This isn’t particularly Bay Area related, but I figure I’d post it because… well… I don’t like cul de sacs
WSJ.com – The Suburbs Under Siege
According to the Census Bureau, the population of American suburbs grew 12% from 1980 to 2000, while the total population in center cities grew by just 1%. Likewise, from 1997 to 2003, the total percentage of American housing units located in the suburbs rose to 62 million, an increase of about 9%. The influx of homes in the suburbs, and the traffic they bring, has become the chief concern of planners across the nation, many of whom are struggling to mitigate the impact of car culture.
City planners are increasingly criticizing cul-de-sacs.
To some of them, cul-de-sacs have come to represent a failed experiment that has produced more isolation and more traffic by forcing people into their cars. David Schrank, a transportation researcher with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, says the old “peak hour” of traffic in many suburbs has been replaced by a longer “peak period.” As new developments spring up, he says, “sometimes the transport network isn’t in place to support them.”
In some growing suburbs, “cul-de-sac” is becoming a dirty word. At a meeting in April with the planning commission in Northfield, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis that has adopted rules preventing the use of cul-de-sacs, developer Lynn Giovannelli of Miles Development says she was “blindsided” by a chorus of objections about a single cul-de-sac she was including in plans for part of a new subdivision called Rosewood. “The land parcel was a funky shape, and I told them the only way to do anything with it is to do a cul-de-sac,” she says. One commissioner told her to put in a park instead. “Preposterous,” she says. “I was rolling my eyes.”
While the plan was ultimately approved, it wasn’t unanimous. “We might be prejudiced,” says Jim Herreid, one of two commissioners who voted against the plan. “But we just don’t like cul-de-sacs because they restrict the ability to get around town easily.”
For all the criticism aimed at them, cul-de-sacs do seem to have one last defender: the free market. Real-estate brokers say that despite the recent opposition by policy makers, homes on cul-de-sacs still tend to sell faster than other homes — and often command a comfortable premium. Ralph Spargo, the vice president of product development for Standard Pacific Homes in Irvine, Calif., says his company charges as much as 5% more for a home located on one. (For a house that sells for the April 2006 national median price of $223,000, that works out to about $11,000).
Rochelle Johnson, a 38-year-old real-estate agent from Lakeville, Minn., who grew up on a cul-de-sac, says she doesn’t worry about the “isolation” — she welcomes it. From her home on a cul-de-sac in a development called Wyldwood Oaks, Mrs. Johnson says the minimal amount of traffic gives her the peace of mind to allow her two children to play soccer in the street. “I don’t know why somebody wouldn’t want to live on a cul-de-sac,” she says.
1. Children playing in the streets? Are you kidding? Who does that? Aren’t they at home watching TV or posting on MySpace?
2. People don’t see a problem with them. Is it because I work 60 hours a week that I’m bothered by every additional minute I have to sit in th ecar?
3. What’s with this desire to get away from everyone? Are we really afraid of ourselves?