Jun 162009
Authors: Ian Bezek

As I rode my bike through what appeared to be an abandoned new housing development in Colorado Springs last week, I was startled.

Seeing wide four-lane roads that lead to nowhere makes one wonder whether something went wrong with the American dream. Houses used to be unique, personal locations that showcased their owners’ identities, but now, it seems, houses are little more than identical squarish boxes on postage-stamp sized lots with a tiny patch of mostly dead grass in the front yard.

Instead of being a home, houses have turned into mere products built and sold by shady developers.

Ignoring the impacts, both social and environmental, of unlimited growth, homebuilders continue to build gigantic strips of identical architecturally-bankrupt homes miles away from the city centers where their residents work.

The result, inevitably, is that residents are tied to the automobile, as such, commutes and pollution mount. Instead of building communities, the fringe suburbs create isolation. Instead of being able to walk to a social destination as is possible, one must drive miles to get to the nearest public space.

As the suburbs grow, people who moved out to get away from the noise and bustle of the city feel surrounded by new development and move even farther away. The final result, as I’ve seen firsthand, is that developers are building almost 1,000 new houses on a strip of prairie more than 15 miles from Colorado Springs’ downtown when the city’s housing market is already in a slump.

Is this what we want as a society – communities where we must get in our automobiles and drive for half an hour to get to somewhere more culturally inspiring than a Target?

Whole megalopolises such as Los Angeles have been built on the idea of cheap gas allowing people to make exceedingly long commutes across endless superhighways. Even ignoring the possibility that the return of high-priced gas that would leave these commuters broke, Los Angeles has failed.

It has become one of the smoggiest, dirtiest and most dangerous of cities in America. While the rich live within their gated communities, the rest of the working class must move farther and farther away as inner city continues to decay.

Besides the human cost, Los Angeles wastes unthinkable amounts of natural resources, it’s preposterous to think that everyone needs their own miniature mansion with a green lawn in the middle of the desert 30 miles away from where they work. The health effects of the millions of cars idling in the nation’s worst traffic are also tragic.

We must rethink America’s obsession with empty suburbs. Sometime before we pave over the last remaining open space in the country to build the parking lot of the nation’s 10,000th Wal-Mart we must ask ourselves what we’re doing.

Instead of building yet another neighborhood in the middle of nowhere, how about we try renovating old buildings within our cities? Instead of building yet another beltway, how about building some mass transit to revitalize already built-up areas of our communities?

The path that Reagan and Clinton led us down was a disaster on multiple levels. Not only did they force banks to make loans to people who just couldn’t pay – turning the American dream into the American nightmare for millions with sub-prime loans – they also urged America to continue its addiction to bland and soulless housing developments.

Instead of smart growth, we’ve grown really stupidly. As a result, I can sit directly upon on the centerline of Tutt Boulevard, a four-lane Colorado Springs avenue, for five minutes without a single car passing. Tutt is an appropriate name as the unfinished neighborhood appears to have mummified.

How many more roads will we build leading to faceless communities; or in many cases nothing at all, before we start to rethink our foolish building practices?

Editorials Editor Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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