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Horeb's Corners Support Information
Sprawl Bullet Point Sheet

Bullet Point Sheet | Support Resources

“…We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline. All of which will necessitate a great deal of work…enough for all””
(Le Corbusier, The Radiant City, 1967).

”The pattern of random, unplanned growth commonly known as ‘sprawl’ is a pervasive feature of the American landscape. While it has become the most common form of development surrounding cities and suburbs, hardly anyone would describe it as ideal. In fact, according to a recent Pew Center poll, sprawl has surpassed education and jobs as America’s greatest local concern” (New York Times, March 3, 2000).

“Sprawl has emerged as a national issue. By subsidizing roads, sewers, water plants and utilities, through tax laws and through environmental regulation, the federal government has been both the culprit and the sugar daddy in this drama. The carrot of federal funding continues to push us in directions that produce congestion, pollution, inefficiencies and ultimately the decline of cities” (Denver Post, August 5, 1998).

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“It’s exactly the sort of landscape James Kunstler wrote about in his 1993 book, The Geography of Nowhere. ‘Eighty percent of everything built in America has been built in the last fifty years,’ he wrote, ‘and most of it is depressing, brutal, ugly, unhealthy, and spiritually degrading.’ The phenomenon even has an ugly name: sprawl, a word as bloated and jarring as the cities it has infested” (Michael Penn, “Taming the Suburban Wasteland”, On Wisconsin, Winter 1998).

“Nature abhors a vacuum, and so, it seems, does sprawl: You find it everywhere. Although, long centered by popular myth on Los Angeles and lately pinned on such other western cities as Phoenix and Denver, sprawl fringes virtually every American city, large or small” (“Striking Back at Sprawl”, Historic Preservation, September/October 1995).

“Critics of post-World War II American housing go on endlessly about the horrors of ‘Suburban Sprawl’: those tracts of characterless split-levels, with no shops or businesses to walk to, only driveways connecting to streets connecting to rivers of highways” (Jay Tolson, “Putting the Brakes on Suburban Sprawl”, U.S. News and World Report, March 20, 2000).

“The urban sprawl that has characterized American growth patterns for the past 45 years has been held responsible for a host of problems, including: profligate energy use (Levinson and Strate, 1981 and Newman and Kenworthy, 1989); rising municipal infrastructure costs (Neilson Associates, 1987; Real Estate Research Corporation, 1974; and Frank, 1989); the loss of agricultural and wetlands (OTA, 1984 and Krause and Hore, 1975); the loss of community values (Newman and Kenworthy, 1989 and Hore, 1975); the erosion of current or potential tax bases in urban centers (Weaver, 1987; Wachs, 1977); and the decline of urban environmental quality (RERC, 1974 and Berry et al, 1974)” (Solstice, www.solstice.org).

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“The suburb was the driving force of the post-World War II era, the physical expression of the privatization of life and specialization of place which marks our time. The result of this era is that both the city and the suburb are now locked in a mutually negating evolution toward loss of community, human scale, and nature. In practical terms, these patterns of growth have created on one side congestion, pollution, and desolation, and on the other urban disinvestment and economic hardship” (Peter Calthorpe, The Next American Metropolis, 1993).

“When I consider what has happened to the U.S. city over the last fifty years, when I consider the destructive impact of federal programs grossly excessive road building, the elimination of most trains and transit, FHA-subsidized suburbanization, and other inducements to sprawl, when I consider the resulting social chaos and confusion, as the son of a Presbyterian minister I turn to the first chapter of the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah:

How lonely sits the City that was full of people.
How like a widow she has become.
She that was great among nations.
Princess among provinces has become tributary.
She weeps bitterly at night.
Among all her lovers she has none to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her.”
(John Norquist, The Wealth of Cities, 1998).

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“And from mayors to average citizens, we have heard expressed shared belief in a direct and causal relationship between the character of the physical environment and the social health of families and the community at large. For all the household conveniences, cars, and shopping malls, life seems less satisfying to most Americans, particularly in the ubiquitous middle-class suburbs, where a sprawling, repetitive, and forgettable landscape has replaced the original promise of suburban life with a hollow limitation. In an architectural version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, our main streets and neighborhoods have been replaced by alien substitutes, similar but not the same. Life once spent enjoying the richness of community has increasingly become life spent alone behind the wheel. Lacking a physical framework conducive to public discourse, our family and communal institutions struggle to persist in our increasingly sub-urban surroundings. And, sadly, suburban growth seems to have also drained much of the vitality from our inner cities, where a carless underclass finds itself with diminishing access to jobs and services” (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, 2000).

