Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jordan Green's Greensboro

Yes! Weekly's Jordan Green tries to build a case that Greensboro's sprawl is being driven by powerful real estate interests that unduly influence city council members with campaign contributions. There's a lot of good reporting about who contributes to whom, and who voted for what, and I'm glad that someone in the local press was willing to do that kind of legwork.

But Jordan got some things wrong. He wrote,

Does sprawl suck the economic energy out of struggling inner urban areas, drain city services such as police and fire, and saddle Greensboro with ever-widening concentric circles of gray fields and blight? Snippets of comment from city council meetings and various formal reports provide half answers, but city planners and elected officials show little engagement with the problem. [emphasis mine]
That is just plain inaccurate. City planning staff is intensely engaged with addressing sprawl by encouraging infill and inner-city development, and Green would have found this out if he had talked to city planning director Dick Hails or comprehensive planner Heidi Galanti. He also could have talked to Andy Scott, Dan Curry, or Sue Schwartz in Housing and Community development, who have been successfully pushing urban redevelopment for over a decade. Green's only interaction with planning staff seems to have been an e-mail from planner Ben Woody.

Here's a rundown of what I know about city staff activities in this area.

Planning staff tried to encourage compact development right after the city's comprehensive plan was adopted by recommending against rezonings that went against the plan's future land-use map. But the developers cried foul, and the city council told staff to cut it out.

Planning and HCD staff conceived and carried out the Ole Asheboro, East Market corridor, Willow Oaks, and the Southside redevelopments. Southside won a national smart growth award. Staff has recently worked through the South Elm redevelopment plan, and received federal grants to clean up brownfields there, and are now turning their attention to the High Point Road corridor.

They worked with neighborhoods and developers recently to devise a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay ordinance, which is designed to protect older neighborhoods from decay and inappropriate development. They developed neighborhood plans in Lindley Park and Aycock. They are currently working with developers and ordinary citizens to write a set of downtown design guidelines to make sure that continued downtown development is on the right track.

And city staff have been working with consultants, developers, and citizens for over a year and a half to rewrite the city's land development ordinance, which will have elements that allow developers new options in building mixed-use projects, as well as new protections for older, inner-city neighborhoods. (Disclaimer: I'm a member of the advisory committee that is working through the new draft ordinance.)

Obviously, I think it's wrong to lay the problem of sprawl at the feet of a disengaged city staff.

I also think it's wrong to lay it at the feet of elected officials or of real estate developers. I think Marlene Sanford of TREBIC got it right when she said,
The challenge has not been that we won't propose higher densities. The challenge is that when we propose higher densities there's a neighborhood revolt and the densities get negotiated down. It's schizophrenic. You can't be against both density and sprawl. You have to pick one.
Developers are eminently practical people: they want to build what people want to buy. It wasn't developers or planners who opposed two recent infill projects: it was neighborhoods.

We have sprawl because we want sprawl.

Recommended reading: Sprawl: A Compact History, by Robert Bruegmann.

Update: Hoggard reports a conversation on rezonings with the Greensboro real estate industry's most successful advocate, Mark Issacson.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Um, Let's Not Do That

Retired sports editor Irwin Smallwood proposes in today's N&R:
Let's dismantle old [World War Memorial Stadium's] facade brick-by-brick if feasible, and reproduce it as a magnificent entrance way to the coliseum parking lot and as a fitting and significant memorial to those who have given their lives in all our wars.
Wow. That idea is just so wrong on so many levels. Let's start with the intended function of the stadium. Here's what mayor Edwin Jeffress said on the day WWMS was dedicated:
And so the stadium has been built by children’s and widows’ and wives’ and rich men’s wealth. It is here for the use of the coming generations; the soldier boys said they wanted no hollow granite, no useless monument to decorate our street corners, even no statuary or brass to remind us of those who have passed along after doing life’s full duty, but they wanted something that would be useful; that would help develop mind and body; that would in this way be a perpetual memorial to those who have passed…, that those of us who follow should use our best efforts to make ourselves physically fit to answer any emergency;…; and when the call to duty comes, answer with a clear, strong voice, “We are ready to do our bit.”
Mr. Smallwood is proposing to take a still useful and much-used stadium, and make of it a "useless monument" that its makers disavowed. I mean, the entrance to a parking lot?

