Thursday, May 24, 2007

We build them up, then knock them down...

Well, this is a surprise:

A little less than a year before developer James Rouse opened Columbia in 1967, he sought financial backing to construct what he called a "tower" between 300 and 500 feet tall in Columbia's Town Center, according to a letter in the Columbia Archives.

The letter, dated July 28, 1966, goes into few details about what the tower would feature, other than that it would offer a bird's-eye view of the Baltimore-Washington corridor and could feature a restaurant or gift shop.

The letter came to light this week, as the Howard County Planning Board was slated to hold a May 24 hearing on a proposed change in zoning law that would temporarily place height restrictions on new buildings in Columbia.

Hmm. That's an interesting new wrinkle, huh?

Reactions:
However, an opponent of the Plaza Residences countered that the tower Rouse described bears little resemblance to the Plaza. Instead, Rouse sounds as if he is describing a non-residential structure akin to the Space Needle in Seattle, said Lloyd Knowles, who is one of the residents challenging the Plaza in court.

"That kind of tower is not like a mundane residential structure," he added. "There is obviously a big difference in towers. He is not talking about the kind WCI is talking about."
This is true. The two towers are different. But this still doesn't account for the fact that Rouse was interested in having tall buildings in Town Center.

Here's more:
Alan Klein, a spokesman for the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown, a citizen's group that supports restricting building heights in Town Center, said Rouse and his associates had many ideas for Columbia that they later realized would not fly.

"We don't know whether by 1967-68 he determined, 'This does not work,' " Klein said of the tower proposal.
I would argue that it wasn't Rouse who decided it wouldn't work, but rather those who were deciding whether or not they should pay to build it. What the market wouldn't support in the 1906s it, apparently, seems ready to support now.

But what does all of this really mean? The Flier weighs in with an editorial:
People on all sides of the debate over the redevelopment of downtown Columbia -- and, in particular, plans for a 22-story condominium in Town Center -- have invoked the name of James Rouse, insisting that the town's founder would have supported their view, whatever their view happens to be.

There still is no definitive evidence on who's right about that. We would argue it's an increasingly moot point, regardless.

...Rouse couldn't sell Connecticut General on the idea, so he dropped it. But the letters would appear to refute the contemporary argument that he was dead set against tall buildings in his city.

This revelation by no means negates the entire argument against the Plaza Residences.

Details of what Rouse wanted are sketchy, but the structure he described might have been twice as tall as the controversial condo. However, it apparently wouldn't have had people living in it, using the roads and schools and water and sewer.

In terms of public-facilities impact, comparing what Rouse sought to the Plaza is apples and oranges.

But the discovery does change the landscape of the aesthetic argument, which, for many, is just as important.
I don't think that's right. The arguments against the Plaza take mainly two paths: 1. that it was allegedly approved illegally and, 2. that it's too tall.

(There is also Evan Coren's argument against the tower, which is that it's a "middle finger" to what Rouse stood for because it's full of expensive condos and has a private pool, but there are many apartment complexes that already have their own pools and Columbia is a place where anyone can live, even people who want to spend $2 million on a condo. A lack of mixed income housing within a single building does not imply an diminished commitment to affordable housing elsewhere, even next door. Also, the point can be made that supply restrictions are bigger impediments to realizing a truly economically diverse community than a luxury condo tower.)

Those concerned about overwhelming infrastructure present their case in the context of the entire Town Center master plan, the latest draft of which calls for more than 5,000 additional residential units.

If CCD is comfortable adding 1,600 housing units, what difference does it make on infrastructure capacity if these come in the form of 10 160-unit, 22-story towers, or 160 10-unit, three-story apartment buildings, or 1,600 townhouses? In fact, greater density of the same unit count could actually mitigate impacts.

Then, there's this:
Interpreting historical texts can be a tricky and often subjective business. Some will no doubt latch onto the Rouse letter as proof that the Plaza has the blessing of Columbia's lionized founder. That's a stretch.
Is it not also a stretch for some to reference a now-dismantled model of Town Center to claim the absence of tall buildings is definitive proof of Rouse's intentions? I understand this was just a letter to the editor, but as editors, if you chose to print it and paid to distribute it, shouldn't you bear at least some responsibility for allowing it to enter the dialogue?

That said, this is right:
In any case, the interested parties can advance the public discourse immeasurably by ceasing to play "the Rouse card."

Rouse's idealism about equal opportunity and community should always be the guiding principle of life in Columbia, but claiming his legacy in support or opposition of a given project is a red herring.

