Tuesday February 23, 2010 | Urban vs. Suburban Charlotte

February 22, 2010 at 10:09 am | Posted in Coming Up | 15 Comments

Last month, Charlotte Magazine printed a feature about the two separate ‘cities’ that Charlotte has become over the past couple of decades. There exists an “urban” Charlotte, and a “suburban” Charlotte, and the lifestyles of the two are very different – and are sometimes hostile towards each other. We’ll talk about some of the specific cultural differences between city-dwellers and suburbanites, and the pros and cons of each lifestyle. We’ll also talk about how the traditional cul-de-sac heavy suburbs are turning more urban.
Jen Pilla Taylor
– Writer, Charlotte Magazine
Richard Thurmond – Editor and Associate Publisher, Charlotte Magazine
Jeff Michael – Director, Charlotte Urban Institute
Chris Leinberger – Land use strategist, Author of The Option of Urbanism

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  1. The problem is that Charlotte is allowed extraterritorial jurisdiction. This means they can legally annex parcels and communities far from the center city.

    Personally, I would much rather be a “suburb” of Charlotte rather than than be subject to government bodies that are clearly urban centered.

  2. Writing from Mooresville – Further to this issue of suburbs versus city, I work for a company which supports the Arts & Science Council and am strongly encouraged to give, but get virtually no benefit as I don’t see the ASC supporting things outside Mecklenberg County.

  3. It’s interesting that your guests keep referring to “large lots” in the suburbs somewhat disparagingly yet last time I checked Southpark, Myers Park, Eastover all have large houses on large lots. What is the difference? Also, in the 90’s there was a push for more density in the suburbs and suddenly small lot developments (usually with all trees leveled) with look alike houses were popping up amidst traditional suburban developments. I suspect that these homes were less well built than many of the surrounding homes–certainly these neighborhoods are much less pleasing to the eye–street after street of close together look alikes. Yet they were celebrated by urban developers as the wave of the future–high density in the suburbs.

  4. I often wonder: do a lot of these people encouraging people to move closer to the urban core have a personal stake in that? Do these ‘urban boosters’ own real-estate in the city that is currently vacant, and do they want an influx of people to rent apartments, lofts, houses, etc from them so that they can live off people’s rent money?

    Not just in Charlotte but everywhere there are vacant buildings, apartments, condos, and houses in the downtown districts of many cities. In the last 5-10 years downtown apartments were MASSIVELY overbuilt in Charlotte and elsewhere. And despite the huge oversupply, real estate prices still remain too high for many people — thus the basic economic law of supply and demand is being intentionally manipulated. There is a huge oversupply of downtown papartments…so why do the prices on them still remain prohibitively high? Why would the landlords rather allow them to remain vacant instead of lowering the rent down to reasonable levels?

    The fact is that the suburbs are the most affordable option for most people, and also the best place for raising families. I notice how so many modern urbanites have few to no children, and so of course they disparage the suburbs where most of America’s economic and population growth is occurring.

    Also, there are few jobs available in the central areas of many cities, and thus most people have no choice except to move to the suburbs where there are more jobs and also more affordable living. Not everyone wants to work a ‘service job’ — there are few blue-collar and working-class opportunities in center cities anymore unless you want to be a janitor or food service worker for pampered yuppies…no thanks.

    Also, I don’t see why people feel the need to crowd in to cities when we have this VAST country…the USA is huge and still mostly empty…thus there is no need for people to crowd in to urban (and suburban) areas when there is still so much vacant and unused land available. We need to revive small towns and villages all across the nation, places where people and families can be more self-sufficient and live closer to nature, grow a lot of their own food, work in their own services, and so on. Recent programs on this radio show related to ‘Agriburbia’ are a step in that direction.

    Beware of the people who try to FORCE people in to moving in to the cities just to survive — the Soviets pulled the same thing back in the 1920s-40s. They persecuted people, uprooted them from their small towns and villages, starved them out of the countryside by seizing their farms, and so on. ‘New Urbanism’ is all well and good (I agree with many of its principles), but we all must beware FORCED URBANISM.