I confess that I find Mr. Smallwood's idea of ripping one of Greensboro's major architectural landmarks from its setting, where it is much loved and valued by its neighbors, to be simply repulsive. It also goes against every good preservation principle I know. As Greensboro's historic preservation handbook says,
Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or architectural elements from other buildings, shall not be undertaken.
With all due respect to Mr. Smallwood, his idea is about the dumbest I've ever heard.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thank You

To all the soldiers who gave their lives to preserve freedom on our continent, in Europe, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and anywhere you served -- you have our profoundest thanks and gratitude.

As young Joshua Bertelson said on The Story about his father Sgt. Bret Bertelson, who is serving now in Iraq:

To me you are a royal man.

Mt. Mitchell Trail

"The climbing begins immediately," said our guidebook about the Mt. Mitchell trail. It should also have said, "it doesn't stop climbing for 5.7 miles." This is what much of the trial looks like near the trailhead at Black Mountain Campground.

We were a bit "dewy" and after only 45 minutes.

The rhododendrons were in bloom, which gave us some reward for our toils.

Things got cooler and less humid after we climbed past the hardwood zone. This little area in a Spruce forest was a great spot for a picnic.

I don't know what insect made this, but it looks pretty cool. Click on the image to see the detailed weaving.

I like lichens.

Much of the trail looked like this, when it wasn't covered with loose stones. It's a challenge not only because it's relentlessly uphill (then downhill), but because you have to pay attention to every foot placement.

This meadow is about 1000 vertical feet below the summit, and is a great spot for campers.

Though most of the trail is heavily forested, the switchbacks across a cut for power lines gave us nice vistas. Almost to the top!

And here' s the view at the summit! The place was swarming with late-middle-aged bikers for Jesus who all seemed to be doing their best Paul Teutul Sr. imitations.

Obviously, they didn't hike to the summit.

But they were nice. We thought about asking them to give us a ride to the bottom, since we were already footsore from the ascent. But we slogged back down on foot, with Sam setting us a very brisk pace.

We agreed that the pleasure-to-effort ratio on this hike is fairly low: a very difficult trail with a few vistas and no interesting water features or caves. But we're glad we did it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Because It's There

To the Summit of the East we climb!
Almost to the Summit of the East we climb!*

Tomorrow Laurette, Sam, and I will attempt the Mt. Mitchell Trail, hoping to reach the highest spot in the United States east of the Mississippi.

Sam has been inspired by reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, and hiking Mt. Mitchell is something Laurette has been talking about for years. It'll be a challenge: a vertical gain of almost 3700 feet, trail "very rough," and the difficulty level "most difficult."

Wish us luck: pictures will follow.

I wonder if the park service provides Sherpas.

*After first posting this, I discovered that the very top of Mt. Mitchell is closed for construction of a new lookout tower. We'll end up 40 ft. short of the peak, but never mind that -- it's all about the journey!

Update: Summit achieved! Feet hurt, knees hurt, rest of body sore and dirty. Taking medicinal fluids. Photos tomorrow.

Friday, May 25, 2007

In the House of Aged Felines

Laurette and I go in a few minutes to see our cat Ajax off. He's 16, and he has led a very nice life with us, considering that he came to us as a stray with a broken leg from Durham, NC.

For most of his life he wouldn't let me touch him, remembering an episode from his youth when it was my job to remove a number of ticks from sensitive parts of his body. He always resented me for that, at least until last year, when he decided move indoors permanently and retire to our bed. Then he would let me pet him when I put on my shoes in the morning.

A few days ago he started intermittent howling, obviously in severe pain, and after much veterinary consultation, it seems that his arthritic spine is to blame. It hurts him terribly to move.

To be honest, I will not miss him much, because I'm really not a cat lover. But I don't look forward to putting him down. Though Laurette and I will be there, he will be afraid, in an unfamiliar place, and in pain. I wish he had been able, like another of our aged cats, simply to lie down in a soft and familiar place and stop breathing.

