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Book cover for Leigh Gallagher's 'The End of the Suburbs'
The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving
By Leigh Gallagher
Hardcover $25.95, Amazon $15.57, Kindle $11.04
Portfolio Hardcover
272 pages
August 2013
Owning a home represented more than just prosperity; over the years, it came to represent patriotism, good citizenship, and the mark of a productive member of society. During the Cold War, home ownership was credited with upholding American free-market ideals.
The suburbs have always represented more to America than just a place to live. For many, it's signalled safety and a haven; for others, stultification and conformity; and for almost everyone, home ownership. When one thinks of the suburbs, it's of owners, not of renters, and of middle-class prosperity.

But as author Leigh Gallagher outlines, all of these defining qualities are changing, and they have been for years:

The more I researched, the more I discovered that the most dramatic shift involves where and how we choose to live—and it isn’t a result of the Great Recession at all. Rather, the housing crisis only concealed something deeper and more profound happening to what we have come to know as American suburbia. Simply speaking, more and more Americans don’t want to live there anymore.
But so implanted in the American psyche is the dream of the leafy burbs, its cul-de-sacs, its supposedly better schools and big backyards, few paid attention to the reverse migration, which has been unfolding for quite a while in distinctive patterns, as we'll learn below the fold.

The truth is, whatever psychic national need was met by moving further and further out of cities, something changed. And the hip, the urban, the public transport, the lure of the bright lights, once again began to call, especially to the younger generations of Americans who are just getting started on the family-raising business.

Things millennials don’t want: lawns to take care of, extra or "museum" rooms that don’t get used, long commutes, too much space. What they do want: lots of space for entertaining, enough room for the Wii, open kitchens to cook for themselves and their friends, outdoor fire pits, maybe a space for their dog. Oh, and they want to rent. Because of their lack of job security, interest in preserving freedom and flexibility, and the fact that many of them were spooked by the recent housing market crash, millennials don’t see home ownership the way generations before them did. Some demographers have taken to calling them "Generation Rent."
The rising generation is one of limited expectations, coming of age with student debt and a shaky economy. They wisely don't want to get weighed down with acreage and auto loans, McMansions and overwhelming square footage. Along with the downside of not craving a big lawn, a three-car garage and 5,000-square-feet of living space comes a whole "small is more beautiful" philosophy that impacts not only real estate, but the whole consumer culture:
Smaller homes fit less stuff, of course, and there’s a major shift in the zeitgeist taking place here, too. While the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s saw an explosion in conspicuous consumption, the Great Recession and the housing bust and the ensuing reset that has taken place have tempered our collective materialism and ushered in a small but growing “anti-stuff” mentality.
In one way or another, directly or indirectly, almost every boom of the suburbs—and now the bust—is related to America's infatuation and dependence on the automobile. "Of all the many complaints about the modern, postwar American suburbs," Gallagher writes, "most of them can be traced in some way to the suburbs’ relationship with the car." This reliance has become particularly painful in an era of rising fuel costs, more social consciousness about energy usage, and—most importantly—the reluctance to fund and maintain infrastructure. Indeed, more than any other aspect, it's the refusal of government to continue the subsidizing of the suburbs that is sounding their death knell:
Suburban development itself—everything from the federal highway system to the single-family home to the low price of gasoline in the United States compared to other countries—was all built and still depends on generous governmental subsidies. “The suburbs are a big government handout if there ever was one,” the author William Upski Wimsatt wrote in the Washington Post in a 2011 article debunking five myths about the suburbs. Myth number three: the suburbs are a product of the free market.
Yes, much as Republicans will want to deny it, the suburbs have been freeloading off the cities and states forever.  "The financial viability of our modern suburbs was flawed from the start," Gallagher writes. "The lower density pattern of development doesn’t yield enough tax revenue to pay for the infrastructure needed to support them—one reason many municipalities are struggling or going broke."

And now that the free ride is over, the suburbs are crumbling, with rising poverty rates, potholes, and little experience in creating a safety net. Additionally (and tragically) with the distance between points out there in the burbs, residents who are hanging on have little access to public transportation, so when financial disaster hits, they're stuck—which usually means letting foreclosure take its course.

Gallagher's book is a good guide to the policies and attitudes that led to the creation of what he she [my mistake, the author is a woman. yay! And from here on out, I'm changing the pronouns] terms the "uniquely American phenomenon" of the suburban dream and life. Her history of the rise of their construction touches not only on hard numbers, but on the attitudes of the post-World War II generation that redoubled the spread of the sprawl. And not all of his her views are negative;  she acknowledges that there is a real, deep appeal—especially in the inner suburbs closer to cities—for a divide between the busy world of work and the safe haven of home, between domestic and professional life. Even today, he finds many stalwart champions in the burbs, not all of them old, either.

