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mainstream media catching on....

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  • Jon Koller
    http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/106732/Suburbia-R-I-P;_ylt=A0wNc803RbpJG84A3rm7YWsA The new urbanists seem to have won the hearts and minds of
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 13, 2009

      The new urbanists seem to have won the hearts and minds of those
      seeking an alternative to mindless suburbia with their early 20th
      century garden city concepts.

      The car free movement is at a critical juncture. The opportunity we
      currently face, with an economic and environmental crisis happening
      concurrently is forcing people to seek alternatives to the dominant
      paradigm. For those that are exposed to it, car free cities offer a
      compelling solution to both problems (and once the riots start, a good
      solution to that problem as well). For those only exposed to new
      urbanism, it looks like one hell of an improvement over the current
      scheme we run.

      I think it's high time that us car free folks develop a media strategy
      to promote some sensible alternatives to the public.


      article below:

      Suburbia R.I.P.

      The downturn has accomplished what a generation of designers and
      planners could not: it has turned back the tide of suburban sprawl. In
      the wake of the foreclosure crisis many new subdivisions are left half
      built and more established suburbs face abandonment. Cul-de-sac
      neighborhoods once filled with the sound of backyard barbecues and
      playing children are falling silent. Communities like Elk Grove,
      Calif., and Windy Ridge, N.C., are slowly turning into ghost towns
      with overgrown lawns, vacant strip malls and squatters camping in
      empty homes. In Cleveland alone, one of every 13 houses is now vacant,
      according to an article published Sunday in The New York Times

      The demand for suburban homes may never recover, given the long-term
      prospects of energy costs for commuting and heating, and the
      prohibitive inefficiencies of low-density construction. The whole
      suburban idea was founded on disposable spending and the promise of
      cheap gas. Without them, it may wither. A study by the Metropolitan
      Institute at Virginia Tech predicts that by 2025 there will be as many
      as 22 million unwanted large-lot homes in suburban areas.

      The suburb has been a costly experiment. Thirty-five percent of the
      nation's wealth has been invested in building a drivable suburban
      landscape, according to Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning
      professor at the University of Michigan and visiting fellow at the
      Brookings Institution. James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Geography
      of Nowhere," has been saying for years that we can no longer afford
      suburbs. "If Americans think they've been grifted by Goldman Sachs and
      Bernie Madoff, wait until they find out what a swindle the so-called
      'American Dream' of suburban life turns out to be," he wrote on his
      blog this week.

      So what's to become of all those leafy subdivisions with their
      Palladian detailing and tasteful signage? Already low or middle-income
      families priced out of cities and better neighborhoods are moving into
      McMansions divided for multi-family use. Alison Arieff, who blogs for
      The New York Times, visited one such tract mansion that was split into
      four units, or "quartets," each with its own entrance, which is not
      unlike what happened to many stately homes in the 1930s. The
      difference, of course, is that the 1930s homes held up because they
      were made with solid materials, and today's spec homes are all hollow
      doors, plastic columns and faux stone facades.

      There is also speculation that subdivision homes could be dismantled
      and sold for scrap now that a mini-industry for repurposed lumber and
      other materials has evolved over the last few years. Around the
      periphery of these discussions is the specter of the suburb as a ghost
      town patrolled by squatters and looters, as if Mad Max had come to the

      If the suburb is a big loser in mortgage crisis episode, then who is
      the winner? Not surprisingly, the New Urbanists, a group of planners,
      developers and architects devoted to building walkable towns based on
      traditional designs, have interpreted the downturn as vindication of
      their plans for mixed-use communities where people can stroll from
      their homes to schools and restaurants.

      Richard Florida, a Toronto business professor and author of "Who's
      Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most
      Important Decision of Your Life," argues that dense and diverse cities
      with "accelerated rates of urban metabolism" are the communities most
      likely to innovate their way through economic crisis. In an article
      published in this month's issue of The Atlantic, he posits that New
      York is at a relative advantage, despite losing a chunk of its
      financial engine, because the jostling proximity of architects,
      fashion designers, software writers and other creative types will
      reenergize its economy.

      Copyrighted, Mansueto Ventures LLC. All rights reserved.
    • Christopher Miller
      1. Regarding Joel s posting from Monbiot, I remember, a number of years ago, reacting to something Joel had written in a pre-publication draft of Carfree Times
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 13, 2009
        1. Regarding Joel's posting from Monbiot, I remember, a number of
        years ago, reacting to something Joel had written in a pre-publication
        draft of Carfree Times about "stopping climate change" or something
        along those lines. I proposed that all we could do at the stage we had
        reached by then, given the available knowledge, would be to mitigate
        the extent of climate change. Thinking that "climate change" was too
        neutral a term, I proposed "climate destabilization". Unfortunately,
        that doesn't fall trippingly off the tongue... But something like
        "climate crash" or "world climate emergency" might work better to
        communicate the seriousness of the problem in a nutshell. "Climate
        crash" is a bit sensationalist sounding, but the second choice seems
        to encapsulate pretty well what we are up against.