We have to make such decisions in the here and now, without the benefit of his wisdom.
If only such good sense could have been shared earlier. Toot-toot. (Yeah, that's my horn.)

13 comments:

pzguru said...

I agree that BOTH sides should stop with the invocations of Rouse.

I disagree with your assertion that: "In fact, greater density of the same unit count could actually mitigate impacts." I understand that at first, there would be less horizontal land disturbance, and going up maximizes land space. However, let's be honest. If this tower gets built, it will be the precursor or more towers. So, in the end, you end disturbing (developing) as much surface acreage as if townhouses were built, but you end up with 100 times as many units, 100 times as much traffic (which equals air pollution), and 100 times as much trash, and more heat flection back into the atmosphere (unless the roofs are "green") and so on.

The bottom line for opposition is that the infrastructure just is not there to support the extra traffic, water and sewer demand, and so on.

If your argument is that the COunty should allow as much to be built as can be supported by the market, then rezone the whole County (or at the least the "eastern half") as high density and let EVERY property enjoy the financial windfall.

And as for the use of BRAC as justification for the proposed additional density (not that you have used it - I think) the better plan would be for the decaying City of Baltimore to be marketed as the preferred choice of residency. The City of Baltimore already has the infrastructure and it is underused due to the fact that the population has been declining for 15 years (although some isolated areas are having a resurgency). Let the 30-50,000 predicted new residents move in and revitalize many of the neighborhoods. Plus, Baltimore is almost a equal distant travel to Fort Mead and APG. So, people working at either base could live in Baltimore. There's really no need for this talk about shoving everyone into Odenton, Columbia, Laurel, and Bel Air. The City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland should push hard and put on an ad blitz, or even offer financial incentives, for BRAC-ies to buy in Baltimore. Isn't that what "smart growth" is truly about?

BTW - Del. Liz Bobo made a similar statement in the Howard County Times today. I read it and I think she's right on.

Hayduke said...

PZ: I wrote about Baltimore as a targeted growth area recently.

Basically what I said is that the city's troubles are much deeper than just a lack of development and solving them will require much more than BRAC families.

But to respond to you directly, what happens to the current residents of the neighborhoods we revitalize? Time and again, successful redevelopment has led to increasing home values and gentrification, which lead to displacement of existing residents. Considering that nearly 140,000 of the city's residents live in poverty, where do they go once we've turned their neighborhoods into the next Canton?

Or do they even want this type of development in their neighborhoods. I'd find it hard to believe that residents of Sandtown would oppose less drugs, less crime, and less poverty, but that doesn't necessarily mean they want Columbia on the Gywnns Falls (as many BRAC families would, I think).

True revitalization isn't about bricks and mortar (or should I say formstone?). It's about people. And we're far more complicated than rowhouses.

As for the rest of your comment, did you even read what I wrote? You've taken one bit totally out of context and used it to paint a completely fictional scenario.

B. Santos said...

pzguru,

Your assumption that more towers will result in greater development is completly false. As indicated in the Howard County Draft Master Plan for Downtown Columbia, limits on the amount of development are expressly stated for each section of the downtown area. The tower will not increase development. The amount of development is fixed.

Anonymous said...

38% of people are actually not entitled to an opinion according to news reports:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/study_38_percent_of_people

PZGURU said...

Hayduke - I agree with you on Baltimore. I wasn't sure what your position was so I didn't want to criticize without knowing.

Good point about revitalization causing gentrification. It's true. It's one of the paradoxes of revitalization. But, I hope that deosn't mean you're against it. Also, although many families get "displaced", they may ultimately profit nicely from being bought out by a developer. They may not be able to afford a new home in the immediate vicinity, but I don't know how you fix that sticking point, and isn't that just part of the housing/development "cycle"? Maybe developers should offer current owners homes in the redevelopment, with a discounted price, sort of like trading up. Don't know if that would work.

I certainly don't think was blowing what you said out of proportion, at least not in attacking manner. I was trying to convey a point, in contrast to your point - which you were making to justify the height/density of the tower.

B Santos - you misunderstood. I was stating that even though the tower itself would have limited surface disturbance, with all of the other development being considered, whether more towers or loads of townhouses, there would still, in the end, be a LOT of land disturbance. In other words, development of the tower (on say 1 acre of surface land area) is not somehow going to preserve 9 acres of land area somewhere else. At least I have not seen such a proposal.

And, the main difference between towers or townhouses being developed is that 10 acres (hypothetically speaking) of townhouses is a LOT LESS dwelling units than 10 acres of towers. Less dwelling units = less infrastructure impact. Yes?

