25,000 - 30,000 workers. Not much economic death there, either.

Do yourself a favor: Go to the Hemby Bridge area (or any other far suburb) and observe traffic from 7- 9 a.m. weekdays. Are those thousands of cars that you’ll see clogging our interstates and major highways heading TO the suburbs, or FROM them? Repeat the exercise between 4:30 –6 p.m. that evening. Notice the pattern? So, if there are as many jobs in the ‘burbs as you claim, how can that be? Or do tens of thousands of area residents just like getting up early and randomly driving around the metro area?

And please explain the benefits to taxpayers and responsible citizens of the unfettered suburban growth you favor.

Strawman, indeed!

Not The 2 a.m. Anonymous said...

The inclination to sprawl reminds me of 19th century cotton farming mentality.

When the soil (urban center) becomes depleted, you have two options: (1) Solve the problem (schools, infrastructure, pollution, more jobs) so you can revitalize the source of your wealth. Or, (2) Just pick up and move to greener pastures. Denude the forests. Plant more cotton. When that soil won’t support a crop of schools, jobs, infrastructure and so forth, move again to greener pastures, Etc., Etc., Etc.

I think the boll weevil (higher gasoline prices as more and more farmers compete for diminishing fossil fuels) will eventually nip this type of thinking in the bud.

Anonymous said...

"...there is no reason why we cannot set up fully viable businesses in the suburbs/exurbs for many (even the majority) of these Americans to work in."

Conversely, there is no sound reason why we can't retain our core center city opportunities rather than create more infrastructure and social problems by dispersing our working population.

Tell you what. I'll go along with the decentralized sprawl of workers if you can guarantee that adults and kids will walk to jobs, stores and schools where they live, and that my tax dollars won't be going toward your social and infrastructure problems.

Anonymous said...

To Anon@1:50 a.m.: (By the way, are you related to Anon@01:58 a.m. and Anon@02:02 a.m.? Or are there a lot of Anons who are insomniacs?)

You said "Just wondering...are you a Communist or something? Have you ever been to Eastern Europe? Because that is EXACTLY what the Communists tried to do, and did; now those multi-family high rises are decaying and abandoned."

I had to laugh when I read the above. Mary's Viewpoint column in Saturday's Observer dealth with civility, or rather the lack of it nowadays. Seems like many prefer to name call rather than present sound evidence for their arguments. She even mentioned some of her blog commentators. I wonder if one of them was you?

If I were you, I'd worry. Because judging by the number of high-rise condos in this city, there sure must be a lot of communists living here.

Oh, and Obama is a Muslim, right?

Anonymous said...

Funny, when I read Mary's comment I thought of the many posters who love to denigrate suburbanites and their homes on this blog. Is "outer mongolia" a civil comment?

One of my sons is an urban planner, currently living in Toronto. His job is analyzing the current suburban standards for Ontario because of what has happened up there. As you drive out of the city you see mile after mile after mile of high rise apartments lining the highways--seems oh, so depressing to me, with everything looking very much alike. Apparently planners have realized things have gone somewhat awry. Also I've noticed that many are extremely eager to leave town on the weekends, I suppose to get into open spaces, and traffic is absolutely horrendous. Don't get me wrong, Toronto is a charming city in many ways, but for day to day living it is way too crowded for my taste. Your taste may be different and that's the point--everyone's different--don't think you are going to solve problems by sticking us all into look alike boxes stacked on top of or next to each other.

Anonymous said...

FDR on population decentralization:

The North-West, consisting of the States of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and the section of Montana west of the crest of the Rockies, offers an opportunity, said the President, 'to avoid some of the mistakes and wasteful exploitation of resources that have caused such serious problems in other parts of the country'. The North-West should not be a land of new 'Pittsburgs'. The President continued: 'It is because I am thinking of the nation and the region fifty years from now that I venture the further prophecy that as the time passes we will do everything to encourage the building up of smaller communities of the United States. To-day many people are beginning to realize that there is an inherent weakness in cities which become too large, and inherent strength in a wider geographical distribution of the population.'"

Thomas Jefferson on the evils of cities:

"'I view great cities as pestilential to the health, the morals and the liberty of mankind.' That saying was directed against financial and industrial magnates, ambitious politicians and demagogues, who arise in cities and only by cities are made possible. The logical end of metropolitan civilization,and its most complete, one-piece form, is totalitarianism which is confessedly and in action 'pestilential to the liberties of mankind'"


Anonymous said...

