Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Want a Pro-Suburban Rant? Read City Watch

In one of the latest pieces out of City Watch, Do You Really Want LA to Become NY?, Richard Lee Abrams makes overwhelmingly clear his love of suburbia, his hatred of tall buildings, and his disdain for the Wilshire subway. Apparently, we're all supposed to agree with him. Don't worry, telecommuting will save us :)

Well, I don't agree. And I was born and raised in suburbia.

"Let’s look at how Wilshire Boulevard subway will help Angelenos. It won’t."

Spoken like someone who has never ridden the jam-packed buses on Wilshire. The subway will relieve congestion on those lines, result in a faster trip, and increase the supply of badly needed housing and jobs.

"[W]e are going to lose our most valuable asset – our wonderful single family residential neighborhoods".

The fact is most community plans in Los Angeles bend over backwards to preserve single-family neighborhoods, while finding smart locations to build more densely. I disagree about how wonderful suburban neighborhoods are, but hey, I guess some people value HOUSING OPTIONS.

"The mega-densification which makes developers drool will destroy L.A flat lands, leaving tenements of the Default Tenants".

Okay, seriously man, have you never seen a nice apartment?

"[Y]ou will want Tele-commuting to arrive before the city becomes canyons of high rise projects"

For the record, I also think telecommuting is great. However, currently only 4.8% of workers in the City of LA work at home, and bumping up that number won't be easy.

Look Abrams. I don't like suburbia. I don't like it because you can't walk to anything in it, and it doesn't support frequent transit service (which hurts the poor, hurts the environment, makes traffic worse, and makes us fat). I don't like it because it doesn't work for people who don't need an entire house to live in, or for people who don't want to bother putting themselves under the yoke of the lawnmower. But I never in my wildest dreams thought that all suburbia should be eliminated. In fact, I think by tweaking suburbia you can make it viable (e.g. by building denser two-story detached houses that still have gardens on small lots and mixing uses more). But whatever . . .

City Watch, not everybody who likes transit and density is trying to screw LA over to make money. I think you need to learn more about the environmental and quality of life advantages of real cities and be willing to see some of the many flaws in suburbia. But what would I know, I've just lived in both types of places.

The planet's cookin'. Think about it.


  1. I resent the implication (common among pro-suburban activists) that, because Americans live in suburbia, they want to continue living there. As somebody stuck in suburbia, I vehemently disagree!

  2. Amen to that. I'm also stuck in suburbia and itchin' to get out :)