“We drive up and down the gruesome, tragic suburban boulevards of commerce and we’re overwhelmed at the fantastic, awesome, stupefying ugliness of absolutely everything in sight—the fry pits, the big-box stores, the office units, the lube joints, the compact warehouses, the parking lagoons, the jive-plastic townhouse clusters, the uproar of signs, the highway itself clogged with cars—as though the whole thing had been designated by some diabolical force bent on making human beings miserable” (James Howard Kunstler, Home From Nowhere, 1996).

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“A new Brookings Institute study analyzes the rate of land development in the US from 1982 to 1997 and the declining population density of metro areas. Key findings include:

  • The area of developed land in the nation’s metro areas increased by 47%, while population in those areas grew by 17%.
  • About 25m acres of land was consumed during the period—about the size of Indiana.
  • Only 17 of the 281 cities examined in the study did not suffer declining population densities in their core.
  • The decline in density was far worse in Midwestern and Northeastern urban areas than in Western cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix. In those Western cities, which are mistakenly thought to be the most sprawling, population growth kept pace with the increase in land development.
  • Los Angeles’ density grew by 2.8% because its population grew by 31.2% and outpaced the 27.6% increase in its developed land area. The density of Phoenix increased by 21.9% and that of Las Vegas by 50.8%.
  • Toledo’s population grew a mere 0.3% during the period, while its urbanized land area increased 30%. Pittsburgh saw an 8% decline in population, while its developed land area grew 42.6%. Atlanta’s population jumped 60.8%, but its urbanized area grew 81.5%, or 571,000 acres—greater than any other metro area and equivalent to about three-quarters the size of Road Island.”

(“Sprawl Study Shows Massive Land Appetite”, GrowthNoGrowth, August 2001).

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“If you live in a typical city, an ambulance will probably reach you in about six minutes. The most you will wait is seven minutes. On the other hand, in scattered suburban areas, you’ll likely wait almost 10 minutes and sometimes as long as 15 minutes. This can be a matter of life and death because, according to the American Heart Association, after suffering a heart attack, every minute that passes without restoring a normal heartbeat decreases you chance of survival by 10 percent” (Citizens for a Better Environment, 2040 Getting There: Alternatives to Sprawl in Southeastern Wisconsin, February 1999).

“The haphazard and arbitrary scattering of structures across the landscape devastates rural areas in many ways: it homogenizes the countryside once dotted by forests, fields, farm lands, and rivers, lakes and ponds; it destroys the agricultural heritage of this country; it upsets small-town life; and it changes the economic and cultural character of these areas” (Sierra Club, The Costs of Sprawl: It’s Not Just About Cities, 1998).

“…the average total cost of being a two-car family in Southeastern Wisconsin is $12,334 a year. This includes all ordinary personal expenses, social and environmental costs. If your family includes two active wage earners who each drive 20 miles to work, ordinary out-of-pocket transportation expenses can easily run over $10,000 a year. Again, that’s with a car payment about $115 per month. New car payments will typically exceed twice that amount, raising yearly transportation costs to more than $15,000” (Citizens for a Better Environment, 2040 Getting There: Alternatives to Sprawl in Southeastern Wisconsin, February 1999).

”The consequences of decades of unplanned, rapid growth and poor land-use management are evident all across America: increased traffic congestion, longer commutes, increased dependence on fossil fuels, crowded schools, worsening air and water pollution, lost open space and wetlands, increased flooding, destroyed wildlife habitat, higher taxes and dying city centers” (Sierra Club, The Costs of Sprawl: It’s Not Just About Cities, 1998).

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“Continued reliance on the automobile as the only solution to the transportation demands of the future is unlikely to be successful. Continued emphasis on highway construction may be counter-productive… And additional highway capacity further drains city centers of their dynamism, and burdens those without access to cars” (Solstice, www.solstice.org).

