Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Urban Revival Is an Urban Myth, and the Suburbs Are Surging, The Daily Beast, December 3, 2017

UPDATE:  We have added some links at the bottom of this post to other articles that indicate Millennials are starting to move out of major cities to their suburban surroundings to raise their families, all of which runs against the County's plan to build high-density multi-family elevator housing around Metro stations and elsewhere in Reston.

As Reston wrestles with massive County-driven planning and zoning proposals to triple Reston's population, mostly through unlimited high-density multi-family development in the vicinity of Reston's Metrorail stations, the rest of the world is taking a different course:
In the last decade, about 90 percent of U.S. population growth has been in suburbs and exurbs, with CBDs (Central Business Districts) accounting for .8 percent of growth and the entire urban corps for roughly 10 percent. . . Nationally, core counties lost over 300,000 net domestic migrants In 2016 (with immigrants replacing some some of those departees), while their suburbs gained nearly 250,000. . . Three key groups—seniors, minorities, and millennials—all prefer the suburbs. . . .
As American families and business continue to vote with their lives and dollars for the suburbs, the only way to stop suburban growth is “forcefully,” as The Economist recently put it and as political class is attempting to do in increasingly feudalized California. Yet to kill suburbs—or try and convert them into high density cities—is to stomp on the aspirations of middle class families, immigrants, minorities and seniors. It is not, to say the least, a long-term winning political formula.
Nonetheless, Fairfax County continues to insist that Reston's station areas and "hot spot" developments throughout the community--maybe even its golf courses--should be home to an urbanized surburbia.  Yet, other than maybe one percent of the top 10% income people will choose to live in such an environment of million dollar condominiums.  But Fairfax County is not planning to accommodate the growth in young families, minorities, and seniors; just elite wealthy, middle-aged, singles and childless couples.

All this is totally inconsistent with the Reston Master Plan planning principle calling for providing housing for all ages and incomes (Planning Principle #7 in the Reston plan).

And this is not the first time Fairfax County has gone--and continues to go--in the opposite direction of the rest of the world.  It continues to insist that planning for office workers allow 300 GSF/employee at a time when that space has sunk to less than 200 GSF/employee and continues to dwindle.  Even when the County's own "Building Repositioning Work Group Report" says: 
A significant trend occurring nationally and affecting the office market in Fairfax County is that the average amount of leased space per employee is shrinking.  This is attributed to more efficient office design, increased ease of teleworking, and hoteling, all of which result in many types of work being done in locations other than the traditional office environment.  Average footprints are anticipated to shrink from 225 usable square feet (USF) per person in 2010 to 150 USF per person by 2017, a reduction of 40 percent.
The result is that plans, including Reston's Master Plan, have overplanned for office space in the decades ahead.  But the County has still not taken steps to reduce its planning assumption for office employee work space, despite the global trend.

At the same time, the County has belatedly tried to generate high-density housing throughout the county without considering the fact that residential development almost always costs more to provide community services than it generates it county tax revenue.  According to the County's planning department, Fairfax County will be an (and maybe "the") exception to this national trend. 

Please click here to read the full article on the move to the suburbs by Joel Kotkin and Alan M. Berger, two noted planning experts.

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