Urban Planners Know What Is Good for Us!
It is a delicious coincidence that the Show-Me Institute is bringing the Antiplanner himself, Randal O’Toole, to St. Louis on the same day that the Post-Dispatch reports on a county renewal plan for Jamestown Mall that involves the recommendations of a number of urban planners from around the country. Seriously, it apparently wasn’t enough just to get terrible advice from planners in our own state. We had to bring planners in from around the country to give us stupid suggestions and offensive recommendations — i.e., that St. Louis County should just use eminent domain to take the mall if the owners won’t sell it.
From the article:
A key first step, the panel said, is for St. Louis County to take over the entire site, chunks of which today are owned by five companies, all from outside the area. It should buy them out, through eminent domain if necessary.
There are a lot of things wrong with urban planning, but the total lack of respect for basic property rights is the most awful. That goes hand in hand with the insufferable condescension that planners demonstrate in their assumptions that people don’t know how to use their own property, and that it takes a panel of “experts” to build places in which other people want to live. In almost every case, the places most people want to live — the suburbs — are exactly the types of places the planners hate. But still they pretend to know what is good for us.
Thank God for the planners who can help the county achieve this:
[I]t’s the only way to create a fresh start, to build something new that is big enough and great enough and unique enough to draw people there, like people go to the Loop or the Central West End now.
I can assure you that urban planners had little to nothing to do with the successes of the West End (where I used to live) or the Loop (where I hang out a lot now, as a U. City resident). Entrepreneurs and residents, not government planners, built those places into what they are today. (Although one can commend the local governments in both places for allowing entrepreneurship to work, rather than getting in the way.)
One planner from L.A. is excited about the potential:
“We need to be brave,” he said. “We need to be bold. We need to have a sense of urgency.”
Unfortunately, I am pretty sure we will also need taxpayer dollars as incentives for the planners to create their “livable space.” I can pretty much guarantee that if the county trusts the urban planners too much and leaves too little room for the risks and rewards of the free market to operate, anything they do for Jamestown Mall will fail even more than it is failing now.