Bruegmann: Sprawl Is Natural And Is Part Of History

Once considered "sprawl" by Londoners, the city's row houses now form the essence of the city. Are attacks of sprawl in the US built on "an extremely shaky foundation of class-based aesthetic assumptions and misinformation?"

"If sprawl is the outward spread of settlement at constantly lower densities without any overall plan, then London in the 19th century sprawled outward at a rate not surpassed since then by any American city."

London's neighborhoods of row houses, now widely considered to be the "very essence of central London", were "castigated... as ugly little boxes put up by greedy speculators willing to ruin the beautiful countryside in order to wrest the last penny out of every square inch of land" by the artistic and intellectual leaders of London's in the 19th century.

"Contrary to much accepted wisdom, sprawl in the U.S. is not accelerating. It is declining in the city and suburbs as average lot sizes are becoming smaller, and relatively few really affluent people are moving to the edge. This is especially true of the lowest-density cities of the American South and West. The Los Angeles urbanized area (the U.S. Census Bureau's functional definition of the city, which includes the city center and surrounding suburban areas) has become more than 25% denser over the last 50 years, making it the densest in the country."

..."Certainly sprawl has created some problems, just as every settlement pattern has. But the reason it has become the middle-class settlement pattern of choice is that it has given them much of the privacy, mobility and choice once enjoyed only by the wealthiest and most powerful."

Full Story: In Defense Of Sprawl

Comments

Comments

ran out of fingers to count the unsupported assertions

anyone want to explain this one:

"Even if all urban dwellers the world over were brought up to "ideal" urban consumption standards--say, that of a Parisian family living in a small apartment and using only public transportation--it would not reduce energy use and greenhouse emissions, since it would require such large increases in energy use by so many families who today are so poor they can't afford the benefits of carbon-based energy."

how exactly would you avoid a reduction in energy use by adopting a lifestyle that uses considerably less energy?

oh i get it now

he's saying that there's no way to reach a sustainable average energy use while simultaneously raising living standards globally... so we should all just live in the suburbs and not worry about it?

Bruegmann's Usual Distortions - Plus New Ones

sorry I posted this twice because it did not display in the Recent Comments list.

Bruegmann distorts history in the same way that he always has: by defining sprawl to include all suburbanization (including London's row houses). In reality, the term "suburban sprawl" was invented in the 1950s by WH White to describe post-war American suburbs that are totally auto-dependent, and it was not meant to include rowhouses or streetcar suburbs.

Because of this distorted definition, Brueggmann claims that sprawl "has become the middle-class settlement pattern of choice is that it has given them much of the privacy, mobility and choice once enjoyed only by the wealthiest and most powerful." In fact, the middle class enjoyed similar levels of privacy and choice in the streetcar suburbs of a century ago as they do in sprawl suburbs (and they had easy access to local services, which means that that needed less mobility than people do in sprawl suburbs, where services are accessible only by freeway).

To these usual distortions, he adds a new collection of distortions about global warming, which are so clearly false that I am surprized he has the audacity even to advance them. For example:

"Even if all urban dwellers the world over were brought up to "ideal" urban consumption standards--say, that of a Parisian family living in a small apartment and using only public transportation--it would not reduce energy use and greenhouse emissions, since it would require such large increases in energy use by so many families who today are so poor they can't afford the benefits of carbon-based energy."

This simply says that there is no benefit to Americans and Europeans having a standard of living that requires less energy use, since the poor people of the world would still use more energy to come up to this standard. But how does this scenario compare with the amount of energy that the poor people of the world would use if they all moved to sprawl suburbs?

In reality, there is some chance that everyone in the world can have a decent standard of living in walkable cities, but there is no chance that people in the poor countries can move to to auto-dependent sprawl in the foreseeable future without causing disastrous global warming.

To deny this obvious fact about the foreseeable future, Bruegmann fantasizes about a distant utopian future:

it is quite possible, with wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy, to imagine a world in which most people could simply decouple themselves from the expensive and polluting utilities that were necessary in the old high-density industrial city. Potentially, they could collect all their own energy on-site and achieve carbon neutrality.

There is no chance that this eco-sprawl technology could be in place in time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as we need to reduce them by 2050. By using this future fantasy as an excuse for not doing what we should do now to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, Bruegmann is fighting against efforts to counter global warming.

