February 22, 2008
The ascent of single-family suburban slums?
I often write skeptically about the long-predicted demise of the suburbs and the return of urban living. But some interesting counter-arguments are made by Christopher B. Leinberger, of Brookings and the University of Michigan, in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Like others, he asserts that Americans are beginning to reject the auto-dominated suburban culture and today desire "walkable" places. (Although the choice of Northern Virginia's Reston Town Center as an exemplar seems to me to be simply a revision of the suburban ideal, not a rejection of it.) Most provocatively, he suggests that much of the isolated suburban developments built during the recent the housing bubble may be so undesirable in coming decades that they end up as the refuges for the very poor, posing tremendous challenges for local government and land use law.
February 20, 2008
Preserving culture on the Sea Islands?
Can land use law succeed in preserving a local culture, in the face of changing economics? We often hear about fears of “gentrification” in urban neighborhoods, but one of the most interesting stores comes from the rural coast of South Carolina and Georgia, where the Gullah –- African Americans who have kept much of their African culture, in large part because of the long-time isolation of the region –- find their traditional homeland coveted by developers. The South Carolina government has created a Cultural Protection Overlay District that restricts new development, while Congress has established a Gullah/Geechee Cultrual Heritgage Corridor.
But just across from St. Helena Island, S.C., is the booming resort, golf, and beach community of Hilton Head. On the island itself, the Publix grocery chain plans to build a new store; other stores would be built nearby. While supporters point out that the grocery would be within size limits permitted by the land use laws, others fear that the store will be another step in the transformation of the region into just another piece of generic America.