The End of the Suburbs is neither elegiac nor gleeful, but rather considered and even-handed. Gallagher takes a lot of time detailing the new kinds of communities that are being formed as the zeitgeist changes—namely the revitalization of cities and inner suburbs, of small towns that are once again focusing on mixed-use zoning, with trendy townhomes perched above bakeries or interspersed with parks and libraries, schools and corner stores. There are many ways to live, she concludes, and there still may be those who opt for the rolling hills and McMansions—but that option is no longer the overriding one that young Americans entering the housing market choose by default.

As the country resettles along more urbanized lines, some suggest the future may look more like a patchwork of nodes: mini urban areas all over the country connected to one another with a range of public transit options. It’s not unlike the dense settlement of the Northeast already, where city-suburbs like Stamford, Greenwich, West Hartford, and others exist in relatively close proximity. “The differences between cities and suburbs are diminishing ,” says Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy director Bruce Katz, noting that they are also becoming more alike racially, ethically, and socio-economically.
What becomes clear in Gallagher's thoughtful examination of suburban development is that there is a more interesting—and vital and diverse—smorgasbord of housing choices spread out these days, and she sees this (and describes it well) as a positive development. In other words, The End of the Suburbs is not so much an ending for America as a beginning.
Whatever things look like in ten years—or twenty, or fifty, or more—there’s one thing everyone agrees on: there will be more options. The government in the past created one American Dream at the expense of almost all others: the dream of a house, a lawn, a picket fence, two children, and a car. But there is no single American Dream anymore; there are multiple American Dreams, and the entrepreneurs, academics, planners, home builders, and thinkers who plan and build the places we live in are hard at work trying to find space for all of them.
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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for this (11+ / 0-)

    this is a continuing back-bruner interest and I would like to ask if Gallagher distinguishes between suburban and exurban developments as well as articulating what for some people is an autonomous, even historical phenomenon called "sprawl". I find it problematic to leave it at

    But there is no single American Dream anymore; there are multiple American Dreams, and the entrepreneurs, academics, planners, home builders, and thinkers who plan and build the places we live in are hard at work trying to find space for all of them.
    since it could be argued as some already have, that there never was a single dream in the first place.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 07:16:37 PM PDT

  •  This is a must-read. (14+ / 0-)

    James Howard Kunstler noted the same trends starting in the early 1990s in "Geography of Nowhere," "Home from Nowhere," "The City in Mind," "The Long Emergency," and most recently in "Too Much Magic," and did so in a way that is certainly more acerbic (and acerbically entertaining).

    But Leigh Gallagher neatly encapsulates the same arguments, along with the importance of New Urbanism, and a wealth of demographic data to show that the suburbs' heyday has come and gone, and makes it accessible to people who have perhaps never approached this subject, or those who have had a nagging feeling that something is horribly wrong with our built environment, but can't quite identify WHAT that is.

    I can't recommend this book enough. Every elected official, at every level, should be given a copy of this book.

    •  Geography of Nowhere (6+ / 0-)

      I read that many years ago and thought it was interesting.

      Some of the ideas of the time, though, didn't quite work out. I'm thinking of those mixed-use developments (apartments over stores) that were supposed to be a return to urban living, but placed somewhat in the suburbs. (San Jose has one called "Santana row".) I'm not sure those worked out as well as had been hoped.

      •  I wonder if part of the problem... (10+ / 0-)

        ...lies in having to re-discover and re-learn not only the zoning codes that allow such developments to be built, but the architectural and spatial languages necessary to build those forms well.

        We all but trashed that once Euclidean zoning was deemed legal and after we were stupid enough to look at Le Corbusier's vile "Plan Voisin" and say, "Gee, now there's a great idea!"

        We spent the better part of 60 years trashing our built environment and are only now waking up and, like the teenager who hosted the party, realizing just what a horribly fucked-up mess we inhabit. We'll be a long time rediscovering what we never should have thrown away.

      •  happening in my area (Northern Va) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GayHillbilly

        I think the catch phrase is "smart development" where you first have a mass transit anchor (metro station)

        then you build gobs of condos and high rises on top of the station with integrated parking, shopping, restaurants and pedestrian oriented (e.g., bike trails or lanes)

        add some classy stuff (artsy fartsy movie joints (Angelika) and some bars and live music venues and it starts to approach one form of paradise.

        I live in this chaotically planned corner of Fairfax County called Merrifield. It's a warehouse district in transformation- making a significant effort to become desirable and relevant.

        The problem is that things just cost too god damned much for the next generation- unless everybody is a brain surgeon or a high powered real estate developer or a manager of a software development group or some form of successful entrepreneur which is not anywhere closer to sustainable.

        Real Estate is not just location, location, location. If nobody can afford to buy it's nice on paper but not sustainable.

