By Dom Nozzi
One of the most common fears I hear expressed by friends and family about the state of affairs in their community is that “there are too many people moving here!”
The seemingly self-evident assumption that underlies this all-too-common lament is that “too many people” will destroy quality of life.
But the influx of more people is not the problem in these places.
The problem in nearly all cases is the influx of more people into a place with development regulations that deliver car dependency.
Therefore, the solution is not to stop the influx of people. Indeed, most all cities – particularly in America — can benefit from a big influx of people. The solution is to adopt development requirements that produce compact, lovable community design that meaningfully reduces car use.
The good news is that we already know the development (and transportation) regulations that effectively bring us a lot less car use. The Dover-Kohl urban design firm has shown the way for many years.
This is not rocket science.
While I agree an influx of people can negatively affect economic issues such as affordable housing — particularly if we design for walking — the problem of affordable housing is manageable with proper urban design. So manageable that the substantial benefits of a larger number of residents to a community far outweigh the downsides of a loss of affordable housing.
This is true as long as community development regulations obligate much of the new housing that may be needed for such new residents be designed in compact, walkable patterns.
The problem and tragedy is that for the past century, we’ve thrown away the timeless tradition of designing our communities for happy people. Instead, for that past century, we have conducted a ruinous experiment (increasingly out of obligation): designing to make cars happy.
Since cars and people have different – in many ways opposite — needs and objectives, we inevitably foul our own nest by focusing on accommodating cars.
That means pretty much all our cities are dying from gigantism, being spread too thin, being infested with massive roads and parking, suffering from increased transportation-related danger, a loss of a sense of community or sense of place, a loss of beauty, a loss of affordability, a loss of human scale, a loss of civic pride, a loss of sustainability, and a loss of travel independence for those who cannot drive (mostly seniors, disabled, kids).
Nearly every city (particularly post-1940 sections of cities) is a dreadful place that no one can love (except, perhaps, inside our privatopian house and motor vehicle cocoons).
We COULD have spent the past century building compact, walkable communities that humans have always loved (old Siena, old Paris, old Key West, old San Francisco, old Florence, old Venice, old Frankfurt, old Assissi, old Innsbruck, old Bologna, old Milano, old Barcelona, old Croatia, old Zurich, old Bonn, old Amsterdam, etc.).
Instead we are left with cities that should mostly be demolished so that we can rebuild them the way we did prior to about 1940. We have left the worst legacy of any generation in world history.
Even though we are the most wealthy generation in history.
Someday I hope we regain our sanity.
But for the past century we have lost our minds. And as Kunstler says, we have wasted trillions of dollars engaged in building the catastrophically-failed car-dependent experiment.