Magazine article The World and I

Urban Growth: Problem or Opportunity?

Magazine article The World and I

Urban Growth: Problem or Opportunity?

Article excerpt

Growth has always been welcome in America, but of late urban growth seems to have gotten out of hand. Traffic congestion, air and water pollution, and an ugly landscape are on the rise in cities across the country. Sprawl

(low-density growth) has created so many suburbs and exurbs that once-separate metropolitan areas have blended---Washington, D.C., with Baltimore, Philadelphia with Wilmington, San Francisco with San Jose.

The question facing urban planners and ordinary citizens is whether the growth required to accommodate the 50 percent increase in U.S. population expected by the middle of this century will be largely urban sprawl or something else.

Some analysts argue that sprawl has benefits, like shorter suburb- to- suburb commutes, low-density residential lifestyles, more affordable housing and commercial space, and the freedom of personal transportation, (i.e., the car). They point out that while metro development increased about 66 percent between 1950 and 1990, the population increased 89 percent. That's smart growth, growth proponents say, not sprawl.

Nevertheless, several states and regions have acted to reduce or slow growth. In November 1998, voters approved more than 100 antigrowth measures. The most common was to authorize money to buy parks, farmland, and other kinds of open space.

To date, only Oregon has taken a firm antisprawl, no-growth stand. The policy objective for most constituencies is how to manage urban growth better. After all, what some call "urban sprawl" is the result of millions of citizens pursuing the American dream of a place of their own in the suburbs.

Steven Hayward of the Pacific Research Institute reports that the annual rate of land development has been about 1.3 million acres a year. That sounds astronomical but is only . …

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