        From say 1920 to 1970 we say people moving from rural areas into urban areas because the whole enchilada made sense.

        Now we see top notch, highly educated kids that can't afford to live in the neighborhoods they were raised in. This is destroying families. It is like the American Dream has metastasized and is eating the children.

        •  I understand your dismay (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bush Bites

          but really if no one can afford it the price will come down. Prices are high because enough people can afford them to keep them high.

          •  A lot of urban property is being bought by (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            grollen

            The investor class and rented out...

            The wealthy can afford to buy all the real estate and the serfs will pay them for living space...

            Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. - Gandalf the Grey

            by No Exit on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 06:43:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Here in Massachusetts (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              No Exit

              The Boston Globe ran a story on people from China, who could pay cash, snapping up housing in desirable suburbs to rent out or to live in, drawn by the good schools and quiet, leafy environment, so different from Chinese cities these days.

              "I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few." Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934

              by fenway49 on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 12:53:43 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  No single person is to blame... (0+ / 0-)

          ...for the chaotic development of NOVA, but "Til" Hazel comes uncomfortably close.

          Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

          by Egalitare on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 05:31:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Kunstler is referenced throughout (8+ / 0-)

      So I'm pretty sure the conclusions are the same, just updated.

  •  All of the descriptions here apply to me (26+ / 0-)

    I live downtown in the city in a small but nice apartment. I have every conceivable amenity within a short walk: parks, supermarkets, movie theater, dry cleaning, bowling alley, several bars/clubs, universities, multiple medical care facilities, and a truly stunning number of restaurants.

    Now why exactly the fuck would I ever want to move out to the burbs and take care of a giant boring house with a lawn that might be miles from anything fun?

    My friends and I watch TV and make fun of Home Depot commercials where homeowners "enjoy" buying a lawn mower and spending multiple hours on grass mowing and other property upkeep. Why does any individual human ever need or want to own a lawn mower? In the city, the only people who own lawn mowers are the government or corporations. I just pay someone a small amortized amount of taxes or rent to take care of that shit for me. Meanwhile, I'm going rock climbing.

    So, good luck trying to downsize, boomers. A lot of us younger folks aren't buying what you're selling (houses, specifically).

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 07:25:23 PM PDT

    •  Amen (13+ / 0-)

      "The things you own end up owning you."
        - one of the best lines from Fight Club.

       Working all your life collecting sh*t that fills up your garage, and eventually your storage shed, seems like such a waste of time.

      None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

      by gjohnsit on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 07:32:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I live in a condo (4+ / 0-)

      I watch the lawnmower drive by out my window.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 07:45:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is one Boomer who is right there with you. I (10+ / 0-)

      never liked lawns, always thought it was an utter waste, even as a kid. I live in one of the most walkable areas in Chicago, with a score of 99 out of 100. If I did have a yard, it would be a vegetable and wildflower garden with maybe a brick area for sitting and relaxing. But if I want to garden, there are many urban gardens to utilize.

      Since I've lived in the city all of my adult life (except grad school in Iowa City) and am in the arts/academic field, few Boomers I know live in McMansions. In fact, I know none. And none of them want to. Not even my rich BIL. He chose to live on the ocean.

       Who wants to spend his/her worrying about how the fucking lawn looks according to the homeowners' association? Who wants all that crap? The McMansion "communities" (and I use that term loosely) are going to be ghost towns in a very short time, if not now.

      My 31-year-old niece and her husband bought a 4-bedroom house right when they got married 3 years ago. They worked 'round the clock to pay the damn mortgage. Just this year, they said "screw this." Fortunately, it wasn't a McMansion and they could sell quickly and reasonably. They rent now and will not buy again for a long time. Neither will a number of other young people who got totally screwed by the notion of "The American Dream." It was one thing for my parents in the 50s, when there will still sidewalks in the suburbs and a 3-bedroom for a family of 6 was nothing to be "ashamed of."

      I do own a condo which I live in. It is a 1-bedroom I bought right after 9/11. If I move, I can rent it or at least break even if I sell. I walk to work.  It is a nice space and I like it.

    •  Amen^2. I can sit in my apartment, and pay people (5+ / 0-)

      to mow the grounds, fix my toilet, appliances, car, etc.  I work out on my eliptical while others do the work.  I don't own one tool, because I don't need to.  And with my potted plants, I don't need a big yard with a big garden to have a green thumb and display my skills at agriculture. Great lifestyle.

    •  Exactly. (5+ / 0-)

      Me and seven year old daughter live in a two-bedroom apartment that's a short distance from downtown.  Her school is literally a five minute walk away and there's a supermarket and a couple of good restaurants at the end of our block.  There's a bus stop literally in front of the building and within a few minutes, I'm at work.  In fact, thanks to our mass transit system, I don't even need a car, which comes in really handy on my non-profit salary.  

