Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Great "Smart Growth" Question

A well regarded contributor asked an interesting question on the Chevy Chase Listserv:

Why isn't that 6,000 SF home built on the 5,000 SF lot "smart growth"? In the burbs, such a house would be located on a lot at 2-3 times that size. Aren't we always being told that we need increased densification to prevent sprawl? Especially at sites, like this one, that are within easy walking distance of Metrorail stations?

For what it's worth, I agree that scale matters in terms of neighborhood liveability and have been critical of this "smart growth" logic. But it's worth pointing out the hypocrisy here. Somehow bigger is always better on or near Wisconsin Avenue and zoning restrictions are meant to be waived, but, a few blocks away, apparently some of the city's most restrictive zoning classifications just aren't restrictive enough to keep out the barbarians.

There have been at least two appropriate responses:

Smart growth concentrates DENSITY where infrastructure is already in place, such as along major roadways, near metro stations, and in areas where there is ample sewer and water capacity, etc.---not building an oversized single-family home. McMansionization does not add density and has nothing to do with the principles of smart growth.


I'm pretty certain that no Smart Growth proponent has ever espoused building larger single family homes as a means to increase density (since it doesn't). Bigger can be better along Wisconsin to the extent that "bigger" means an increase in people or dwelling units per acre where transit infrastructure exists. Claiming hypocrisy because the same person supports increased density along Wisconsin but opposes mansionization is a canard.

This doesn't seem to be a very difficult concept to grasp; that concentrating density along transit corridors to PROTECT residential neighborhoods at risk for redevelopment work hand in had with broader "Smart Growth" policies.

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