  5. Modern cities are not in any way ‘sustainable’ or ‘green.’ They have to import nearly everything needed to survive from the more rural parts of the country or even abroad; they are not at all food secure, water secure, energy secure, or anything like that. And nowadays one of the main exports of cities is raw sewage, far-left politics, endless amounts of paperwork, and empty rhetoric. Most of the jobs available in cities are nothing more than paper-shuffling, hence their increasing unfriendliness toward blue-collar and working-class workers unless they are being served their dinner or having their bathrooms cleaned. Manufacturing long ago left most American cities, and now most of it is done in the suburbs or the countryside (or overseas, of course). Same with food production of course. Living in most American cities, you must realize that you are especially dependent on the increasingly fragile transportation network to meet ALL of your most basic needs: they even import the water from many miles away, and in return for all of that imported water they export masses of raw sewage in return! At least in the countryside, the small towns, and some suburbs there is a chance to raise food on your own, or get your own water from a personal or community well, gain energy from the wood of local forests, and so on…not so in the cities. Again, if you are an urbanite (or inner suburbanite) you are entirely dependent on the importation of ALL things needed for basic survival…doesn’t that make you uncomfortable, not being able to provide the basics of life for yourself or your family?

    The only way to be truly green and sustainable is to live in a small town or village surrounded by enough land and resources to almost completely support the people living there. Again, the ‘Agriburban’ concept comes to mind, a community built around working farms and ranches, with associated retail, craftspeople, workshops, and even small factories nearby. People should live and work closer to home without having to spend more time at work away from their family and neighbors. Instead of living in mass-anonymous urban and suburban areas where everything needed for existence is imported from elsewhere, we should be rebuilding and retrofitting local and regional economies so that each area, town, neighborhood, county, etc has the goal of being mostly (but not entirely) self-sufficient.

    The USA was founded as an agrarian and pastoral republic with a focus on local/regional economies and states’ rights. Technology has progressed and times have of course changed, but as we have gotten away from those traditional American ideals and become more of a mass-anonymous urban society the USA is now in rather steep decline — there is no denying that correlation. Many American cities look less American everyday because they are filled with immigrants and others who have a tenuous connection to America and her traditional ideals: they are mostly just here for the money and the decadent amenities of our country, not to build or maintain a great nation. As soon as the money dries up they are gone, and they have no true connections to this nation or the places contained herein.

    The only way to revive the USA is to return to older and more traditional modes of living, though we can of course retain most modern amenities (computers, appliances, and other labor saving devices). People ought to again live amongst their family (immediate and extended) along with close friends and associates, and work together in their local and regional areas — globalization is now being exposed as a sham and a fraud. A future energy crisis may force this upon us, so it is best to start getting prepared now in your local area in seeking to become as locally and regionally sufficient as possible. I would love to hear Mike Collins interview J. H. Kunstler about these issues sometime in the future.

    A couple appropriate quotes for your reflection:

    “The fear of the great metropolitan city is so ingrained in the thought of the people, writes Mr. Richard Neuberger in Free America, August 1940, in a quite triumphant article from which I have taken my information, that during the struggle over the Bonneville power rates, the words of President Jefferson (1743-1820) appeared in many local papers: ‘I view great cities as pestilential to the health, the morals and the liberty of mankind.’ That saying was directed against financial and industrial magnates, ambitious politicians and demagogues, who arise in cities and only by cities are made possible. The logical end of metropolitan civilization,and its most complete, one-piece form, is totalitarianism which is confessedly and in action ‘pestilential to the liberties of mankind’. In this scheme in the Pacific North-West, men and women have now the opportunity to combine manufacture with a home partnership with the soil. The soil, once again now, and yet more in the future, will be their associate and instructor. There is a grandeur about the scheme, which belongs to a great country that can still revive its epic character.”

    “In September 1937, it was this leader, President Roosevelt, who delivered a speech of dedication beneath the dark crags of the Columbia Gorge, the river of which in its change now foretold a change for the mighty stream of the American people.

