A wealth-creating pattern of development


In classical economics, there are three factors of production: land, labor, and capital. Good regulation of private land, and good management of public land, can attract labor and capital.

In order to flourish, municipalities must ensure their policies and regulations facilitate (i.e. make profitable) the land development patterns shown on the right below.

Instead, most are set up to encourage the patterns on the left: parking minima, setbacks, use-separated zoning and LOS-first public spaces. The result is that infrastructure liabilities far outweigh their tax base, they repel both capital and labor and end up broke. (Not to mention the health and environmental consequences of car-dependency.)

I like collecting comparison pictures like these. Let me know if you find any more! Lets analyse a few.

1. The most important difference between the two images below is the connectivity, i.e. the number of intersections. This provides the neighborhood with ‘good bones’. It’s also worth nothing that the streets are wider on the left, and there appears to be only one building form, as opposed to the diversity on the right.

2. The difference between these two is very clearly the result of public policy choices: the street design, and the parking minima. A code that specified build-to lines wouldn’t hurt either.

3. Same as above, the buildings on the left are spaced apart by minimum parking regulations, and by the literally repellant LOS-first stroad public space design. On the right the intersection is designed as a value-creating public space, with a far higher proportion of the spaced dedicated to humans than vehicles.

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4. I really like this pair because it’s so clear that both images could contain the same building types, just arranged differently. It’s all about the connectivity.

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Neil Salmond is a regular contributor to Strong Towns. He is a renewable energy consultant from Vancouver, BC. Neil is a member and longtime participant in the conversation here at Strong Towns – you may know him as Neil21, which is also his Twitter handle – and he blogs at Stroad to Boulevard as well as other places.