Tag Archives: Jane Jacobs

Density Culture?

We have been talking about house size, culture and growth standards in the Bay Area for longer than I can remember. My first “aha” moment was after reading “Small is Beautiful” and “Do Trees have Standing?”.  Looking at Petaluma’s thinking stand on “no growth” based on water availability gave us all something to think about, More is not Better. There so many discussions Pro and Con, things seem to change every month.

In my little corner of heaven, we are ringed by multi-level apartment towers, some based on the Santana Row model of prescribed luxury, others based on the “pack ’em in” beehive model. But whether you think a $4200/month apartment is OK or advocate for more affordable apartments, you have to notice things are changing. Cities all over California struggle with community vs. building codes, from Grass Valley to Ventura, you can hear many stories of implementing “the plan”.

If I could find the genie in the bottle, I’d make one simple wish, people would live close to their schools & work. It makes sense and makes for a better community. Kids have an identity and parents are driving 4 hours a day to and from work. For an interesting discussion on Urban Sprawl check out this blog.

Take a look at this article by Josh Stephens, it discusses density and puts it is a worldwide comparison. It is interesting to ponder. What do you think works? What are your wishes for this diverse place we call home?!

For his part, Kotkin has long relegated urban cores to rarified sideshows and believed that the fringes will—and should—keep expanding geographically. It would be nice to have a debate about that notion. Planners should always ask themselves how far is too far, and they should ask what densities are optimal under what circumstances. Kotkin himself has, in the past, advanced plenty ofcompelling ideas about urban growth. He seems, however, to have doubled down on a sort of extremism that will never make its way into actual policy.

Ultimately, the notion of comparing any American city to any hyperdense city, be it Mumbai or Hong Kong, is patently absurd. For San Francisco’s density to mirror that of Dhaka, it would have to have a total population of 5.5 million; Los Angeles would have 57 million. The only way to do that would be to start importing Bangladeshis. (They would, presumably, all live in straw houses.)