Comment 108648

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted January 31, 2015 at 17:40:05

Urbanism vs. Suburbanism , As a planner I have lived this debate. The real issue is that cities have known for years/decades that, the current suburban model frankly uses far more in services than it creates in property taxes to support those services. There are some Ontario suburbs that buck this trend but for the most part, suburbs using the sprawl model don't pay for themselves. There are some cities that are have produced Neo-Urbanist like developments but they are still very rare in Ontario (York region has a few). The urban/suburban political divide developed partly because we (planners and urbanites) attack the concept of urban sprawl and its intellectual underpinnings but, we have to be aware that doing so is treated as a personal attack on the life choices of the people that live there.

This becomes a real problem not just a intellectual exercise due to the fact that for most cities, the vast majority of the population now lives in the suburbs. To the average person whom normally rarely thinks of urban planning, the negative treatment of the sprawl lifestyle and its problems and perceived evils are seen as a backhanded attack on them personally, because they made the choice to live there and they like it! Whenever the subject of better planning and design for the suburbs comes out at a planning meeting, you can count on a response by a confused, defensive even scarred suburbanite like, "I like living in my house and I am proud of it don't attack me because of where it is and what it looks like"! This real problem is that, people's see their pride of home and community and fold both up with the built form of that community, into a single package in their mind. We all do it! Attack the built form of the suburb and you are attacking the person and his or her life choices. All I am saying it is that during this type of debate it is often helpful to detach the problems of built form and the choice of the individual as much as possible. When a individual makes that connection during this type of debate, the utmost must be made in the response to separate the person's personal choices and feelings from the critique of the urban form.

Remember you may think that its perfectly responsible in a debate to tell someone that, most suburbs don't pay for themselves and when it comes to property taxes produced by the suburbs versus the amount of taxes that it costs to service them that, politicians have had to use other sources for decades to subsidize those suburbs to keep them functioning. What the suburbanite hears is that, he or she personally are the reason we don't have good transit or whatever (pick your favorite subject) in the core and you should not be living there and it doesn't matter if you pay your taxes because it will never be enough, you made a bad life choice!

Many of the designs and built form techniques that may make a suburban home and lifestyle expensive are the same things that they, the suburbanite, have been told since childhood are the big positives (like the overabundance of physical space for example)and the lack of those positive things downtown are why people left the core areas of cities in the first place. Since the vast majority of people live the suburban lifestyle doesn't that make it the right choice? This relationship between the differences in built form and primary transportation choice is to me the core of the urban/suburban problem. Both sides eventually vilify each other so much that, it is no surprise when it comes out into local politics. Compound these issues with the reality that for the most part, (not always but pretty often) both groups have traditionally voted in opposite sides of the political spectrum as well. As a planner it can be sole destroying to know that a project you have been working on for a year or more is going to get killed because, it is perceived as hostile to what should be included in a given built form. It doesn't matter if it is needed or not!

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