      I don't have to mow a lawn or haul garbage to the curb.  When our hot water heater died, I made a phone call to the rental company and they replaced it.  When other people spend their weekends on upkeep of the yard and house, the hardest part of my weekend is usually having to sit through a kid's movie.

      I've always been baffled about what is supposedly so special about owning a home, and after looking at this thread, it's nice to know I'm not alone.    

    •  I've lived in the city since the day I was born (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      No Exit, grollen

      I downsized my 1100 sq. ft. house in the city when I retired three years ago and moved to a 650-sq condo.

      Now I'm looking at places in the suburbs. In fact that's what I've been doing for the past two hours since I couldn't sleep. I never ever wanted to do it and still don't, but finances may make it necessary.

      Fortunately for me, plenty of people will want my condo.

      Lots of boomers like me who've always lived in the city may have to leave it to those who can afford it. Desirable walkable city neighborhoods are luxury items now.

  •  No one should weep over the suburbs (8+ / 0-)

    It was a bad idea from the start.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 07:26:49 PM PDT

  •  White flight (14+ / 0-)

    A great deal of the suburbs had to do with white flight.  The federal government created a tax system, with heavy levies on the inner city, that subsidized the suburbs.  The white people left, scared that their neighbors were going to kill them.  Those who were not afraid, who were tolerant of all people, were able to buy homes, raise families, in a diverse and highly cultured environment with surprisingly good schools.  This is documented in the film This home is not for sale.

    On the other hand the inner suburbs are the center of high foreclosure rates.  People bought houses because they were cheap, borrowed as the equity rose to fund trips and cars and fancy dinners.  Then when the bottom fell out, they were under, and had no ability to pay. I do not see them coming back.

    The funny thing it happened before.  We used to own a home, 40years ago, in a suburban area.  A second outer ring road was built, and it was thought this area would be developed, being just inside the ring.  It was not.  Developer went out a few miles, built golf course communities and the like.  The inner suburb remained stable but did not grow.  I seem to recall at least one golf course community where half the homes were foreclosed on when the bust hit 25 or 0 years ago.

    •  Detroit died from "white flight"... n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Railfan

      "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

      by unclebucky on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 08:14:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think it was the tax system (4+ / 0-)

      more like the federal highway system that contributed to the creation of suburbs--together with tax deductions for home ownership, VA mortgages, 30-year mortgages, all that...in the 40s and 50s young couples were attracted to the idea of living on their own instead of upstairs from their parents. Then there was of course the "white flight" that occurred in reaction to the migration of southern blacks to the inner city, which picked up steam when the schools were integrated in the 60s and 70s.

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 08:24:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I lived through that in Newark NJ (0+ / 0-)

      My parents moved into a blockbusted neighborhood so that I and my brother could attend the still-excellent school there, and also so that we could get a taste of reality.

      Weequahic High School was once the highest-rated school in the US, by Ph. D.s per capita. Its slide into gang violence and eventual recovery are recounted in the documentary Heart of Stone, centering on Principal Ron Stone. It was half-Black and half-Jewish when I was there, but in no sense integrated. Black students never talked to me in school, with only one exception, although we got on well with all of our neighbors at home.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 11:40:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The coming failure of the suburbs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erichiro

    as a viable model of development, with its attendant hardships and dislocations, will interact in a poisonous way with the Agenda 21 fantasies of the baggers.

    No, the government isn't going to confiscate your property

    We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

    by bmcphail on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 07:36:42 PM PDT

  •  Anyone who wants (5+ / 0-)

    a life with animal companions, including useful ones like chickens and goats, has to move out of the city and the inner suburbs.

    Even the most sound proofed apartment won't keep your neighbors asleep when a rooster calls, or a macaw sounds off.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 07:59:37 PM PDT

  •  zoning laws (7+ / 0-)

    did not take into account that people like to walk to shops, restaurants, parks and libraries.  

    •  Maybe zoning laws follow the lead of developers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wintergreen8694, RustyBrown

      who don't take pedestrians into account. Sidewalks, crosswalks, signage, traffic lights, police security and especially mindful drivers and traffic laws are needed to create a walking community.

      I grew up in a town was built around the transportation and commerce of the water first -- hundreds of years ago -- and then, the train station and the trolley made it a summer destination and finally a bedroom community to New York City. There has been a reliable bus system in place for decades. The ability to walk  in an integrated town and to have mass transit to a cultural and business center was the best of both worlds.

      After 30 years in Manhattan, I am now in a suburb where the historical town center has been gutted for big box stores. My husband walks back and forth to the local university (15 minutes) -- where he works -- and is often harassed by drivers who treat him with derision because he isn't driving a car or a shiny truck. The center of town has been turned into a rotary and it is risky to use the crosswalks because drivers do not always watch out for pedestrians. I have to suppress my Manhattan urges to signal my displeasure, as it is a small town.

