From Mike Lanza's blog:
There’s just one big problem with suburb hating. The alternative to suburbs in metropolitan areas, cities, are much worse for children. Sure, adults can have a great time in hip, dense city centers like Manhattan or San Francisco. In fact, if my wife and I never had kids, we’d still be living in San Francisco, going out practically every night.
However, it’s clear that cities are worse for kids than suburbs. Why do I say this?
First, just look at where newly married urbanites choose to live once they have children. They leave cities in droves. The hipper and denser the city the more likely are parents to flee to the suburbs...
...the major reason why families leave big cities: public schools in large cities are, by and large, awful. So, for the most part, families that have the means to move out of cities when their children reach school age flee to the ‘burbs. Most middle and upper-middle class families that do stay send their children to private schools. 30% of San Francisco children go to private schools, and my guess is that the figure for Manhattan and other dense, hip urban centers is close to that.
So, to some extent, when you hear people complain that cities are too expensive for families are calculating private school into the cost of living there.
But private schools not only cost a lot of money. They also destroy neighborhood life for children. In big city neighborhoods where many or most children go to private schools, children who live on the same street hardly know each other because they tend to go to different schools that their parents choose.
Beyond running bad schools that force families with the means to go to private school, some big city school systems put the final dagger into neighborhoods by forcing or enticing children to go to a school outside their neighborhoods.
For example, San Francisco has done this for decades in an effort to forcibly integrate students of different races and backgrounds, but instead what it’s done is destroy neighborhoods and push more families into private schools than any other city in America. In the last year or two, that city has made a small change in its policy in an apparent effort to make it more possible for children to go to school in their own neighborhood, but this change hasn’t gone nearly far enough to pull neighborhoods together.
So, big cities are left with neighborhoods where children spray out to all parts of the city to go to school every day. When school’s over at the end of the day, playing in their neighborhoods isn’t an option because children there don’t know one another...
The other primary problem that families have with cities is space. Yes, while it’s trendy these days for urban planners to advocate for dense development, families with children flee from density. Every large city in the United States that has high density have very low percentages of school-aged children.
To put it simply, play requires space. If all kids have outside their crowded apartment building is a sidewalk, they can’t play a game of soccer, nor can they play even less formal games like hide and seek or tag. Also, sidewalks are a lot less complex, and therefore they’re a lot more boring for kids than yards that have grass and bushes with hiding spaces...
More on the negatives of high-density development by Joel Kotkin.
Labels: City Government, Highrise Development, Housing in the City, Neighborhoods, Smart Growth