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BeyondGeography Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-11-10 03:50 PM
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Slumburbia
By TIMOTHY EGAN
The New UYork Times

LATHROP, Calif. Drive along foreclosure alley, through new planned communities that look like tile-roofed versions of a 21st century ghost town, and you see what happens when people gamble with houses instead of casino chips.

Dirty flags advertise rock-bottom discounts on empty starter mansions. On the ground, foreclosure signs are tagged with gang graffiti. Empty lots are untended, cratered with mud puddles from the winter storms that have hammered Californias San Joaquin Valley.

Nobody is home in the cities of the future.

...In places like Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy, population nearly doubled in 10 years, and home prices tripled. After inhaling all this real estate helium, some developers and their apologists in urban planning circles hailed the boom as the new America at the far exurban fringe. Every citizen a homeowner! Half-acre lots for all! No credit, no problem!

Others saw it as the residential embodiment of the Edward Abbey line that growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

...during these low, ragged years, a few lessons about urban planning can be picked from the stucco pile.

One is that, at least here in California, the outlying cities themselves encouraged the boom, spurred by the states broken tax system. Hemmed in by property tax limitations, cities were compelled to increase revenue by the easiest route: expanding urban boundaries. They let developers plow up walnut groves and vineyards and places that were supposed to be strawberry fields forever to pay for services demanded by new school parents and park users.

Second, look at the cities with stable and recovering home markets. On this coast, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Diego come to mind. All of these cities have fairly strict development codes, trying to hem in their excess sprawl. Developers, many of them, hate these restrictions. They said the coastal cities would eventually price the middle class out, and start to empty.

It hasnt happened. Just the opposite...

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/slumbur...

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