      It does take careful planning and good zoning laws to make a safe and walkable community, along with smart civil engineering. Oh, and maybe educating a community that thinks a vehicle is The American Dream.

      •  Zoning laws are designed to keep out (0+ / 0-)

        the riff-raff (whether defined by race or poverty) and maintain an entitled lifestyle. The fact that Millennials do not buy in to the levels of racism or classism of their parents and grandparents is a huge factor in the decline of the white-flight suburbs.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 11:44:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Riff-raff is relative. (0+ / 0-)

          For example: In an affluent area on the East Coast there is a place where there is a dedicated horse culture of riding, showing, and polo. They ride through other people's properties on trails. A self-made billionaire moved into the area and bought up land that included portions of these trails. He fenced it in, impeding access. (He keeps his own stable of horses.) The local horse people thought the billionaire was trash (i.e., riff-raff) for not behaving like a gentleman by allowing access and the billionaire thought the locals were trespassers (i.e., riff-raff) for riding through another person's property. Who is the true riff-raff here? I don't ride horses or own property so I don't have a dog in this fight.

          I agree,  the Millenials are not inculcated with the level of racism that their parents and grandparents were.

  •  The nodes thing seems to be where we SHOULD (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Railfan, worldlotus, wintergreen8694

    be going. They call them "bedroom communities" in the East but they have them, in the Midwest, too: more or less small towns with an overburden of housing, usually located a short distance from a larger city. I saw this in downstate Illinois, with the small towns that ring Champaign-Urbana turning into basically suburbs but 10-20 miles of cornfields away. However there were a few essential stores in each town that survived the big box invasion of the county, and people found it much easier and convenient to buy things there either unique or as fill-ins for stuff they'd eventually get on their regular week-end trips to the city. Of course, lots of residents of these towns also worked at the University of Illinois, but again, a 20-mile commute on a interstate through the cornfields was nothing like trying to go twenty miles on the Long Island Expressway at rush hour.
    And beyond that, Champaign-Urbana was also an "outer suburb" for Chicago, or could be, if high-speed trains ever become a reality in Illinois. Taking a train that could zip you from C-U to downtown Chicago in 30-45 minutes would make working on the Magnificent Mile and living on Green Street in Champaign a reality hard to resist.

    Ash-sha'b yurid isqat an-nizam!

    by fourthcornerman on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 08:11:38 PM PDT

  •  I live on the cusp of a 'burb and Chicago. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Railfan, worldlotus, GayHillbilly

    They just discontinued our CTA bus that had run from the 1950s to a month before. Now the bus stop signs are gone. The benches are still there. And we are a middle class 'burb/Chicago neighbourhood.

    Now, to get to the CTA or even RTA, we have to walk 1.5 km to the nearest bus and 2 km to the rail link.

    Lovely. Progerse, eh?

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

    by unclebucky on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 08:13:16 PM PDT

    •  That's too bad. (0+ / 0-)

      I know they're extending the orange and yellow L lines.

      Too bad they're eliminating bus service at the same time.

      •  But you should see the way that they are... (0+ / 0-)

        going to extend those L lines.

        Yellow. A single track from Dempster to up north. But, look where the end station is going to be given the rights of ways. Man, it's going to look like the Toonerville Trolley. And... a SINGLE TRACK. Does that give anyone any confidence?

        Orange. Now, here I have to punt. It ends at Midway Airport. So, can they extend it with two tracks (normal method) further south??? As I look at the google map, yes. There seems to be an undisturbed right of way to the south that could go past the rail yards.

        Thing is, both of these are half-baked solutions for a problem that since the 50s has been designed for failure.

        Fawgidabowdit. ;o)

        Ugh. --UB.

        "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

        by unclebucky on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 01:30:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  David Foster? (0+ / 0-)

    Does the book reference David Foster at all?
    He's been writing about the ecological hazards of the suburbs for a long time.

  •  40 years ago I lived in Woodland Hills, CA. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CSPAN Junkie

    That's part of the San Fernando Valley (LA County) for those who don't know. A large section of Woodland Hills had been owned by the Warner Bros and was called Warner Ranch. Using that property, developers created a pre-planned community, dividing it up into single-family dwellings, multi-family dwellings (apartments), shopping (strip malls and shopping centers), and industrial. That allowed people to live and work in the same area. No freeway driving. However, if a person wanted to venture out, it was in close proximity to all LA has to offer.

    When I lived there (in an apartment) there was a corn field across the street, and a huge lot in the back filled with wildflowers. Now, of course, it's all filled in.

