Sprawl: A compact history

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Sun, 2006-05-21 02:52

"Urban sprawl is one of the greatest enemies of good urban design," say some. I don't agree. As I've said here before, numerous times, urban sprawl is not your enemy. Sprawl is good -- good because it offers people living within a region choices in how they live, without the expensive barriers to entering the housing market that anti-sprawl regulation brings. Where zoning and planning regulations are nothing more than a windfall for existing owners, and a highly regressive form of taxation on those with lower incomes and wealth,

'sprawl' is simply a reflection of letting people live free, in the manner of their own choosing. Allowing cities to sprawl does not preclude those who wish to live in higher densities from doing so, it simply removes restrictions on all those who don't.

I've already posted a review of Robert Bruegmann's book Sprawl: A Compact History but a recent and very good review by Randal O'Toole makes the argument again that the cost of planning is a greater evil than the evils planning is supposed to remove :

Bruegmann's book makes three major points. First, urban sprawl--that is, low-density development at the urban fringe--is not a new phenomenon; indeed, its history goes back hundreds of years and perhaps even to the first cities. Second, opposition to sprawl comes primarily from elites who are protecting their wealth and interests from lower classes whom the elites believe are less deserving or less appreciative of the benefits of low-density lifestyles. Finally, Bruegmann shows that most, if not all, of the remedies for sprawl do more harm than good, mainly by increasing traffic congestion and housing costs.

Sounds good, right? Bruegmann's point about the noisier opponents of sprawl is instructive. It's the urban equivalent of the environmentalist who already has his bush cabin. Read the full review here [hat tip Commons Blog]. Read Glenn Reynolds earlier review here. And check out the links below for my own posts on sprawl, and on urban design in general. They do a fair bit of sprawling themselves.

LINKS: The perils of planning - Randal O'Toole, Regulation [six-page PDF]
Sprawl has always been good - Not PC
Sprawl is good - Not PC
Decentralisation, and those who oppose it - Peter Cresswell, Not PC
Sprawl is good, regulation is not - NotPC
Countywide zoning is unwanted government control - Not PC
Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City - Peter Cresswell, Not PC

TAGS: Urban_Design Socialism Architecture Environment Libertarianism

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