Some dingleberry from Chicago, described as a historian of the beautiful, believes sprawl is absolutely delightful and has written a book saying just that. Professor Robert Bruegmann takes the contrarian point of view and pushes forward his belief that sprawl is closely tied to aesthetics. Sprawl is beautiful? Whatever. More importantly, Bruegmann believes that our clogged freeways, cul de sacs and mcmansions are all signs of our success.
"Los Angeles is the most staggering thing," Bruegmann says of the city's vertical growth since the early '70s. Since then, he says, cities like San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego have become what he calls "hyper-versions of the rest of the country." And while the traffic, pollution and housing prices may dismay residents, Bruegmann insists that "the problem of Los Angeles is the problem of success: It's become so attractive that everyone wants to live there." And it's done this, he says, without paying the environmental and aesthetic price of more wide-open cities like Atlanta and Houston.
By contrast, he argues, the "smart growth" policies of Portland, Ore., have been ambiguous. Portland is eminently livable but has not reduced sprawl and remains a low-density city. As its density starts to climb, he says, housing prices are going up.
Bruegmann believes that the movement of people away from the central city into suburbs helps the older city cores get reborn, first with an immigrant population and later with urban hipsters and yuppies who re-populate downtowns, as we currently see happening in Downtown LA. Bruegmann further states that sprawl is a function of a free society and helps the middle class get on the upward mobility ladder. Good for us. We're big and we're beautiful.
· Sprawling into controversy [LA Times/CalendarLive.com]
· Sprawl : A Compact History [Amazon.com]