    But I still like the concept.

    •  I also lived in woodland hills 40 yrs ago (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HappyinNM

      But the kicker is our home with a half acre was bought for 28k, we sold in 1970 for 140k, now that same property is in the millions!  So the dream of home ownership for the same type of property is totally out of reach for the next generations.  Oh and yes during that time we had a grand time exploring lots of vacant land, gullies and open spaces, now it is just a bunch of paved crap.

      Takin it to the Streets! time to GOTV

      by totallynext on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 04:20:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another reason (7+ / 0-)

    Republicans might not want to face the demise of the suburbs is that voters, on average, are more conservative out in the burbs than they are in the inner cities. You could argue, indeed, that populous suburbs, as much as any other social force, have kept the Republican party viable for all these decades.

    Thanks for the review.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 09:06:10 PM PDT

    •  It's funny, though. (6+ / 0-)

      The older the suburb is, the more Democratic it is likely to be.

      I personally think that's because that rugged individualism crap doesn't really work when you have higher population densities and, perhaps, an aging infrastructure. You have to make it work, and that requires investment and collective action.

      That's why I think much of the sunbelt has been living in fantasy land for the past 30 years -- everything's new, nothing's breaking down, and they're very spread out. But that won't always be the case.

      •  sustainability versus slash-and-burn (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        karmsy, RustyBrown, Dont Get MAD

        I don't think the issue is specifically "aging infrastructure" as much as it is "cyclic infrastructure". A lot of America isn't old enough to have to consider the growth, death, and regrowth of infrastructure and urban areas as an ongoing cycle. We still have  bit of the frontier mentality of "use it up and move on". The rugged individual who can simply move to another meadow and build another house when this one is too old is a fixture in the modern conservative mindset.

        The individual who considers himself part of the local community and rationally plans for the replacement of roads and infrastructure over decades is definitely NOT a part of the modern conservative mindset, but it IS a part of the progressive one.

        Living in one place over generations, responsibly, requires a specific mindset, one that considers the needs of others, both present and future others.

        Less "WAAAAH!", more progress.

        by IndyGlenn on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 06:24:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  One thing not mentioned. (4+ / 0-)

    Childless households are growing, which certainly raises the possibility of higher density, lower square footage, living (and also negates the suburban selling points -- schools, safe for children, etc.)

    Also, Boomer Empty Nesters are moving back to the cities as well. I can't count the number of new tenants we have in our urban condo building who raised kids in the burbs, then moved back downtown for their retirement years. It's a trend nobody's talking about.

    •  Same thing where I live (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RustyBrown

      I work at an urban university. Never had kids, but most of my similar aged friends and co-workers do (I'm 47). They are all slapping for-sale signs on their picket fences as soon as the youngest graduates. They buy condos or small bungalows near campus.

      Younger people also live near campus if they do not have children. As you note, more people are childless by choice. Those who do want kids are starting their families at an older age than used to be the case. They live in the city in the meantime. I live in a red state, but the city is blue. Anyone who doesn't "fit the mold" is better off living in town.

      I even know a handful of long-retired people who are re-thinking their decision to stay in their suburban homes. The city boasts one of the top teaching hospitals in the U.S. Support services for those with special needs are more readily available in the city. We have cultural amenities appealing to a variety of ages, interests and abilities. But you can't access any of that easily from the 'burbs with our crappy excuse for a public transportation system.

      The city school system is a hot mess so those with kids live in the 'burbs unless they can afford private school tuition. Everybody else is moving back to town in droves.

       

      Just because you're not a drummer doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time. -- T. Monk

      by susanala on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 06:04:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, Gallagher noted this trend (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      defluxion10

      Folks raise the kids in the suburbs, but once the kids are gone, the empty-nesters, who generally are more affluent again with the cost of rearing kids off them—and generally at the height of their earning power—want to move back into cities where everything is walkable.

  •  One boomer who never liked the 'burbs (4+ / 0-)

    I lived in Park Slope Brooklyn - now one of the most desirable neighborhoods in all of NYC - until I was 13, when we moved to Long Island. I went from a world where I could take buses downtown and subways into Manhattan on my own, to one of "mom, please drive me to the mall/the library/the movies"...

    I hated every second of it. I moved back to NYC to go to college and lived here ever since. I can't wait until the suburbs are ghost towns with tumbleweeds rolling through abandoned cookie-cutter housing developments.

    A nationwide election day general strike? Why not?

    by Miscweant on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 09:50:48 PM PDT

  •  Gallagher sounds either like a child of privilege (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wintergreen8694

    or somebody who hasn't seen very many suburbs.

    I know there aren't many 5,000 square foot houses in my neighborhood.  Plenty of 1100-1200 ft houses, though.

    The big bullet point would seem to be this:

    Because of their lack of job security
    Wants morph to fit needs.  