"At last count, and even given the recession, there were an estimated 60,000 -70,000 jobs in center city, with uptown employers expected to add another 30,000 over the next 20 years."

There are ONLY 60-70,000 jobs downtown in a metro region composed of at least 2.5 million people? Thus the reason why people live and work in the suburbs...they have no other choice, there just aren't enough jobs in or near the city. There are only a few tens of thousands of jobs downtown for a population of millions.

And 30,000 new jobs over the next 20 YEARS? Wow...the population of this area has grown by well over 30,000 every year for the last decade.

I maintain that modern cities, in this age of internet connectivity and decentralized transportation networks, still take in and use much more than they export; again, we ship cities untold tons of food, water, and electricity every day, and all they export to us is waste, sewage, and endless paperwork. And crime. And far-left politics. Most cities are tax black holes...seen the latest stats? Many cities are flat BROKE, taking in far more monies than they produce or export.

Conversely, in the suburbs and countryside manufacturing and agriculture are main industries - most cities these days don't even manufacture anything anymore, they are shells of their former selves. And they of course don't grow food either.

Anonymous said...

And yes, I said communists.

in the USSR and in modern China, they are forcibly urbanizing people, stripping away from their ancestral lands where people lived self-sufficiently for centuries or even thousands of years. Uprooting them from their ancestral lands to become wage-slaves at the behest of urban plutocrats.

In the USSR, those who did not forcibly leave their small towns or rural areas, being herded in to cities by the communist authorities, were even starved out; in Ukraine the Holodomor occurred, with many millions dying from the forced urbanization and collectivization. Same in China during the 'Great Leap Forward' - same pattern of forced urbanization and dispossession.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering: do any of y'all own or work in the real-estate industry, especially in terms of leasing or selling the units of these downtown urban apartment towers? Just in the interest of disclosure y'all ought to tell us if you do, because if so it may be skewing your views.

All of the above being said, I agree with the critiques of anarchic suburbanization, rampant misuse of energy resources, the possible breakdown of the supply chain, and so on. Facing the facts, both American suburbia plus urban areas are about equally unsustainable - if the energy supplies of the USA ever become severely interrupted all areas aside from some major port-cities are in for a world of hurt.

I agree that people should try to work near where they live as to reduce useless energy consumption. That is why I said in my previous posts that we should rebuild the small to medium-sized town model, or convert suburban subdivisions in to mostly self-sufficient villages wherein most of the people living there work there too. These can be interconnected by a hyperefficient smart grid of highways, trains, and so on to facilitate trade and transportation.

Many people move the suburbs when they start having children because the schools are often MUCH better there and also they are also better environments for raising those children - less crime, more greenspace, nicer neighbors, etc.

We aren't living in a nation as small, overpopulated, and constrained as, say, the Netherlands or Singapore - the USA is a HUGE place as all us well know. Thus there is going to be a lot of spreading out that occurs because we have plenty of land and resources to do so. There is no reason to live in extremely dense settlements in cities when we have such a vast nation, that is just absurd. Density is often taken to extremes - for instance, the state of New Jersey used to have (until recently) a larger population than North Carolina, despite NC of course being MUCH larger than NJ. That population density of NJ was insane, and if you go up there to that very densely settled state it is not sustainable in any way as you all propose it is - they have paved over everything, thus no local production of food or other necessities can occur there, or at least nowhere near enough to sustain such a dense settlement of people.

Decentralization of populations and economies and power is the best long term strategy (it is also the traditional American way of life), because it all reduces the environmental strain of paving over an entire area to cram people in it. Same as decentralizing manufacturing was good because it reduces the mass amounts of pollution created in a single city or area and spreads it out, thus reducing the local impact. Same with human populations.

People also form much stronger and resilient communities in small towns and villages as opposed to mass-urban areas or anonymous mass-suburbs. in those places the focus is much more on the family and local relationships.

My ideal would be a small town or village arrangement of a few hundred or thousand people surrounded by enough farmland and pastureland to feed or almost feed the entire population of the town - the town or village would be located along or close to a major highway, railway, or river that makes trade and commerce much more efficient. It would also be linked up to the internet for cheap and reliable global communications, or telecommuting for jobs, services, etc. This is very achievable in modern times, the creation of these 'eco-towns' or 'eco-villages'; but first we must work to break the economic stranglehold which major economic and financial centers have over the increasingly communistic (centralized) American economy, the undue concentration of wealth ('money' created out of thin air) in select urban areas amongst the globetrotting and decidedly non-local plutocratic 'skyscraper class.'

