A Facebook exchange with some folks I respect about my recent article “The Story of Density, Unpacked” that was highlighted over at Real Clear Policy yesterday.

  • Mandy Metcalf Respectfully, density has a lot of actual benefits, such as walkability and sustainability. I agree creative class theory is bogus but I don’t see how that leads logically to a critique of density.
  • Lynn Phares I agree with Mandy Metcalf. Common sense and economic reality are frequently tossed aside in the rush to disprove Richard Florida. He was a hero to planners and politicians but urban/labor economists were often dubious of the power of the creative class. I wish we could move beyond this idea of a “silver bullet” that will magically fix cities. Density helps precisely because it is a more efficient use of resources and it means there are the economies of scale to support the million and one pieces needed for a city to thrive.
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  • Richey Piiparinen Thanks for the comments. The essay was not a critique of density as a thing in itself. There are many benefits to dense, livable neighborhoods. The critique was against using density as a facade to facilitate unequal, harmful spatial development of cities that in the long run have greater negative consequences to the neighborhood fabric than benefits. I am focusing on “wealth jamming” here, or creating vertical towers of affluence. I want to move past this story as well, but to do that the story needs to be exposed for the fallacies inherent in it. Then we can get back to density as a sustainable form of development. Not a big sprawl guy after all.
  • Richey Piiparinen Also Lynn Phares and Mandy Metcalf, this is a great read on the concept that came from the piece. Again, density is outcome of great cities, not a goal. The ones making it a goal are the ones benefiting financially, i.e. real estate developers, who, quite frankly, know little about broad economic growth, and how to get there. They know pro formas. http://cornersideyard.blogspot.com/…

  • Mandy Metcalf Richey Piiparinen I had missed the subtleties of your point – thanks for explaining further. My perspective is that density must be a strategy that a city actively pursues or it just doesn’t happen. Otherwise it’s just too easy to tear down buildings for parking lots that support sprawl or to allow a house to go up on several consolidated lots in neighborhoods where we want to preserve density. Cities don’t happen entirely organically these days – they follow the rules we set for them. Density will only be an outcome if we plan for it and nurture the demand for density with zoning, parking and street infrastructure policies that support it.
  • Richey Piiparinen I agree Mandy Metcalf. Cities must also plan for equitable, integrated redevelopment as well, or the benefits of density, economically, will get drowned out by the negative effects of segregated societies.