Housing photo of the day: Thimpu, Bhutan

April 6, 2017 | Bhutan, Configuration, Housing, Photographs | No comments 34 views

By: David A. Smith

 

Not only can a picture be worth a thousand words, because we take housing for granted we seldom have pictures of housing, especially in exotic places like the Kingdom of Bhutan:

 

Squeezed between India and China

 

7,000 feet up in the Himalayan foothills

 

As part of an Asian Development Bank (ADB) team, we have been working with the Bhutanese to develop a strategy to expand the lending available to developers of multifamily housing, especially in Thimphu, the capitol city, where my AHI colleague Anya Brickman Raredon spent a week-plus working a few weeks back.

 

Thimpu, Bhutan, photo by Anya Brickman Raredon, AHI

 

One photograph can tell so much.  Let’s list the main points:

 

1. Development land is at an immense premium.  Aside from this difficult site, above it on the ridge is another cluster of walkup dwellings, and there are more on the farther ridge in the distance.  People are building everywhere they can, in a manner that reminds me of both Ulaanbaatar and Alaska. 

 

2. Thimphu has been forced to go vertical.  It’s mountainous (and of course severe weather; note the wide-extended eaves and shallow slope, suggestive of regular windy snow) so sites suitable for building are at a premium.  As a result, even a difficult site like this one gets three-story development. 

 

3. Wood is scarce and people build with cement/ masonry.  The window treatments are decorative and detailed, but the main buildings are the classic cement-block-and-mortar used the world over.  Notice also the reuse of scavenged wood in the walls of the scavenged-material buildings

 

4. There’s an active semi-formal economy.  You may be unable to read the two signs: the detached shed houses Electrical Services and gives a mobile phone number.  The attached shed is L. R. Enterprise, Grocery and General.

 

5. Zoning is ‘loosely enforced’.  On one site we have mixed use including semi-formal retail and commercial.

 

6. The infrastructure grids are overloaded.  The first piled foreground has been recently excavated, and for a purpose: new bricks are stacked alongside unloaded gravel in a trench that parallels the roadway (people walking at lower left, nearly obscured by the bricks/ gravel).  To be digging alongside a main road, it has to be new water/ sewer piping – there’s no other reason.

 

7. Thimphu is urbanizing faster than it can currently handle.  And without telling tales out of school, it’s that urbanization which has motivated the ADB to look for ways to facilitate expanded lending for residential development, and brought Anya to Thimphu.

 

Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 7, As anyone who has flown over it

April 4, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, NIMBY, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 43 views

 

By: David A. Smith

[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.]

 

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

As we’ve seen in a post scarcely shorter than a zoning appeals process, voters say they want something, then adopt measures that have never brought them what they say they want, and for the simplest of reasons.

 

Vote the person, not the color?

 

Sources used in this post

 

California Planning and Development Report (April 6, 2015); cobalt blue font

Curbed LA (April 8, 2015; forest-green font)

Economist (February 11, 2017; black font)

MyNewsLa.com (February 25, 2017; crimson font)

Economist (March 2, 2017; navy blue font)

 

 

 

10. Voters lie to themselves

 

In the modern world, we don’t really want to live in the country, we want to live in the city – and the proof is that we do live in cities, for the work and life opportunities they provide.

 

Britain has plenty of countryside for those who want to live there, as anyone who has flown over it will attest.

 

But we want our cities to feel like the country. 

 

You have no idea how much it costs to look simple and authentic

 

We want our cities to have all the country’s benefits: green space, walkability, nature, safety, clean air and sunshine.  That’s why we sample the country at intervals – weekends, vacations – and when we go, we bring the city’s benefits to the country, and when they’re done, we pack them up and return to our workaday world. 

 

So we imagine the countryside will be there for us, just a short ride away, and because our imagination is, well, imaginative, we airbrush all the country’s imperfections, all the hassles of travel, all the tedium involved.  In this the media encourage us:

 

You can’t escape your fete

 

Much of the country’s aesthetic and entertainment culture offers them seductive morsels of rural life. Hit television programmes like “The Great British Bake Off” and “Springwatch” constitute one example.

