Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama considering plan to Bulldoze large parts of cities.

WARNING: Rare Political commentary! I rarely comment on things "political" I have little use for either political party and when it come to Historic Neighborhoods and preservation I am an equal opportunity critic of both parties when they come up with STUPID ideas.

The UK Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/5516536/US-cities-may-have-to-be-bulldozed-in-order-to-survive.html

has reported on a plan by Flint Michigan and possibly duplicated by the Obama administration in as many as 50 cities.The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.

I read about this and it is a variation on the Blight=bulldoze Urban Renewal model of the 1960's. It is a model that almost EVERY urban planner has abandoned as a huge failure, except now we are going to cal it "Bight=Green".

Aside from the fact that Blight=Bulldoze decimated huge amounts of Historic Architecture, i basically shuffled the poor around, developers had no interest, and people, at least those who had money and could afford to have a choice, live where they want to live, not where the government "thinks' they should live. Ironic when you consider that most of the people who would find their neighborhoods decimated are the ones who voted overwhelmingly for Obama. What happens when you buy houses and move the poor into a neighborhood? The wealthy move out. We saw this happen during "white Flight" of the 1960's.

Eminent Domain, a tool often used by the Government generally meets the most resistance and more organized voting blocks when it targets historic neighborhoods, no matter how dilapidated. People feel very passionate about their homes. Especially many poorer inner city families where homes are often passed down.

This proposal is hardly "green". Demolition of old houses is expensive, requires lead and asbestos abatement, material cant be recycled because most building codes don't allow for the use of material, beams and such that cant be load tested. Talk About filling landfills! More importantly Urban land is often has higher levels of lead and other particulates and doesn't suit itself to 'green uses' such as urban gardening or park/play areas.

If one wants to talk about Urban Planning models that are more "Green" you should be talking about initiatives to limit the sprawl of suburbia which uses huge amounts of natural resources in expanding infrastructure, building materials, and concrete. Sprawl also contributes to increased pollution and greenhouse gases because commute times are longer. Most urban planners now agree that city density is a far more 'green' urban planning model than sprawl. If Obama wants to bulldoze suburbia, well I might be for that, but the Federal Government dictating where I live, strikes me as wading up our constitution. Efforts and money should go to restoring cities, attracting new business, job creation ( something else this administration is a failure at) and improving the quality of life.

If the Obama Administration wants to pursue a "Blight=Greenspace" model, he may find himself on the losing end of this battle. I personally hate politics and avoid political conversation but this is another 'knee jerk", incomplete, not well thought out plan by the Obama administration and if he tries it, he can kiss a second term goodbye.

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