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Old 07-31-2011, 04:47 AM
 
8,332 posts, read 14,851,261 times
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No...I said "cutting down on average passenger miles driven means less pollution in the air," in addition to the other environmental benefits of limiting sprawl, mostly having to do with less paving of the countryside. Paving means taking a piece of land out of service as farmland or as open/undeveloped land--in either case, a resource that is difficult if not impossible to bring back once it's gone.
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Old 07-31-2011, 10:42 AM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Well later in your post you said
Quote:
cleaner air is better for breathing.
So I assumed that what you meant by less pollution in the air was cleaner air in cities.

And the main advantage of having less overall pollution in the air would be a reduced greenhouse gas effect. If it's asthma or other respiratory problems that you're worried about, concentration of pollutants like ozone and particulates is what matters, not the overall amount.

There's other environmental advantages of low density.

Heat Island: Dense areas usually have a high percentage of paved surfaces (includes roofs), which makes for a strong heat island effect, and higher FSIs mean the effect of air conditioning heating the neighbourhood will be stronger. While dense sprawl and employment sprawl (office parks, strip malls, etc) aren't really better, low density leafy suburbs have an advantage in the respect.

Biodiversity: Depending on the nature of the sprawl, it can actually be pretty high. If it's just houses with very big lawns or dense sprawl with small gardens, it won't be especially high. However, neighbourhoods like mine which have 1/4 acre lots with many mature trees, flower beds and shrubs, biodiversity is high. It's certainly far far higher than in monocultures, which is what most of today farmland is.

I would say that my neighbourhood's biodiversity is even higher than that of natural areas in Ontario. Why? Because those areas are typically dominated by a small number of plants. Say there's a Maple forest, there's maple trees that seeded themselves over a large area, and the understory is dominated by young maples too. However, the people in my neighbourhood would find that pretty boring, so they plant all sorts of different trees. In my 1/4 acre alone, there is a pear tree, 3 species of spruce, a white maple, some sort of coffee tree, a japanese maple, white pines, hemlocks, cedars, black ash, a magnolia, lilacs, a small tree that looks like a hydrangea and a juniper. Then there are bushes: honeysuckle, forsythia, dogwood, saskatoon berry, holly, several kinds of conifers and maybe a dozen other species. Add to that probably around a hundred different species of flowers and groundcover, much of which weren't planted. The fact that there are a mix of sunny and shaded areas, and tons of different plants creates many different environment for animals. Animals I've seen here include muskrats, moles, field mice, chipmunks, squirells (grey/black and red), opposums, raccoons, skunks, foxes, rabbits, deer (possibly lost though), bats, toads, frogs, hawks, herons, ducks, geese, seagulls, kingfishers, owls, crows, blue jays, turkey vultures flying overhead, doves, hummingbirds, several kinds of smaller woodpeckers, swallows, just about all songbirds native to the area, probably more birds I've forgotten, snapping turtles, painted turtles, suckers (a kind of fish). On walks around the neighbourhood and to Lake Ontario, I've seen coyotes, beavers, about a dozen kinds of ducks, cormorans, swans, sterns and pileated woodpeckers too.

While streetcar suburb type densities can have more than pigeons and sparrows, I don't see how they could be this diverse. And yes, I know some low density sprawl just has big lawns with little else. In the Toronto area though, a 1/2 or 1/4 acre lot is a big investment, so people will also invest in having a nice garden.
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Old 07-31-2011, 12:10 PM
 
Location: MN
378 posts, read 617,076 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
2018: Upon what do you base that "three miles" limit? Is there a reason why they should not be closer? Most healthy adults can walk three miles, but that's far enough to drive a lot more people to drive. Part of encouraging walkability is making it EASY TO DO. City dwellers walk more not because they are consciously attempting to walk more, but because it's often simpler to walk than drive (parking and traffic are hassles they can avoid by walking, for example.) Obviously there are some uses that really should be separate--big factories and powerplants, for example--but why should commercial offices be forcibly separated from residential neighborhoods, or businesses that serve the needs of people in those neighborhoods?
The three mile figure is arbitrary, it could be adjusted up or down. I would consider three miles viable by foot and very easy by bicycle.

I'm not trying to force social change here. Maybe that's the difference in our perspectives. I personally don't want to drive in most daily situations. So, I want a neighborhood where I can access the benefits of cycling and walking. Whether other people choose this as well isn't a big deal for me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
And what specifically are your criticisms of high-density/high-rise living in this context? As I mentioned above, high density and high-rises are not a requirement of walkability--but they do make it a lot easier. It sounds like you're trying really hard to have your cake and eat it too--kind of like saying that it's okay to eat chocolate cake and bacon cheeseburgers as long as they're healthy chocolate cake and bacon cheeseburgers, instead of that other kind. But I'm not seeing a difference between them.
Well, just look at everything that has already been mentioned. Vibrant, dense urban streets are crowded, both with people and with cars. Visibility is poor because of street narrowness and close, tall buildings. Limited space and existing development make the construction of separate multi-use trails more difficult and expensive.