    The North-West, consisting of the States of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and the section of Montana west of the crest of the Rockies, offers an opportunity, said the President, ‘to avoid some of the mistakes and wasteful exploitation of resources that have caused such serious problems in other parts of the country’. The North-West should not be a land of new ‘Pittsburgs’. The President continued: ‘It is because I am thinking of the nation and the region fifty years from now that I venture the further prophecy that as the time passes we will do everything to encourage the building up of smaller communities of the United States. To-day many people are beginning to realize that there is an inherent weakness in cities which become too large, and inherent strength in a wider geographical distribution of the population.'”

    – FROM http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/Wrench_Recon/Wrench_Recon_20.html

  6. It is absurdly counterproductive that tens of millions (or even more) Americans are basically forced in to leaving their local suburban and/or exurban communities every single day during the work-week to make the mundane, soul-crushing, and grinding trudge in to America’s cities and urban areas just so that they can make a decent living.

    Americans ought to be working and making a living to support themselves and their families in the local communities where they live as much as is possible, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why they must make the daily drive in to cities just to earn enough to live and eat in a place that is safe and nice for their families (the suburbs/exurbs), and there is no reason why we cannot set up fully viable businesses in the suburbs/exurbs for many (even the majority) of these Americans to work in.

    Every morning during the work-week I hear the faraway yet still incessant drone of the congested traffic on the local/regional highways, all of them of course leading in to the city where the American masses who labor under the yoke of urban-money must trek just to make a decent living-wage.

    By setting up a better economic system where a lot more people have the ability and freedom to work closer to home (in their immediate communities and neighborhoods) we will thus save them massive amounts of time, money, and resources, and we will also reduce air pollution along with unsustainably high amounts of daily gasoline consumption due to the resulting huge reduction in pointless daily auto traffic in to the cities.

  7. I would like to know where these folks gathered their data and how they conducted interviews, it all sounds very generic and not well thought out. I’m very active in this community and I never hear or see these so called ‘experts’. I think it’s evident of the arrogance and ignorance that Charlotte and the media have of certain neighborhoods in this city, i.e. westside. The panelists made some very bad assumptions and the entire show lacked perspective. Let’s get some diversity in these discussions!

  8. If I were an unethical real estate magnate, I would encourage people (especially racial minorities) to sell drugs and start gangs in the city, thus leading to White flight. Then I would buy up the city real estate at slum prices and hire a new police department to force out the drug dealers. Then I would re-gentrify with incoming young Whites from the suburbs and reap usurious profits.

  9. Take a look at the work of Catherine Austin Fitts on the relationship between drug gangs and developers. The scam works like this:

    Send drugs into a neighborhood. As the people who can move out to flee the crime, property values drop. Buy up lots of property dirt cheap. Then elect a new police chief and get rid of the gangs and drugs. Open a trendy bar for young Whites and gentrify the neighborhood.

    This has happened in city after city around America since the 1970s. Someone here or a related blog mentioned that Whites gave up extremely valuable urban properties during the White Flight era and traded it for crappy cheap suburban land on the outskirts of the metro areas.

    In many places urban areas were then regentrified and the kids of the White Flight generation are paying rent or buying their parents generation’s old homes for ten times what their parents sold for.

    This is not a coincidence, this is a coordinated ‘business.’

    In certain cases (like during the 1980s in California) it was assisted by federal policy.

    Catherine Austin Fitts and Gary Webb told this story, and Webb was murdered for it.

    • “Open a trendy bar for young Whites and gentrify the neighborhood.”

      That will bring in better drugs and a higher class of users. Out with the crackheads and in with the Peruvian flake. Out with the winos and in with the high dollar scotch at the lunchtime business meeting. Out with the hookers and in with beautiful escorts. Out with pill pushing dealers and in with pill pushing doctors.

      Same neighborhood different face.

  10. The comments on this program amount to an even greater miseducation than the show’s content. THSP’s sustainability plans might have been feasible as late as 1940 if white supremacy had remained intact and included euthanasia for the surplus population.

