NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 8, 2006

For many families, cul-de-sac living represents the epitome of suburban bliss, but thanks to a growing chorus of critics -- ranging from city planners and traffic engineers to snowplow drivers -- hundreds of local governments from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to Charlotte, N.C., have passed zoning ordinances to limit cul-de-sacs or even ban them in the future, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • According to the Census Bureau, the population of American suburbs grew 12 percent from 1980 to 2000, while the total population in center cities grew by just 1 percent; the influx of homes in the suburbs, and the traffic they bring, has become the chief concern of planners across the nation, many of whom are struggling to mitigate the impact of car culture.
  • In Oregon, about 90 percent of the state's 241 cities have changed their laws to limit cul-de-sacs, while 40 small municipalities outside Philadelphia have adopted restrictions or bans.
  • Earlier this year, the city of Pekin, Ill., established new rules to make cul-de-sacs more maneuverable for service vehicles like fire trucks and school buses.

For all the criticism aimed at them, cul-de-sacs do seem to have one last defender: the free market. Real-estate brokers say that despite the recent opposition by policy makers, homes on cul-de-sacs still tend to sell faster than other homes -- and often command a comfortable premium. Ralph Spargo, the vice president of product development for Standard Pacific Homes in Irvine, Calif., says his company charges as much as 5 percent more for a home located on one.

Source: Amir Efrati, "The Suburbs Under Siege," Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2006.

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