Monday, July 24, 2006

Bailey Acres

Aesthetics is the last resort of intellectually superior
urbanists who lack the FActs with which to advance density.

Supposed areas with the most sprawl:

1. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.
2. Greensboro-Winston-Salem- High Point, N.C.
3. Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
4. Atlanta
5. Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.
6. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-
Delray Beach, Fla.
7. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk Danbury, Conn.
8. Knoxville, Tenn.
9. Oxnard-Ventura, Calif. <------ ME!!! That's ME!!!!
10. Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas

Cities with the least sprawl at least according to the SmUGLERs:

1. New York
2. Jersey City, N.J.
3. Providence
4. San Francisco
5. Honolulu
6. Omaha, Neb.
7. Boston
8. Portland, Ore.
9. Miami
10. New Orleans

Source: Smart Growth America

More silly science available at:

Smart Growth is by definition the "smart" thing. "Good" planning likewise. Only the most close-minded transit advocate would allow the discussion to devolve to the point where people who disagree should become demonized.

Only SmUGLERS (smart urban growth lovers) and planners are unhappy with the current process. Everyone else is content to let evolutionary land use policies develop. SmUGLERs like all malcontents claim the -need- to change the status quo. Planners are merely pursuing their life goals of shaping the developed environment to their will. Recent trends in land use regulation, notably Napa and Ventura Counties in California represent the greatest threats to the NewUrb/NeoTrad/SmUG fad du jour of the "professional" planning community. Surely Napa and Ventura counties are effectively promoting the -claimed- goals of those planner driven marketing progroms but their failing is in their inability to promote the agenda planners assumed would follow from such programs. It should be noted that every single planner at the city and county level publicly opposed the passage of Ventura Counties' SOAR initiative and one of the most visible skeptics, Bill Fulton, is now on a city council.

The supposed benefits have been promoted to no end and the technical literature are filled with the measured failings. It is hubris in the extreme to think there is any substantial body of pro SmUG evidence or that there is not a large body of measurable SmUG refutation already extant.

SmUGLERs are generally anti-POV for reasons of either religion or demonization in order to advance a competing agenda. It is also important to expose what misguided Nurbists refer to as "evidence" of unwieldy conspiracies and roads cabals and evil capitalist plans . The failure resides in not addressing the many legitimate social and economic forces that were responsible for reshaping society over the same timeframe. These forces are actually easy to tease out of the fabric of 1920-1960 if one is diligent. Transit usage was falling, mobility was rising, transit costs were rising at many times an already high cost of living rate, POV costs were falling in both real and relative terms, etc., etc. The pervasive success of the POV to address unmet societal needs is the effect and not the cause of social pressures for a different urban model.

Recall that classic bit of Americana; "It's a Wonderful Life." It describes exactly how miserable the "company town" old style density could be. This is the reality of presuburbanamerica. Only planners and SmUGLERS pine for the days of pre- WW-II urban patterns. An excellent example BTW of the urban legend syndrome among the planning class.

The politics of SmUG are all about mixed use and close proximity. SmUGLers are instead griping about the -results- of government meddling in the development process for reasons other than their responsibility to community (safety, compatibility, etc.).

SmUGLERs neither speak with a single voice nor even with a consistent voice. Even SmUG is nothing more than the latest incarnation of previously discredited Nurb and NeoTrad and whatever came before that. It is a "given" in any discussion of planning meta-principles that urban advocates will attempt to continually redefine the discussion and their public personas as the previous claims are refuted, disfavored and exposed for what they are. Recent outrages such as Monster housing are only targets because they aren't on the agenda not because they are bad. On the contrary, newly constructed super homes are nearly unique in one, all important, municipal characteristic; They pay for themselves from the beginning. Requiring
neither subsidy nor tax breaks and also needing fewer infrastructure investments and fewer social service burdens, McMansions are the moneymakers of the zoning for dollars racket. More taxes and fewer burdens, this is the formula for running a city like a business. We needn't get into the moral implications just by acknowledging the situation. To harken back to another buzzword it turns out that from a community perspective McMansions are "sustainable" by all the enumerable criteria usually associated with that concept.

