Smart Growth Leaders Still Living Low Density American Dream

While encouraging the city's residents to embrace higher densities and public transit, many of Los Angeles's smart growth advocates live in single family homes and commute long distances in cars.

"If any one principle provides the underpinning for smart growth, it's density - putting multistory homes around rail stations, on bus corridors and at the heart of urbanized areas.

So why are so many smart-growth advocates avoiding density in their own lives?"

"Henry Cisneros, a board member with Smart Growth America, and onetime head of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development came to Los Angeles a decade ago to work for the Spanish-language channel Univision - and immediately found a home in the plush, gated community of Bel Air Crest."

"Developer Nick Patsaouras, a onetime board member with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who heads the firm Polis which designs apartment buildings around rail stations, lives in a single-family neighborhood in Tarzana and would need to walk one and four-fifths miles from his hillside home to find the nearest bus."

"Then there's Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Mike Woo, founder of the Smart Growth China Institute, which urges the largest nation in the world to embrace "sustainable transportation and urban planning alternatives instead of duplicating the mistakes of the developed world." Woo lives on a hillside in Silver Lake where every home is zoned R-1 - a planning designation meant to keep apartments and condos far away. "This is one of the best neighborhoods in L.A. - other than [its lack of] bus access," he says."

"Of course, there's nothing inherently bad about living in a single-family neighborhood...but how can you sell people on a product that you won't buy yourself? Even worse, how can you convincingly sell a product that you think only the poor, people with no other options, should buy?"

Full Story: Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Comments

Comments

Polyzoides on low-density lifestyle: "I can afford it..."

"Polyzoides... gives a pithy explanation for his low-density lifestyle choice: “I can afford it..."

Yes, hypocrites these people are... regrettably, Polyzoides isn't the only one. It seems that Smart Growth and New Urbanism are just for us common folks.

Have a nice day...

Christopher C.

indicates consumer preference

this simply shows that the traditional american dream home is alive and well. survey after survey shows that the majority of people prefer single-family/low-density living over multi-family/high-density.

It seems that what drives most people to higher density housing is their economic reality. The 'starter homes' of today are increasingly townhomes and condos.

Too many planners mistakenly assume a "build it and they will come" mentality, envisioning high-density utopian villages where nobody needs to use a car and everyone meets at the coffee shop conveniently located 3 blocks from home.

It's not to say, however, that we just give up and go back to suburban sprawl. Perhaps our best chance is through the right kind of master-planned communities and well-placed infill - projects that consider the economics and energy efficiency of density and mixed use while still providing consumers with what they want.

The American Dream Home

"The traditional american dream home is alive and well.."

You are absolutely right and I, too, see little indication of change. It is why I am pessimistic, as I have stated before in this forum, that Americans are not well equipped to face issues of energy usage and global climate change in the decades to come.
All evidence indicates that, in fact, most Americans still like to live large. Nothing short of $10-a-gallon gasoline will get them out of their SUVs and their suburban McMansions.

All I was saying here earlier is that if Polyzoides, Calthorpe, Andres Duany and the other big-time gurus of New Urbanism/Smart Growth don't live the life they preach, then they are hypocrites, making New Urbanism/Smart Growth a hard sell to all the common folk they seemingly would like to see living in such communities.

Christopher C.

Preference between A and A or A and B.

this simply shows that the traditional american dream home is alive and well. survey after survey shows that the majority of people prefer single-family/low-density living over multi-family/high-density.

I disagree.

There are numerous surveys and evidence that the preference is not only based on life-stage and amenity bundles but whether options actually exist to choose from (that is: is there only choice between Standard Suburb A and Standard Suburb A, or is there choice between, say, TND and Standard Suburb A?).

I also disagree with the premise of [t]oo many planners mistakenly assume a "build it and they will come" mentality, envisioning high-density utopian villages where nobody needs to use a car...yada.

The point is to offer consumers a choice. An alternative to the suburb, the typical suburb or the same ol' suburb. The latter part of the italicized is just a rehasing of the noise-machine fear phrase. Nobody I know thinks that way. Nobody.

Best,

D

Rich People Like to Live in Rich Neighborhoods

I do not disagree that there is a strong American preference for single family homes, but I think the story here is more complex than is being presented.

I think much of the explanation for where these people live is that they are looking to live in high-amenity areas that have the established feel of success about them. In L.A., these areas are in low density single family areas. But in other areas, such as Manhattan, the areas that are high-amenity and have an aura of success may be high density areas.

It is at least possible that we will see a cultural shift where denser and more urban type neighborhoods will come to be seen as more desirable, and then the wealthier people will start living in these neighborhoods, and then all people will desire neighborhoods of similar design. In fact, one of the frequent criticisms of New Urbanist neighborhoods is that they are too expensive for regular folks. Perhaps we should take this as the first indicator of a successful cultural shift towards higher densities?

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