July 27, 2006

Why Joel Kotkin is Full of It

Joel Kotkin is an urban theorist who loves to flout urban conventional wisdom by supporting suburbs and the rise of new cities like Phoenix.

His primary argument seems to be, "If people want to move there, Why not let them?"

And a good reason to at least call into question this flight of people to places like Phoenix is because the growth of cities in the middle of nowhere is that it can have a deleterious effect on the environment, as this Chronicle article illustrates.

The article discusses a housing boom in California's Central Valley because land is cheap. However, developing in these hot inland regions means developing under the assumption that people will be living air-conditioned lives, which is an enormous contributor to energy consumption. And, thus, a contributor both or our rolling blackouts, and to the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming.

Joel doesn't seem to care about these second and third order effects, which has always upset me. Residents of these towns should be taxed in ways that reflect the true cost of their living there... Then we'll see just how quickly they flock there.

Those taxes wouldn't just address issues like energy consumption, but health as well -- residents of a hot inland city are bound to be more sedentary (who wants to go out in that heat?) and thus have all kinds of medical concerns.

It's not just a matter of giving people what they want. It never is. People living in the Central Valley, or places like Phoenix, are an enormous drain, requiring more energy, greater fossil fuel consumption to supply them with resources, water needing to be brought in from ever-farther distances, etc. etc. And the problems that arise from this drain are not located only in those cities, but shared with everyone. Shouldn't residents of those cities contribute more to offset the harm they're causing?

Posted by peterme at 07:26 AM | TrackBack

July 24, 2006


Stacy, because this is the kind of thing she does, has been digging into the history of the house in which we live. Among the things we've found out is that it was built in 1905, and has the identical floor plan, albeit in mirror image, to the house right next door.

A couple days ago she came to me with a print out of this database record. It turns out the subject of that record, Santaro Fujita, lived in our house in 1942 (though we don't know if he rented or owned.)

What will sadly not surprise you, if you connect a Japanese name and the year 1942, is that the record is evidence of his relocation that year to the Central Utah Relocation Center, but not before being housed at the race track in Tanforan (San Bruno, California). As in, horse stalls converted to barracks. (You can download a Powerpoint presentation featuring photos of Tanforan.)

Look again at that record. That such a reductive, factual presentation of data can stir up such sadness is a bit shocking. Fujita-san was no recent emigre. At the time of his relocation, he was nearly 60 years old, having lived in the United States over 40 years. The idea that our government considered him in any way a threat is dismaying to a remarkable degree.

Fujita-san was married to Toyo. She was relocated along with him. She was ten years younger, and had been in America for under 30 years.

I'm having trouble uncovering much on the Japanese community in Berkeley before World War II, but there's some mention of the relocation situation in Chapter 7 of Berkeley, A City in History.

Though deeply saddening, I must say I'm looking forward to what else Stacy uncovers that allows me to connect my current situation with that of the past.

[[I forgot in my original posting to add this. The Social Security Death Index shows that Santaro Fujita lived to be 90 years old, dying in Los Gatos, CA.]]

Posted by peterme at 09:58 PM | TrackBack


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