Everyone -can- live in a pleasant exurban community. We just cannot all live in the -same- community. We know what happens when we allow infill at the city level; San Fernando Valley. Infill, of course, being a central tenet of SmUG. We'd have none of the problems if the "cities" (urban nodes) in the SFV had remained discreet. When they all grew together into a vast continuous urbanscape the inevitable congestion and inability to provide new, adequate infrastructure became obvious.

I propose the following bumperstickers for the campaign to change the hearts and minds of the people before "we" change their lifestyles:

"Density; Even rats get it" "Smart Growth; Simple Solution" "Club of Rome
Lives!" "Save resources; help China" "LEMs = Apartheid" "Transit is
addictive" "Freedom = Mobility" "Invest in Nature; Sprawl" "Congestion
first, transit later" "Light Rail, watch the first step"

SmUGLers (Smart Urban Growth Lovers) don't really care about transit mode. They advocate density and transit. They place their relative value of natural open spaces over the well being of people. They place their emotional hatred of autos above the rational provision of transportation resources.

Sustainability has replaced Smart Growth. Same fish different wrapper.

The problem is that when the sides are aligned along "Change vs. No Change" the compromise always involves "Change." The advocates for change can always start with an extreme position and negotiate down to merely radical positions. No Change is stuck with principles and no way to negotiate without losing. Perhaps the answer is in the zoning that you dislike. Make requests for rezoning , exactly that. A potential developer risks losing the zoning intensity they already have when they request a rezone.

At least the NUTS (NewUrbanistTransitSupporters) are left to clean up the mess left by the last round of social agendaists rather than impose their mandates on those of us fortunate enough to escape the borders of their inhuman experiments on unwilling subjects.


incessant_din said...


C'mon, you wish you had the blazing speed and efficiency of the average San Francisco bus. 8.1mph is crazy fast. Reminds me of the opening scene of "Office Space," where the guy in the walker beats the traffic. Check out this report (pdf). I love reports which mix wildly different systems (compare service areas) and use metrics that don't account for scale. Would it be too hard to calculate net operating revenue per passenger-mile? Telling me that operating costs per trip for SF and LA are fairly close, seems to miss something. I would settle for any metric based upon net operating revenue.

I love that the idea of adding even more transit-only lanes is an obvious solution.

Anonymous said...

According to the writers' criteria, I live in one of the ten worst areas for "sprawl" and work in one of the ten best. Should I feel guilty?

BTW, the quality of the housing stock in three of the cities on the ten best list (NY, Boston, and Providence)is abysmal. I dearly love NYC, but four-story walk-ups and air shaft ventilation should have disappeared decades ago.

jack mehoff said...

What the fuck are you talking about? Why don't you apply yourself and pretend you are a journalist. Pretend you are beginning each piece at the beginning and not in the middle of some internal conversation. I can't figure out if you think the NYC model or the Riverside CA model is best. Can anyone else? Do I have to rescue another of your boring blogs?

Rob Dawg said...

Please Jack. The adults are talking. Hold any questions until after the debate. I_Din was being sarcastic with the blistering speed of urban transit. Anon 6:08 points out how close sprawl and "Sustainable" can be physically. Not because they actually can be proximate but because the definitions are arbitrary with respect to actual criteria and chosen merely to advance the SmUG agenda.

jack mehoff said...

Cote, How do you spell BORING? I rode the SF rails, street cars and cable cars for eight years to school and work. Daily. Hourly. I had no car. Didn't need one. So, once again, for this child, what the fuck are you talking about?

incessant_din said...


Public transit can be great for some people. I have used the transit myself on occasion, when it fit my needs.

I also agree that the topic of public mass transit policy would be boring to somebody who has done 8 years of time riding the SF public transit system. I'll bet you've seen more wacky things on those leisurely 8mph rides than one could hope to experience from inside their car.

To each his own. It's like the veterans who consider the debates on military policy to be meaningless fluff because the real thing is so much more viceral and instinctive. I fit into the category of those who had a relatively brief tour "in country," so I find both attitudes interesting and useful.

jack mehoff said...

