|Los Angeles urban sprawl|
We are heading back to suburbia today after taking a brief sojourn to Paris, France for the Frank Gehry retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. Ahh suburbia, that magical place with beautiful homes, happy and healthy families, and good schools. Right? Well not exactly. Joel Kotkin, in his article "Why Suburbia Irks Some Conservatives," for New Geography writes, "For generations, politicians of both parties-dating back to at least Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt- generally supported the notion of suburban growth and expansion of homeownership. 'A nation of homeowners,' Franklin Roosevelt believed, 'of people who own a real share in their land, is unconquerable.'" Of course neither president was living during the home mortgage industry implosion. So why exactly does suburbia irk some conservatives?
| Tyson Corner neighborhood|
Tyson Corner, Virginia
San Francisco, California
What is apparent is Mr. Lewis and his fellow "retro-urbanist conservatives" are mimicking the philosophies of the smart-growth coterie and urban planners. Mr. Kotkin notes, "If he actually researched the issue, he would learn that the average commutes of suburbanites tend to be shorter, according to an analysis of census date by demographer Wendell Cox, than those in denser transit-oriented cities..."
Once again, Joel Kotkin takes the research to task, writing, "...suburbanites, as University of California researchers found, tend to be more engaged with their neighbors than are people closer to the urban core. Similarly, a 2009 Pew study recently found that, among the various geographies in America, residents in suburbia were more 'satisfied' than either rural or urban residents."
Given this percentage, you might be tempted to think that conservatives would have an issue with the progressive agenda to go around preferences and market forces by restraining suburban and single-family home development. These progressives might seize on a strategic opening to take the urban periphery, the one place still in play in the American political landscape. By contrast, the "blue" cities and "red" rural areas have picked their teams and voted accordingly. Therefore, tempted by their own class prejudice, some conservatives appear to willingly abandon the long cherished market forces. The promulgation of Draconian is unnecessary for density growth. Case in point, in Dallas and Houston which have both liberal planning measures and economic growth, there has been a great increase n multifamily residences in comparison to Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Housing costs are lower.
|Hyde Park, Illinois|
|Northwest Washington D.C.|
Whether or not you see the suburbs as paradise, they are the embodiment of the American Dream, holding out the promise of a better life. This is not to say that the suburbs cannot be improved socially and environmentally. Mr. Kotkin reports, "This already happening in new, mostly privately built developments where the 'ills' of suburbia-long commute distances, overuse of water and energy-are addressed by building new town centers, bringing employment close to home, the use of more drought-resistant landscaping, promoting home-based business and developing expansive park systems." This all looks very promising, in light of a aggressive agenda that pushes denser housing and "create heat-generating concrete jungles."
In abandoning the suburbs, both Republicans and Democrats are engaging in a lethal electoral attack on the concerns and interests of the majority of Americans and their aspirations. By insisting on denser housing and more constricted planning initiatives, not a return to solid republic virtues that link democracy to property ownership, the United States risks moving from a property ownership-based democracy to a feudal society.