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Jonathan Potts

Zealous advocates of urban or mixed-use, high-density development like myself have to come to terms with the fact that we can't force people to live where we want them to. The best we can hope for is that governments not make policies that arbitrarily favor one kind of development over another, nor policies like tax breaks that artificially spur development.

Sam M


I'm right with you. I was being straight when I said I shared the Sun's concerns. I really would hate to see the Eastern Shore turn into Northern Virginia. As there are very few places I like less than the entire Rt. 50 corridor.

Still, if I want to guide growth in the ROute 50 corridor I think the way to do it is move there and run for office. Or buy a parcel and develop it as I see fit. Same with the Eastern Shore.

As I learned in exploring the clash on the Allegheny National Forest, and is perhaps obvious, it ends up being more about culture and autonomy than economics or the environment.

So editorials like the Sun's, while interesting and inportant, have to walk a fine line.


I see what you're saying about autonomy. Local govts. should be able to decide on their own what is smart growth.

But. BUT. A very big but . . .

Seen from a gaming perspective this is nothing less than the prisoner's dilemma in action. "Aw, shucks," says the Mayor, "We're just letting people be."

If they didn't let homebuyers and developers act in a laissez faire manner the next village would.

Sam M


Yes. A classic prisoner's dilemma. And very likely a classic case of "the grass is always greener."

Growth sucks. Because you need more room for more people all the time. Which means that places change. Places you liked. Unless you keep building skyscrapers bigger and bigger. I don't see how it can be any different.

Unless you pass draconian lifestyle laws about allowable square footage per person, etc. But you have met people from the DC area. Good luck.

Or unless you just cap the number of dwellings. Make it illegal for the farmer to sell to a developer. Despite the fact that he can't afford his property taxes and the farm is losing money. Give him a break on the property taxes? Now all of a sudden you can't run the schools, what with all the extra kids.

And, besides, it's his farm.

But say you do manage to simply halt theconstruction of new residences. That's a recipe for disaster for lower income people who will get priced out of the market and forced to drive in from 100 miles away to scrub toilets.

So yes. This sucks. Know what sucks worse?

No growth.


What's a planner to do?

My answer is probably a bit different than yours. But I think we can agree it's not an easy problem to address. And certainly not one that will go away if people simply "develop more backbone."

When you have a limited land base and a swelling population, like you do in the DC area, it begins to look an awful lot like a zero-sum game. And when people from Baltimore begin preaching to people in Easton, it starts to look a lot like a land grab.

sean mcdaniel

you know the worst part...with housing growth comes the applebee's and barne's and noble bookstores and starbucks...you know they always pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

Sam M


You see the not-so-subtle reference to that in the Sun editorial? it went:

"Developers aren't the only ones who pressure local governments for more construction. As more residents crowd into an area, the demand for more amenities grows louder. Need proof? Drive through Easton, Cambridge and Salisbury. While the road is straight, you may think you're driving in circles because the scenery is almost the same."

I think that's code fopr Starbucks and Walmart.

As if the suburbs in which the Sun's editors live are any different.

Amos the Poker Cat

Since when did Braddock become paradise? Pave it, I say!

To call this conversation stupid doesn't even come close. The American suburb is a phenomenon that developed because of active government policies and has very little to do with the market. Who builds and maintains the huge highway infrastructure. Is this something that the tiny town or farmer is footing all the bill for?

A look at growth on a global basis will show that growth in America is pretty wierd. Hong Kong is a pretty high growth city, but a nice panorama shot of the city shows how little it sprawls out. Interestingly, I think that some of the money piled into the recent downtown develpments in the U.S. is coming from out of the country. Foriegn investors know by simple logic that downtown properties are likely the most valuable.

This is the sick tragedy of America. By the early 1950's most Americans lived in cities or towns. By some logic that evades me it was suggested that they should give the Government a fortune in tax money to blow holes in thier cities and create the infrastructure that supports sprawl.

One very positive thing is that as America becomes more broke the actual cost of these policies will become more of an issue.

Sam M

Hey, I agree. This is a stupid situation we're in.

But how did we get here? Did Ford and GM and Exxon use eminent domain to snap up land, demolish cities and make us a society of automobiles?

Well, they supported that shift, I am sure. But they didn't do it. And they could not have done it without the power to tax and bulldoze. Which are government powers.

One solution might be to take money out of politics.

Good luck.

My solution is to take government out of development.

Robbed of their legislative mouthpieces, the corporate tycoons will have a hell of a time tearing down neighborhoods.

Remember, the Big Hockey didn't smash the Hill District. Big Giovernment did.

Yeah, sometimes the government will condemn something you hate and build something you like. But that's only one side of things. The rest of the time you get a 70-year Renaissance that you have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to undo.

Ask anyone from East Liberty.

Ask Jane Jacobs.

One nice thing about Pittsburgh is that the path is so obvious. Take almost any scheme done in the last 60 years here and run in the opposite direction.

That's the amazing thing here. There is so much of a history of enourmous destructive projects and yet people here just sit and wait for the next one. Unfortunatly it ties so closely to the towns history. It seems like most people are just sitting around waiting for someone to just give them a job or give them orders.

The kind of city that Jane Jacobs loved was an organic bottom up organism that fed on the dense mixed use of land. The result is a place practical for the incubation of new ideas and culture. I think there is something deep in Pittsburgh's history that is resistant to that.

My general opinion is that the city is just far too fine to be left in the hands of Pittsburghers. The fact that they would leave such a gem for the likes of Cranberry speaks for itself. What the city needs to do is to sell itslf to people who like cities and make life ever more difficult for the people who don't.

I don't think that as a whole the development of cities was ever brain surgery. I think they used to just happen and kind of pay for themselves.
It's the destruction of cities that has required a bunch of geniuses.

John Morris

Living here is like watching a slow motion sucide.

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