Bruegmann has turned himself into a climate criminal. People like him and George Bush are responsible for the deaths and human suffering that global warming is already causing in east Africa. If they continue to block effective action to slow global warming, they will be responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths over the next few decades (according to the estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Charles Siegel

Bruegmann's Usual Distortions - Plus New Ones

Bruegmann distorts history in the same way that he always has: by defining sprawl to include all suburbanization (including London's row houses). In reality, the term "suburban sprawl" was invented in the 1950s by WH White to describe post-war American suburbs that are totally auto-dependent, and it was not meant to include rowhouses or streetcar suburbs.

Because of this distorted definition, Brueggmann claims that sprawl "has become the middle-class settlement pattern of choice is that it has given them much of the privacy, mobility and choice once enjoyed only by the wealthiest and most powerful." In fact, the middle class enjoyed similar levels of privacy and choice in the streetcar suburbs of a century ago as they do in sprawl suburbs (and they had easy access to local services, which means that that needed less mobility than people do in sprawl suburbs, where services are accessible only by freeway).

To these usual distortions, he adds a new collection of distortions about global warming, which are so clearly false that I am surprized he has the audacity even to advance them. For example:

"Even if all urban dwellers the world over were brought up to "ideal" urban consumption standards--say, that of a Parisian family living in a small apartment and using only public transportation--it would not reduce energy use and greenhouse emissions, since it would require such large increases in energy use by so many families who today are so poor they can't afford the benefits of carbon-based energy."

This simply says that there is no benefit to Americans and Europeans having a standard of living that requires less energy use, since the poor people of the world would still use more energy to come up to this standard. But how does this scenario compare with the amount of energy that the poor people of the world would use if they all moved to sprawl suburbs?

In reality, there is some chance that everyone in the world can have a decent standard of living in walkable cities, but there is no chance that people in the poor countries can move to to auto-dependent sprawl in the foreseeable future without causing disastrous global warming.

To deny this obvious fact about the foreseeable future, Bruegmann fantasizes about a more distant utopian future:

it is quite possible, with wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy, to imagine a world in which most people could simply decouple themselves from the expensive and polluting utilities that were necessary in the old high-density industrial city. Potentially, they could collect all their own energy on-site and achieve carbon neutrality.

There is no chance that this eco-sprawl technology could be in place in time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as we need to reduce them by 2050. By using this future fantasy as an excuse for not doing what we should do now to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, Bruegmann is fighting against efforts to counter global warming.

Bruegmann has turned himself into a climate criminal. People like him and George Bush are responsible for the deaths and human suffering that global warming is already causing in east Africa. If they continue to block effective action to slow global warming, they will be responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths over the next few decades (according to the estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Charles Siegel

Distortions are natural and part of tactics.

Well, this is my problem with Breugmann's typical argumentation right here in a nutshell:

    Today, the complaints about sprawl are louder than ever, but as in the past, they are built on an extremely shaky foundation of class-based aesthetic assumptions and misinformation. If history is any guide, some modern anti-sprawl prescriptions will prove as ineffective as the Duke of Wellington's. Others will actually backfire.

    Even many of the most basic facts usually heard about sprawl are just wrong. Contrary to much accepted wisdom, sprawl in the U.S. is not accelerating. It is declining in the city and suburbs as average lot sizes are becoming smaller, and relatively few really affluent people are moving to the edge. This is especially true of the lowest-density cities of the American South and West. The Los Angeles urbanized area (the U.S. Census Bureau's functional definition of the city, which includes the city center and surrounding suburban areas) has become more than 25% denser over the last 50 years, making it the densest in the country. [emphases added]

False premises and misdirection, and this from an Assistant Professor.

I guess efficient provision of services and reducing ecological footprints are imposed by the elitist class on the rabble so they can pay lower taxes after efficiencies are gained in the new development.

And I guess we don't have to provide evidence (esp. pp. 10-12) for our assertion about sprawl rates, we just have to believe what the Perfesser says that sprawl is not a problem. Sure.

Best,

D

Class-Based Esthetic Assumptions

The ecological footprint is just a class-based esthetic assumption.

Ignore all the research about the environmental damage caused by sprawl. Name calling is much easier.

Charles Siegel

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