Skip to Content
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

Breaking: Sprawl Just as Reliant on “Big Government” as Smart Growth

9:34 AM PST on December 19, 2012

Confounding as it is, being that the conservative movement is purportedly all about spending wisely and individual choice, the right wing think tanks tend not to favor smart growth.

It's always fascinating to consider their arguments. The complaint put forward in a recent Heritage Foundation white paper is a classic example: Smart growth is bad, the writers say, because it relies on "big government interference."

false

But Bradley Heard at Greater Greater Washington points out that the same could be said of auto-oriented sprawl:

Without zoning laws, suburban residential subdivisions would not be protected from intrusion by smelly factories, shadow-casting skyscrapers, and loud night clubs. If the government tried to take away those zoning rules protecting suburban home values, there would be a public revolt.

The same zoning tools that are used by smart growth advocates to focus dense development around transit are used by suburban developers to build subdivisions of peaceful single-family homes.

You can't build one of those suburban subdivisions -- or even one of those fancy new mixed-use "town centers" in the center of nowhere -- unless the government blesses, builds, and maintains the roads, schools, sewers, and utilities to serve it.

Even if a private developer fronts money to pay for the infrastructure in and around the development, it's impossible to connect any of it to the larger grid without government help. And after all that new infrastructure supporting scattered development is built, guess who has to maintain it? That's right: big government. And who pays for all of that? That's right: "We the People" do.

So both sprawl and smart growth require government intervention, but only one outcome saves taxpayers money, improves public health and reduces environmental impact.

Elsewhere on the Network today: CAHSR Blog says gas consumption is on the decline in the Golden State. The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation reports that the World Health Organization has zeroed in on car crashes as a leading global public health threat. And Urban Indy posits that great streets will encourage "jaywalking."

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog San Francisco

Kelley Leaving Oakland Department of Transportation

Megan Wier, OakDOT Assistant Director, will step in to run the agency starting March 11

February 28, 2024

Who Regrets Tearing Down the Embarcadero Freeway?

An excerpt from John King's Portal: San Francisco's Ferry Building and the Reinvention of American Cities—and a reminder of how much attitudes can change about car-dominated cities and infrastructure

February 27, 2024
See all posts