JDC said...

"There are ONLY 60-70,000 jobs downtown in a metro region composed of at least 2.5 million people?"

First off, one job translates into the support or presence of multiple residents. Those 70,000 center city jobs impact more than 70,000 people.

I don't know from where you are pulling your stats, but in 2007, the area most commonly defined as the Charlotte Metro had a population of 1,701,799, of which 687,000 reside within the Charlotte city boundaries. So to which downtown do you refer? I've been discussing Charlotte and its problems. What are you discussing?

There are about 70,000 jobs in center city Charlotte, 30,000 in SouthPark Charlotte, not to mention another 20,000 or so in Charlotte University City. That translates into 120,000 Charlotte jobs that support as many as 480,000 residents in 120,000 dwellings.

The problem isn't the jobs. The problem is the sprawl from workers who decide to live 30 miles away from their jobs, and then expect someone else to subsidize their rural existence.

Those roads they use to get to their jobs in central Charlotte, the water and sewage infrastructure they use at work, the police, fire and medical facilities require to support their 8-hour stay in central Charlotte eat more of our tax monies.

Are you volunteering to pay your fair share?

Anonymous said...

"Is 'outer mongolia' a civil comment?"

Based on the anti-center city and anti-smart growth comments seen here, is "urban planner" a civil comment?


"...we ship cities untold tons of food, water, and electricity every day, and all they export to us is waste, sewage, and endless paperwork."

You leave your suburban house, drive 20 miles to uptown Charlotte where you work or play, and then have the nerve to claim you are shipping Charlottens something of value and we're sending you crap?

Did you pay to use our streets to get here? Did you donate the traffic lights and signs? Did you finance the police who protect you while you are here?

Seems to me that every time you go to the bathroom in this city, you're the one leaving sewage here to be cleaned up with my tax money.

You write "Most cities are tax black holes...seen the latest stats? Many cities are flat BROKE, taking in far more monies than they produce or export."

Well, duh, why do you think cities are going broke? It's because the people who just commute here to use the facilities don't pay for them.

I'm all for you having your acre lot and house in the country, just as long as you agree to move all the hospitals, arenas, stadiums, entertainment facilities, and offices out there. That way we can drive to you and use them for free, and leave our waste there as well.

Anonymous said...

You forget that a large part of the city of Charlotte is actually "suburbs". I live almost on the union county border (my husband and I work out of our home so don't accuse us of creating traffic issues) yet we are part of Charlotte. However, our area is also looked upon with disdain by some as being "sprawl". For the record I would much rather we were a small suburban town than part of Charlotte. So when you claim that Charlotte is a large population center, remember that much of that population is suburban, with many employment opportunities in the 'burbs'.

Mary Lou said...

Anon @05:54 p.m. wrote: “Many people move the suburbs when they start having children because the schools are often MUCH better there and also they are also better environments for raising those children - less crime, more greenspace, nicer neighbors, etc.”

Let me say I like your ideas for smaller, less dense population centers, although I’m not sure of their practicality. We had such a thing in the late 1800s. Most folks lived in small farming communities. They had a few cottage industries at those crossroads as well.

What wasn’t consumed to sustain the local population could be traded thanks to railroad connectivity to larger towns and cities.

Back then, there was enough farmland owned by the original settlers to divide among the kids who didn’t want to find jobs in the cities.

Problem is, God wasn’t making land anymore, unless you count volcanic activity in the Pacific, but he was (and is) still making people. Way too many if you ask me.

One small farm will only sustain so many people. One small cheese factory can employ only so many workers. So eventually the kids, unless they could get Mom and Pop to feed and house them forever, moved to where the most jobs were – the cities. Industry begets more industry. The cities boomed. Pay increased.

The grownup kids discovered that money can buy a whole lot of things: nice cars, great vacations, fine clothes, admission to good entertainment, great schools.

Initially the city workers lived in neighborhoods according to their place of origin. As they became more affluent, nationality became less important, and they wanted to live with other affluent, up-and-coming folks like themselves.

They probably could have banded together in other parts of the city. Some did and still do. But with better roads and automobiles, many fled to the outskirts where they could be with their own kind.

