Definition: “New Urbanism – the revival of our lost art of place-making, and promotes the creation and restoration of compact, walkable, mixed-use cities.”
On one of www.TreeLink.org’s posts, I noticed the tag “urban forestry is America’s frontline defense against climate change.” I couldn’t agree more.
So how is this statement reconciled with “new urbanism” and “smart growth” that packs people into cluster homes and super high density suburbs where there isn’t room for trees on any private parcels? (read “California’s Land Use Choices”)
As someone active in urban forestry most of my life, I think “smart growth,” “infill,” and the “urban service boundary” is utterly destroying the urban canopy. Has anyone seen trees in these new communities, where “low density” is now defined as eight homes per acre, and cluster housing now goes as high as 20 homes per acre? These are heat island dead zones, not leafy suburbs. Perhaps it is time for urban forestry advocates to also advocate lower density zoning. There’s plenty of land.
CO2 from cars (if not CO2 in general) has little to do with climate change, and in any case cars are becoming green. You can have an enveloping canopy of trees in a low density suburb, but in a cluster home “smart growth” suburb you have no room for a tree canopy to shade the roads and rooftops. It is also incorrect to suggest low density requires increased infrastructure. Actually it is far more expensive to try to re-engineer and upgrade established infrastructure to accomodate high density infill; this along with much improved septic systems that don’t require utility interties (and rooftop solar energy systems) means the low density decentralized model actually generates less infrastructure requirements.
Greenbelts and urban service boundaries cause exurbs, super-leapfrog developments outside the boundary. Because people want yards and cars, all you do when you create a greenbelt is make them move further away and drive more.
The real issue here is communalism, which environmentalists tend to embrace, a value that causes them to set policy agendas not purely on ecological considerations. Force everyone out of their cars, out of their yards, and into expensive public transportation and public parks. These mandates increase the price of housing, which increases property tax revenues into public entities – the hidden agenda. The logical extension of adhering to smart growth rhetoric is to cram everyone into ultra high density cities and depopulate the rural areas. It has little to do with protecting the environment and must be challenged.
As for farmland, there’s plenty of it. Trends in corporate agriculture and the endangered family farm are phenomena quite independent of suburban and exurban development. If zoning laws weren’t so stringent, small farms could more easily coexist among scattered residential neighborhoods – it would be easier. But by letting government agencies and trial lawyers hired by nonprofit organizations have this level of control over land development, instead of property owners, only the big corporations can play – whether they’re agribusiness or land developers. That is one of the biggest ironies – the smart growth agenda actually helps the biggest corporations that new urbanists, typically, claim are so bad.
Here’s a comment from an arborist who apparently is also a new urbanist: “Green cities have dense housing developments, with services within walking distance or accessible by public transportation. Green space consists of public parks and school campuses, and forests and farms outside the dense urban core.” I disagree with pretty much every word of that. It reflects a disdain for private property, and suggests we should have totally managed, government controlled land use. What about affordable low density housing – without subsidies? No place for them in such a world. Only the super rich will be able to have land in the new urbanist world – another irony.
The new urbanist agenda of infill will destroy every beautiful semi rural suburb in America, and leave only government entities and huge corporations in charge of open space.