Sunday, April 09, 2006

Nimby and Brzezinski?

Today's Washington Post reports on negotiations between suburban Virginia's Fairfax county and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's former National Security Adviser over a plan by the county to put in a sidewalk in front of his home on 1061 Spring Hill Road in McClean.

According to the article Brzezinski has been less than enthusiastic about the plan, failing to negotiate on terms for a sidewalk easement. Having lived in Fairfax County for almost 30 years, he undoubtedly has seen the sleepy farming county grow over the past couple of decades into a sprawling behemoth.

Like other suburbanites, Brzezinski exhibits the classic NIMBY attitude toward growth. Commenting on the McMansions that have sprouted all over this prosperous county, the Post quotes Brzezinski as saying that they are "reflective of cultural pretension and pomposity" and "make the whole area look like a joke, a Disneyland imitation of the European aristocracy, without the land."

Brzezinski probably has a point; however, his reactionary stance is not helping a concerted--if overdue--effort to increase mobility options in the county. As the map shows, Brzezinski's property is near the corner of Spring Hill and Old Dominion Dr.--a thoroughfare with retail shopping possibilities--which the county wants to link through a pedestrian corridor as part of its countywide trails plan.

Let's hope that Brzezinski's intransigence subsides long enough to realize that increasing pedestrian connectivity is an important step towards smart growth and will like increase the livability (and property values) of his home and neighborhood.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

More Urban Craziness from South Korea

The Taipei Times and the KBS World Radio are reporting on the grand opening of Puju Camp in the shadows of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea.

Puju Camp is the latest in the Geyonggi English Village program that is expanding across the northern province.

Like the New Songdo City, being constructed in the southern part of the country, Puju is designed to be an English-language enclave. Unlike New Songdo--which is envisioned as an international entrepreneurial zone--Puju Camp is an educational and recreational site.

Designed as an alternative to sending South Korean youth abroad to learn English, Puju Camp provides the theme of the English-speaking city within the country. It is supposed to obviate what Gyeonggi province Governor Sohn Hak-kyu calls the "'Goose Father' phenomenon" whereby people leave the country to study and never return.

The Chinese news service, Xinhua, reports that Puju sports a reproduction of Stonehenge, English castles, and a "mini train."

Puju Camp seems to be further evidence of the immanent themeing of the entire globe and the elevation of the hyper-real as urbanism's animating force.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Density as an Antidote to Obesity?

According to the Vancouver Sun, SmartGrowth BC has released a study by UBC's Larry Frank that suggests:
Each quartile increase in residential density corresponds with a 23-per-cent increase in the odds of walking for non-work travel, according to a recent Seattle study quoted in the report.

We have covered this connection before, but it is always important to point out new data.

SmartGrowthBC doesn't appear to have the report on their website so I don't know if Clark deals with this, but it is important to point out that density must be accompanied by mixed land use in order to engender a less sedentary lifestyle. As some defenders of dominant patterns of suburbanization point out, suburban density has increased over the past decade. I would not expect this to correlate, however, with active living behaviors since little has been done in reducing mixed-use zoning codes.

Perhaps some of the new research coming out of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living by Design program will shed more light on the relationship between health and the urban form.

Economic Doldrums Hurt Affluent Suburbs

The Wall Street Journal has a good article today discussing the travails of the wealthy Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills.

It seems the recent economic woes hurting the major automakers are "trickling down" to affect not only the normal class of victims--unionized workers--but are also causing the upper classes to feel the pinch.

Of course residents of Bloomfield Hills--a community whose annual household income is in excess of $150,000--probably have more resources to deal with economic uncertgainty than the average auto worker.

What is interesting from the standpoint of metropolitan development, however, is the regional impact of economic monocultures and to demonstrate the fact that the persistent economic anemia that has affected the US economy since 2001 is causing changes in behavior among the upper-middle classes.

I would expect that this will undoubtedly be an issue in many of the competitive suburban Congressional seats during next November's election.