Wednesday, February 09, 2005

suburbs 1, cities 0

In south mississippi's Sun Herald (?!), Sci-Arc's Joel Kotkin examines today's suburban sprawl - what works, what doesn't, what should be done. since I like to summarize data (a habit I can't seem to break):

  • Since 1950, more than 90 percent of U.S. metropolitan population growth has taken place in the suburbs.
  • Roughly two out of three people in the nation's metro areas are suburban dwellers.
  • Over the next quarter century, according to a Brookings Institution study, the nation will add 50 percent to the current stock of houses, offices and shops - the great majority taking place in lower-density locations, not traditional inner cities.
  • In Los Angeles, the hours wasted in traffic have doubled since the early 1980s.

the article, while not stating it explicitly, argues that the city is dead - suburbs are where its at. kotkin is hopeful - he believes long commutes, more open space, increasing demographic diversity will lead to thriving, multifaceted, exciting communities in the suburbs, rather than the stultifying cocoons they tend to be. I have never lived in a suburb (unless you consider hollywood to be suburbia - for me, its the closest I've come) so perhaps I'm prejudiced, but kotkin's argument strikes me as at best overly optimistic, at worst deluded. he also seems to ignore urban renewal or revitalization projects - brooklyn comes to mind, as does downtown LA. in fact, urban gentrification isn't even mentioned in the article. nor reverse white flight. neither is the environmental impact of suburban sprawl. so kotkin has limited space to make his argument, I get that. but the hopeful tone (and his rhetorical attempts to imply he's a iconoclast, a free-thinking rebel in the stodgy world of urbanism) seems misdirected, even empty.


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