Post 283, which I wrote yesterday, sums up a lot about my position. If I'm choosing to ride my bike instead of driving, it's because I don't want to drive. Treating bikes as cheaper, cleaner cars doesn't do a lot for me.
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Old 07-31-2011, 01:13 PM
 
8,332 posts, read 14,851,261 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
Heat Island: Dense areas usually have a high percentage of paved surfaces (includes roofs), which makes for a strong heat island effect, and higher FSIs mean the effect of air conditioning heating the neighbourhood will be stronger. While dense sprawl and employment sprawl (office parks, strip malls, etc) aren't really better, low density leafy suburbs have an advantage in the respect.
You answered your own question--sprawl isn't really better. Heat islands are quite prevalent in suburban areas: look at the parking lot of any suburban mall, it represents a gigantic heat island. Low-density suburbs aren't "leafy," they are generally more "asphalt-y." Less car-centric development and more walkability makes "leafy" environments more prevalent, and reduces the overall paved land area for the same population. If you're talking about strictly residential areas, they still have plenty of street asphalt, big driveways, etcetera--in higher ratio of asphalt per person than a comparable urban residential neighborhood.

Quote:
Biodiversity: Depending on the nature of the sprawl, it can actually be pretty high. If it's just houses with very big lawns or dense sprawl with small gardens, it won't be especially high. However, neighbourhoods like mine which have 1/4 acre lots with many mature trees, flower beds and shrubs, biodiversity is high. It's certainly far far higher than in monocultures, which is what most of today farmland is.

I would say that my neighbourhood's biodiversity is even higher than that of natural areas in Ontario. Why? Because those areas are typically dominated by a small number of plants. Say there's a Maple forest, there's maple trees that seeded themselves over a large area, and the understory is dominated by young maples too. However, the people in my neighbourhood would find that pretty boring, so they plant all sorts of different trees. In my 1/4 acre alone, there is a pear tree, 3 species of spruce, a white maple, some sort of coffee tree, a japanese maple, white pines, hemlocks, cedars, black ash, a magnolia, lilacs, a small tree that looks like a hydrangea and a juniper. Then there are bushes: honeysuckle, forsythia, dogwood, saskatoon berry, holly, several kinds of conifers and maybe a dozen other species. Add to that probably around a hundred different species of flowers and groundcover, much of which weren't planted. The fact that there are a mix of sunny and shaded areas, and tons of different plants creates many different environment for animals. Animals I've seen here include muskrats, moles, field mice, chipmunks, squirells (grey/black and red), opposums, raccoons, skunks, foxes, rabbits, deer (possibly lost though), bats, toads, frogs, hawks, herons, ducks, geese, seagulls, kingfishers, owls, crows, blue jays, turkey vultures flying overhead, doves, hummingbirds, several kinds of smaller woodpeckers, swallows, just about all songbirds native to the area, probably more birds I've forgotten, snapping turtles, painted turtles, suckers (a kind of fish). On walks around the neighbourhood and to Lake Ontario, I've seen coyotes, beavers, about a dozen kinds of ducks, cormorans, swans, sterns and pileated woodpeckers too.

While streetcar suburb type densities can have more than pigeons and sparrows, I don't see how they could be this diverse. And yes, I know some low density sprawl just has big lawns with little else. In the Toronto area though, a 1/2 or 1/4 acre lot is a big investment, so people will also invest in having a nice garden.
Why exactly would streetcar suburbs be less biodiverse than that? I live in just such a streetcar suburb adjacent to downtown, and we have essentially the same variety of species (obviously with different species based on Canada vs. the western United States)--heck, we discovered a raccoon on the porch a few days ago, and on my walk home last week I saw a hawk perched on the light rail bridge near my house. That's in addition to the regular assortment of bats, occasional turkeys, Swainson's hawks, owls, crows, hummingbirds, skunks, opossums and other critters. A friend does a nature/wildlife tour of the river area north of our neighborhood once a month, and they too are amazed at the biodiversity so close to the city center--he even spots the occasional deer. And in the city itself, there is a riot of tree varieties, mostly East Coast varieties due to decisions made a century ago, which gives us a big supply of elms, liquidambar, London plane, and an assortment of oaks (some native, some not), palm trees (because this is California, after all), citrus trees (again, this is California), redwoods (ditto) and a wide variety of other fruit trees--figs, loquats, pears, plums (often just there for the gleaning) and ornamentals. Landscaping varies from rose gardens to succulents and cacti, and the recent resurgence of interest in urban gardening has led to a lot of front-yard vegetable crops and new community gardens. And some folks just have grass lawns. Generally, the houses in my neighborhood are set back 10-15 feet from the sidewalk, with a "mow strip" 6-8 feet wide between sidewalk. But there's room there for street trees, shrubs, planter boxes and potted plants, plus more plants in the backyard for lots that have them.

