The urbanist divide, put simply
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 BeyondDC.com. 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.
| November 19, 2010; 12:31 PM ET
Categories: D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network
Save & Share: Previous: The generation gap dividing D.C.'s planning activists
Next: Sink riverboat gambling in Virginia
Posted by: krickey7 | November 19, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: barrycarey123 | November 20, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: whj123 | November 21, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.