I_Din, When is the last time you drove on the 91 freeway in the Inland Empire? If you achieved 8 mph you'd be exceeding the safe speed limit. On the other hand the N-Judah or BART in SF cruise at much higher speeds while the passengers are allowed to read, converse or sight see. Your 8 mph model is so badly flawed I hardly know where to begin.

incessant_din said...


8mph is the average speed of SF buses. Those numbers came from Muni itself, I believe.

I haven't had the displeasure of driving 91 in at least 3 years. The last time I did however, was a Saturday afternoon returning from Newport Beach, and the average speed on the short stretch I took was something like 70mph. And people were going in the FasTrak lanes paying something like $2.50. Car drivers are not necessarily smarter than public transit users.

BART goes from "smart urban" to "sprawl", and is not included in my link above, which addresses Muni only. The majority of BART, therefore, services sprawl. At the same time, the number of stops in the SF core increases, reducing the system speed. this is obviously a necessary trade for mass transit.

Somewhat as an aside, highway infrastructure is a necessity for commerce, and if we tried to push goods delivery onto a public transit mode, then the cost of goods and services would skyrocket. Before somebody responds, "nobody is saying that a bus should deliver commercial goods," I point you to link #2 in my post above:

"Daily ridership of 1,000,000 is the target ridership because it represents a conservative estimate of how many new riders Muni needs to be able to carry to hold car trips constant. Ideally, SPUR would like to reduce the total number of car trips, not least because we want to convert some vehicle space into more space for pedestrians, bicycle facilities, and transit."

Where do they talk about improving the situation for commercial vehicles? Not here:

"Bus lanes are most needed where roads are most congested. San Francisco policymakers must be willing to accept more auto delay (or displacement of cars to other streets) as the price of having transit work better on streets whose primary purpose is to move transit. This need not happen on all streets where transit operates—different streets have different functions."

I assure you that these people are shortsighted. It's why market forces tend to get better results than central planning.

jack mehoff said...

Three years ago on a Saturday doesn't count. Try the 91 today during the week. The State is talking about boring a tunnel from Riverside to Orange County to add another freeway. Give me a flat in SF today with a view of the bay. Screw the Inland Empire, gridlock and the developers who won't tell new buyers about the commute nightmare that awaits them. As for Cote's Ventura County, it is where the Okie's who got kicked out of the San Fernando Valley ended up.

Rob Dawg said...

As for Cote's Ventura County, it is where the Okie's who got kicked out of the San Fernando Valley ended up.

Snigger. Even setting aside the lame and all too obvious baiting you had best use the Census to update your spiel. Look at any socioeconomic critea you wish. Intact familes, per capita income, household income, education, go on. They all aren't perfect but compared to the SFV?

Nonetheless off topic. I'll accomodate your desire for VenCo bashing real soon. I'm lining up a Riverpark debacle update and Countrywide Mortgage implosion prediction and Amgen relocation watch in addition to a housing bubble review. Any/all will be prime territory.

And I_Din can look forward to an enlightening SF v. LA transit comparison. Very surprising NTD results.

jack mehoff said...

Make sure you include the history of the Camarillo Home for the Mentally Inept in your Ventura County debate. It was populated and run by intermarried Okies. A few escapees founded Pismo Beach.

Rob Dawg said...

The facility is now a California State University. Com'on Jack stay on message. We are talking about the evils of transit and the wierd results of transit addiction such that after a half dozen years of suckling on the public teat people don't even recognize their illness.

jack mehoff said...

Robert, Define the difference between the Camarillo Home for the Mentaly Inept and a California State University.

Rob Dawg said...

Tuition. ;-)

jack mehoff said...

Good one, Roberto.

Rob Dawg said...

I'm not without humor or tolerance. The Cam State Hospital was a pretty good place. I still know an elderly couple whose very adult child was there until the end. One on the very short list of Reagan mistakes. Saint Ronald also screwed up the rental market as Prez by allowing the tax breaks for new rental construction to expire/be repealed. He never managed a balanced budget amendment either.

But I digress.

jack mehoff said...

I'm not without humor or tolerance.

In the right hands a lemon can produce zest.