Skip to comments.THE SMART GROWTH FRAUD
Posted on 07/17/2003 6:25:40 PM PDT by NMC EXP
For decades urban planners have adhered to the mantra that urban sprawl increases pollution and housing costs, more driving time to work and shopping, stress, and the escalating consumption of scarce farmland and open space. Urban planning to implement what Al Gore calls smart growth supposedly corrects these problems and creates more livable, inexpensive homes for all. Irrefutable evidence, however, shows that urban planning creates the very nightmares it is supposed to eliminate. In the process, it strips urbanites of one of their most fundamental civil liberties property rights.
Land-use control has been a goal of socialists for many decades. Laurence Rockefellers 1972 publication of The Use of Land: A Citizen's Policy Guide to Urban Growth was instrumental in attempting to enact land-use regulation in Congress several times in the early 1970s. Edited by William K. Reilly, who later served as EPA Administrator under George Bush senior, the report claimed that planning the wise use of land is the best tool to guide growth toward achieving economic equality and protecting environmental quality.
Following the failed attempt to employ the anti-property rights features of The Use of Land, the United Nations set the same agenda in the 1976 Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I) held in Vancouver. For instance, the Preamble of Agenda Item 10 of the Conference Report states: The provision of decent dwellings and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable.... (Italics added)
Smart growth advocates seek to preserve land in a natural or agricultural state by encouraging individuals to live in denser communities that take up smaller tracts of land per housing unit. Such communities also encourage residents to rely more on walking or public transit than on cars for mobility, and they more closely mix retail and other commercial facilities with residential units to foster easy access to jobs and shopping.
Land-use control can often become an obsession to planners for obvious reasons. In order to plan and control growth in their enlightened way, government bureaucrats and planning advocates must control property rights. Private property rights and smart growth are therefore mutually exclusive.
Such policies do not permit Americans the freedom to live where they choose. They must live inside urban growth boundaries. Developers must provide open space around new development. Americans may not live in greenbelt areas around urban centers. They may not live in designated viewsheds of scenic highways, or in the buffer zone of a Heritage River or a designated stream.
Those advocating smart growth can become so obsessive they become irrational. For instance, on June18, 2001, the Sierra Club defined "efficient urban density" as a city containing 500 housing units to the acre. Put another way, 500 families would have to live on an acre of land which is 209 x 209 feet! This would require a 14-story apartment building if 36 very small 1,000 square foot units (with hallways) occupied each floor! Increasing the apartment size to 1500 square feet would require a 21-story building!
After being criticized that such densities were more than three times greater than the highest density tracts in Manhattan and more than double the most dense and squalid ward of Bombay, India, the Sierra Club quickly revised its definition of urban efficiency to 100 units per acre. Reaching even that goal, however, would require living arrangements that are 2.4 times as dense as all Manhattan, twice as dense as central Paris and ten times that of San Francisco according to the Heritage Foundation. The density of the average suburban area is 1-3 units per acre.
At least nineteen states have state growth-management laws or task forces to protect farmland and open space. Dozens of cities and counties have adopted urban growth boundaries to contain development and prevent the spread of urbanization to outlying and rural areas. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) partially funded a 2002 report called Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook: Model Statutes for Planning and the Manage-ment of Change. Congress is considering passing The Community Character Act, which proposes to fund state and local efforts to reform their land use planning process to conform more closely to smart growth policies.
The Legislative Guidebook calls for using federal funding as a carrot to mandate a more restrictive integrated state-regional-local planning system that is both vertically and horizontally consistent. Vertically and horizontally consistent, in turn, means total government control from the federal government to the local community across America. One size fits all. This dovetails with Section 4(c)(1)(D) of the Community Character Act which calls for funding and "coordination of Federal, State, regional, tribal, and local land use plans."
The paranoia about the need to control growth is a constant drumbeat of those promoting urban planning. They claim America is rapidly losing its farmland and open space. Yet, the U.S. Bureau of Census classifies less than 5 percent of the U.S. as being developed and less than 2.5 percent as urban using the 2002 corrected data.
Even in the densely populated east, both New York and Pennsylvania are only 10 percent developed. New Jersey, the most developed state, has only 30 percent of its land developed. To top it all off, less than one-quarter of the loss in farmland since 1945 is due to urbanization, and the rate of loss has been dropping since the 1960s. 1
The presumption that low-density residential development means more pollution, more congestion and fewer preserved natural resources is equally false. Likewise, the belief that higher-density compact development mitigates those impacts is false. Increasing population density does little to alleviate auto-caused smog. Urban and suburban areas with the lowest population densities have the fewest air pollution problems.
