Public Comment

Smart Growth Extremes in Berkeley

By Toni Mester
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 04:13:00 PM

I really enjoyed Steve Finacom’s description of the Plan Bay Area Workshop including the many quotes of the participants. It had a “You Are There” quality that saved me hours of sitting through it myself, which would have been sheer torture. Smart Growth certainly brings out the extremes, pro and con. 

Here’s a sampling from other print media about cars. Conjecturing how future generations will view our culture, Randy Cohen, who writes the “Ethicist” column for The New York Times, said that “the domination of the private car… will be seen the way we today see the dark, satanic industrial mills of the 19th century. Forty thousand driving deaths a year. Imagine if we had a new transportation system and its inventors said, Well it’s only going to kill forty thousand people a year. And the environmental damage is incalculable. There’s the cost of the infrastructure, which utterly distorts our economy; the cost of the oil; which distorts our foreign policy and almost requires us to be militaristic...(Jewish Currents, Winter 2010-11). 

On the other extreme, George F. Will, wrote “Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they – unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted – are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people to delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.” (Newsweek March 7, 2011) 

We are fighting our own little smart growth battles right here in Berkeley with the tugs of the extremes, conscious or not. Smart Growth is to the ecology what socialism is to the economy. It sounds great in theory but underestimates the deep needs and desires of individuals, sometimes called “human nature” but really an expression of privilege, habit, and the all pervasive culture.