Open Space Seattle:2100

Monday, August 21, 2006

More on Vertical Sprawl



A post from Dan Savage on the Stranger's Slog got me thinking today. Notoriously pro-density, the Stranger's editorial content is generally--and how strange for an uber-liberal Seattle weekly--pro-development. Dan writes, while visiting his mother in Mc Henry, Illinois about the relationship between places like McHenry and the cities that are near it:

Cities can either contribute to the sprawl out in places like McHenry County or slow it by growing more dense and building up. But density isn't enough. While dense cities are more environmentally friendly, cities can’t compete with places like McHenry just by shouting, “Hey, we’re better for the environment!” The folks flooding into places like McHenry don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment. Cities can only compete by appealing to peoples' self-interest.

Leaving a place like McHenry for, say, a place like Chicago or Seattle means leaving behind the private fenced yard and the extra bedroom. People are only going to do that if they get something of value in return. Cities have to offer quality housing (affordable and market rate), and the kinds of urban amenities that attract and keep families—things like numerous public parks (large and small), good schools, and the option of living without an automobile. Shared public spaces in dense, family-friendly cities take the place of private spaces, just as shared public transportation can take the place of private automobiles.

I tend to more than simpathize with Savage's analysis of things, but I think it might need a bit of tweaking. If people in the cities are going to continue to care about the environment, we need to make sure that the next generations are able to touch nature. That means not just parks, but those ecological thresholds that are so vibrant: our shorelines, wetlands, bogs etc.

Open Space Seattle 2100 was never against density. The arguments for the efficiencies that we can achieve through more compact, concentrated development are overwhelming. However, what OSS 2100 has always been about is making sure that we are developing responsibly and that we are reserving a seat at our neighborhood table for nature to flourish.

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