Population density or compactness also has little relationship to how much commuters depend on automobiles.2 More than 75 percent of commuter trips are by car even in urban areas. Thus, any planning strategy that attempts to increase population density usually leads to more traffic congestion and stalled traffic. This exacerbates air pollution levels and potentially causes more areas to fail federal clean air goals.3 This, in turn requires regulations that are even more restrictive.
Portland, Oregon, the model for urban planning, has had the most stringent land-use plans in the U.S. since the 1970s. In implementing its plan, Portland has stopped building highways and instead has built two light commuter rails that failed to achieve their goals. Transit commuter use actually dropped 20 percent from 1980 to 1991. Additionally, in spite of the severe hardship imposed on those who want to use automobiles, the Portland area experienced the largest increase in automobile use per capita from 1990 to 1999 of any U.S. urban area with more than one million people. 
The same is true for alternative transit methods. San Francisco's proposed Third Street light rail line, for instance, will cost $40.50 per ride, which is equal to $18,225 annually per new commuter. Notes the Heritage Foundation:
For the same money, each new commuter could lease a new Pontiac Grand Am throughout the "life" of the rail system and pay for more than 100,000 miles of air travel at the average ticket rate each year. Alternatively, one could lease the Grand Am and use the remainder of the annual subsidy for the average mortgage payment in the nation's most expensive housing market. Urban planning has also failed miserably in providing affordable housing. As a rule, more dense areas cost more to build in, tend to have higher taxes, higher levels of pollution, and a higher cost of living. The Heritage Foundation reports that; Data indicate that housing affordability in Portland (percentage of households that can afford the median priced home) dropped 56 percent from 1991 to 2000, the largest reduction of any major urban area in the nation! Portland's home ownership rate fell as a result. The poor, of course, suffer the most in this kind of failed policy. Families no longer able to afford single-family homes in Portland have to move into multifamily units. During 1992-97, the number of housing permits issued for multifamily units doubled from 25 percent to 49 percent.
Land-use zoning can also have a devastating impact on the cost of land. A March 2002 study published by the Harvard Institute of Economic Research showed that zoning dramatically increases the cost of land in urban areas. Where regulatory zoning is not artificially driving up the price of land, the cost of an extra quarter-acre in a single lot is very similar to a separate and independent buildable quarter-acre lot. This condition exists in urban Kansas City. However, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, New York City, Seattle and others like them, the difference between the cost of an extra quarter-acre in a lot, and a separate buildable quarter-acre lot is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In these areas, claims the Harvard study, only a small percentage of the value of the lot comes from an intrinsically high land price; the rest is due to restrictions on construction. Land-use restrictions were the only variable correlated with the huge cost increases.
The aggressive promotion of smart growth policies by some in the media, politicians and a gross misrepresentation of the facts by many environ-mentalists threatens the freedom of ordinary Americans to choose living arrangements that best suit their needs. Although smart growth proponents advocate land-use control as a means of providing affordable housing, it punishes low-income families, keeping them from ever being able to afford a home of their own and denying them the American Dream. According to the Heritage Foundation, home ownership rates among African-American and Hispanic families are still below 50 percent, in contrast to the nearly 75 percent ownership rates among white households. The very fashionable Fauquier County, Virginia, which has imposed severe growth restrictions and limits on homebuilding, has seen its African-American population fall both relatively and absolutely over the decade of the 1990s.
No matter how it is cut, urban planning and smart growth is a bald-faced fraud that is creating a nightmare for people across America. From a few academics and environmentalists to the media, state and local officials, and high-level federal officials of all ideologies and party affiliations, this misguided vision has spread despite overwhelming evidence that it does not work. The persistence of these beliefs despite all facts to the contrary is a tribute to the power of a fashionable idea favoring federal intervention, however illogical it may seem in practice and experience.
It is time for the Bush administration to pull all federal funding for any program dealing with smart growth or urban planning. Imposing such altruistic ideals just does not work. They harm both the environment and the citizens whom they are supposed to help
FreeRepublic , LLC
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It is in the breaking news sidebar!
This is why we must go "Ad Astra!"
It took 5 1/2 years, but we finally found one acre outside the Urban Growth Boundary on which to build our house. The bonus is that, since it is zoned RR, we don't have to farm it or keep cows in the front yard. Sadly, they are doing away with the RR zoning, if it's not gone already.
One more thing...light rail is an expensive joke. The people voted it down, but the powers that be decided our votes don't count.
You framed a false choice: (1) no planning and zoning or (2) "smart growth/sustainable development" as envisioned by advocates of the "Wildlands Project" which is being designed and implemented by unelected and unaccountable stakeholders and bureaucrats.
If you want a look at the plan I suggest you read "Sustainable Development -- a New Consensus" (the report by Clinton's Sustainable Development Council) and "Our Global Neighborhood -- the Report of the uN Commission on Sustainable Development" (note: Bush wants to start funding UNESCO again). If you're interested, I can provide the ISBN numbers of the books.