Anonymous said...

"The two towers are different. But this still doesn't account for the fact that Rouse was interested in having tall buildings in Town Center."

The letter doesn't indicate Mr. Rouse was interested in tall buildingS in Town Center. Reading this single 1966 letter literally indicates the inclusion of this single tower idea was an afterthought to the Working Group's design, its primary purpose to provide an observation deck for marketing purposes - a helicopter-ride-like view for attracting more attention to the development. A need for such a marketing tool, judged at the time by Columbia's primary underwriter, Connecticut General, to be unnecessary is certainly not needed now.

To me, putting a 300 foot to 500 foot structure protruding up from a town bearing the name of the female personification of America seems a bit confusing anyway.

"What the market wouldn't support in the 1906s it, apparently, seems ready to support now."

Apples and oranges as you just stated the two towers are different. It was a tower for marketing proposed in the 1960's and a residential tower being proposed now. Yet, it's not just market support needed now. Both regulatory and community support are also part of the current trouble in which the proposed tower finds itself.

"If only such good sense could have been shared earlier. Toot-toot. (Yeah, that's my horn.)"

While tooting that horn, don't forget to also check your rear view mirror, where you say "I think we need more buildings like this to help define Town Center". How many of these 22-story towers do you want and to achieve what definition?

"But to respond to you directly, what happens to the current residents of the neighborhoods we revitalize? Time and again, successful redevelopment has led to increasing home values and gentrification, which lead to displacement of existing residents. Considering that nearly 140,000 of the city's residents live in poverty, where do they go once we've turned their neighborhoods into the next Canton?"

10% of Baltimore's housing stock is vacant and owned by the City. Reoccupying it displaces no one. That's tens of thousands of homes awaiting families, each home waiting to again become contributing tax base for the City. Yes, gentrification would occur, but so would city job opportunities, city tax base, and city education funding, etc.

"Your assumption that more towers will result in greater development is completly false. As indicated in the Howard County Draft Master Plan for Downtown Columbia, limits on the amount of development are expressly stated for each section of the downtown area. The tower will not increase development. The amount of development is fixed."

Regarding residential development, more towers aren't restricted by this draft master plan because it is simply a DRAFT. As such, it currently controls nothing. If approved, yes, then it would restrict residential development, but do keep in mind that that draft master plan significantly increases allowed residential density beyond Columbia's original planned density. It's a relaxed limit, providing less protection than is currently in place. And I don't believe the current iteration of the draft master plan requires a set aside for land for a local neighborhood elementary school as other Columbia neighborhoods were designed.

Regarding commercial development, pzguru's assumption that more towers will result in greater development is not false at all. Mort Hoppenfeld then and others now repeatedly make it clear that more intense commercial development of Town Center can't happen without having captive, intense residential development/density in close proximity to support it. Multiple high-rise towers there are exactly that.

By the way, Baltimore City recently said, due to expected growth in the area, they anticipate starting to tap the Susquehanna River for increasing the Baltimore City water system supply (which serves Eastern Howard County, too). Susquehanna water vs. reservoir water? Anyone know what flows into the 444 mile Susquehanna, the East Coast's longest river? "Most of the pollution in the river is due to excess animal manure, agricultural runoff, urban and suburban stormwater, and raw or inadequately treated sewage" Yummy. Can someone please remind me again why we're spending tax money to promote growth and population shifts that then require our families to drink that?

PZGURU said...

Anon - I think I should you a "guru". You have a great understanding the development field, as well as other geo-political issues that relate to development. And, you're better at conveying your points than I am at mine. Kudos to you.

pzguru said...

ANON - Correction - I meant to say: I think I should dub you a "guru".
Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

pzguru,

You're too kind. I feel I'm no better at conveying concepts here than many others, yourself included. As for being dubbed a guru, if I qualify, then there's certainly many others in that line, including the local bloggers who've spent countless hours hosting forums for these very necessary discussions. That's what I find guruvy.

hayduke said...

Apples and oranges as you just stated the two towers are different. It was a tower for marketing proposed in the 1960's and a residential tower being proposed now. Yet, it's not just market support needed now. Both regulatory and community support are also part of the current trouble in which the proposed tower finds itself.

Yes, the two towers are different and I probably overstated the issue about the market accepting something now that it would have then, but we could go back and forth all day about whether Rouse really wanted tall buildings or just one tall building and by the time the sun sets, we'll be right where we started. The letter shows Rouse considered building a tower taller than the one currently at issue, and that's about it.

