February 2nd, 2008

planet

mixed-use zoning

Interesting post by futurebird in feminist this week about city planning (egads, was that enough links?) Part of the idea of her post is that urban sprawl is bad for women. I think it's bad for everyone, of course, but she brought up the point that women are more likely to be isolated out in a suburb if the family can't afford to own two cars. Years ago, city planners got the idea that to prevent a big smoggy factory from being built where kids play in back yards, we should divide everything up into clean sections of residential, commercial, or industrial. It was one good idea, but now we drive everywhere.

I sort of live in mixed-use space and I think it's fabulous, so I'm a little biased. I still drive a lot, of course. We're two miles from a grocery store which is harsh. I'm five miles from work, four from school. At least I'm centrally located. But thankfully I can walk to a few small independent shops, and there are bars, restaurants, galleries, and theaters all within walking distance. A library is 3/4 mile away; a good walk on a nice day. Before I lived here I had an apartment on the west side of town across from a strip mall. When I moved there it was okay, but as the years went on the strip mall started clearing out... the owner cared a lot more about increasing rent costs than keeping my neighborhood pleasant, so he drove off the grocery store and donut shop where I'd get coffee and my newspaper. By the time I moved out it was mostly vacant, except for a GNC and THREE check cashing/payday loan type establishments. Thanks.

"mixed-use zoning" isn't a term that comes up with a bunch of google hits so maybe there's another name for this whole movement that's going on, but one thing that the articles I read agree on is that people need to advocate for it. we're in the habit of suburbanizing, and it's bad for so many reasons. It's a matter of getting the word out now, that there's a better way.