(April 1, 2013) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2013 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington
(April 18, 2011) The National Association of Realtors published its survey on housing and transportation preferences of Americans in April 2011. This “Smart Growth Survey” can be viewed here:
If the results are interpreted carefully, this is not quite a 100% endorsement for “Smart growth” with walkable communities.
This survey shows that most Americans prefer walkability and also larger lots. However, with very high densities found with “smart growth,” walking and bicycling are difficult due to traffic and air pollution. In that case a designated bike trail or “bike boulevard” – in the forests away from traffic – is a good idea.
And, the study fails to measure where someone is walking. For example, from a landscape architecture perspective, walking or biking on a path in the woods is much more pleasant than a bike lane or sidewalk. A curved street with street trees in a subdivision is much more inviting than grid streets leading through tall mixed use towers.
Also, the city size seems to impact how many peoople walk or bike. Corvallis, Oregon has the highest rate of cyclists and pedestrians going to work, at 20% combined for both (US Census 2010) Therefore, it’s more cost effective in areas with less density, to add bike trails, bike lanes, and walking paths, such as many college towns.
And, Peter Gordon PhD (USC) had something on his blog about people not riding bikes to work and elsewhere due to high bicycle theft rates and retailers failing to provide bike racks. Therefore, bike racks are required or else folks won’t ride their bikes.
Just like the Wisconsin study (http://smartgrowthusa.wordpress.com/smart-growth-survey/), this study shows that Americans prefer large lots…and 80% prefer sidewalks and places to walk near their homes, and this was found to be more important than “walking” to stores in “smart growth neighborhoods.”
Therefore, as the prototypical large lot suburb in Seattle, low density Bellevue – not high density Seattle – certainly meets the preferences of most Americans.
The study proves that Americans prefer detached housing with sidewalks, but not necessarily within walking distance to stores.
And, the study shows that most would rather driver further to stores if it meant they could have a larger lot.
And, most prefer single family detached properties, versus townhomes and towering smart growth condos, like at Issaquah Highlands, the smart growth community near Seattle developed in part by Ronn Sims (President Obama’s former Deputy Secretary of HUD).
“Living in a single-family, detached home is important to most Americans. Eight in ten (80%) would prefer to live in single-family, detached houses over other types of housing such as townhouses, condominiums, or apartments.”
“Six in ten (59%) would accept a longer commute and having to drive to shops and restaurants if it meant they could live in a single-family detached home, rather than living in an attached home or apartment (38%).”
“Desire for privacy is a top consideration in deciding where to live
While walkability is seen as a desirable attribute by most, majorities of Americans are willing to live in communities where they have to drive most places if it means they would have larger lots with more distance from neighbors …”
“61% choose larger lots and needing to drive over smaller lots and being able to walk to schools, stores, and restaurants (37%).”
“The 2011 Community Preference Survey reveals that, ideally, most Americans would like to live in walkable communities where shops, restaurants, and local businesses are within an easy stroll from their homes and their jobs are a short commute away; as long as those communities can also provide privacy from neighbors and detached, single-family homes. If this ideal is not possible, most prioritize shorter commutes and single-family homes above other considerations.”
“The preference is not as clear when choosing between larger lots and needing to drive (56%) and smaller lots and being able to walk to parks, playgrounds, and recreation areas (43%). In another set of questions, the public places a greater priority on having sidewalks and places to take walks (77%, important) than on being within walking distance of specific places in a community, such as stores and restaurants (66%).”
“Younger people who are unmarried tend to prefer the convenience of smart growth, walkable communities. Subdivision-type communities appeal more to middle-aged, married couples.”
“Political views are predictive of what type of communities Americans prefer. Democrats and liberals tend to prefer smart growth-type communities, while Republicans and conservatives are more likely to favor sprawl-type communities.”