Meanwhile, in the suburbs....
Oak Park, Michigan Resident Julie Bass Faces 93 Days In Jail For Vegetable Garden
Quote:
After a warning, a ticket and now a misdemeanor charge, an Oak Park, Mich., woman faces up to 93 days in jail for refusing to remove a vegetable crop from her front lawn.
Julie Bass says that she thought it would be "really cool" for the neighbors and kids to see a frontyard garden, but some city officials don't appreciate the vegetable plot.
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Old 07-31-2011, 02:03 PM
 
Location: Sacramento, Placerville
2,510 posts, read 5,271,016 times
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The heat island effect in suburbs is significantly less than central city and industrialized areas. The type of surface area is the largest factor. Pavement, masonry and roofing increase surface temperatures significantly. Lawns, gardens, parks and trees don't. Dense high-rise buildings trap a tremendous amount of heat creating disproportionately warmer nights in downtown areas because the traditional release of heat from one building goes across the street and heats the other buildings around it. Pavement is the only major factor in the suburbs. Roofing is thin and doesn't have the thermal mass to retain heat an hour past sunset. Most of the heat from the exterior wall of homes dissipates into the landscaping around the houses. Landscaping loses heat to the sky or through transpiration.
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Old 07-31-2011, 04:30 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,646 posts, read 3,865,189 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
You answered your own question--sprawl isn't really better. Heat islands are quite prevalent in suburban areas: look at the parking lot of any suburban mall, it represents a gigantic heat island. Low-density suburbs aren't "leafy," they are generally more "asphalt-y." Less car-centric development and more walkability makes "leafy" environments more prevalent, and reduces the overall paved land area for the same population. If you're talking about strictly residential areas, they still have plenty of street asphalt, big driveways, etcetera--in higher ratio of asphalt per person than a comparable urban residential neighborhood.
I would say that the heat island effect of residential parts of low density suburbs matters more than the commercial areas since people there will spend most of their time outdoors in the own yards. And in low density residential areas, the percentage of space covered by asphalt should generally be lower. The per capita asphalt is not what matters for a heat island effect.


Quote:
Why exactly would streetcar suburbs be less biodiverse than that? I live in just such a streetcar suburb adjacent to downtown, and we have essentially the same variety of species (obviously with different species based on Canada vs. the western United States)--heck, we discovered a raccoon on the porch a few days ago, and on my walk home last week I saw a hawk perched on the light rail bridge near my house. That's in addition to the regular assortment of bats, occasional turkeys, Swainson's hawks, owls, crows, hummingbirds, skunks, opossums and other critters. A friend does a nature/wildlife tour of the river area north of our neighborhood once a month, and they too are amazed at the biodiversity so close to the city center--he even spots the occasional deer. And in the city itself, there is a riot of tree varieties, mostly East Coast varieties due to decisions made a century ago, which gives us a big supply of elms, liquidambar, London plane, and an assortment of oaks (some native, some not), palm trees (because this is California, after all), citrus trees (again, this is California), redwoods (ditto) and a wide variety of other fruit trees--figs, loquats, pears, plums (often just there for the gleaning) and ornamentals. Landscaping varies from rose gardens to succulents and cacti, and the recent resurgence of interest in urban gardening has led to a lot of front-yard vegetable crops and new community gardens. And some folks just have grass lawns. Generally, the houses in my neighborhood are set back 10-15 feet from the sidewalk, with a "mow strip" 6-8 feet wide between sidewalk. But there's room there for street trees, shrubs, planter boxes and potted plants, plus more plants in the backyard for lots that have them.
From my understanding, you live somewhere between C Street and H Street in Sacramento? That neighbourhood doesn't look especially dense, I was thinking of something more like Trinity-Belwoods in my city. Trinity-Belwoods has densities that don't allow for especially high street cover, fewer places for wildlife to hide, a high percentage of paved surfaces and roofs, more busy streets, houses and fences that act as obstacles for getting from point A to point B. I would expect to find only the species most adapted to urban areas: pigeons, sparrows, crows, hawks/falcons, raccoons, gray squirrels, maybe swallows. From streetview, your neighbourhood looks more similar to mine than Trinity Bellwoods.