OK....your drive was more scenic and enjoyable.
Don't forget, the "country" you drove through is private property and is now nearly worthless to it's owners because it can never be developed.
Was the view worth it?
I'll bet the price of that patch of ground went up as much or more than the value of the ground inside the boundary dropped.
I don't really agree with the specifics you mention relative to property rights. But if we take it to the top level just don't pay your property taxes for a couple of years and you will find out who actually owns your property.
That's exactly my point. The local government would take your property because you failed to meet the terms of your "lease" (i.e., paying for the public roads and utilities that service your property).
C'mon man, you're a FReeper, you should know better than to resort to an illogical strawman argument.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
True in a way but not entirely. I'm house hunting now and I'm finding too many of what I call "projects in the country", hundreds of townhouses or condos crammed on several acres surrounded by woods or fields. These units are so close together they can't get top price but they make it up in volume. These to me are the future breeders of suburban crime.
Then you have the single family home developements. Here they cram expensive homes on small lots barely able to contain the home. Houses that should be on 2 or 3 acres are stuffed into .25 or .30 acre lots. They charge an arm and a leg to pay for the extra land they must keep green, so you pay for the land but it just isn't yours. This also keeps the riff-raff out that buy the townhomes and condos above. Included in both is of course your monthly lot rental in the form of HOA fees.
It's amazing that the older communities managed to keep their value and have beautiful green streets and yards without all those regulations that cause the above housing nightmares. I know where I'll buy.
Thats the idea. "Smart Growth" = suburban and rural cleansing. Force the people into urban areas and make them ride bikes and the bus.
Portland, Oregon, the model for urban planning, has had the most stringent land-use plans in the U.S. since the 1970s.This site has a great P. J. O'Rourke comment on Portland (as well as some good Algore disses):
The Solon-like city-council persons of Portland, Oregon, have had an urban-growth boundary in place for a quarter-century. It's an interesting concept: Keep your figure by encasing yourself in concrete, then eat what you want.
Well, exactly what is the moral principle you would invoke to stop someone from building a factory on their own property, even if it is next door to you?
In your case, you do not have to worry. Factories are seldom put up where the work force is likely to consist of socialists. (I assume you are typical of the people in your area.)
I live in a California town that brags it's "planned." When we bought our house I thought single-home density couldn't become much greater but I was wrong! Now they're building houses that practically touch each other and escapees from L.A. are buying them frantically at prices from $250,000 to $500,000 and up. Our older and rather more modest home is in a development surrounded by a lovely greenbelt -- one of the main inducements to our locating here.
There's an interesting twist. The home-development division of a huge lumber company is basically in cahoots with the city. We thought we'd moved to a settled community but now every spare scrap of land is being turned into high-density condos or apartments with the city's blessing. The greenbelt we love so much and which we thought would be there forever is now being eyed for the kind of very high density apartments you mention as future crime-breeders. We're fighting it like crazy but the lumber company has the funds and lawyers to wage an unending campaign. We'll lose in the long run.
I favor property rights, too, but I've lived long enough to become very cynical. When certain city council and planning commission members campaign for reelection, slick well-financed campaigns appear out of nowhere: fancy signs, TV commercials, etc. The money for all that has to come from somewhere, and it's not out of the politicians' own pockets. They're bought and paid for by the development interests. It makes sense: if you can get $350,000 for a house built on an acre of land, why not get $1,400,000 for four houses built on the same space? At that price, buying a few politicians is a bargain. So there are two sides to the issue, as always.
The tools are taking huge tracts of land permanently off the tax rolls.
Charging "fees" on development, after empty land has paid decades in taxes for essentially no services (charge them twice).
Deliberately withold essential improvements in order to claim "insufficient infrastructure" to allow more families to move in.
The new concept of "Planning" is totally Orwellian, or more accurately, Fahrenheit 451-ish; Exactly like the "firemen" in that prophetic novel, destroying the very thing their name implies they shoud guide and protect.
It ain't socialism or altruism; It's plain rottenness.
And "government" empowers it.
Call me an anarchist then.
What planet did you just arrive from?
70 years ago government did exactly those things you list.
Increasingly over the last 40 years, the main function of planning is to "study" things to death, and come up with reasons not to build any of the above.
And effectively, too. No real planning, no possible growth.
Any city in Texas.
This makes no sense. The Urban Growth Boundary was created many years ago (in the 70's). At that time the line was far out in the country and it is unlikely that the owners were just holding it to wait for a chance to develop. Anyone who was prescient enough to anticipate and want to participate in the development game could have sold land and bought on the other side of the line. Over the years the only people I have heard carping are not long-time landowners, but developers who planned to buy land near the boundary and then apply political pressure to have the boundary moved. They were surprised that things didn't work the same way in Portland as elsewhere.
