Missourian sprawl

We spent the past week near Kansas City, MO, at a wedding-cum-reunion for Shannon’s family.

The sprawl around Kansas City is frightening, making Silicon Valley appear dense by comparison. It was over thirty miles from our hotel to the nearest semi-decent bookstore (a Borders, at that).

The area is blighted by new McMansion developments, many built around artifical lakes that are held in by lev\’ees. It is possible to buy a brand new 3,000 square foot faux-rococo mammoth on a somewhat decent plot of land for less than $300,000, a price that won’t buy you a tiny dirt lot anywhere near San Francisco.

But to me, it was most interesting to see young people with “normal” jobs (not high-powered tech industry silliness) able to afford to buy decent housing. That opportunity simply doesn’t exist around the Bay Area, unless you’re willing to trade your employment prospects or a truly insane commute for an affordable house. As a result, the SF area has few young families; they are priced out.

Kansas City’s suburbs seem to me a perfect example of the unrestrained-growth model of regional development in action. The proliferation of huge houses, sparse shopping malls, and long commutes appear to guarantee America’s medium-term addiction to profligate energy use; the continuing isolation of society; and increasing pressure on the natural environment.

It was depressing to see the framing of the next century’s national and global politics.

Posted in slice-o-life

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