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Saturday, October 12, 2002

Ubanization and Its Contents

I have written often and always fondly of my particular neighborhood. The lower Queen Anne/Belltown section of Seattle has practically exploded with growth during the few years I have lived here. Apartment buildings have sprouted from parking lots, bars and restaurants have usurped abandoned store fronts, and the area has sprung to life to such a degree that if you’ve been away the past couple years you’d hardly recognize the place.

As I ride my bike up Second Avenue on a late summer evening, the sidewalks are filled with pedestrians edging past the tables of restaurants filled to capacity and beyond. There are only a few blocks of this hectic bustle but give this place another twenty years and it will be a fantastic neighborhood.

I love it when I see someone breaking ground on a new high-rise in the neighborhood. An increase in population density only brings improvements to the area. More people mean more services in a smaller area. A branch of my bank finally opened a couple blocks away which saves me from having to go downtown or up a really steep hill (not much in the way of parking at either of those locations so taking the car is out of the question).

All of the growth is vertical, unlike suburban sprawl, where growth means more roads and more congestion. As more people choose to live downtown, I can only hope that this slows the leveling of the forests east of Seattle. Another suburb with an English name only means another hilltop has been razed and more roads need to be built to service these Brady Bunch ghettos. Try trading in the yard and the driveway for a life free of the day-to-day dependence on the automobile.

I believe the decision of where people choose to live will be one of the most important issues faced by the United States in this new century. It will be a struggle of a return to the life in cities against the half-century-old destructive trend of suburbanization--destructive environmentally and spiritually.

Writing about where you live is a great assignment for everyone who writes. Go here to read about life in Copenhagen, a city I plan to visit on my next trip to Europe. What? You thought Philadelphia was a shithole? It is for the most part but it has its charms.

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