 

Here we are, completely alone in nature – except for the camera crew, wardrobe, catering …

 

Of course we daydream about what we do not have:

 

 

New housing estates are pastiches of village architecture, all small windows, frilly gables and pitched roofs. The National Trust, a charity dedicated to preserving old houses and attractive landscapes, has more members than all the political parties put together.

 

I note for the record that the Boss and I are life members in the Royal Oak Foundation, which the National Trust set up as a US 501c3 to enable folks like us to make our donations tax-deductible.  Fortunately, the NT’s campaigning relates mainly to encouraging rich old duffers to gift it property, preferably with an upkeep endowment.

 

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use dynamics

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

January 16, 2006: Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

July 21, 2008: Lord Wellington’s lament, 4 parts, exploding the myth mobility is bad

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Joel Kotkin touting suburbs

May 4, 2011: Scenes from a mauling, shopping malls are doomed to extinction

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

A better comparison, though perhaps not as familiar to the Economist, is to AARP (the political behemoth formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons), which throws about its gray weight whenever and wherever it can.

 

We control the tea trade, you hear?

 

NIMBYs and frustratingly archaic zoning codes have made it unnecessarily difficult to build densely in Los Angeles, and single family houses have meanwhile eaten up nearly all of the land there is to eat.

 

What we’re left with today is a city in which “single-family homes control 80% of L.A.’s residential land while representing a far smaller proportion of the population,” as noted by Josh Stephens in his well-reasoned breakdown of the situation.

 

Mr. Stephens formerly edited the California Planning and Development Report, which appears to be a thoroughly researched and well-focused niche publication that is, unfortunately if understandably, not free.

 

Stevens’s publication thinks people value what they pay for

 

 

11. Just how much is a back yard worth to you?

 

CP&DR’s pay wall demonstrates the resonant questions:

 

1.     If it’s a public good, must it be free?

2.     And if it’s free to the user, how is it paid for?

 

Those who vote against development pay nothing for doing so – in fact, they are rewarded for keeping out others, because:

 

1.     The urban benefits they seek are deflected into adjacent communities.

2.     Their own property rises in value.

 

Just as the Economist long ago endorsed road pricing, it is now tiptoeing up introducing (gasp) market-reform dynamics in public land:

 

Don’t mind me, I’m a free resource

 

The political deadlock behind the housing crisis will only be broken when Britain comes to terms with its urban character. That might mean better valuing city gardens and parks, which support more biodiversity than heavily agricultural land.

 

‘Better valuing’ is an interesting phrase – are we all to be taxed as a surcharge (akin to a Community Preservation Act), are the abutters to be surcharged, so might park maintenance be the responsibility of a neighborhood-level analog of a Business Improvement District?

 

At least the Economist recognizes that Britain has a genuine crisis:

 

Merely loosening the corsets would mean millions [of pounds’ new development value], the order of magnitude at which any solution lies.

 

Release your building inhibitions

 

Barney Stringer, a [British] regeneration expert, reckons liberalising 60% of the green belt within 2km (1.2 miles) of a railway station would create room for 2m homes. 

 

The solution, in other words, is structural – markets can solve a shortage only when it’s legal to build, and where it b4ecomes legal, there will be building:

 

Alan Mace of the London School of Economics suggests such numbers could be reached by opening up corridors along big transport routes, such as the London-Cambridge road on which Harlow lies. New “garden cities” on these arteries, like Ebbsfleet in Kent, are part of the answer.

 

Building in the path of growth: what an idea!

 

With a shiny station

 

And here comes the housing

 

Increasing density is the only way out (other than pestilence, or a crime wave, perhaps) –

 

Paging the urban planning firm of Swift and Scrooge!

