Quote of the week

Stephen Smith at Market Urbanism, on why conservatives and libertarians have little or no interest in urban planning:

Despite the free market aspects of modern-day urbanism, smart growth and new urbanism are not libertarian movements. Urban planning is dominated by liberals, and it shows — few even seem aware of the capitalist roots of their plans. The private corporations that built America’s great cities and mass transit systems are all but forgotten by modern-day progressives and planners, who view the private sector as a junior partner at best.

God forbid someone should actually turn a buck downtown.

These tendencies not only result in bizarre contortions of public policy, but they also blind planners to their own libertarian tendencies and history. Unable to communicate these commonalities to conservatives, it’s no wonder the Tea Party doesn’t see why eliminating parking minimums, allowing dense development, or raising tolls are good things. Urbanists have to overcome the urge to write more stories about yuppies riding bikes, and instead channel some of that energy towards issues of fiscal fairness and overregulation in land use. They have to recognize that arguments about social justice and the environment aren’t going to cut it if they want to unite both halves of America and reverse its sprawling ways.

Those of us to the right of center don’t necessarily reject urbanist proposals out of hand, either: witness this discussion of, yes, parking minimums. And I certainly don’t object to bike lanes.



  1. fillyjonk »

    3 December 2010 · 7:23 am

    Having observed two different downtown “renewals” in smallish cities, one where businesses were encouraged, and a more business-friendly climate developed, and another one where a group of planners wanted a “legacy” of a ritzy “uptown” area – which led to a few small-business owners effectively being “strongarmed” out of the area because they were (apparently) deemed not-upscale enough, or not “quirky-in-the-approved-way” enough, I have a distinct distrust of the second type of planning.

    In the first case, the downtown growth seemed kind of organic – a business would come in, other businesses would develop near it, people would begin renovating buildings, more people started coming downtown. In the second case there was a lot of resentment from the local people, and I know of a few who have decided to no longer patronize that area, because of the bad feelings left by the town-planners’ unilateral decisions. (Also, the town in the second case went from a “pay-as-you-go” system to deficit spending, just for the uptown development)

    The other thing that irked me about the second case? Since the town was founded, the area was known as “downtown.” The planners decided that “uptown” sounded ritzier, and they now INSIST that people call it that, to the point of editing newspaper ads and correcting people on the street if they refer to it as “downtown.” Ugh.

  2. Tatyana »

    3 December 2010 · 7:24 am

    Thanks for this site, Chaz, I’ve been looking for something like that…got tired of Metropolis magazine’ types tremendously.

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