Friday, January 27, 2012

Preserving Density

A few weeks ago, we talked about demolition within existing neighborhoods and the resulting density issues.  In neighborhoods near Cleveland, banks had foreclosed on large numbers of homes and then failed to adequately secure or maintain the empty homes.  The county, faced with neighborhoods in which the stability was being undermined by the large number of derelict homes, demolished many of the bank-owned homes.

Between Tony Battaglia and me, we raised the questions of what the obligations of the banks should have been and how the communities should respond to the decreased density.   We didn’t have all of the answers, or perhaps any of the answers, but at least we began to frame the questions.

On a similar topic, Atlantic Cities recently had a story on urban prairies, large areas within the existing street grid of St. Louis where homes have been demolished and the lots remain vacant.

Some commenters complained that the story was misleading, that the urban prairies weren’t in St. Louis, but in adjoining cities.  Technically, they may have been right.  However, I used Google Maps to scan the St. Louis area and quickly found blocks that looked like the photos in the article.  Perhaps the areas were across a city limit, but they felt and should have functioned like part of St. Louis.

Applying a Bay Area analogy, it would be as if single homes were standing in otherwise empty blocks of Daly City.  If we’re going to have a land-use model that works effectively and sustainably, broad sweeps of weed-filled parcels in Daly City wouldn’t be part of it.

Accommodating reducing populations isn’t today an issue in most California communities.  Nor is it likely to be during our lifetimes.  However, if the Midwest can find solution for managing density in communities that are losing population, there are likely to be lessons that are applicable to all communities that are trying to increase density, including communities in California.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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