I was honored and happy that Voice of San Diego published an op-ed that I wrote about density. I was also pleased to see the comments section light up with arguments for and against density. It’s a conversation that needs to happen.
There is one argument that I find interesting, although ill-informed. It is essentially, “ I have the right to live in the suburbs, and government policy should accommodate everyone wherever they choose to live.”
To that I say, yes – you do have a right to choose wherever you live — as long as you are willing to pay for it.
Low density developments are essentially government subsidizes. Land Use in low density areas is so financially unproductive that it is impossible to build and maintain the infrastructure needed for them to exist. Not only do the streets, sewers, water, utilities, etc cost more to initially install, suburbs do not generate the tax revenue required to maintain them. The suburbs are draining city government coffers at an alarming rate. Is it any wonder San Diego has $3 billion dollar infrastructure deficit?
It not just suburban infrastructure that cost the rest of us. Required services like fire, police, garbage, libraries and schools also must be subsidized. We even pay to bus suburban kids to school because it is usually too far for them walk.
In the USA, citizens have generally agreed that subsidizing freeway construction is worthwhile because it helps increase the movement of goods and services – and therefore increases the GDP. However a 2-3 hour commute to work is not productive. Not only do the extra cars on the road cause congestion and slow the movement of goods, but they cause wear on the freeway, and damage the environment. Gas taxes and tolls (user fees) only cover about one-half the cost of highways – the rest comes from the general fund.
Sure, you can live in low density areas – IF you will pay extra to maintain your infrastructure, bus your kids to school, pay a carbon tax to offset your car dependency, and pay tolls for highway maintenance … along with many other hidden costs.
If the government subsidizes anything, I would prefer we, as a society, subsidize housing for the poor and homeless, instead of subsidizing housing for a middle class fantasy of living the “good life.”
If you can afford to live the life of the “landed gentry”, good for you! Congratulations. Just don’t expect the rest of us to pay for it.