New Suburbanism – A Smart Alternative to “Smart Growth”

Solutions to California’s housing shortage invariably focus on increasing the density of preexisting cities and suburbs. Legislative solutions include SB 375, passed in 2008, which “incentivizes” cities and counties to approve high density land developments, and the failed (this time) SB 50, which would have forced cities and counties to approve high density development proposals.

How high density land development benefits special interests cannot be ignored. Politically connected developers enjoy windfall profits by selling overpriced homes crowded onto smaller parcels of land. Existing cities collect higher taxes from property owners and shoppers who would otherwise have moved into new cities. Government at all levels can spend more money on pay and benefits, and less on infrastructure. Investors harvest higher returns thanks to the real estate bubble.

In front of the hidden agenda of special interests, however, are moral arguments for so-called “smart growth.” The crux of these moral arguments for high density “smart growth” are that regional ecosystems bordering urban areas should not be sullied by new growth, and that high density development reduces emissions of greenhouse gasses, which furthers global ecosystem health.

Both of these moral arguments are flawed. As documented in an earlier analysis “Grand Bargains to Make California Affordable,” if 10 million new residents moved into homes on half-acre lots, three persons per home (with an equal amount of space allocated for new roads, retail, commercial, and industrial development), it would only use up 3.2 percent of California’s land. If all this […] Read More

California’s Green ‘Bantustans’ Are Coming to America

If the “smart growth” urban planners that dictate land use policies in Democratic states and cities have their way, the single family dwelling is an endangered species.

In Oregon, proposed legislation would “require cities larger than 10,000 people to allow up to four homes to be built on land currently zoned exclusively for single-family housing.” In Minneapolis, recent actions by the city council mean that “duplexes and triplexes would be allowed in neighborhoods that only previously allowed single-family housing.”

The war on the detached, single family home, and—more to the point—the war on residential neighborhoods comprised exclusively of single family homes, is on. And it’s gone national.

In California, ground zero for this movement, state legislation now requires cities and counties to fast track permitting for “accessory dwelling units.” This scheme will allow developers and ambitious homeowners to construct detached rental homes in their backyards, but since they’re called “accessory dwelling units,” instead of “homes,” they would not run afoul of local zoning ordinances that, at one time, were designed to protect neighborhoods from exactly this sort of thing.

“Smart growth,” however, began long before the home itself came under attack.

First there was the war on the back yard. Large lots became crimes against the planet—and if you doubt the success of this war, just get a window seat the next time you fly into any major American city. In the suburbs you will see a beautiful expanse of green, spacious, shady neighborhoods with lots designed […] Read More