While tooting that horn, don't forget to also check your rear view mirror, where you say "I think we need more buildings like this to help define Town Center". How many of these 22-story towers do you want and to achieve what definition?

Yup, that's what I said in September 2005, but I also called it not "terribly original" in the same post and "boring" a few months after that. The general point I think I was trying to make then was that a city's skyline is it's signature and the Plaza will contribute to ours. I'm wasn't talking about values, but aesthetics (good and bad).

10% of Baltimore's housing stock is vacant and owned by the City. Reoccupying it displaces no one. That's tens of thousands of homes awaiting families, each home waiting to again become contributing tax base for the City. Yes, gentrification would occur, but so would city job opportunities, city tax base, and city education funding, etc.

How many of those vacant houses are really ripe for redevelopment? The city has tried for years to redevelop vacant rowhomes but has found it difficult because vacants often share blocks with occupied units with homeowners who don't want to leave (or slimy landlords who won't sell).

Without full neighborhood revitalization (and gentrification), you're going to have a hard time convincing people who would otherwise be in the market for suburban living to choose to live in the city.

Since I love to play economist, the problem with housing in Baltimore versus housing in the suburbs is that they are not "substitute" goods. People are generally looking for housing in one place or the other. You could even say comparing the two is like apples to oranges.

Anonymous said...

"Yup, that's what I said in September 2005, but I also called it not "terribly original" in the same post and "boring" a few months after that. The general point I think I was trying to make then was that a city's skyline is it's signature and the Plaza will contribute to ours. I'm wasn't talking about values, but aesthetics (good and bad).

The tower, just by its sheer height and its illuminated upper portion, inarguably presents a large, monument-like edifice. Such formidable structures, even according to Duany/Plater-Zyberk (some of the leading voices of New Urbanism) should be reserved soley for public monuments at the end of purposeful vistas. A few relevant quotes from this prodigious planning design pair who've participated in planning over 100 towns:

"A city should be made of fabric and monuments. Fabric are the buildings that make the streetscape and monuments are the special public places."

"The best projects are really not spectacular. The ones that really are woven into the fabric of the city, the ones that really fit in, are by definition, invisible."

"Infilled buildings, individual buildings that you may not even recognize went in, are contributing to the wholeness of the place."

"The hardest thing to find - plain old good architecture, without being destructive, without hogging the show. Special sites are reserved for extraordinary talents - terminations of vistas, on squares, civic buildings should be fully expressive of artistic sensibility, aspirations of institutions. But to see every single building become a kind of monument is beyond absurd, actually laughable. If you've ever seen a city made up of masterpieces, it looks like a zoo. It doesn't add up to city making."

Wouldn't this 22-story tower be such a "masterpiece", overshadowing adjacent buildings, dominating the vista, and inviting other similarly-sized leviathans to proximate sitings? Imagine the discontinuity of this 22-story tower being placed in the floated alternate site - the Rouse Building parking lot, dwarfing Gehry's great work. What kind of "signature" would that give Columbia?

"How many of those vacant houses are really ripe for redevelopment? The city has tried for years to redevelop vacant rowhomes but has found it difficult because vacants often share blocks with occupied units with homeowners who don't want to leave (or slimy landlords who won't sell).

Without full neighborhood revitalization (and gentrification), you're going to have a hard time convincing people who would otherwise be in the market for suburban living to choose to live in the city.

Since I love to play economist, the problem with housing in Baltimore versus housing in the suburbs is that they are not "substitute" goods. People are generally looking for housing in one place or the other. You could even say comparing the two is like apples to oranges."


Tens of thousands of city homes are ripe for redevelopment. Partially occupied blocks can be assets to reoccupation in many cases, serving as population anchors. It seems you're saying that full neighborhood revitalization or gentrification can only occur easily if developers are handed big erasers to redo full blocks of completely unoccupied urban blight.

I know that not to be the case, having known people who've grown up in suburbia and chosen to move right after college to partially occupied city blocks, people who've lived in suburbia and chose to move to partially occupied blocks when starting a family, and people who've spent their entire careers living in suburbia and chose to move to partially occupied blocks just prior to retirement, joining many in the city making the same choices. One local paper just covered a great family who moved from rural Howard to Baltimore City years ago, there helping to start a community group/church that has resulted in 250 homes being reoccupied in your referenced drug/crime/poverty-challenged Sandtown.

