(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
(Dec. 4, 2010, Dec. 26, 2011, Tom Lane) Above: How can you call “smart” growth green, when 90% of the neighborhood is paved over, either with foundations, streets, driveways, and sidewalks, and there are no large native trees? This is Talus, the smart growth master planned development in Issaquah, Washington.
Due to political reasons, Boulder, Colorado; Seattle, Washington, and all of Oregon seem to be “test markets,” for building congested “smart” growth neighborhoods in the Western USA. Fortunately, all have plenty of spacious, traditional neighborhoods for comparison, such as the City of Bellevue.
Below, I’ll compare and contrast Google Earth sattelite views. You can decide what neighborhoods you’d prefer to live in. Under construction as more images are added.
First, the Issaquah, Washington (near Seattle) Master Planned Smart Growth Developments of Talus and Issaquah Highlands. The Google Earth link for the Issaquah smart growth images is: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=bellevue,+wa&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=16.939532,36.826172&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Bellevue,+King,+Washington&ll=47.534704,-122.05965&spn=0.014023,0.068665&t=h&z=14
Crowded smart growth homes on 5000 square foot lots are no different in many respects than sprwal. Look at Issaquah Highlands, the world renowned master planned smart growth development 20 miles east of Seattle. Homes are crowded together with native trees relegated to the surrounding parks (the rest have been clearcut):
To the right of the above image is the eastern edge of the development, below. With 90% of the area paved as either foundations, streets, sidewalks, and driveways, with no native trees, how can you call this green?
Let’s back up and look at eastern Issaquah and I-90. The Issaquah Highlands, in the upper right quadrant, is surrounded by lush greenbelts on three sides. Why not give everyone an acre or two, instead of crowding everyone into the development?
Similar view of The Highlands:
Here are three views of another smart growth development, Talus, in Western Issaquah. Again, green space on all sides, why not give everyone an acre?
Below, Talus to the left, and a traditional neighborhood with large lots to the right of SR-900.
Here’s a broader view of Talus on the left and larger lots on the right:
In sharp contrast, here’s downtown Bellevue along Lake Washington, 10 miles east of Seattle, and 10 miles west of Issaquah. Note the spacious downtown around Bellevue Square (mall owned by Kemper Freeman). And, the large lots west of downtown along Lake Washington.
Here’s another area of downtown Bellevue, with wide streets, large blocks, and widely spaced buildings:
Here’s most of the City of Bellevue, between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, with a spacious downtown, large residential lots, and lots of parks and open space:
Here are the low density neighborhoods of Enatai and Beaux Arts Village, in SW Bellevue along Lake Washington. Large lots, and lots of native trees:
Here’s a closer view of Enatai homes, showing very large lots with mature trees. This is much greener than the Issaquah smart growth projects:
Here’s the Boulder, Colorado story. First, here’s the area encompassing the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains (left of screen), followed by the Boulder-Longmont area, and farmland north of Denver to the right on both sides of I-25.
One feature is readily apparent: the amount of light green areas designated as preserved farmland, as part of Boulder County’s open space imitative, dating back since their establishment in the 1960’s.
As an environmentalist, I have two issues with this. First, the open space along with Boulder’s Urban Growth boundary decrease available housing next to Boulder. As a result, people drive from Longmont and other towns, increasing their use of foreign oil, and contributing to the Boulder air pollution problem.
Second, much of this preserved land is not forested, and is farmland that could be turned into organic farms, eliminating oil consumption for transporting fruits and vegetables.
When I tried to move to Boulder and gave up, the most disappointing discoveries about the place were 1) high air pollution aggravating my sinusitis, and 2) no properties for rent with land for large gardens. I had the same problems with Eugene, Oregon, with nearly identical radical implementation of smart growth principles.
Many people who try to move to Boulder hate the high density, pollution, traffic congestion, rude drivers, rivaling Vegas and L.A. Both the corporate controlled far left City and the Chamber of Commerce also place an inappropriate emphasis on national trends, essentially commercializing what would otherwise be a pastoral mountain town. These institutions have strong ties with smart growth special interest groups and smart growth contractors. Folks who don’t move to Boulder end up finding what they’re looking for in the nearby college town of Ft. Collins, or high elevation mountain towns in Colorado, especially Durango, or in Northern New Mexico (Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe). These other places have much lower density, air pollution, and their local governments promote national trends to a lesser extent.
A closer view of Boulder, and note on the sattelite view that the preserved agricultural lands are going to waste – they are brown whereas the City is green! They could be productive organic farms. What a waste of land. Why not sell it to local organic farmers, and it can turn green?
An even closer view, of Central Boulder, including the University of Colorado and the world famous trendy smart growth district along Pearl Street:
Here’s the congested downtown smart growth Boulder. No trees! No free parking! Even the library charges for parking!
Comparing Boulder to Ashland, Oregon, a left leaning college/outdoors/tourist/retirement town home of the Skakespearean festivals and the 7,000 student Southern Oregon University. What a difference. Less density, more trees, and larger blocks. First, an overview of the Ashland-Talent metro and surrounding parks and national forest. Second, views of downtown Ashland.
