Wrestling with the ‘D’ Word (Density)

There are few hot buttons in planning conversation like the word “density.” One writer in San Diego claims that the breakdown inspired by the term originates from concerns with cars, not buildings.
February 3, 2014, 5am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Walter Chambers examines the ongoing contentiousness in the city of San Diego surrounding the word density. Chambers points out that density can lend itself to technical and impersonal considerations, rather than focusing not he quality of life benefits that are possible when people live and interact in proximity to each other.

“But when the conversation turns to density, we talk about objects — number of apartments, big buildings, etc. To make matters worse, community planners talk about density as ‘dwelling units per acre’ (du/acre), which doesn’t exactly speak to people and experiences.”

Intead, Chambers recommends that planners should talk “in terms of how people make a great city. Let’s understand density as increasing the opportunities for social exchanges between people, or ‘social exchanges per acre’ (sx/acre). Let’s talk about people and experiences.”

The real issue, however, is that “When you look at city planning from [an] auto-centric point of view, which most of us have been taught to do, higher density doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

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Published on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 in Voice of San Diego
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