Our post yesterday, “Taking on Smart Growth” prompted a lengthy exchange between the author and a very well informed critic. Despite our best efforts to communicate our point of view, ultimately the critic described our criticisms of new urbanism as coming from “Wingnuttia.” Rather than continue to argue the point on yesterday’s post, where these eight points of criticism are buried within one of the last of many comments, here they are:
|The private yard – an endangered species,
thanks to “New Urbanist” social engineers.
Eight Criticisms of New Urbanism:
1 – It supports “urban service boundaries” that makes land outside the boundary very hard to develop, which artificially (and some would say catastrophically) raises the price of land. This makes homes less affordable.
2 – It emphasizes public space, expensively maintained by public entities and paid for by taxpayers, over private space.
3 – It makes war on the car, despite the fact that most people prefer cars and despite the fact that cars are on the verge of becoming totally green. It advocates zero freeway upgrades despite massive population growth, in order to force people into mass transit.
4 – It promotes infill in quiet, preexisting suburbs where neighbors should not have to see their low density lifestyle destroyed through imposition of “special planning areas” where literally 10x as many new units are on an acre compared to within the neighborhood at large.
5 – It places a premium on open space, but offers no criticism of land use even more inefficient than low density homes and ranchettes, such as irrigated, subsidized corn ethanol farms.
6 – It presumes that social problems will be alleviated through forcing everyone to live in ultra high density neighborhoods; it supports cramming affordable housing units into higher income neighborhoods, undermining the incentives that inspired people to work hard and earn their way into a higher income neighborhood.
7 – It maintains there is a shortage of open space and farmland, and at least in the USA, there is not. California is projected to add 13 million people to their population within the next 25 years. If you put all of those people into homes on 1 acre lots with households of 3.5 people, you would only use up 6,500 square miles – that will never happen, because many people prefer high density living. But if they were dispersed in this manner, 6,500 square miles is a small fraction of California’s 158,000 square miles. In the entire USA, only about 4% of the land is urbanized – not much at all.
8 – New Urbanism pretends they have the final answer; that their precepts are beyond debate. The new urbanists share this trait with the anthropogenic CO2 alarmists; they also tend to march in lockstep with the anthropogenic global warming crowd, and use AGW concerns as trump cards to roll over opposition to their plans and policies. In reality, the AGW issue is nuanced – example: European carbon offset credits created the global market for subsidized biodiesel, which is the direct cause of massive deforestation throughout Asia (want to talk about heat islands?) – and for everyone’s sake debate on AGW and New Urbanism should be welcomed, not ridiculed.
Are these criticisms valid? Do they have any merit whatsoever?