“California Declares War on the Suburbs,” reports Wendell Cox’s op ed in the Wall Street Journal (or at least the headline so reports). This has led to all sort of supporting commentary in the conservative blogosphere, along with articles from the left that claims Cox is full of it.
All the Antiplanner wants to know is why anyone thinks this war on the suburbs is anything new? Cox’s article referred to a proposal “to require more than one-half of the new housing in Los Angeles County and five other Southern California counties to be concentrated in dense, so-called transit villages.” But this is really nothing new.
California’s war on single-family homes and suburbs began more than 30 years ago. As a result of that war, 95 percent of California residents are concentrated in a little more than 5 percent or the state’s land area. Oregon’s war on the suburbs, which began about the same time, means that 80 percent of Oregon residents are confined to less than 1-1/2 percent of the state.
California urbanized areas are 84 percent denser, on average, than urbanized areas in the rest of the United States. Oregon urbanized areas are also considerably denser than average. Hawaii’s war on sprawl began even earlier than California’s, and densities there are 80 percent greater than average. By comparison, population densities in Texas–which has the least intrusive land-use policies–are almost identical for the average of the nation as a whole. (For really low density urban areas, you have to go to New Hampshire and South Carolina.)
Contrary to claims, the war on suburbs is no hoax, nor has it just been declared. It is a serious, on-going issue that won’t go away without a major overhaul of state and local planning philosophies.
Update: The California Republican Caucus offers its analysis of the issue.