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Posted at 12:31 PM ET, 11/19/2010

The urbanist divide, put simply

By Dan Malouff
Much has already been penned about the competing interests of Washington's urbanist groups. Specifically, about the Committee of 100, with its preservationist bent, vs. the blogosphere and its smart-growth bent, led by Greater Greater Washington.

I've thought about the divide as well, and I agree with those who say that it's the result of a massive divergence in how the older and younger generations think about cities.

The Committee of 100 and its preservationist brethren think about cities in terms of the mid-to-late 20th century, when proposals for massive highway and urban renewal projects threatened to essentially bulldoze most of the city and turn it into a giant suburb. Fighting those proposals was the necessary urbanist agenda of the day, and current residents owe preservationists a great thanks for saving our city from the wrecking ball decades ago.

But the experience of fighting a never-ending rear-guard action against bad ideas left that generation neurotic about new development. The city spent so long building crap that the preservationist contingent simply can't wrap its mind around the possibility that change might be good. Fifty years of mostly horrible, anti-urban development convinced an entire generation that all new development must be bad.

Then there's the new order: the younger generation of which I am part. Unlike the older generations that watched livably urban cities empty out, my generation started with empty cities and watched them fill back in. The crap of the late 20th century is what we were born to. It's our starting point. Since then, almost every change to the city has been for the better. Neighborhoods have revitalized, ghettos have disappeared, transit options have expanded. The city is a far better place now than it was when my generation began paying attention in the early 1990s, so we're comfortable with change. We think of it as a positive force. We want more of it.

Thus the great divide. One generation's experience tells it that change must be negative, and another generation's tells it the opposite.

Only time will tell if we'll be able to find common ground.

Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Dan Malouff  | November 19, 2010; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network  
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A little simplistic, but making some good points here.

Posted by: krickey7 | November 19, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The writer make's some very relevant points but as the previous blog stated, he oversimplifies the situation. The writer's view of the issue is myopic in the since of seeing the situation from only two points of view, when in fact they're many more, and I see that as a disservice to the complexities of a full rich life. The District of Columbia is and always been a multifaceted locality, each neighborhood has it's own flavor, which is usually decided by it's resident's. Unless you can achieve consensus on these life altering issues, you're going to get some serious blowback. The writer will one day understand that you have to respect all phases of a life cycle and any enviromental shift has to take that in account.

Posted by: barrycarey123 | November 20, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

When it come to DC Mr. Malouff's comments are kind of ahistoric. The Committee of 100 and the New Urbanist really 2 sides of the same coin. As resident of Columbia Heights when it comes down to both are cop outs.

Posted by: whj123 | November 21, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

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