Yes, it's a matter of individual or family choice or taste, but claims of necessity to increase development beyond Columbia's planned density to accommodate growth are just that, choices or tastes, not necessities. Since it is then just choices and tastes, it should be done via smart growth, not via growth that will, among other drawbacks, as expert study has shown, exceed our current traffic infrastructure to the community's deteriment and cost.

Let's not cut down the forest to plant a dense "orange plantation" when there's already "apple orchards" ready to go.

Hayduke said...

Wouldn't this 22-story tower be such a "masterpiece", overshadowing adjacent buildings, dominating the vista, and inviting other similarly-sized leviathans to proximate sitings? Imagine the discontinuity of this 22-story tower being placed in the floated alternate site - the Rouse Building parking lot, dwarfing Gehry's great work. What kind of "signature" would that give Columbia?

Basically, you think as a matter of taste that it's too tall, and you've cited excerpts from experts to back up your opinions, just as others have used selective parts of Jim Rouse's legacy to back up their opinions.

How tall is too tall? Is there an objective answer?

Partially occupied blocks can be assets to reoccupation in many cases, serving as population anchors.

Depending on the type of redevelopment, existing residents can hinder redevelopment projects, especially if the projects and sponsors reek of outsiders. Also, many of the mythical new residents are not going to want to share blocks with the existing residents.

It seems you're saying that full neighborhood revitalization or gentrification can only occur easily if developers are handed big erasers to redo full blocks of completely unoccupied urban blight.

In many areas, yes, exactly. In most other cases, revitalization has to come from the ground up and requires much more than just new housing.

I know that not to be the case, having known people who've grown up in suburbia and chosen to move right after college to partially occupied city blocks, people who've lived in suburbia and chose to move to partially occupied blocks when starting a family, and people who've spent their entire careers living in suburbia and chose to move to partially occupied blocks just prior to retirement, joining many in the city making the same choices. One local paper just covered a great family who moved from rural Howard to Baltimore City years ago, there helping to start a community group/church that has resulted in 250 homes being reoccupied in your referenced drug/crime/poverty-challenged Sandtown.

The family behind New Song Ministry is the exception that proves the rule, while your anecdotes prove nothing more than the fact that you know formerly suburban people who moved into possibly not-so-great urban neighborhoods. Me too!
I don't mean to discount New Song's work (or that of any of the myriad other groups that have been working in Sandtown for the last 20 years), but what is there to show for all the effort?

I took a bus tour of the area as part of a function held by one of the groups that has been involved in Sandtown. We were explicitly told for our own safety not to leave the bus at any time. It was the middle of a weekday.

It's easy to sit here in suburbia and look at statistics and read stories about distressed neighborhoods and committed agents of change and think a shot in the arm will lead to a cure. But thinking this simply about problems that are so entrenched and complex doesn't help and likely hurts efforts to bring about real, positive change.

Sure, there are marginal neighborhoods where a few new residents and a few renovations could represent a tipping point. But in the communities where change is really needed, the work will need to be slow, methodical, holistic and patient. Brick by brick. Please read the last part of this post.

Yes, it's a matter of individual or family choice or taste, but claims of necessity to increase development beyond Columbia's planned density to accommodate growth are just that, choices or tastes, not necessities.

I don't think it's a necessity to increase development beyond our planned density. I think it's a reasonable accommodation of circumstances beyond our control. I try to imagine what will happen if we allow more development versus what will happen if we don't and I see the impacts of not responding as being worse than the impacts of responding. Perhaps the main impact of not responding is that Columbia will continue to become more and more economically exclusive, which is a fundamental violation of the values we supposedly share. There are others, too.

Since it is then just choices and tastes, it should be done via smart growth, not via growth that will, among other drawbacks, as expert study has shown, exceed our current traffic infrastructure to the community's deteriment and cost.

So, future growth will exceed our current infrastructure, but will it exceed our future infrastructure?

Also, redeveloping parking lots in an existing employment center (i.e. Town Center) is smart growth.

Let's not cut down the forest to plant a dense "orange plantation" when there's already "apple orchards" ready to go.

Cute. What's the forest, though?

Anonymous said...

"Basically, you think as a matter of taste that it's too tall, and you've cited excerpts from experts to back up your opinions, just as others have used selective parts of Jim Rouse's legacy to back up their opinions.

How tall is too tall? Is there an objective answer?"


If you're implying I've misrepresented the experts I quoted by selectively choosing quotes to fit my opinion, please look up the Charlie Rose video interview of them yourself and enlighten me to any misrepresentation made.

