Suburban Land Conversion in the United States: An Economic and Governmental Process

By Marion Clawson | Go to book overview

16
ANOTHER GENERATION OF THE PRESENT SUBURBANIZATION PROCESS

If the present processes of suburban land conversion continue to the year 2000, what results are likely? What reason is there to expect that the cities and suburbs of 2000 will be anything but more of the same that we have now? To what extent might processes of the recent past and of the present lead to something different in the future, owing to changing elements in the system and in the whole economy and society?

Some changes, of course, are inevitable; nothing stands still for long in a dynamic world. But the process of suburban land conversion has changed only gradually since the war, and the changes have not been significant. For the present, let us assume that something like the postwar rate of change will continue, without attempting to specify what it may include.

This chapter is written in recognition of the serious social, racial, economic, and related problems which afflict most American cities, especially the larger ones and especially their older centers. It can reasonably be argued that the United States faces as divisive a situation as at any time since the Civil War. Any thoughtful citizen must have been gravely disturbed at some of the events in the larger cities during the past decade. In this total urban situation, the lily-white suburb is surely a major part and must bear a major part of the responsibility for the whole situation. Urban problems must engage the most earnest attention of governments at all levels and of citizens of both political parties and of many economic and social groups. Any program to improve this situation will almost surely have some repercussions on suburban land conversion. However, urban problems go far beyond suburban land conversion, if the latter be defined with any clarity.

Suburban growth and suburban land conversion, if considered only as a means of providing new homes for the upper half of the income scale, do not face a real crisis. The processes and the results we now have are not the best attainable, but there has not been and there will not be a real breakdown in the process. The United States can continue a process of slow evolution in its city-growing mechanisms, and probably will do so. The results will not be perfect or even as good as reasonably attainable, but neither will they be chaos. Findings of this study show that there is plenty of land in suburbs to accommodate urban expansion for another generation. Implicit in the findings is the fact that life in the suburbs is not intolerable but rather pleasant, and that the suburbs are well-regarded by those who live

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