Monday, February 16, 2009

Build In California Alone

So says Ed Glaeser. He states that because of the temperate climate, more people should live in density in California cities to increase environmental savings. Though this doesn't really work if the people moving here don't have water, the climate changes, and we can't grow food in the central valley.

If this is along the same lines as Randal O'Toole and Wendel Cox are pushing, build in the preserved open spaces at existing densities with limited regulation, then no thank you. However, if its building more density in greyfields and on transit corridors with better transit then sure. But people shouldn't mix the two, that would be a disaster.

10 comments:

Steve said...

Actually, if all you are considering in carbon impact, everything he says is totally correct. And he does say that more residential building should be concentrated in central city areas. Of course, carbon emissions are only part of the environmental impact equation. But San Francisco voters have placed limits on the construction of new high rises in the city, which includes residential high rises. Since these would most likely be built along transit corridors this is counter-productive from a carbon impact point of view.

Rhywun said...

I have only skimmed the article so far (work intrudes), but it's City Journal, so I have every expectation that I will have to take what it says with a huge grain of salt. They publish some real garbage there. Like a certain writer who sees brown people in England and mourns the loss of "traditional" British culture. Their urban coverage leans heavily in the Giuliani law-and-order mold.

Rhywun said...

Scratch a San Franciscan and you'll find out that they care more about "views" and "quaintness" than about anything urban.

Alon Levy said...

The article seems alright, except for one whopper:

"Residential energy use and non-diesel motor fuel are each responsible for about 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, out of total U.S. emissions of 6 billion tons. So these sources together reflect about 40 percent of America’s carbon footprint."

1.2/6 = 20%, which makes calculations of carbon footprint all but useless.

The two countries in the developed world with the lowest per capita emissions are Hong Kong and Switzerland, neither of which has a temperate climate. So obviously there has to be something at play other than how much air conditioning and heating a city needs.

arcady said...

Switzerland clearly gets a huge benefit from its almost 100% carbon-free power system (it's mostly hydro, with some nuclear), and the 100% electrified railway system, along with plentiful streetcars and trolleybuses.

Pedestrianist said...

here's a comment I made to a friend who sent me the same article:

This is a general truism that's often misapplied. There's an environmental benefit to living in the urban core over the outlying suburbs, but it does not necessarily follow that more housing in the urban core solves the environmental problems of the outlying suburbs. This is true, maybe if we plan on closing down the wasteful burbs and relocating people to the denser cores, but nobody proposes doing that.

A two-birds-one-stone solution is to densify the suburbs and decrease their environmental impacts. In both cases the new housing has a low eco-footprint, but in the latter case the suburbs no longer have a high one. It's also cheaper and easier to bring, say, Richmond or San Mateo to the density of SF than it is to similarly increase the density of SF.

That's not to say that urban cores should not accommodate new growth. Personally, I think the answer is a strict urban limit line imposed like yesterday. New growth must all be accommodated by the existing developed land. Densification happens across the board, including the cores, without also expanding "brown" suburbs.

IMHO...

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that urbanizing California means needing (and maintaining) less road surface, which means less runoff, which means much easier management of Cali's water challenges.

Anonymous said...

The article seems on point, though the linked article about California's Potemkin Environmentalism takes an argument with a few good points and supports it with half-truths about other situations.

I was surprised that the LA suburbs were so much greener than LA proper. I wonder if the data included the reality that LA proper is powered by the LA Department of Water and Power, which buys power from coal-fired plants in Utah, while the suburbs are powered by Southern California Edison, which has a large profile of Nuclear, Hydro, and Natural Gas.

njh said...

Given that half of downtown San Jose is surface level car parking or overwide roads, there is plenty of room for densification!

njh said...

Oh, and the 'strong negative correlation'? If that has an r < -0.5 I'll be surprised.