Michael Lewyn, at Better Cities & Towns, sums up the state of urbanism in Mission accomplished? Not yet:
Over the past few years, I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts proclaiming that cities are back: that millenials want to drive less and live in cities, and that suburbs as we know them may even be dying.
I agree that many consumers demand more walkable development, both in cities and in suburbs. But even in relatively prosperous, safe cities, the political obstacles to meeting this demand are enormous. To name a few:
*Zoning. The increased desirability of urban life means that in many central cities and walkable inner suburbs, there is simply not enough housing to go around. But zoning law is generally designed to limit density (i.e. neighborhood population), which means that if a landowner wants to build new housing, it will usually have to apply to the city for a rezoning.
However, rezonings tend to be politically difficult, because people who live in a neighborhood tend to like it the way it is- otherwise they would be living somewhere else. So as long as zoning is designed to limit density and accommodate present residents at the expense of future residents, urban cores will never be able to accommodate consumer demand. (I note that this is equally true for already built-out suburbs- so in many regions, the only easy place to build new housing is at the fringe of suburbia).
The irony? Take a look at the picture used to illustrate the story, presumably as a model of urban success:
Consider the contrast in juxtaposition with The Tyee debate on zoning, or practically the Comments section in any Frances Bula post on development in Vancouver.