The species I listed which I would say are least adapted to living in urban neighbourhoods (not city parks) are probably foxes, coyotes, rabbits (if there are fences or rowhouses) and pileated woodpeckers.
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Old 07-31-2011, 04:45 PM
 
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I read a profile on a subdivision in Lake County IL. Some of the homeowners were happy with the lack of sidewalks and the spacious lots, while being a short distance from the train station if they wanted to go to Chicago.
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:17 PM
 
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memph: Your understanding is incorrect. The point isn't the specific neighborhood, the point is that biodiversity and variety of flora and fauna are not necessarily a product of urban type--and suburbs generally aren't particularly biodiverse, to the point where many suburban neighborhoods actively ban the use of front lawns for vegetable farming.

Connected row houses are very uncommon in West Coast neighborhoods, even of the "streetcar suburb" era--they tend to be detached homes and low-rise apartments rather than attached row houses, with the exception of geographically limited places like San Francisco.

You claimed streetcar suburbs lacked biodiversity, I provided an example to the contrary--and I would argue that, no, generally suburbs are not wonderful places of biodiversity, unless you include crabgrass and feral cats. The amount of pesticides, herbicides and other assorted crud used to keep suburban lawns and landscaping in their pristine state also count as polluting waste--and kill off a lot of potential biodiversity. And claiming that suburbs (or cities, for that matter) are more biodiverse than a pristine forest is downright laughable--even a predominantly single-species forest has many species at different levels of flora and fauna.
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Old 07-31-2011, 09:06 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,646 posts, read 3,865,189 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
memph: Your understanding is incorrect. The point isn't the specific neighborhood, the point is that biodiversity and variety of flora and fauna are not necessarily a product of urban type--and suburbs generally aren't particularly biodiverse, to the point where many suburban neighborhoods actively ban the use of front lawns for vegetable farming.
My argument is that higher densities are less suitable to wildlife and will have less private greenspace and fewer trees. And generally a city's core is higher density than a suburban neighbourhood.

Are there other suburban neighbourhoods like that? All I could find was that one case in Oak Park where the city of Oak Park was making some bogus claims about how it should somehow be obvious that vegetables would not be considered suitable when they didn't define what suitable plants were. By the way, I think they dropped their case against that woman. Besides, cities and suburbs alike try to restrict what residents and developers can do all the time, and NIMBY attitudes exist in both.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Connected row houses are very uncommon in West Coast neighborhoods, even of the "streetcar suburb" era--they tend to be detached homes and low-rise apartments rather than attached row houses, with the exception of geographically limited places like San Francisco.
And the neighbourhoods in cities like Los Angeles or Seattle that have comparable densities to Trinity Bellwoods also similarly little wildlife for mostly similar reason, so...

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
You claimed streetcar suburbs lacked biodiversity, I provided an example to the contrary--and I would argue that, no, generally suburbs are not wonderful places of biodiversity, unless you include crabgrass and feral cats. The amount of pesticides, herbicides and other assorted crud used to keep suburban lawns and landscaping in their pristine state also count as polluting waste--and kill off a lot of potential biodiversity. And claiming that suburbs (or cities, for that matter) are more biodiverse than a pristine forest is downright laughable--even a predominantly single-species forest has many species at different levels of flora and fauna.
What's downright laughable is to suggest that a place that is dominated by one kind of plant is more biodiverse than a place that has a very wide variety of plants. I already said that in a previous post that neighbourhoods like this weren't what I was talking about, so I'm not sure why you're talking about crabgrass. I was talking about neighbourhoods more like Mineola in Mississauga. The animals that exist in local wilderness areas but I haven't seen in my neighbourhood are bobcats, porcupines, certain snake species, and salamanders. However, I wouldn't be surprised if there were more red squirrels, foxes and skunks in my neighbourhood, there are almost certainly more opposums, and definitely more chipmunks, gray squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and songbirds. Pesticides are banned for cosmetic purposes (like lawns) in my province, but I guess in the US that can be a problem.
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Old 07-31-2011, 11:15 PM
 
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An awful lot of planned/gated communities, any place with an HOA, generally put a lot of restrictions on what you can have in your front yard--including basketball hoops, flags, etcetera. City regulations against planting vegetables in front yards aren't that uncommon, many were put into effect after World War II to reduce people's "victory gardens"--it was considered kind of tacky. We had such an ordinance, not really enforced until someone in one of our more posh neighborhoods called code enforcement on a vegetable-planting neighbor. Our city had the good sense to toss the ordinance.

But in newer HOA-dominated suburbs, I am pretty certain that things like front-yard vegetable gardens are prohibited by their covenants, codes and restrictions.

I really think you assume that American suburbs are exactly like Canadian suburbs. They aren't. For starters, we don't spell it "neighbourhoods" here.
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