 

– but weaning Angelenos away from single-family housing will be tough. “A good place to start is for politicians never again to utter the words ‘preserve neighborhood character’,” says Jan Breidenbach of the University of Southern California. “In reality what they’re saying is, ‘Keep out’.”

 

Jan’s able to infer Keep out

 

Slowly, people are realizing this – and maybe things are changing.

 

 

12. Growth is green, and some people get it

 

Sooner or later, there needs to be a change in how Los Angeles deals with development and the single-family mafia. 

 

Too many years’ working in affordable housing have taught me that any committee of wise heads will always come up with a well-reasoned, thoughtful solution that they will then fiercely defend – even when it fails miserably, as evidence by these recent stories:

 

How Much Does Los Angeles Have to Build to Get Out of Its Housing Crisis? [Curbed LA]
Los Angeles Housing Now More Screwed Up Than San Francisco [Curbed LA]
Los Angeles’s Big Plan For Pulling Out of Its Housing Crisis 
[Curbed LA]

 

Not just the Economist, many others of my and the succeeding generation who spent their professional lives planning the future and then making their plans into legal and programmatic realities are coming around to the view that we all planned ourselves into a mess:

 

Vote Yes on the man, No on the measure?

 

Mayor Garcetti has a plan to build a lot more housing; now the city and region need to actually make it happen. Otherwise this guy might just build a single house from Santa Monica to Alhambra.

As I noted way back in the beginning of this post, the Mayor was campaigning not onily for his own re-election but also to defeat Measure S:

 

A proposal will appear on ballots in Los Angeles on March 7th along with choices for the city’s mayor.

 

It was a stalking horse petition that under the guise of ‘good government’ sought to downzone the virtually entire city of Los Angeles, using the same specious sophistry that prevailed in 1986’s Proposition U:

 

Those on the other side of the argument, who include the mayor, Eric Garcetti, say the measure would affect most new development in the city.

 

Fortunately, even as Mayor Garcetti was handily re-elected, and then carried through on a campaign promise to bar private meetings between developers and the city planning commissions,iMeasure S lost all across Los Angeles, which “paves the way for Mayor Eric Garcetti to continue pursuing his vision of a denser, more transit-oriented Los Angeles.”

 

[Paves the way for transit-oriented?  Block that metaphor!  — Ed.]

 

Zoning in America is 101 years old, and it’s beyond obsolete: two-dimensional in thinking, adopted as a defense first against industrialization and then against emigration of ‘those people’ into our neighborhoods.  It’s not a force for shaped change; it’s a force for unshaped stasis and urban strangulation.  What if zoning were gone?  Land would be public or private:

 

·         If public, land would be preserved and publicly maintained.

·         If private, land could be developed up to any height consistent with public safety.

 

I’m not ready to embrace such a radical deconstruction, but I’m ready to think about it – because one way or another, more housing for greater London isn’t a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity.

 

Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;

A breath can make them, as a breath has made;

But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,

When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 6, The vociferist’s veto

April 3, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, NIMBY, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 47 views

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.]

 

Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey

The rich man’s joys encrease, the poor’s decay,

‘Tis yours to judge, how wide the limits stand

Between a splendid and a happy land.

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

Returning now to our regularly scheduled programming after an unusually busy and diverse week (I worked on AHI assignments in Bhutan, Kenya, Rwanda, Lebanon, Turkey, and Charlestown, MA), we have encountered the curious case of convergent evolution: from two wildly diverse environments, freeway-loving Los Angeles –

 

And that’s at rush hour, folks!

 

(To a modern Angeleno, the above photo is remarkable more for its lack of traffic than its cars.)

 

Political theater, 1966 smog-style

 

– and double-stacked London –

 

Swing abroad swinging London, 1966

 

– two places that could scarcely seem more different:

 

Steal this image: Carnaby Street, 1966

 

Yet they are united in their opposition to development, and the unending variety of reasons they are able to summon up, like the hydra’s teeth Aeetes sowed to stymie Jason, each time the old ones are refuted as nonsensical or overturned as legally illegitimate:

 

The preservationists are here to slay you

 

They are, in fact, demonstrating their parallel belief that noise and vehemence, if sustained long enough, win:

 

In that case, we win, don’t we?

