Monday, September 19, 2005

The Density Dilemma

As the New Urbanists infiltrate the Gulf Coast to make sure reconstruction maintains urban fabric, I'm reminded once again how most Americans want to be in spread-out rather than dense settings, whether for the personal space or a sense of safety. Acceptance of density plays a critical role in the smart growth revolution, and I include a chapter on it in my forthcoming book. I also wrote a working paper on density for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., which is now available on the institute's website: The paper looks at transit-oriented and compact development in the Bay Area, Oregon, Texas, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


My deadline for the manuscript for "This Land" -- a look at sprawl and smart growth to be published in the spring by Johns Hopkins University Press -- was the end of August, so I can now return to the weblog. In Katrina's wake, both sides of the development debate in this country have jumped into the fray on how flooded neighborhoods in New Orleans and Mississippi should be rebuilt. The New Urbanists see the disaster as a big chance to make a statement, urging the restoration of traditional urban fabric just the way it was, and more compact reinventing of lower-density areas, with a rethinking of transit at the same time. Meanwhile, Randal O'Toole of the Thoreau Institute, a critic of smart growth, observes that anyone who owned a car could get out of New Orleans or Biloxi, while those without that crucial mobility could not Since Sept. 11, "rebuilding" was a term and a debate limited to lower Manhattan; the decisions about how these devastated stretches of human settlement are reimagined will reveal even more about attitudes toward the future landscape.