And I purposefully chose living experts in the field with plenty of examples of their views on these matters currently available to avoid the whole "oh, it's just another WWJRD". Another reason for choosing to quote architects and planners on this matter is to provide examples from people who've spent their careers working in this field, participating in the planning of over a hundred towns, being respected enough in their fields to give candid discussions. They're people who aren't anti-development, just pro- good development and anti- bad development.

Yet another architect/planner, Léon Krier, provides even more technical and, dare I say, objective explanation of how tall is too tall in his book "Architecture: Choice or Fate".

"The most beautiful and pleasant cities which survive in the world today have all been conceived with buildings of between two and five floors. There is no ecologically defensible justification for the erection of utilitarian skyscrapers; they are built for speculation, short-term gain or out of pretentiousness."

"Thus, building heights should not be limited metrically (such regulations are always arbitrary and lead to a stultifying uniformity) but by the number of floors -- between two and five, depending on the character of the village or city, the nature, status and use of the building, the width of roads and squares, and the prestige of the site. It should be observed, moreover, that building-technology, servicing and conception change radically (separation of structure and wall construction, lifts, expensive services, fire protection, etc.) for buildings of more than five floors. In addition, a limit on the number of floors permits an evident and natural differentiation between public and private uses, between symbolic and utilitarian character, and between monumental and domestic architecture."

"If authorities allow developers to exceed the critical point of five floors, the value of building plots rises astronomically, which in turn creates more pressure for higher and higher densities. It is a vicious circle which, in the long term, leads to an insidious "Manhattanism" and represents the financial overexploitation of the land of the city whose unavoidable structural bankruptcy must in the end be paid for by public funds. Conservation areas are, by definition, those areas that have achieved optimum density both in form and appearance. It is complete nonsense to increase plot-ratios in these sectors. Such decisions ensure that the real estate value of a listed building becomes indefensible in face of the potential added value of denser redevelopment. Consequently, increases in plot-ratios regularly defeat even the staunchest conservation policies."

"The family behind New Song Ministry is the exception that proves the rule, while your anecdotes prove nothing more than the fact that you know formerly suburban people who moved into possibly not-so-great urban neighborhoods. Me too!"

It does prove that living in the city, be it in gentrified or not-yet-rediscovered areas, is indeed a valid choice for many people, both those already accustomed to city life and those who've lived in less urban places but decide urban life is their current choice. In terms of this discussion, it proves cities nearby can play a very large role in accomodating upcoming housing demands with their existing vacant housing stock and existing infrastructure.

"I don't mean to discount New Song's work (or that of any of the myriad other groups that have been working in Sandtown for the last 20 years), but what is there to show for all the effort?"

Ask the 250 families that one non-profit has helped place in rehabilitated homes. That equates to about 650 people's lives improved. So, just that one small non-profit was instrumental in housing a population about 5% the size of the entire proposed 5,500 additional units in Town Center. Not too shabby.

"Sure, there are marginal neighborhoods where a few new residents and a few renovations could represent a tipping point. But in the communities where change is really needed, the work will need to be slow, methodical, holistic and patient. Brick by brick. Please read the last part of this post."

Yes, and the first comment replying to it had it right. Solutions exist. Communities have succeeded in solving formidable situations.

"So, future growth will exceed our current infrastructure, but will it exceed our future infrastructure?"

All I've seen regarding future infrastructure is the transportation consultant's report regarding the proposed revised Town Center Master Plan causing local roads to fail congestion tests and discussion in the consultant's report to just approve the dense development anyway, thereby letting the roads fail to congestion as a means to garner public support for the considerable construction and operating costs of subsequent installation of mass transit. To me, that's less like a plan for future infrastructure and more like a scheme to dupe the public. Ah, just let 'em build dense and profit now and pass the resultant problems and bills to the next generation. How irresponsible.

"Also, redeveloping parking lots in an existing employment center (i.e. Town Center) is smart growth"

I don't find it smart when the increased density will require new infrastructure (roads, sewage processing capacity, etc.) Aren't we trying to cut our effluent dump into the Bay? And you don't really think the planned increase in density in Town Center will be limited to redeveloping parking lots, do you? Check the maps. Greenspace gets reduced.

"Cute. What's the forest, though?"

Actual greenspace, the current less dense, more environmentally accessible Town Center, the air that's cleaner now than the air from thousands of cars idling trying to get across Town Center's proposed grid street network, the air carrying some sounds of nature not drowned out by wind whipping around clustered, tall buildings and omnipresent street traffic, the sunlight that can still reach the ground unobstructed by looming tall structures.