“While the assumption is true that total runoff from a low-density project will be less than from the high-density project, the runoff per unit will be higher, and the ‘missing’ 700 units will not simply disappear. For the sake of example, assume they are constructed in the same watershed in two other 100-acre projects. In this scenario, more roads, more acreage of lawns, and more driveway surfaces are constructed in the low-density projects. The total pollution produced by 1,000 low-density units will be higher than by 1,000 high-density units. A study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the Charleston Harbor project confirms this, finding that low-density sprawl is almost three times as polluting as compact, high-density development, other factors being equal” (Dana Beach, “How Federal ‘Non-Point Source’ Programs Promote Sprawl’, New Urban News, January/February 1999).

”By increasing dependence on the automobile as the primary mode of transportation, and by encouraging inefficient community models, sprawl is also contributing to one of the biggest international environmental problems today—global warming. Cars zipping around highways, or, worse, stuck for hours in traffic jams, spew millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere each year. Even though sprawl is considered a regional problem, its consequences are global” (Sierra Club, The Costs of Sprawl: It’s Not Just About Cities, 1998).

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“Maintaining a fleet of cars to navigate among the housing tracts, commercial strips and office complexes of the American landscape now takes 18 percent of the average family budget” (“Bye-Bye, Suburban Dream”, Newsweek, May 15, 1995).

“Sprawl—technically defined as ‘low-density, automobile-dependent development beyond the edge of service and employment areas’ is ubiquitous and its effects are impacting the quality of life in every region of America, in our large cities and small towns” (Sierra Club, The Costs of Sprawl: It’s Not Just About Cities, 1998).

“Suburban sprawl is built into the zoning code of most communities and the lending policies of virtually every bank” (“Bye-Bye, Suburban Dream”, Newsweek, May 15, 1995).

“Just look at how our failure to honor our connectedness almost destroyed the American landscape: the panorama of sprawl outside so many of our cities—the chaotic, ill-planned development that makes it impossible for neighbors to greet one another on a sidewalk, makes us use up a quart of gasoline to buy a quart of milk, and makes it hard for kids to walk to school or for children to have anywhere safe to play outside—is a vivid manifestation of how badly things go awry when we refuse to look at the whole picture” (Former Vice President Al Gore, Speaking to the Democratic Leadership Council Annual Conference, December 2, 1998).

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“Most people are uncomfortable with their long commutes and are sympathetic to environmental concerns and are unhappy with the ugliness and social fragmentation of suburbia. What they lack is a choice…To permanently reduce our traffic problems, and save what’s left of our shrinking farmland and ecological treasures, we must toss out our current development orientation based on highways, office parks, Wal-Marts and cul-de-sacs—an environment that forces us to drive, drive, drive. In its place, we must return to America’s pre-World War II community design where people lived, worked and shopped in walkable communities…This alternative approach to modern suburban development [is] known as ‘New Urbanism’” (Washington Post, May 3, 1998).

”Sprawl-fueled growth creates a host of problems, including the obvious ones of increased traffic congestion and a subsequent decline in air quality; loss of farmland, forest and open space; and increased flow of pollutants into waterways. While these are the most visible and quantifiable issues, other sprawl-related concerns are more insidious: ongoing loss of biological diversity, long-term threats to human health, and an increase in economic and racial disparity. In many instances, government policies relating to housing, education, and transportation have aided and even subsidized separate and unequal economic development thus promoting segregated neighborhoods and communities. Sprawl-fueled growth is pushing people further apart geographically, politically, economically and socially” (Eco-Compass, www.islandpress.com/ecocompass/community/sprawl.html, 2001).

“By far, the biggest reason for sprawl in increased automobile use” (Citizens for a Better Environment, 2040 Getting There: Alternatives to Sprawl in Southeastern Wisconsin, February 1999).

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“The suburbanized area of America’s fastest growing city, Las Vegas, increased by 238 percent between 1990 and 1996. As a result, this mid-sized city, which gains a new resident every nine minutes, now has serious air- and water-quality problems” (Sierra Club, The Costs of Sprawl: It’s Not Just About Cities, 1998).

”Sprawl development can make a big difference in how fast the police respond to your call for help. People calling from homes on two to six acre lots in new suburban developments waited an average of 25 minutes for a squad car to arrive. In the nearby city, waits averaged just 4 minutes. Times for homes on quarter-acre lots in newly annexed subdivisions averaged 16 minutes” (Citizens for a Better Environment, 2040 Getting There: Alternatives to Sprawl in Southeastern Wisconsin, February 1999).