I doubt they cared a rat’s patoot about green space as a reason for their exodus. If they had, we’d still have more green space. I doubt it was because the neighbors were “nicer”. The new neighbors may have had the same skin color and spoke the same language, but that doesn’t mean they were “nicer”.

I doubt crime was the reason. Thieves follow the money and the loot; so if you’re taking your loot to the country, expect thieves to follow.

But you may have hit the nail on the head about “better schools”, if better means less disadvantaged students to deal with.

Maybe we should just put our cards on the table and come right out with it. People move from central Charlotte to the outer suburbs, or newcomers are directed there by realtors, because they don’t want to live with black people, and because they think black people are morally bankrupt criminals, whose children would rather cause classroom fights than learn. (And Myers Park has pretty good public schools).

They are not sure if they are right about that assessment, but don’t want to spend their tax money on any innovations that might dispel that myth.

Yet the same folks are falling over themselves to send financial aid to Haiti. They don’t want to live with Haitians, or go to school with them, or vacation there. But conscience-wise they don’t want anyone to claim they are anti-Haitian. So they assuage their moral predicament by supporting missionary work, or, in a disaster, sending aid. The population grows. The disasters repeat.

Kind of like a feral cat colony I found here in the city. People don’t want the cats (living with them), so they drop them off at the colony. Then they or others feel guilty that the helpless critters are left to fend for themselves in 15-degree January cold snaps. So they drop off food, water and even housing to sustain the colony, the population of which continues to spiral upward.

Nothing sacrificed; nothing solved.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe we should just put our cards on the table and come right out with it. People move from central Charlotte to the outer suburbs, or newcomers are directed there by realtors, because they don’t want to live with black people, and because they think black people are morally bankrupt criminals, whose children would rather cause classroom fights than learn. (And Myers Park has pretty good public schools)."

Ah yes, I was waiting for that to come out--that suburbanites live where they do because they're all racists. That's a favorite line here in Charlotte. Of course, we all should have chosen instead to live in diverse Myers Park, Eastover, or Dilworth perhaps,or maybe Southpark, where all the good people live. I believe that people who are so certain that others fear blacks are actually projecting onto others their own fears that they don't want to admit. I think there's a lot of that in "old" Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Mary Lou is right - quite simply, development and 'sprawl' is occurring because the population of the USA continues to grow, as it should because we have a huge nation that still isn't filled up yet. I think the population should be allowed to grow organically though and that almost all immigration should be cut off to the USA and other Western nationd, because right now 3/4 of the Second and Third World would like to pour in to the USA (see Latin American immigrant invasion). Some nations are overpopulated though: China, India, the Netherlands, Belgium, Malta, many Central American countries, and so on.

We have a huge bountiful amount of land and resources in the USA - thus why shouldn't we seek to spread out more if we clearly have the land and resources to do so? Many other nations aren't as lucky as us. Why should we live rat-like lives in massively overpriced rip-off crackerbox center-city apartments when there are vast expanses of the USA just waiting to be settled by industrious people?

The problem in the modern USA is not overpopulation, but rather over-concentration of populations in urban and suburban areas.

As FDR suggested in his above quote back in the 1930s, we should seek to spread out populations much more in the USA. Many Midwestern states are very thinly populated, and a traditional network of mostly self-sufficient small towns could easily be recreated there (or here in The South). Even large parts of eastern North Carolina have been losing population as more and more people leave them due to economic stagnation, and that stagnation is caused by too much money and economic power concentrated (communistically centralized) in urban areas.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The history of black people in the US is somewhat different than the previous poster would have us believe. Family structure was 'excellent' until relatively recently, and still is in many cases. Neighborhoods reflect ownership and income - as they do with other groups.

My personal experience is that black people are more, much more, social than white people. That is the only real difference unless you want to delve into the statistics found in "The Bell Curve" which, while probably accurate, is a portrayal of intellectual capacities and symptoms, not social differences.

One other thing - as young men, black men have much more of the male attributes - which places them at odds with established 'old white guy' society. Their abilities in the 'violent' sports of football and basketball are reflective of this.

Anonymous said...

The best thing we can do to protect the environment of the USA is to cut off ALL immigration to the nation - otherwise in a few more decades the population of the country will shoot up majorly...500 million, 600 million, 700 million, ..., 1 billion...when does it stop?

Anonymous said...

Consultant - Email and the internet are tone-deaf, so I could easily be mistaken here, but your last post had a certain "I'm better and smarter than you, so let me help you out" aura to it. I'd like to point out a few things.