    I wonder if urban areas act much differently from suburbs when rental units become scarce in the wake of buildings going condo or coop?

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:07:16 PM PDT

  •  When I moved from Japan back to Michigan in '03 (6+ / 0-)

    I was stunned by the changes that had taken place in the five years I'd been gone.  I grew up in Oakland County, which is just north of Detroit and home to a lot of nice, well-off suburbs.  Beyond them, though, the country roads stretched out for miles and miles, apple orchards giving way to corn and soybean farms as you moved toward the middle of the state.  The first time I took a drive along the old highway from the town where my mom lives (a rather ritzy suburb) to the country town where I grew up, I was absolutely stunned.  Where there'd once been nothing but forest and orchard was now mile after mile after mile of new subdivisions, the trees chopped down and replaced with paved roads with big stupid gates announcing the stupid names of the stupid McMansion emplacements (Whispering Valley, etc., barf).  I wondered at the time, who the hell was going to live all the way out there?  The closest work was a good 45-minute commute, minimum.  
    When the housing bubble burst I drove through some of the subs.  At best, only about half the houses they'd planned to build were actually built.  You had $700,000 McMansions with scraggly little trees in their front yards sitting next to empty, weedy lots with capped utility pipes sticking out of the ground and driveways with no houses.  About half of the McMansions were for sale, and most of those were empty and apparently had never been moved into.  
    In the meantime, my wife and I had bought a little duplex in Ferndale, just north of Detroit, a bedroom community for the auto industry that had seen a revival as a hip little urban community, with shopping and city offices all within walking distance.  When we were forced to leave the States again, we were able to offer it to my sisters (13 years younger than me and just out of college) in exchange for paying the taxes on it, which worked out to about $150 a month for each of them.  It let them get a start without a lot of money and gave them a place to live and some peace of mind.  They've since moved out and a variety of friends have taken over the same arrangement.  We couldn't have done that with a McMansion in the middle of nowhere.  
    The sad thing is thinking about all of those subdivisions and the land they wrecked in building them.  You can't get back the 100 year-old trees, or the orchards, or even the corn fields.  What are they going to do with all of those useless houses?
    In Ferndale, meanwhile, they're excited about the plan to put a light rail system in on the median of Woodward Avenue, connecting the city of Detroit with its suburbs with something other than cars.  We look forward to moving back someday soon and enjoying our little city house once more.  

    Odds and ends about life in Japan: 1971wolfie.wordpress.com

    by Hatrax on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:20:53 PM PDT

    •  My cousins live in Ferndale (4+ / 0-)

      and I grew up in Oak Park, which is just west of it.  I know a lot about what you're talking about.  When I graduated high school, we drove out into the country, past the end of Northwestern Highway.  Barely a decade later, my parents were living in a gated community out where we had driven "way out into the country."  But as time went on, most of the jobs seemed to have migrated out into Southfield from Detroit and so a lot of those suburbs started making sense in a different way.  

      Anecdotally, when I was in college I had a summer job in downtown Detroit and wanted to take public transportation from my parents' in Oak Park.  I would bike to Nine Mile and Woodward and park my bike at the Ferndale Public Library before taking the bus down Woodward.  Because no one else was doing anything like this, I parked the bike in the exact same spot every morning.  Oak Park had bike licenses in those days.  A Ferndale cop (the station is right next to the library) seeing my bike in the same spot everyday, assumed it was abandoned and called my mother.  He was quite surprised to learn someone would actually commute by bike to a bus rather than drive a car.  This was in 1976.

      •  Great story! (0+ / 0-)

        Are you still in Michigan?  We've been in Japan since '08 with the exception of a three-week jaunt back home in the summer of '11.  The library in Ferndale has been expanded and modernized, and I think the bike rack is still the same one that's always been there, perhaps the very one you used.  

        I was a little scared of going back to Ferndale and seeing what I expected to be empty storefronts, victims of the great recession.  Instead I found there were even more open stores, great little restaurants, etc.  If anything, it was even more lively than before.  Ferndale is a great place, and incidentally is one of the more gay-friendly towns in the USA.  It's the only place I've seen that has a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar sharing a common wall with a gay and lesbian community center.  

        Odds and ends about life in Japan: 1971wolfie.wordpress.com

        by Hatrax on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 04:24:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Perhaps as important, it's not just anybody (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RustyBrown, Dont Get MAD

    doing the reverse migration, it's the best and the brightest.  I see them everyday in my dense but livable urban neighborhood.  30 years ago there were lots of dogs but very few children.  Today there are still lots of dogs but also lots of babies and children up to 4 or 5.  Also lots of baby strollers that cost as much as a car in my parents' day;)
    But the people with the babies are impressive people, and some of them have 2 or 3...amazing and encouraging.  I have a feeling these will be the best-cared-for and best-educated children in history...

