Daniel Kay Hertz does a great job addressing the issue of discussing density in new proposals in this blog post. Not only does he use simple math to break down actual density versus visual density, he does so in a way that shows there is always a flip-side to every coin. Indeed, one of the commentators on the article points out density can change again when bedrooms are looked at versus units. Regardless he does a good job to force a change in our thinking of what exactly density means.
One thing I think Hertz overlooks however (something that again is brought up in the comments section) is that opposition to density may actually be opposition to change and aesthetics. Density is merely a scapegoat that a weary public can easily attack. Hertz successfully gives a new vocabulary for discussing density, but as is the case in so many examples the feelings are probably not as much about density as they are about change.
I think reading Hertz’s post is useful to developing better outreach strategies for new urban planning and development projects; it is also telling to see what is left out and possibly more important for extending that thinking to the sociological issues at the root of so much opposition. If models like this are successful when leading discussions about density, perhaps we can focus on the more pressing questions at the roots of community opposition.
One of the foremost complaints about the proposed 15- and 11-story towers around the California Blue Line stop – a proposal that I briefly mentioned in an earlier post – is that they’re too dense for the neighborhood. What people mean by this, and sometimes what they just come out and say, is that they’re much denser than existing buildings.
For the record, I don’t think that “denser than existing buildings” and “too dense” are the same thing, but let’s put that aside for the moment. Are these towers actually much denser than existing buildings in Logan Square? In one sense – a visual sense – the answer is obviously yes. People associate density with height, and these buildings would be much taller than anything else around them. (As I mentioned in the previous post, the tallest building currently in Logan Square is a seven-story…
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