    Cathy Fitts and Gary Webb understood the CIA-brained version of profiteering through drug distribution to the inner city, but a racist subtext remains in your discussion. Somehow the “colorblind” refuse to see that only OREOs fit their minority model when it comes to professional employment. Cultural diversity is a healthy part of the fruit basket, and not an elective ingredient.

    Drugs can be a good thing without the violence. Ask any pharmaceutical giant or medical marijuana doctor. Drugs provide real pleasure and real pain relief and even black tar heroin is an undeniable part of our popular American culture.

    THSP eloquently eschews the deplorable reality of the commute. Cars are the primary blight of this culture, far more destructive than recreational drugs, a horrible waste. (Is this trip necessary? Maybe so.)
    The pace of life and travel dictate the possibilities of life quality. We’d all be better off walking and biking, standing toe to toe on level ground. (To Hell with flying!)

    At the root the CITY is an artifact of inequality. It is an unnecessary monetization of life needs and an embodied hoarding of commodities. Notice the Ballantine office parks. The people who work there mostly do not live nearby. This well demonstrates the sadistic controlling nature of corporate employment. The individual is separated from the domestic as much as possible for reasons of dominance and control. As much of the salary as possible must be tied up in the job (commute,car, wardrobe, training at personal expense, the time economy of each day). Such a condition is not at all surprising in a society where so many employments are predatory upon the general population and parasitic upon labor (produce nothing beyond a balance sheet). We claim to be a representative democracy but spend our worktime in an hierarchical dictatorship (the workplace) being mildly praised for making others lives a living Hell, as they do ours.

    If cities were a conglomeration of citizen run communities they might be OK, but the big players and manipulators are always afoot. (If Michael Jordan needs a remodeled or new arena he can damn well take a masonry class at CPCC and build it himself, the lazy ball handler.

  11. I didn’t hear the original broadcast, almost sorry I heard the re-broadcast. For family reasons, I live near the Union Co. line. I didn’t feel there was urban/suburban tension until I heard this broadcast. Terms like ” I saw people in shorts” ( O! My!), “edge of the world” and ” boring suburbs” reveal your prejudices and insecurities. I’ve lived in rural, suburban and urban ( Manhattan) areas of the U.S. They each have their advantages and disadvantages.
    Yes, I’d like to be able to walk to more things around Stonecrest, but right now I think I’d get mashed on Rea Road. And yes, I wish there was better public transportation in the area. However, visiting friends from large urban areas such as Chiciago and New York aren’t exactly overwhelmed by the “urbanism” of Uptown Charlotte.
    I realize, you need controversy for shows, but this seems like a non-issue to me.

  12. Again, like I wrote months ago, it makes no sense that so many Americans continue to crowd in to cities and their suburbs when we have such a vast country with abundant natural resources. We ought to be resettling and rebuilding small towns, villages, hamlets, and small cities rather than continuing to crowd in to the top 50 cities and their associated suburbs.

    Cities at their current scale are not sustainable in any way and are in for very rough time once the oil/gasoline runs dry – http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/study-warns-of-perilous-oil-crisis/ – only ‘medieval style’ cities are truly sustainable, that is cities surrounded by enough farmland, ranchland, and energy resources (hydro, wind, coal, wood, etc) to sustain its inhabitants. The mega-cities of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia/NZ, and the Americas aren’t going to last too much longer and are an aberration of history: they are monstrous creations of the cheap oil era that is currently winding to a close – even modern Charlotte has grown far too big and would fall apart overnight if the supply of oil was cut off. Charlotte circa 1950/1960 or so was about ideal in terms of being in balance with its surroundings, having enough local/regional food producing areas, and not being too large in terms of population.

    However, a certain number of modern suburbs are more sustainable than cities because a good portion of the things necessary for life – food, water, energy, etc – are still relatively accessible in the surrounding area. But with cities, everything needed for life must be brought in (trucked, shipped, flown, etc), meaning cities are essentially parasitic in that they use MANY more resources than they produce, a phenomenon which has been noted by many throughout history.

    “Urban Legends: Why Suburbs, Not Dense Cities, are the Future” – http://www.newgeography.com/content/001722-urban-legends-why-suburbs-not-dense-cities-are-future

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