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February 01, 2013

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Orin Kerr

Was Sutherland making his own conclusions about the apartment buildings, or was he just describing the arguments in favor of the policy? My sense is the latter, as Sutherland follows up that passage by saying, "If these reasons, thus summarized, do not demonstrate the wisdom or sound policy in all respects of those restrictions which we have indicated as pertinent to the inquiry, at least the reasons are sufficiently cogent to preclude us from saying, as it must be said before the ordinance can be declared unconstitutional, that such provisions are clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare."

As for the grid plan, it seems to me that a person can decide to pick and choose which aspects of life are to be the symbols of homogenization or cacophony. You could decide to pick the difference between streets at right angles or at odd angles. On the other hand, you could decide to pick the the sounds of the city versus the sounds in the burbs, or the colors observed, or symmetry or lack thereof of the haircuts of people walking down the street. I guess I'm not sure why the angles of the streets should be the chosen symbol.

Marc Roark

Orin, Thanks for your comment. On Justice Sutherland, he is clearly reflecting that the policy reasons described bear a rational relation to the government objective that is being protected. No doubt, a piece of Sutherland's policy description is based on the Government's stated rationale for excluding apartment buildings from these residential areas. But, at a certain point, Sutherland's language seems to do something more. If he were merely stating that the government's basis is related to its objective, it would probably be unnecessary to refer to apartment housing as a "parasite" or as a structure "monopolizing the rays of the sun" or even suggesting the ultimate "destruction" of the neighborhood as a desirable place to live. This language suggests not just that he finds the rationale basis valid, but that he finds it unassailable.

Regarding the video, I find the narrator's intensity to be amusing if not over the top. I concur that there is enough of the city for each to find his own image somewhere. But if I am trying to understand the narrator's mind (which seems to be a scary place perhaps), there is certainly something to say about whose vision of the city becomes the foundation for which all of these interactions exist. Should a city, for example have multiple city squares (like my fair Savannah) where people can congregate? And what does that say about us collectively that not only do we think a city space should be open in such a way, but that we actually do congregate there?

Sarah Schindler

I always show that same clip in my land use class when we are talking about city design and layout, subdivision planning, etc. It fosters such great discussions about how our places define us, and how they can foster or inhibit creativity and social capital. One comment I regularly get is that, despite the heavy grid, NYC is one of the most creative places in our country. And there is a real sense that the creativity emerges when we are forced into straight lines; we need to find ways to break free. I'm glad that others are talking about these issues!

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