Saturday, December 10, 2011

Population and auto commuting gain in suburbs


Joel Kotkin

...Perhaps no theology grips the nation’s mainstream media---and the planning community---more than the notion of inevitable suburban decline. The Obama administration’s housing secretary, Shaun Donavan, recently claimed, “We’ve reached the limits of suburban development: People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.”

Yet repeating a mantra incessantly does not make it true. Indeed, any analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census would make perfectly clear that rather than heading for density, Americans are voting with their feet in the opposite direction: toward the outer sections of the metropolis and to smaller, less dense cities. During the 2000s, the Census shows, just 8.6% of the population growth in metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people took place in the core cities; the rest took place in the suburbs. That 8.6% represents a decline from the 1990s, when the figure was 15.4%.

Nor are Americans abandoning their basic attraction for single-family dwellings or automobile commuting. Over the past decade, single-family houses grew far more than either multifamily or attached homes, accounting for nearly 80% of all the new households in the 51 largest cities. And---contrary to the image of suburban desolation---detached housing retains a significantly lower vacancy rate than the multi-unit sector, which has also suffered a higher growth in vacancies even the crash.

Similarly, notes demographer Wendell Cox, despite a 45% boost in gas prices, the country gained almost 8 million lone auto commuters in the past 10 years. Transit ridership, while up slightly, is still stuck at the 1990 figure of 5%, while the number of home commuters grew roughly six times as quickly...

Rather than flee to density, the Census showed a population shift from more dense to less dense places. The top ten population gainers among metropolitan areas---growing by 20%, twice the national average, or more---are the low-density Las Vegas, Raleigh, Austin, Charlotte, Riverside–San Bernardino, Orlando, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Atlanta. By contrast, many of the densest metropolitan areas---including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and New York---grew at rates half the national average or less.

Less friendly to the meme of density’s manifest destiny has been a simultaneous meltdown in the urban condo market. Massive reductions in condo prices of as much as 50% or more have particularly hurt the areas around Miami, Portland, Chicago and Atlanta. There are open holes, empty storefronts, and abandoned projects in downtowns across the country that, if laid flat, would appear as desperate as the foreclosure ravaged fringe areas...

In fact the media reports about the “death” of fringe suburbs seem to be more a matter of wishful thinking than fact. If the new urbanists want to do something useful, they might apply themselves by helping these peripheral places of aspiration evolve successfully. That’s far more constructive than endlessly insisting on---or trying to legislate---their inevitable demise.

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13 Comments:

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Less friendly to the meme of density’s manifest destiny has been a simultaneous meltdown in the urban condo market. Massive reductions in condo prices of as much as 50% or more have particularly hurt the areas around Miami, Portland, Chicago and Atlanta. There are open holes, empty storefronts, and abandoned projects in downtowns across the country that, if laid flat, would appear as desperate as the foreclosure ravaged fringe areas...

San Francisco housing prices have stayed stable over the bust years. Housing prices in the suburbs around SF have collapsed - the further away from SF the more pronounced this has been. Kotkin uses SF and NYC as an anecdotal example and then quotes data on places like Las Vegas or Portland? Intellectual dishonesty.

 
At 11:14 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nope. SF was cited for its relatively low population growth. Census numbers show that the ideas you trendies, including, alas, City Hall, hold---"smart" growth, dense development, anti-car, transit corridors, etc.---are not preventing people from living outside cities or from driving their cars.

 
At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SF was cited for its relatively low population growth.

--> How exactly is SF supposed to get population growth? Our housing is maxed out. That's the point. What's preventing more people from moving to SF is a lack of housing stock - something the city is aggressively trying to address. Meanwhile places like Vegas had explosive growth as people moved there for construction jobs building houses that nobody needed. Now there is enormous housing stock there for less than it would cost to build - and they STILL can't sell them. Because nobody wants to live in the exurbs of Vegas or Phoenix.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

San Francisco is already the second most densely-populated city in the country, after only New York City. Our growth should now consist almost entirely of infill within the low-rise zoning regulations that make city neighborhoods attractive.

Instead, City Hall is recklessly embarking on a radical increase in population growth and traffic with the Market/Octavia Plan (10,000 new residents), the Treasure Island project (19,000 people living on that island), and the Parkmerced project (5,679 new housing units for a total of 8,900 units on that site alone).

This is not responsible planning, but the people who have made these decisions will be retired on the city's generous retirement plans by the time all those chickens come home to roost on the streets of the city.

 
At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you saying Manhattan is not attractive? To each their own - seems like several million Manhattanites disagree with you.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

SF has nothing like Manhattan's transportation system.

 
At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And it will stay that way as long as Rob has a say in it.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nope. I'm for making the best of what we have by giving Muni more money by canceling the Central Subway Project and not making traffic worse with the MTA's anti-car policies, like the Bicycle Plan.

 
At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

giving Muni more money by canceling the Central Subway Project and not making traffic worse with the MTA's anti-car policies, like raising the prices of parking meters?

Morton's Fork!

 
At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"MTA's anti-car policies" like Van Ness BRT? Geary BRT?

 
At 12:10 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Every year the city already raises more than $180 million from parking meters, parking tickets, and its many parking lots. And the Prop. K sales tax brings in another $70-80 million a year. Canceling the Central Subway would make up to $200 million available for Muni.

 
At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and not making traffic worse with the MTA's anti-car policies, like the Bicycle Plan.

how does that give MUNI more money?

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking needs to be a discussion about traffic management, not revenue stream. Clearly, the best policy would be to price parking per market demands - e.g. when businesses nearby are open, there needs to be turn over.

Sadly, the SFMTA is run by idiots who only bring it up during budget discussions.

 

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