Community is Common Ground for Liberals and Conservatives

Supporters of New Urbanism may live across the political spectrum, but they all want to live in traditional neighborhoods.

2 minute read

July 24, 2015, 1:00 PM PDT

By Emily Calhoun

New Urbanists beleaguered by political pigeon-holing may be encouraged by Jeff Turrentine's review of an evolving political landscape for smart growth. He points out that while many so-called environmental issues "aren't intrinsically political," liberals and conservatives alike tend to brand them as liberal causes. A new movement of young conservative pundits seeks to change that, reviving interest in a white paper published last decade titled, "Conservatives and the New Urbanism: Do We Have Some Things in Common?" Their answer: a resounding Yes.

The New Urbanist Conservatives argue that the basic ideology of New Urbanism is, in fact, inherently conservative because it calls for a return to traditional neighborhoods. Turrentine agrees that the value of community is undeniable. "When neighborhoods are designed to maximize the potential for interactions between neighbors, and when each member of a community is encouraged to feel like part of a socially, physically, and (yes) architecturally unified whole, local culture is born."

The white paper, authored by Paul M. Weyrich, William S. Lind and Andrés Duany, lists the 27 principles of the New Urbanism charter and describes how they coalesce with conservative values. The authors are intent on debunking perceived myths about New Urbanism that detract conservatives from embracing it, addressing such hot button issues as cars ("The current domination of the automobile is not a free market outcome") and Portland, Oregon ("Portland's Urban Growth Boundary predates New Urbanism, which therefore should not be blamed for it.")

Turrentine notes that where political beliefs often do become relevant in "environmental issues" is in the means devised to achieve common goals. "The policies we adopt to environmental problems may be political, insofar as they cost taxpayer money and are typically proposed by elected officials..." However, in the case of New Urbanist policies for reform, conservatives and liberals are finding more common ground than usual. According to Weyrich et. al., "To break the government-imposed monopoly sprawl codes now hold, we need to understand how they work to stop New Urbanism."

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