Fulton to Kotkin: Those Aren't Suburbs

Joel Kotkin's recent LA Times Op-Ed is critiqued by Bill Fulton of the California Planning and Development Report. Fulton argues the suburban areas Kotkin defends are actually urbanizing, whereas true suburbia show signs of becoming the new slums.

Joel Kotkin's recent LA Times Op-Ed is critiqued by Bill Fulton of the California Planning and Development Report. Fulton argues, the surburban areas Kotkin defends are actually urbanizing, whereas true surbubia show signs of becoming the new slums.

"The inescapable conclusion is that Kotkin is about 30 years out of date. His mind lives in a ring of older suburbs that circle downtown L.A. – Burbank, the San Gabriel Valley, the Westside, Irvine, all built between the 1920s and the 1960s as residential suburbs. Kotkin always casts the "urban v. suburban" battle as a battle between Downtown Los Angeles and these "suburbs".

But Burbank and Westwood are no more suburbs than is Downtown. And the Americana at Brand, Rick Caruso's new mixed-use project in downtown Glendale, may seem manufactured – but it's definitely not suburban. "

Thanks to Brian Holt

Full Story: What's The Difference Between Glendale and Palmdale? Don't Ask Joel Kotkin!



Pretty Fair Critique

I think Fulton presents a pretty fair critique. I actually like some of Kotkin's stuff, but I think there is confusion in the term "city". Kotkin is right that not everyone will move back to the downtown or central cities, but Fulton is right in the sense that places that used to be considered suburbs will likely evolve or already have evolved to be somewhere in between a traditional high rise urban core and bedroom community.

To me, it is why Joel Garreau most accurately depicted the modern era of urban development as edge cities. Places like Tyson's Corner, Houston's energy corridor, the South Bay of San Francisco, etc. defy logic of city or suburb or municipal boundary.

It's not about city vs. suburb and any attempt to characterize a distinct dichotomy (either way) shows an author may have another agenda other than just educating the public.

Thank you Bill...

I think I brought up this point when Joel went on his last rampage and brought Orange County into the mix. Most of Orange County is not "suburban" anymore, at least not in the traditional sense he is describing. His constant reliance on comparing apples and oranges is quickly becoming old.

It's all edgeless to me

Kotkin does seem to keep in mind east coast cities when he critiques the Los Angeles region, but many know that the region does not follow this model, and that it has, in many ways, become a archipelago, and largely an urbanized one at that. And while I agree with Fulton that Kotkin continues to base his critiques on the out-dated city/suburb model, not only are people not rushing to downtown LA, they are not, and will not, rush to Glendale, Burbank or Culver City - suburb, urban area, or whatever you want to call them.

While energy prices are high and will probably continue to rise, many will stay away from Kotkin's "suburbs" until they get better choices in housing, more parks and open space are built, and public transit improves. Until then, they will do what Kotkin says, and that is to buy a smaller car, and, I think, move from one edgeless area to another edgeless area.

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