“The virgin sidewalk—the physical embodiment of sprawl’s guilty conscience—reveals the true failure of suburbia, a landscape in which automobile use is a prerequisite to social viability. For those who cannot drive, cannot afford a car, or simply wish to spend less time behind the wheel, Virginia Beach Boulevard will never be a satisfactory place to live” (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, 2000).

“Because sprawl requires us to drive more often and for more miles, it dramatically increases car and truck exhaust emissions, the source of about a third of the pollutants that foul our air” (Citizens for a Better Environment, 2040 Getting There: Alternatives to Sprawl in Southeastern Wisconsin, February 1999).

“Like the creature in the 1950s horror movie The Blob, suburban sprawl is gobbling up everything in its path: forests, meadows, desert, and wetlands. The losses are staggering” (C. Lockwood, “Sprawl”, Hemispheres, September 1999).

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“While many factors contribute to sprawl, the suburbanization of America could not have occurred without the automobile. And if auto use remains cheap and easy, we can expect continued sprawl (Lansing and Hendricks, 1982; Kitamura, 1988). Given the evidence that low density development in turn leads to increased reliance on automobiles, the problem appears to feed itself (Levinson and Wyn, 1964; Pushkarev and Zupan, 1971; Allman et al, 1982; and Holtzclaw, 1991)” (Solstice, www.solstice.org).

“Suburban sprawl increases pollution, saps inner-city development, and generates enormous costs—costs which ultimately must be paid by tax payers, consumers, businesses, and the environment” (Peter Calthorpe, The Next American Metropolis, 1993).

“The period shortly after 1950 marked something of a watershed in American life as the majority of Americans became suburbanites for the first time in history. Statistically speaking, between 1950 and 1955, the proportion of suburban development in the United States pushed past fifty percent, continuing to rise to about sixty-five percent by the last census count in 1980. A refurbished housing industry, finally backed by federal government loan guarantees, had quickly recovered by 1949 to prewar and predepression production levels of one million units annually, of which almost eighty percent were in the form of single-family detached homes.

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Transportation, essentially high-speed interregional highways, opened up the countryside for metropolitan development, continuing the earlier dispersal of urban functions, but now with significant reconcentrations away from older city centers. The result of this growth and development has been a wholesale transformation of American Metropolitan life, in which traditional concepts of community, civic place, and neighborhood have been either overrun or severely threatened” Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, 2000).

“Current zoning in almost every city and town that mandates single-use, suburban-style sprawl punishes the good and rewards the bad” (“Bizarre Outcomes”, New Urban News, January/February 1997).

“Unlike the traditional neighborhood, sprawl is not healthy growth, it is essentially self-destructive. Even at relatively low population densities, sprawl tends not to pay for itself financially and consumes land at an alarming rate, while producing insurmountable traffic problems and exacerbating social inequity and isolation…” (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, 2000).

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“Meanwhile, per capita automobile use has risen by 230 percent since 1960. The average American driver spends 443 hours, the equivalent of 55 eight-hour workdays, per year behind the wheel” (“The Book on Sprawl”, New Urban News, July/August 1999).

“Sprawl is one the most wasteful uses of land ever devised” (C. Lockwood, “Sprawl”, Hemispheres, September 1999).

“Using Visual Preference Surveys, A. Nelessen and Associates of Princeton, New Jersey, has studied how Americans feel about their built environment. When people are shown pictures of sprawl, they typically give it a negative rating. Yet, sprawl is built with money provided by financial institutions, who believe this form of development is what the public wants. The bottom line is that developers follow the money, and financial institutions are mostly interested in a predetermined list of standard real estate products” (Robert Chapman III, “New Urbanist Projects Attract Investment”, New Urban News, January/February 1999).

“Now we are running out of greener pastures and many Americans consider overdevelopment-‘Sprawl’-to be the fastest-growing threat to their local environment and quality of life” (Sierra Club, The Costs of Sprawl: It’s Not Just About Cities, 1998)

“Sprawl increases the distance between homes and people, making it prohibitively expensive for transit to be an economically viable option…Sprawl also makes walking unattractive, if not impossible, in many locations. Everything is suddenly ‘too far away’” (Citizens for a Better Environment, 2040 Getting There: Alternatives to Sprawl in Southeastern Wisconsin, February 1999).

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