The writers of our Constitution never, not for one second, intended the USA to be a democracy. It was intended to be a republic - a representative form of government. Pure democracy lends itself to mob rule, which the writers rightly determined to be only slightly better than the monarchy they had escaped from in England.

Also, the Constitution was written such that the government should have limited powers. You love to criticize conservatives as people who hate government but want government's benefits. It's not that we hate government, we just hate the ever-expanding government that we have been experiencing the last 150 years. The Constitution had to be amended to allow the government to tax our income (the single worst mistake the USA has ever made). And nowhere in the original constitution or the first 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights) do you see any mention of it being the government's responsibility to provide transportation, education, or health care to the citizens. But now, as the government has expanded, people now view those things as entitlements and fully expect the government to provide them.

There are legitimate forms of government - the police, fire and other emergency responders, the millitary, and the functions of the judicial branch.

When you have a President who says that when the current economic situation was at its worst, "only government can address a situation of this magnitude," anyone who has ever read the entire Constitution should cringe.

Anonymous said...

"People also form much stronger and resilient communities in small towns and villages as opposed to mass-urban areas or anonymous mass-suburbs. in those places the focus is much more on the family and local relationships."

I think you're conflating the symptoms of the last 60 years of US policy with what's 'natural.'

Urban neighborhoods are often more tight-knit and "family-oriented" (whatever that means). Ask anyone who grew up in a big city before the 1970s about how much more you feel a part of a community when living in an urban neighborhood than in the anonymous suburbs.

The fact is, for 60 years, we've starved the cities, provided easy credit for homes in the suburbs, but not to rebuild homes in the cities...Allowed suburbanites to rape and pillage cities of their economic vitality while giving little back aside from the sales tax on a business lunch. Any wonder the cities decayed?

What we need is policies to promote infill development, to make it more attractive to build in the cities than in the suburbs -- just as 60 years of government policy has done the opposite.

Anonymous said...

For poster at 2:33--
My property tax bill to CharMeck this year was over $4500. My husband pays the city a business tax, we pay taxes on our cars. And we of course pay sales taxes every time we shop.
Yet, I'm sure you consider my home to be in the suburbs and that we're the bad guys, as I live far from the center city on a 1/3 acre lot. I'm watching a herd of 8 deer meander through the woods behind my house, as I write.

Anonymous said...

J, I have to agree with you.

Yep, the Constitution was intended to be a static, set-in-concrete document. None of this make-believe that it was designed to be some sort of flexible framework to accommodate the nation’s new growth, new ideas, change and maturity.

But the gosh durn liberals started messing things up with those changes. First they wanted the dang Bill of Rights. Then they came up with an amendment that says slaves are not only free, but they can vote! Just where in the original document you reference does it say slaves are free persons?

To make things even worse, they amended it to allow women to vote. What ever happened to “keep them barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen”?

Then not long after we added a real good amendment to legislate morality and keep Pa away from the liquor bottle, we had to remove it. Wonder why? Durn communists, no doubt.

Income tax? Sales Tax? Excise Tax? Tariffs? We don’t need no taxes. We’ll all be so rich from our untaxed income that we’ll gladly donate cash to support any essential services.

We’ll just live and work in tiny self-contained communities and never have to drive, fly or travel elsewhere, or use facilities in other communities. And we’ll never get old and never die.

The Great Depression messed up the Constitution. The government got into all kinds of places it shouldn’t, claiming it was trying to put folks back to work and stimulate the economy. The very nerve!

That big ‘ol war that came along was all that was really needed to solve our problems. Screw FDR! Thank God for Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini.

And just where in the original Constitution does it call for Social Security or Medicare and Medicaid? Some leftist slug will no doubt claim that the general welfare clause of the Preamble allows all this crap.

But what we really need to do is throw out all the current representatives and substitute good old conservatives, so we can scrap those programs. Let the poor and grandma and grandpa fend for themselves. All we need to do is pass a law giving every indigent and senior citizens 2 acres of undeveloped land of this country so they can grow their own food and raise chickens. That will work, right?

And you are right again about roads. The federal government has no business being in the road business.

We had turnpikes and toll-roads back in the early 1800s. They were privately owned. If folks want to expand I-485 and I-77, or Providence and Statesville roads, we just need to turn them over to entrepreneurs. They’ll fix things up and be quick about it, right? It only took 100 years to go from pikes to an interstate highway system.