        More than ten years now we have known what we have been up against,
        battling to be heard by "mainstream" public thought managers who
        prefer to embed their heads in the sand and converse over the
        fascinating interactions of the ants they see scurrying about
        underground. Sorry to mix so many incompatible metaphors, but it gets
        disheartening being among the Cassandras on the Titanic when the
        people in charge at this stage think the most important thing is
        getting the gas flowing again into the stoves in the galley so
        everyone can continue to gorge themselves on hot food in the
        magnificently appointed dining room.

        2. About Jon Koller's posting:

        This appearet a couple of days ago on a business-centred blog:


        To give you an idea of the reception it got, here are the comments
        reacting directly to the story itself:


        March 11, 2009 at 11:40am by Debra DiEdwardo
        Quite frankly, I'm exhausted from reading the doom and gloom. We're
        obviously in economic crisis. But day in and day out to be flooded
        with snippets of panic about our retirement funds, the neighborhoods
        we live in, and the wonderful vision of squatters inhabiting our
        vacant homes, just leaves me cold. I'm not ignorant on the subject,
        just tired of the herd mentality. Let's write about what we can do
        within our communities to prosper, instead of plying the masses with
        fear. With love from rural suburbia.
        Report Content
        March 11, 2009 at 12:07pm by Amber Vongsamphanh
        I couldn't agree with Debra more. And frankly I think this type of
        gloom and doom journalism is irresponsible. I think we all remember
        the principle of "Self Fulfilling Prophecy" from Econ 101. This
        suburbanite will be unsubscribing from your RSS feed.
        Report Content
        March 11, 2009 at 3:38pm by gary griffin
        This article is a prime example of the "chickens coming home to
        roost". And the whiny comments of the NIMBY's who are afraid of
        "squatters"(read: minorities and such) need to wake up and smell a cup
        of reality; The "American Dream" is slavery and subjugation of the
        populace, pure and simple. These are the sheep who allowed dictators
        like Bush, Cheney, et. al. to drive us over this cliff by refusing to
        see the truth. Well, ladies, better brush up on your Espanol and plant
        some veggies in your suburbayards; and while you're at it, look up
        compassion and sympathy in your dictionaries and practice a lot of
        both to your new neighbors. You might find you have more in common
        with them than you think.......
        Report Content


        March 11, 2009 at 7:38pm by Laura Olesen
        Sure - there is too much gloom and doom out there. No doubt it taints
        the markets. But this article raises issues of which we should all be
        aware. One, way-out suburbs can be a gamble. Try reselling a house
        when buyers can get a brand-new one with tons of upgrades for the same
        price. Outskirts mean plenty of room for future competition/
        development. If your city keeps growing and growing, great! All of a
        sudden, you'll be in the center of it all. But if you're really out
        there and future growth is uncertain/unlikely, be careful. Two, the
        U.S. belief in suburbs is based on faith in cars. Gas prices are OK
        right now, but what about in the future? Should we be relying on an
        hour-long auto commute to get to work? That can be costly. Three, the
        American dream is a goal I most certainly believe in (I wouldn't be a
        Realtor otherwise!), but we should all approach it knowing our own
        limitations (just because you want 2000 SF doesn't mean it's the right
        thing) and the risks. Best of luck to everyone!
        Report Content


        March 12, 2009 at 8:47am by Tom Sachdeva
        What a story to depress more of the already dead (sorry depressed
        souls) I think the article writer should use some ingenuity to see the
        glass as half full ,not empty . Give everybody some hope ,some light.
        Enough of this recession to sell your articles. http://www.TheTorontoRealEstate.com
        Report Content
        March 13, 2009 at 4:51am by Morgan Whitehead
        Before we get too up in arms, let's look at who's being quoted in this
        article: New York Times, The Brookings Institution, Virginia Tech. All
        with an arguably left/liberal agenda to one degree or another. There's
        certainly no doubt that high fuel prices will put pressure on suburban
        appeal, but to proclaim it's outright death seems rather ridiculous.
        Hasn't Fast Company (along with legions of others) been championing
        the concept of telecommuting for years now? Companies large and small
        will surely look to expand this concept in these tough times, because
        it saves them money. More telecommuting = less real commuting. Less
        real commuting = less fuel expense. Less fuel expense = more money for
        suburban housing.


        Christopher Miller
        Montreal QC Canada

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