Monday, May 4, 2009

what's up the pike: black, blue and green

Navarro sign next to a bus stop on Old Columbia Pike. Note the lack of paved sidewalks.

- Sixty-two votes isn't a lot, and it means that if Nancy Navarro pulls through in the general election later this month, she may still have a challenge running for re-election in 2010. But the Post story suggests that Navarro reaching out to East County's minority and immigrant community leaders worked in her favor. As always, Adam at Maryland Politics Watch crunched the numbers and revealed that Navarro carried the precincts with the highest minority populations.

- Post columnist/former U-Md. professor/my hero Roger K. Lewis writes this week about the paradox of "green homes." Buyers and builders alike get really excited about environmentally-friendly design in a house, but don't consider whether or not the home's location contributes to that goal. It's something I talked about earlier this year regarding the "Eco-Estate," a very green (but largely auto-dependent) house on Briggs Chaney Road in Cloverly.

- A study from research firm Zimmerman/Volk Associates says that age-restricted retirement communities are becoming less popular as "baby boomers" stay healthier longer and no longer want or need to be isolated from other people. It makes me wonder what'll happen to Leisure World and Riderwood Village, Montgomery County's two largest retirement communities (the former alone had over 7,500 residents in 2000) both of which happen to be in District 4. Will a gated campus of nineteen buildings connected with bridges still be relevant to senior citizens who, you know, like to go outside? And, if demand to live in places like Leisure World were to drop, would the age restrictions be lifted, literally dumping thousands of small, affordable condos on the local real estate market?

- Silver Spring resident/occasional guest blogger/one-time JUTP feature Lisa Null appeared in a Washington Post story about "being neighborly," and how small gestures can build friendships between blockmates. I've noted before that many East County neighborhoods bond over attempts to stop or steer development, but it's nice to know that people can meet each other away from Planning Board meetings.


Robert said...

Roger Lewis is correct that promoting greater density in existing neighborhoods is "greener" than building new "sprawl," even if the sprawl is built "green."

However, the vast majority of people don't like higher density if they can afford an alternative once they start families. The evidence: people will generally pay more for townhouses than for condos, and more for single family houses than townhouses, and more for large lot single family homes than single family homes built on the lot lines.

Generally, the only people who benefit from changing zoning in existing neighborhoods to create higher density are the developers who profit by selling or renting their new buildings, the builders who build them, the building material suppliers, the lawyers who were paid to get the zoning changed, and the architects who design the projects.

But they all profit at the expense of the existing neighbors who end up with a lower quality of life because of increased traffic, less green space, more noise, etc., etc.

So long as they can afford it, people prefer and will pay to live in low density "sprawl." That's the way it has worked since suburban development began with the railroad-based suburbs. With the introduction of the automobile, the trend increased. It is unlikely to change until living in a low density home simply becomes unaffordable.

Thomas Hardman said...

The main driver of Sprawl has roots in overcrowding. People don't want to live overcrowded, or at least they don't want to raise their children in such conditions.

The main driver of overcrowding is population growth.

Starting in roughly 1970, the people of the US (on average) voted with their gonads and aggressively brought down the fertility rate. The fertility rate of US-born citizens (on average) is lower than the replacement rate. We (US-born average citizens) reached Zero Population Growth in roughly 1998 and in roughly 2004 reached a stable fertility rate that would have brought a planned and orderly population decline.

A planned and orderly population decline would conserve non-renewable resources, would recycle renewable resources, allow for replacing the old with the new while keeping the numbers and levels of buildings, infrastructure, arable-land-acreage all stable but in a state of constant renewal and upgrade.

But a planned and orderly population decline wouldn't allow various industries to continue in their traditional specialties. They would have to adapt from endless creation of new sprawl and would have to learn to recycle and restore brownfields and greyfields. That makes them less of a profit.

And so, with hungry eyes and festering greed, to perpetuate their moe of operation, these economic powers reached out abroad for new drivers of population growth. All of that Sprawl you see is effectively imported Sprawl. Without massive immigration -- legal or otherwise -- there would be no incentive whatsoever for Sprawl. Indeed, the record 12-percent increase in population during the period from 1990-2000 would not have happened without effectively unlimited immigration (again, legal or otherwise).

So when you hear political powers endlessly droning about "embrace all the immigrants, legal or otherwise", they are droning on as the predictable and boring cheerleaders of the unsustainable and insupportable Limitless Growth of Inevitable Sprawl.

They just want more people so they can build more houses, more Sprawl.

Anyone suggesting that the solutions to our problems are more transit-centered densification, those persons are being wilfully obtuse and disingenuous. The real solution to Sprawl, the real prevention to Sprawl, is to undo 50 years of bad foreign policy and require that any foreign power receiving any US aid will have freely available birth control of all types, and will have aggressive outreach teaching Family Planning especially to the poor.

We already had a solution to Sprawl in place here, so we cannot be blamed. Rather blame those nations whose poverty inevitably mires the majority of their citizens in an endless cycle of miseducation and an ongoing population explosion that they have no choice but to export. Blame US policy that denied those nations the funding to become able to stabilize their own population growth. Blame bad US foreign policy that assured that people would have no sensible option to escape their poverty by migrating to the US to force population growth, and enrich the builders of Sprawl.

District 4 Voter said...

This Nancy Navarro sign is unsightly and obviously not placed on the only place where campaign signs are allowed---on lawns. She has plastered the east county with illegal signs and I shall never vote for her.