Apparently the land beyond the boundary is not "worthless", as it appears to be in use as farmland. Some people who live beyond the boundary are probably happy that they are not destined to live in a city.
Was the view worth it?
Anything to blast "rugged individualism" into non-existance and corral the populace into compact developments with little trucks with yellow lights on top and "COMPLIANCE/ENFORCEMENT" magnetic signs on their doors, right?
Anything to conform to the late arrived "exurban" refugee from the megolopolis who just moved in to the "urban/rural interface," determined to "protect" his/her new domain from any new homes, or especially (gasp) any new "Multi-Family" affordable housing for "Those People," right?
There ya go. Add video surveillance, face recognition software, RFID product chips, and you can almost "guarantee" a crime-fee society. The sheep will swallow it whole.
I told him it was We're Cops And You're Not.
City councils and county commissioners are not here to serve the citizen, but rather their own [communist] agenda or their cronies' [commercial] interest.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
By DWIGHT PELZ
Recently I had a disagreement with an old friend. I'm on the Sound Transit Board and am a big supporter of light rail. My friend lives near the planned light rail station at Columbia City. He and some of his neighbors are upset that light rail is coming and that it is tied to the proposals to increase housing density near the station.
That day he was particularly focused on one vacant property near the station that was zoned for multifamily (apartment or condominium) housing. "The city should buy that as a park or as a P-patch. We don't have enough open space in this part of the city," he said.
I was shocked because this friend considers himself a radical environmentalist. He recently had been involved in the planning of several very intense protests in the woods against logging and other objectionable forest practices. Yet here he was arguing a position that I believe to be fundamentally anti-environment. I have come to believe there is a deep confusion in Seattle about what it means to be an environmentalist within a city -- to be an urban environmentalist.
The greatest challenge facing urban environmentalists in Seattle and King County is how to build a community that does not sprawl into the hills, that reduces the use of the private automobile while increasing the use of mass transit, that reduces air pollution and gasoline consumption, that provides a high quality of life in livable communities with ready access to parks and open space.
We need to do this over the next 10 years while absorbing an estimated additional 120,000 people in King County and maintaining the current urban/rural boundary under the Growth Management Act. We need to build high-quality-of-life urban neighborhoods where people can choose to live in higher density, multistory, multifamily apartments and condominiums and where they can walk or bike to work, schools, stores and mass transit stations. All this must be done while preserving the many single-family home neighborhoods in Seattle, Kent, Redmond and throughout the county.
In this country there are basically three kinds of urban/suburban communities:
Our challenge as urban environmentalists is how to build more urban neighborhoods while preserving mature neighborhoods and serving suburban neighborhoods with more mass transit options.
It is commonly understood that Vancouver, B.C., has built a very large urban core near its downtown; some 72,900 residents of apartments and condominiums are served by a network of parks, open spaces and walking/biking trails. More relevant to Seattle is Portland's success in building downtown residential neighborhoods clustered around light rail and streetcar stops.
There is good news. We have built an urban neighborhood in the Denny Regrade. Since the late '80s, more than 2,000 apartments and condominium units have been built in high-rise buildings. Twenty years ago, the only restaurant open at 11 p.m. was the McDonald's across from the Bon Marche. Today there are some 50 restaurants, bistros and pubs in the Denny Regrade and you can't get a parking space at 11 p.m. on a weekday night because the night life is alive.
Residents in this new Denny Regrade love living there. They don't miss the lawn or the dreadful commute on the Evergreen Point Bridge. They walk or take the bus to work, to Benaroya Hall, to Safeco Field or to the Pike Place Market.
There are other successes. Downtown Bellevue rapidly is becoming an urban neighborhood. Redmond, Renton and Tukwila are planning and building innovative residential projects near shopping and transit. Auburn and Kent are seeing downtown revitalization centered around their Sound Transit commuter rail stations.
Where should the next urban neighborhoods grow in Seattle? I agree with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels that we can and should build livable urban environmental neighborhoods in South Lake Union, Pioneer Square and Northgate. Mature neighborhoods adjacent to light rail and monorail stops such as Columbia City, Ballard and West Seattle should welcome some new density and some new neighbors, as together we build a city that reflects our values as urban environmentalists.
Dwight Pelz is a member of the King County Council.
Well, for one thing, factory owners like to have their factories placed as close as possible to freeways and railway lines. Most homes are built some distance away from such pieces of infrastructure.
I'm at a loss to explain the widespread perception that there are loads of evil nasty people just waiting to build factories in the centers of neighborhoods of twisty little roads(*) so as to give their suppliers and delivery truckers some fun maneuvering their trucks.
(*) Or twisty big roads. For some reason some residential neighborhoods have roads which are wider than the 3x2 lane arterials connecting them. Can anybody explain this?