I like sprawl

03/16/13 19:46:00    

By Michael Mealling

Yea, this is a rant. Get over it.

While driving down south yesterday I listened to a Freakonomics Radio Podcast about parking. While most of the podcast was interesting, especially when it came to the effect of dynamic pricing for parking in the SFParking project (it lowered it), there was a definite assumption that parking policy should be used to socially engineer people to not drive to begin with. While Donald Shoup wasn't entirely anti-car, he and the host were definitely anti-“sprawl”.

By their definition sprawl is wide open spaces where there is plenty of room between businesses and residences, where there is plenty of parking, and roads with lots of intersections. Their tone of voice and word choice when discussing places like Houston and Los Angeles is reserved by most people for rotting garbage or misbehaving children on an airplane.

So, I'll say it again: I like sprawl.

What I don't like is the intolerant and sanctimonious priggishness of many city dwellers and “walking city” advocates who use “sprawl” like an epithet and assume that anyone who disagrees is somehow a flawed person. I live in the suburbs but I work in Midtown Atlanta. I see the appeal of in town living, especially if I were still 20. It feels like a college campus. But I'm not 20 anymore.

I prefer driving over walking. I live next to a mountain that has wild turkeys, deer, and horse trails. In the same time it takes me to drive to work (30 minutes) I can be in the North Georgia Mountains. I like the architecture of large southern homes with a lot of room and amenities. I'm also growing fond of the stonework style of architecture of the larger homes in the northern Dallas/Ft. Worth suburbs (specifically Southlake). And before you dismiss them as “cookie cutter McMansions”, have you really looked at places like Virginia Highlands with a fresh set of eyes? All of those houses look exactly the same! Even when they've been custom remodeled they look the same! The reason those homes need significant remodeling? They have structural or other systemic problems that come from primitive construction techniques. What can be more cookie cutter than brownstone row homes?

And those walkable communities? They all look the same, too! Even the people walking in and out of those 12 story high-rises with color schemes taken from the Starbucks menu all look the same. Fedoras and beanies with skinny jeans and shaggy hair. I suspect there is a hipster cloning facility somehwere in Vermont that does nothing but clone the same 10 people over and over again.

I like the choice I have out here. I like not living cheek by jowl with people I don't know. I choose my friends a bit more carefully than simply who I happen to live next to.

But here's the thing: even though I prefer it out here, I'm not about to suggest someone who disagrees with me and choses to live a different lifestyle is somehow wrong or flawed. All I expect is the same courtesy.

I like my sprawl. Stop trying to “fix” us by turning us into little copies of you.

comments powered by Disqus