Sources used in this post

 

California Planning and Development Report (April 6, 2015); cobalt blue font

Curbed LA (April 8, 2015; forest-green font)

Economist (February 11, 2017; black font)

MyNewsLa.com (February 25, 2017; crimson font)

Economist (March 2, 2017; navy blue font)

 

9. The vociferist’s veto

 

As the Economist put it:

 

When homeowners are given vetoes over development, they prevent it

 

That’s succinct, though perhaps overly sweeping.  In rural areas, in towns with weak economies, homeowners in my experience vote for development; it’s only when the city is already successful, and the early homebuyers now fully enamored of their year-over-year appreciation, that they decide to shut the invisible doors and keep others out.

 

After fifty years of campaigns against growth, nearly half the City of Los Angeles is zoned for single-family housing

 

It’s difficult to appreciate how effectively the Los Angeles bungalow owners have down athwart time and progress chanting Stop until you think back to how much has changed in American homes, in American homes, in American housing, and in Los Angeles since 1967:

 

Old housing coming down: 325 Bunker Hill Avenue, 1968 (demolished less than a year later)

 

Back then, Los Angeles was undergoing its first great urban renewal, where the auto, the freeway, and the San Fernando Valley wrote finito to older downtown neighborhoods like Bunker Hill.

 

New housing going up: San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, 1967

 

Measures to solve the crisis without opening the green belts, including those in the government’s new white paper on housing, deregulate land good for a few thousand houses here and there.

 

If you’re adding people to a metropolis, you have only three choices:

 

1.     Shrink personal living space.  While the subject of such dystopias as Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside and Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!, and lately the fantasy follies of the tiny-flat movement,

2.     Go out.  Extend the city horizontally, and build surface infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, electricity) to accompany it.

3.     Go up.  Add verticality, exploiting the fifth utility, and use eminent domain/ upzoning to change space.  (This is what happened in LA’s Bunker Hill, and though the neighborhood lost triggers nostalgia, the City of Angels is much better for its demise.)

 

Those are the choices. Remarkably, in both Los Angeles and London, the vociferists have consistently been able to prevail with None of the above.

 

Don’t make campaign promises you can’t keep

 

And for the crudest of reasons: vote power. 

 

Just one thing stands between a housing-starved Britain and these wise proposals: politics. Most voters would benefit, directly or indirectly, from the construction of millions of new houses on unremarkable but conveniently located parts of the green belts. Yet elections do not work like that.

 

When it comes to new affordable housing, the benefits are in the future, and those who will benefit don’t know they will benefit, whereas those who think they would lose know exactly who they are, and their psychological losses are present. 

 

The liminal zones tend to contain lots of NIMBYish, not-quite-rural and not-quite-urban bellwethers, which matter disproportionately.

 

The visible incumbents outshout the invisible excluded.

 

A survey by the Campaign to Protect Rural England in 2015 found that 62% of urban dwellers want to protect the green belt. Reason barely comes into it.

 

Much has been made lately of the heckler’s veto, which is just auditory thug tactics. The vociferist’s veto is its political equivalent and relies on local elected officials’ aversion to confrontation.

 

 

Growth-wary Angelenos have long been successful at swaying city planners.  After decades of rapid development, homeowners campaigned for influence over land use in the 1960s.

 

There’s the irony: Those who had most recently benefited from Los Angeles’s boom were the most active in denying those opportunities to anyone

 

 

Given more control over zoning in 1969, they used it to push for curbs on density. The slow-growth movement continued into the 1980s. In 1986 Proposition U moved to limit the construction of high-rise buildings and cut by half the allowable size of most new commercial buildings beyond downtown.

 

The pink/salmon is zoned commercial, but Proposition U down-zoned everything

 

Voters supported it, two to one. Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1987, its backers explained: “We’re tired of the overdevelopment, the excessive traffic and the inadequate planning that are increasingly plaguing the people of Los Angeles.”