    Armed! I feel like a savage! Barbarella

    by richardvjohnson on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 03:37:53 AM PDT

  •  Owning A Home Has One Advantage (0+ / 0-)

    Currently I own a Co-op (or shares in the company) and the one that that bothers me about apartment living is that as a member of the BDSM community, I can't do what I want in my own home because the neighbors will start freaking out. Noise is the main consideration. My two cats have to be kept apart most of the day because they'll run around after each other and the schmuck downstairs will complain about it.

    If apartment living could accommodate all-of-the-above then I wouldn't covet a house.

    The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

    by The Lone Apple on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 04:05:06 AM PDT

  •  Economic, Social and Environmental Disaster (0+ / 0-)

    Sustainability means having a small footprint. The land is needed as part of the global habitat. When you build in suburbia you cut down the trees, bulldoze the lot, and put up impermeable structures and destroy natural habitat. The residents immediately demand protection from native species.

    The suburbs are a social desert, breeding Right Wing Authoritarians and Religious extremists. The more rural, the more Right Wing. It's because they have no sense of our interdependency.

    The unit family cost of living in the burbs is extremely high.  Spread has high transportation costs, and a high CO2 footprint. Individual wood frame houses are very expensive in the long run in low efficiency and maintenance.

    One of the major reasons that more efficient urban living lost out to the suburbs is that we price real estate in a Capitalist market. You pay for location, and an urban location is advantageous for employment, shopping, culture and recreation. Therefore the price of housing in the city skyrocketed. The point is that the individual was asked to pay for the greater efficiency, whereas in the suburbs the cost was subsidized by government. In the city you were paying a speculative premium for housing location; but you could move to the suburbs and find "affordable" housing. The solution is to build a larger inventory of efficient, affordable living units in and directly around cities. Also we should take another look at how we price housing and change to rules to reflect the greater economic good of being located in an urban environment.

  •  Well, Millenials may think it's better.... (0+ / 0-)

    to rent. I, for one, felt trapped owning a house that could have been hard to sell (in the end, it wasn't). But then IF Millenials choose to "rent", who do you think "owns"???

    Armando, Dolf de Roos, and every unethical and underhanded flipping "experts" that ruined the economy in 2007 and will do it again probably in 2016.

    The "workshops" or "seminars" are starting up again...

    Who owns the property controls the economy. And if they do so in a "Wild West" kinda way, look out, boys and girls!!!

    THIИK.

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

    by unclebucky on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 06:59:29 AM PDT

  •  I can't live in the city (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RustyBrown, defluxion10

    or in an apartment, or a condo.  It drives me crazy to have so many people around all the time, and so many restrictions on what you can and cannot do in your own living space...no outdoor area you can have any private time in, etc.

    But the article mentioned more than just suburbs and cities, and something we always forget to talk about are villages.  It's the perfect environment for someone like me.  I suspect they don't come up in conversation often because so many of them have been wiped out in so many parts of the country.  New England still has them, but I wonder how many younger people have just never even seen one.  (And I'm not talking about the bastardized model which has every chain store in the world, a Walmart on the edge of town, and Disney-esque planned developments)

    •  In the book ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      defluxion10

      Gallagher explores some smaller towns that are turning into magnets. In fact, they may have started out as "outer suburbs" but as commuting became less practical, services started locating there and some small towns become hubs or nodes in themselves. These, he postulates, will become more appealing as well as the massive exburbs (like those in the Inland Empire in Riverside County) collapse.

    •  As a lifelong New Englander (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      defluxion10

      I've spent my time between very rural Maine, and my current situation working in Cambridge and living in a dense inner suburb of Arlington.  I also have a mortgage in Portland ME (my future retirement home).

      Now there are some small towns in Maine that provide amenities and are walk-able (Sanford, Pittsfield, Waterville, for example) But whether they are desirable for younger people is a matter of debate.  

      Frankly Sanford for me was  a place to get away from, not settle into, but that's another story.

  •  Can't Wait to Read This Book (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fenway49

    I am an urban person - grew up in NYC during the bad times (late 1970s and 80s), lived in DC during its bad times (early 90s) as well as Portland, OR and back to NYC (during its good times).

    I have recently moved to the suburbs mainly due to the fact that I have 3 children and can't afford private school for them.

    I can't stand the suburbs.  They are everything Ed Koch said they were - sterile and boring.

    And I despise driving everywhere.  Until the last 2 yrs a car was for weekends rather than everyday use.  I miss public transportation.

    The problem I faced and my guess is many millennial will eventually face is the schools in urban areas generally aren't very good.  And when you are a parent you make incredible sacrifices for your kids including living in communities you don't like.

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