Population Density, Oil and Quality of Life

While I disagree with Orson Scott Card on the issue of global warming I cannot disagree with his desire to wean America off of our dependence on oil and his solution: the rise of neighborhoods where automobiles are almost completely unnecessary.

The rising middle class has to go miles from anywhere to find houses they can afford. They hope that when enough of them have moved into an area, somebody will build a grocery store.

But my plan would require the developer to build the grocery store into the plan for the village he’s building right from the start. The streets would all connect; no cul-de-sacs. There would be sidewalks everywhere, and retail close at hand. It would be a neighborhood from the moment you move in.

I’ve always thought population density was important. It creates neighborhoods, it reduces the need for oil and puts more quality of life options (retail, hostpitals, schools, friends, venues, etc) close at hand.

I keep hoping the population density here in San Francisco increases, but the base problem is it’s too bloody expensive here. That and the landlords are (generally) far too greedy for their own good. The cost of living needs to drop or at least remain static for a number of years before that will happen.

9 Comments Categorized: san francisco  thoughts

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9 Responses to “Population Density, Oil and Quality of Life”

  1. NHK says  (May 28th, 2007 at 20:50:19 )

    Thanks, but I’ve already lived in Manhattan proper and I have no desire to replicate that experience on this coast. You want the population density in San Francisco to increase? Are you mental? How will *that* be a good thing? You lost me somewhere.

    While I absolutely agree with you (and I suppose, Mr. Card) in regard to the need for true neighboorhoods to be built from the get-go out in the suburbs and exburbs, I’m not willing to sacrifice my quality of life, sanity or the character of my city for the sake of…whatever the hell it is you’re thinking. Btw, I’m not being facetious; I honestly don’t get the notion of *needing* a car to live in San Francisco. Yes, certain neighborhoods suck for non-drivers like myself, but there are plenty of others that don’t. As well, San Francisco already *has* more than enough of the “quality of life options” you speak of to go around.

  2. douglas says  (May 28th, 2007 at 21:31:06 )

    Interestingly enough I wasn’t thinking of NYC, I was thinking of more of European cities (like Prague). They tend to have the density to warrant fewer cars and better public transportation. But NYC applies somewhat, too. Think about how many problems MUNI has had here in San Francisco. Think about how stupidly it’s set up, and how some areas like the Richmond District, have really poor public transport. When I have to count on at least an hour to get downtown and it’s only five miles away then something seems wrong to me. If it’s too late at night, forget about it; even catching a cab out here is difficult at best.

    I don’t quite see how more people are going to cramp your quality of life. Please to explain!

  3. NHK says  (May 28th, 2007 at 22:24:37 )

    The vacancy rate here is next to nil as it is and I have no desire to see anymore green/public space developed *or* existing structures built up vertically. Nor do I want larger crowds on the streets. Mind you, some of this is purely personal preference, but when I think of Manhattan or Amsterdam’s city centre my head just spins – it literally pains me to be around that many people with so little personal space. I also lived here before the dot-com boom and its attendant housing crunch…the pace was slower and people on the street were kinder to eachother. And they smiled a whole lot more.

    MUNI just needs to be fixed; throw money at it and it will (or should) get better. My suggestion is to raise fares for single-ride purchasers to $2.00 while keeping fast-pass prices at current levels. As well, we don’t need bus stops every two blocks. Every four would be just dandy, imo. Okay, that one doesn’t really save a *lot* of money, but service would definitely improve. And how about expanding the cable car and light rail service as well – it’s fast, largely pleasant and has dedicated track/lanes.

  4. douglas says  (May 29th, 2007 at 00:02:56 )

    While I don’t mean to berate the issue, vacancy rates for rental units (as I rent, that’s what I’l go with) for the nation hovers around the 9th percentile depending on where you look (the most recent data I found is here and here and are for 2006). San Francisco hovers around 6% (according to the SF Board of Supervisors two years ago and I’ve only heard it getting higher, not lower). Compare this to 10 years ago when it was hovering around 3% (scroll about halfway down this page).

    The problem here isn’t availability, it’s cost. I think that’s true most places based on local economies.

    But I do absolutely agree that we should replace unreliable bus lines with more reliable, dedicated street car systems. Yes, it will require some money “thrown at it” (leadership would be nice, too). I think Mr. Card’s idea of making it less car friendly so people would be more inclined to take public transportation would be a better solution (increased ridership = more money for MUNI, at least in theory).

    I am curious how you think your quality of life would go down with more people, though. In my experience the percentage of idiots in the world is a fixed number… and more idiots out there is the only negative I can think of.

  5. NHK says  (May 29th, 2007 at 10:33:50 )

    It’s not how many of the people are idiots, it’s just the idea of that many more people…and by the way, the vacancy rate *will* plummet if there’s a huge influx of people, prompting higher rents, development…etc. As for the vacancy rate rising, I suspect that’s changed, albeit very recently, due to the current real-estate market spookiness…just a hunch based on rents and availability now as opposed to six months ago. I’d also be curious to know how that 6% breaks down by neighborhood; i.e., what is the vacancy rate in neighborhoods that aren’t crime-ridden, full of toxic waste or near South S.F.? I suspect it’s significantly less than 6%.

    You want to know how quality of life is affected by overcrowding? Personal and public space is lost to more people and their homes, schools, etc. Maybe you want to rub shoulders with your neighbors as you walk down the street, I don’t. San Francisco is plenty dense as it is, thank you. And as it’s a built-up urban area already, why do you feel we need increased population density, anyway?

  6. NHK says  (May 29th, 2007 at 12:04:56 )

    Maybe you *like* crowds? I’m just speculating since I’m actually kind of surprised that you aren’t opposed to increased population density here in the city.

  7. douglas says  (May 29th, 2007 at 22:30:32 )

    It’s not necessarily that I like crowds, but with crowds come things closer to home. Keep in mind that aside from Golden Gate Park there is almost nothing in my immediate neighborhood. And getting to the neighborhoods that do have life to them requires planning and trekking. Keep in mind a huge portion of San Francisco is, for lack of a better way of putting it, and urban suburb. It’s supposed to be a City, and parts are, but about half of it is simply housing. Throw another level or two on each of these two level/flat buildings here in the Richmond District and the Sunset District and that’s really about all it would take.

    I like my personal space. As long as I have that then I don’t really care how many people are around.

  8. NHK says  (May 29th, 2007 at 23:20:59 )

    Fair enough. While I’m still solidly against the idea of increased population density in S.F., I do see where you’re coming from, especially as a recent Richmond escapee.

    So, when are you moving “downtown”, eh? :)

  9. douglas.nerad » Champ d'Ellyse says  (June 11th, 2007 at 15:29:12 )

    [...] and the population density that allows it I realized that a previous argument that happened here could have been avoided if I’d mentioned to NHK that I didn’t want the [...]