 

Now there’s a movement afoot (perhaps a small movement, but movement nonetheless) to repeal it.  Yet at the same time, more potent was the movement to expand it, 2017’s Measure S:

 

Measure S, also known as the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative”, would pause for two years construction on projects that require exemptions from existing rules on zoning and height. It would also prohibit spot zoning, where changes are applied to small parcels of land.

 

It’s ugly and it’ll probably leak, but it’s not out of place

 

Proponents of the initiative oppose a mixed-use complex in West Los Angeles that would replace a car dealership, and a squiggly Frank Gehry-designed project in West Hollywood, among others.

 

The vocal opposition

 

During a recent campaign event held at the Crest Apartments, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti cautioned that of the 12 building sites the city has identified for low-income housing, 11 would be blocked if Measure S passes.

 

I credit Mayor Garcetti for standing up to the lobbying done by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s CEO Michael Weinstein (previously described in LA press as a ‘bully,’ ‘satan’ and a ‘thug) that I chronicled in Part 2 of this post.

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use dynamics

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

January 16, 2006: Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

July 21, 2008: Lord Wellington’s lament, 4 parts, exploding the myth mobility is bad

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Joel Kotkin touting suburbs

May 4, 2011: Scenes from a mauling, shopping malls are doomed to extinction

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

 

In doing so, the mayor was confronting one of politics’ trickiest issues: the propensity of voters to lie to themselves, even in the voting booth.

 

Either way that land-use policy is made, the urban balance can easily be upset:

 

1.     When land policy is made locally, as in Los Angeles, local voters think both in terms of local impacts and local time horizons.  That they down-zoning would create its own scarcity never occurs to them.

2.     When land use policy is made centrally, as in London’s green belt, metropolitan voters inside the developed area downzone the ring around them, believing that preventing development will keep it green and pleasant.

 

Whichever way the voters choose, basing policy on the fervent wish that we can keep out not only ‘those people’ but any new people has never worked anywhere.

 

 

Just don’t try telling voters that:

 

 

[Continued in two days in Part 7.]

Normal programming will resume next week

March 31, 2017 | Apologia | No comments 40 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

Lately I’ve been trying to expand the hours in a day –

 

So far without success

 

– because I’ve been consumed with AHI assignments –

 

Work, work, work, work!

 

– so in the meantime I’ve recruited stand-in’s to help me create blogs –

 

I’ll not interrupt this blog post … for a pound

 

– but there’s nothing whatsoever to worry about –

 

He’s working on blog posts even as I speak

 

– and normal programming will resume next week –

 

Jobs is on the way

 

 

Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 5, Pointlessly empty parcels

March 22, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, NIMBY, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 63 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.]

 

Here as I take my solitary rounds,

Amidst thy tangling walks, and ruined grounds,

And, many a year elapsed, return to view

Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew,

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

With four parts of this surprisingly long and discursive post now immortalized on the Web, I arrive at what to me is the most perplexing question of all: Why do urban dwellers so rhapsodize about natural green space? 

 

Sources used in this post

 

California Planning and Development Report (April 6, 2015); cobalt blue font

Curbed LA (April 8, 2015; forest-green font)

Economist (February 11, 2017; black font)

MyNewsLa.com (February 25, 2017; crimson font)

Economist (March 2, 2017; navy blue font)

 

When green space is available, people seldom use it.  London’s Hampstead Heath, where the Boss and I have walked on occasion, is an irregular expanse of 790 acres (1¼ square miles) that’s mainly grass, some brush, and the occasional woodland walk:

 

Hampstead Heath today, with London hazing a few miles away

 

It’s all pleasant enough but no Constable paean.

 

As the artist saw it

 

Urban green space is something of a miner’s canary of the city’s health – when the city is in decline, places like Hampstead Heath become wastelands, no-man’s-lands, suitable spy-counterspy assignations and dead drops.