Yep, this conservative has his. I’ll be damned if I’m letting anyone else get theirs.

consultant said...

"Yep, the Constitution was intended to be a static, set-in-concrete document."

The essence of ignorance. In your world 2 + 2 =6 and George W. Bush was a great President.

Do you know the capital of North Carolina? Really, do you?

The Spoofer said...

From the future Online Observer, Jan. 19, 2030:

City officials have announced that they are seeking state and federal transportation funds to build 500 new helicopter pads across central Charlotte to accommodate commuters who insist on living in Linville, Myrtle Beach and Mount Airy, but working in Charlotte.

“We’ve become financially overwhelmed and need to look elsewhere for help”, explained Mayor Anthony Foxx, Jr.

“We had hoped to curb urban sprawl back in my father’s day and age. We thought a solution had been found when conservatives hijacked Congress in 2010. They, as you know, immediately ceased funding of all public transportation initiatives – roads and rail travel in particular. We figured folks would now move to where their jobs were, accept denser multi-use development, and eliminate unnecessary travel.”

“But apparently where there’s a will there’s a way,” noted the mayor.

Charlotte now has an estimated 10,000 helicopters occupying its air space as this region continues to stretch the boundaries of suburbia. Yet elderly President Limbaugh’s stand on the role of government may offer no financial solution to Charlotte and other cities.

“We’ve held off levying an income tax on Charlotte employees for decades. But given that the region’s aero-commuters do not pay anything toward support of the very infrastructure that houses their source of wealth, we felt that at the very least part, of their federal income tax money should come back to us for that purpose,” said Foxx.

Limbaugh and members of the political group Stop Taxing Us Please In Dollars (STUPID) vow to fight that proposal.

City council and county commissioners took major steps last year to reduce infrastructure and operational costs by building a wall around Char-Meck and requiring non-residents who drive or ride light-rail to pay for access. This year, said Foxx, solons are investigating the use of a huge dome to cover the city.

Meanwhile, some members of STUPID are vowing to build tunnels beneath the city to reach their jobs, if they can get the federal tax money to do so.

Anonymous said...

Hey, consultant!

Do you know what the phrase "tongue-in-cheek means"? Look it up, and then reread the droll commentary you criticized. For someone with liberal views, you sure take things literally. Talk about showing ignorance!

And yes, I know the name of the capital of North Carolina.

It's Really.Or spelled something like that.

Anonymous said...


You may need to inform Consultant that you are only "spoofing", or what "spoofing" is, so that he won't misunderstand.

consultant said...

Do they spoof in North Carolina?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1/19 09:01 - I'll confess that I can't tell if you are agreeing with me or calling me an idiot.

I do believe most elements of the New Deal need to be done away with. I'm not saying "let Grandma fend for herself" as much as I'm saying that caring for the elderly and/or disabled is better accomplished by charitable groups and persons. What if the only way we could assist Haiti was to send a check to the US Treasury in Washington, and Washington would dispense the aid? I'll tell you - Haiti would get about 25 cents for every dollar donated, and they wouldn't get any help until at least 2011. About 6 or 7 years ago, Mark Packer announced on WFNZ that he ran into an executive from a local food bank, who told him that they were at least 1,000 turkeys short of giving all the families they serve a Thanksgiving dinner. So Packer started the "Street Turkeys" event, and that first one, on less than a week's notice, got 1,200 turkeys, plus tons of canned goods and a big load of cash donations. If people could keep all the money they earned (i.e. if consumption were taxed instead of income), I believe that individual citizens would answer the call to groups like that who attend to the needy.

My gripes with government - federal, state and local - is that there is not one single task in this world that government can do as efficient, expiditious or cost-effective as the free market or private business/citizens. And I definitely feel that if there were private companies building mass transit options, they'd cost less than half of what they do with government building them.

Anonymous said...

"My gripes with government - federal, state and local - is that there is not one single task in this world that government can do as efficient, expiditious or cost-effective as the free market or private business/citizens. And I definitely feel that if there were private companies building mass transit options, they'd cost less than half of what they do with government building them."

And that's something both sides of the aisle will agree with!!!

Anonymous said...

Experts have talked about this before. How many times have you read about the importance of ‘adding value’ for your audience? How many times have you read about ‘building trust’ with your readers/prospects?
Many, many times. You know it well. Every marketing guru has spoken about this topic. I’m sick of hearing it. But it STILL bears repeating.