City vs. Suburb Battle Reignites

There's a new volley in the long-running battle between cities and suburbs. In his new book "The Human City," urban scholar Joel Kotkin contends that cities and their planners have lost sight of the residents who matter most: families.
April 12, 2016, 7am PDT | Josh Stephens
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"Kotkin has long been a contrarian and critic of contemporary planning — sometimes a perceptive and welcome one, especially when urbanists, myself included, have gotten too cute or too smug. 'The Human City' is probably his most comprehensive critique and surely his most off-putting."

"The 'us' in Kotkin’s divisive title refers to nuclear families: husbands and wives who dutifully bear sons and daughters. They are, claims Kotkin, the ones whom cities ought to serve. They have no use for monumental statements like towers and superblocks nor for fripperies like parklets, bike lanes, street festivals, and loft conversions. And they certainly don’t want their children having to share personal space with 'them,' whoever 'they' may be."

"In asserting the preferences of some 122 million people (including many children who probably had no say in the matter), Kotkin makes no effort to distinguish desire from resignation. The status quo does not tell us whether they 'want' to live in suburbs or whether they are merely willing to do so because that’s where most housing units have been built over the last century."

"Planners in center cities focus on downtowns, multifamily housing, commercial pockets, and certain amenities because, well, that’s what they have to work with. Density is what a city is – especially 'luxury cities.' Being for or against density is a silly question. Managing density and making it work, for families and everyone else, is the real question."

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Published on Sunday, April 3, 2016 in California Planning & Development Report
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