The brown hills east of town that you see on postcards of Ashland are due to increased solar radiation and a rain shadow from the mountains west of town. They turn green in the spring, but are impractical to irrigate in the summer. Irrigated cropland is east of Interstate five, and in the Applegate Valley in the NW quadrant of the photo. Ashland has a modified Mediterranean climate with rainy winters and summer drought, with 19″ of rain per year, roughly a foot of snow, compared to nearly 50″ of rain in Eugene, Oregon to the north, and just 10″ of precip. in Bend, Oregon to the northeast.
In contrast to Eugene and Boulder, Ashland doesn’t necessarily follow national trends. I would compare Ashland to Sedona and Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s very laid back, and described as “creepy” and lacking energy. Although Ashland is subject to following the strict rules of the Oregon DLCD, the community seems to attract “alternative” types who reject the modern commercialized green movement. For example, most parents do not vaccinate their kids. The town bans big box stores, provides an environment for small businesses and organic farmers, and has a solar ordinance to block shade from passive solar structures. Ashland is so alternative that most first time visitors find it repulsive with regressive policies. I don’t like it, and I don’t know how they feel about “smart growth,” but do you think that anyone there would want the place to turn into the density of Bend or Boulder?
The Bend, Oregon story has developed rapidly, with 48% population growth in just the past 10 years. The City is dense and on a grid system like Boulder, but cares much more than Boulder about maintaining and even planting new greenery. Laws prevent the removal and clearcutting of native trees prior to development. Traffic is less, since fewer people are commuting from surrounding cities compared to Boulder.
However, it’s clear from these Bend photos that Ashland wins in the low density and large lot categories. The next time I revise this site I’ll look at the low density towns of Santa Fe and Placitas, New Mexico, along with Sedona, Flagstaff, and Cave Creek, Arizona. Actually, since Placitas is my favorite area in New Mexico, I couldn’t wait – see bottom of post.
Recently various authors have bashed Southwestern Sprawl, but never “Smart Growth Sprawl.” Recently, several photographers and authors, such as Christopher Gielen, have published material “critical” of suburban desert sprawl. However, I contend that it’s no worse than “smart growth suburban sprwal.” In fact, I would take any of these desert neighborhoods, with their warmer climate and larger lots, swimming pools, and nearby desert hiking opportunities, over any smart growth neighborhood with no yards in cold northern climates.
I have no idea what the complaints are for when smart growth sprawl is potentially just as unsightly. I think Gielen and others are just attacking Conservatives who tend to populate desert areas of the US. However, they probably don’t realize that Albuquerque and Las Vegas have both moved to the left in the last few elections, and that Albuquerque has one of the strictest energy conservation codes in the nation. Furthermore, Albuquerque’s new impact few system (since 2006) has decreased building permits, and driven developers out of town, contributing to decentralized urban sprawl near Albuquerque, and a greater dependence on foreign oil imports.
Below, I have chosen Google Earth images of neighborhoods that I am familiar with, based on traveling and living in Southwest states since 2001. The only desert City whose planning I didn’t like was Las Vegas, due to the absence of desert parks and reckless drivers. However, Vegas is adding parks, especially in the Henderson area, to compensate for decades of rapid growth. Indeed, Vegas has two of the best mountain bike trail areas in the US. Overall, despite the traffic and lack of parks, Southern Nevada has a high quality of life, although one must be willing to drive well outside the City limits for natural parks, such as Lake Meade National Recreation Area.
Here’s Albuquerque on the westside, southwest of the Cottonwood Mall:
For comparison purposes, here’s an older neighborhood with traditional homes north of the University of New Mexico. Note the label “North Channel Trail” on the left (a bike path), next to a diversion ditch:
Here’s Henderson, Nevada, southwest of the intersection of Stephanie and Horizon Ridge. Just about everyone has a pool!
Here’s the northern part of Tramanto, an urban village in North Phoenix, north of Carefree Highway. This area is surrounded by parks and greenbelts on all sides:
Placitas, New Mexico, in the Sandia mountains foothills just north of Albuquerque, and east of Bernalillo and Rio Rancho, is my favorite place in New Mexico. If I ever moved back, that’s where I’d live, since I don’t like the elitism and strong centralized government policies present in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Neither do prospective resident of Placitas, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, Edgewood, and similar places. It’s conveniently located between the Plaza of Santa Fe and downtown Albuquerque, 20-30 minutes from each. So you can have the best of both cities who are otherwise isolated within an hour drive. Placitas is also in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, with hiking and mountain biking. It’s home to artists, photographers, organic farmers, and began as a hippie community years ago. Lots of wildlife and native plants from several ecosystems that converge in the foothills and canyons just below 6000.’ Today, like many former hippie areas, it’s evolved into the most expensive suburb in all of New Mexico.
Here is only a portion of the very large area that covers a wall map, with very large lots and small farms / equestrian facilities and large homes as the selling points. The board will probably never increase the density. When I lived in New Mexico, some of the nicest and most interesting people lived in Placitas, New Mexico.