 

The spy business and Hampstead Heath have both gone to the dogs:

John Bingham on the Heath

 

Conversely, when the city is reviving and there is money at hand, the new neighbors who have invested huge sums in buying trophy properties not only renovate their own home, they also want to gaze upon a vista that takes them back to an earlier time, a time in fact before themselves.

 

 

7. Nostalgia conjures an illusory past

 

Britain’s relationship with the countryside is emotional.

Perhaps because London was the birthplace of industrial urbanization, the British rhapsodize about their green and pleasant lands:

 

Rockers like green space too

 

Blame the Victorian bourgeoisie, who built vast, hellish metropolises where they lived in increasing material comfort, wistfully recalling rural life.

 

Small that country air?

Oxford Street, 1890, when London produced 1,000 tons of horse dung a day

 

They read pastoral novels and pasted vegetal designs on the walls of brick villas modelled after remote castles and sylvan cottages. They built railway lines that took them just far enough out of the cities to feel they were experiencing rustic life. 

 

We’re communing with nature, without grass stains

 

And back home again on a day-return ticket.

 

Back to Birmingham at night

 

In this spirit, their children and grandchildren would create the green belt.

 

Their instincts live on.

 

Something similar has consumed the aging Anglos who make up the lion’s share of Los Angeles homeowners:

 

This is just the latest in a long string of tussles over how the City of Angels should grow without sacrificing its low-rise feel. “People who live in Los Angeles have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that they live in the second-largest city in the country. They like being in a city that feels like a suburb,” says Richard Green, at the University of Southern California.

 

I’ve worked with Richard Green: he’s a clever and wise fellow.

 

A Green houser

 

Joel Kotkin of Chapman University, who recently left Los Angeles because of congestion [Not too far, he moved to Orange County, hardly a great renunciation – Ed.], sees Measure S as a “last attempt by middle class neighborhoods to say, ‘We don’t like what’s happening’.”

 

For years Joel Kotkin’s been writing intriguing pieces challenging the streetcar-loving New Urbanist romantics; though he occasionally misfires, even the misfires are interesting.

 

Complete candor works best, except when it doesn’t

 

Then too, there’s another possible reason so many people wrap themselves in the green flag

 

 

8. ‘Preserving green space’ can be a cover story for NIMBYism

 

[Greenbelt] doughnuts encircle most of Britain’s big cities. Some of the land they imprison, especially around Manchester, Leeds and south London, is beautiful.

 

By ignoring what people say and instead judging by what they do, I’ve concluded that many of those who say they want development restrictions are simply using ‘green space’ as a convenient cover story.  First, the anti-development restrictions are often unnecessary:

 

Often this is protected by designations of “area of outstanding natural beauty” or “ancient woodland”. 

 

Second, the space being preserved often isn’t green, lovely, or tended – it’s just vacant:

 

Much of the rest is unlovely, inaccessible or both: intensive agricultural land, horse paddocks, endless golf courses and pointlessly empty parcels like in Harlow. 

 

See the lovely vistas?

 

Take the chunk of the green belt that lies directly to the north of Harlow’s main station.

 

It’s green on the map if not in reality

 

A few flat fields bordered by a thundering road and a supermarket, this too serves no aesthetic or environmental purpose and, a mere 30-minute train ride from central London, would be ideal for houses.

 

And this, when confronted with these contradictions, or when the so-called environmental character is entirely refuted, the anti’s are still anti.

 

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use dynamics

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

January 16, 2006: Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

July 21, 2008: Lord Wellington’s lament, 4 parts, exploding the myth mobility is bad

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Joel Kotkin touting suburbs

May 4, 2011: Scenes from a mauling, shopping malls are doomed to extinction

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

If you hold to a position when every reason you’ve stated is a reason has been factually refuted, then either you’re incapable of reason or you’re lying about your reasons, and you just want to exercise the vociferist’s veto.

 

You have been warned

 

[Continued in Part 6.]