Saturday, May 3, 2008

Limousine liberals may be on to something

What do ya know – apparently those latte-sipping, gay-marryin', limousine liberals from San Francisco really aren't so hypocritical when it comes to energy consumption. According to the Mercury News, via Planetizen, the Bay Area is urbanizing after a period of suburban growth. The urban San Francisco has its highest population ever, 80% of new housing units in San Jose were in high-density buildings. Naturally, the "planners" didn't anticipate the trend:

Given the run of bad national and state economic news, "it surprised me a little bit," said Michael Bills, a senior planner in the San Jose planning division. "I figured it was going to start to taper off, and it certainly did not."

These urban areas are going to be served more by state-run mass transit versus the corporatized road/car model. While I'm generally against planning and government intervention, it's not really that much of a stretch to believe that moving from a bizarre hybrid system to a more completely nationalized system might be a step in the right direction, since the completely nationalized system appears to hew more closely to the style of living that would be dictated by a market allocation of land and transportation.

San Francisco also has some pretty interesting urban development plants. The Transbay develpment calls for a dozen skyscrapers (including two with 101 floors) in San Francisco proper. While these are great for the environment, geopolitics, and libertarian causes in general, a potentially more interesting project is the redevelopment of Treasure Island. The plans call for a couple of skyscrapers, along with a plot of farmland, solar panels and wind turbines, and a natural waste treatment ecosystem to make the 0.9 square-mile island virtually self-sufficient. Popular Science did a fascinating article in January covering the ecological and environmental aspect of the plan, but financial and logistical details are harder to come by. The SF Chronicle has an article that covers a few of the financial details, and unfortunately it looks like the project is receiving a fair amount of subsidies in city bonds and infrastructural development. This isn't surprising considering the competitive disadvantage that not taking state subsidies puts you at, but it does seem possible that in the future government plans will become so unsustainable that it can be economically viable to go without. As for cars on the island, while the emphasis will be on an unspecified "robust network of transportation choices" and pedestrian paths, it does appear that the island will have roads. Construction on the Transbay supertall towers is set to begin in 2009, and residents of the new Treasure Island developments are expected to be able to move in in 2013.

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