Did you know the highest foreclosure rates coincide with car ownership? Snohomish County, whose growth industry has been housing developments, reigns supreme in the metropolitan region.
Well, we shouldn’t really be surprised by this. The whole of the county, even here in downtown Everett where I live, is remarkable for its extremely low population densities. Everyone, then, needs a car. And those cars emerge from garages or alleys each morning to join the commuting goo that clogs I-5.
Mark Hinshaw, who used to be the architectural critic for the Seattle Times, has a piece in Crosscut. He writes:
Up in Snohomish County, a far more insidious and damaging series of events was unfolding. Dozens of developers — from bonafide to bottom-feeders — were beating down the doors of the county administration building to demand more and faster permits to clear the landscape and build single family houses. It was a home buying mania.
The County Council obliged—big time—by relaxing regulations, streamlining the permitting process, and creating a whopper of an oxymoron: “rural cluster subdivisions.” As Hinshaw tells it,
The eager builders managed to persuade Snohomish County to adopt laws that allowed wholesale removal of trees, clearing of land, and rapid approvals. Standard development practices that had been used to good effect in other Western Washington cities for years were rebuffed. Since then, county standards have been beefed up, but too late to head off the most recent wave of havoc on the landscape.
It’s been said that pavement lasts forever. Once the farms and trees were demolished to make way for American dreams, they’re gone—never to return? And what’s to become of the suburbs? Hinshaw:
One long-standing observer of the American development industry, Christopher Leinberger, wrote a provocative piece in the Atlantic last year entitled “The Next Slum,” about the end of suburbs as we know them.. Leinberger predicted that in the coming decades there will be fewer and fewer buyers wanting the American dream so popular over the past 50 years. Most younger people are instead preferring cities or close-in suburbs for their higher paying jobs, choices in culture, and a more diverse social setting — often within walking distance.
I say let’s raze the suburbs, encourage farms, and grow some trees. Meanwhile, introduce developers and builders to the wonders of well-designed, high-density, mixed-use, and sustainable urban development. Oh, and just forget all about that silly American Dream. It was bogus to begin with, and caused far more harm than good.
Drive less. Walk more. Pass it on.