Friday, February 27, 2009

More Amsterdam, less suburban-dam!

Amsterdam street scene, March 2008

David Brooks, a syndicated columnist from the NY Times, had a column this week titled "I dream of Denver" basically saying that most Americans did not want to live in Amsterdam (i.e. "dense" older cities). Paul Sighley, who writes a blog for the California Planning and Development Report, took issue with Brooks, and believes that the poll upon which Brooks based his column really shows that Americans want options beyond suburban sprawl. He says,
It makes me wonder if we have built enough suburbia to last us for another a generation or two. Maybe, just maybe, we in California should be focused on making cities – whether they be like San Jose or Anaheim – better places to live. Maybe we should make our small towns – whether it’s Chowchilla or Ukiah – complete places to live, learn, work and recreate. And maybe we should pause before we convert our rural places – whether it’s the Salinas Valley or the Sierra foothills – into suburbs.

Most planners are not advocating for an American Amsterdam, and neither am I. I’m only pointing out that not everyone – nowhere near a majority, according to Pew – wants to live in Roseville.

As a former Californian who has moved to one of those old European cities, I can only say I really enjoy the urban lifestyle and hope that California can develop more real urban areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Maybe the economic crisis maybe will give us the opportunity to "reset" into a more sustainable and exciting built environment.

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