Unfortunately, we have more of this to come. Our cat Bito has a mass in his abdomen, and although he is in no pain, he is slowly wasting away. He totters around the porch like a feline Ichabod Crane, but still seems to be enjoying what's left of his life. As our vet said, "Bito doesn't know what Bito's got."

I hope he falls asleep on the porch on a warm June afternoon while watching the birds in the yard, and doesn't wake up.

Update: We're back from the vet, and Ajax made his exit without undue discomfort or fear. We're sad.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Peevish About Language Pet Peevishness

Everyone has pet peeves about the way other people use language, just as we all have pet peeves about the way other people dress, drive, or eat.

The existence of peevishness on my part, though, doesn't justify my writing a newspaper column about it (that's what blog posts are for!), unless I can write something witty or illuminating about myself, or about others, or about the offending behavior itself. It won't do just to say, Some people do X, and I don't like it. How ignorant and illogical those people are!

And that, in a nutshell, is my objection to "Word's Worth," Mike Clark's monthly language column in the News & Record.

For example, in this week's column, Mike expresses disapproval about the way some Americans pronounce the word didn't, saying (according to Mike) did-dint, putting in an extra d. But instead of simply going on about how incorrect this is, I wish Mike had started by paying close attention to the actual sounds people make, and had not mischaracterized their pronunciation. They actually say di-dint, and are adding a vowel, perhaps a short i or a schwa, just before the voiced consonant n. This insertion slightly changes the pronunciation of the second d in didn't, but doesn't add another d.

Once I had the phonetic facts straight, I might be curious about whether this kind of change happens elsewhere. For example, some people pronounce the word athlete as ath-e-lete, inserting a vowel before the voiced consonant l, and some pronounce umbrella as um-buh-rella (as Paul McCartney did in his song "Mamunia"), inserting a vowel before the voiced consonant r. This might make me wonder whether the new pronunciation di-dint is following a phonological rule -- does vowel insertion tend to happen before voiced consonants?. Hmm, did anyone ever propose the idea that changes in pronunciation are rule-governed? Something to think about.

I might also be interested to find out that vowel insertion is widespread enough in the world's languages to have a name, epenthesis (also called anaptyxis). Maybe I could observe that epenthesis happens as a rule in English plural formations when the singular form of a word ends in an "s" sound; thus the plural of kiss is not kiss-s but kisses.

And maybe I'd go so far as to wonder whether negative contractions show variation in other English dialects, and -- voila! -- 20 seconds of Googling would tell me that a common variant of didn't in England is dimt, and that in Newcastle people say both dee not and divvn't (those ignorant and illogical Brits!), and that in the Chicago area many people say dint.

Mike thinks we should fight this change, saying "we've blinked in the past, and the language has suffered," apparently blind (or deaf) to the fact that the contraction didn't was itself originally a variant "corruption" of did not -- yet we use it, and the English language has not disintegrated!

Perhaps Mike would also propose that we rescind the great vowel shift, and that we should no longer use the words apron or adder, because they were earlier napron and nadder, and people got a bit confused about the way they related to the indefinite article -- a napron got construed as an apron, etc.

But enough about sound. What about meaning? Mike complains that commonly-used expressions such as even as we speak and you guessed it often do not carry their literal meanings in everyday conversation. That is, when people say you guessed it, they often don't really mean to say that you guessed anything, and that when they say even as we speak, only one person is speaking. No kidding!

So what? Mike says they are being "inaccurate," but he himself uses a number of expressions in their non-literal meanings in his column, such as driving me crazy (he isn't really going crazy), we've blinked (he's not really talking about blinking the eyes), drives me bananas (not sure whether this one even has a literal meaning), and covers the gamut (and isn't the idiom actually runs the gamut?).

It would be much more interesting to try to find out what people actually mean when they say you guessed it, and to put the change of meaning into a larger context. Golly, the next thing you'll be complaining about is that when people say how do you do?, they are not actually inquiring about your state of being, and that when they say can you pass me the salt, they are not really asking whether you have the ability to pass the salt; they are actually requesting that you pass them the salt. How inaccurate of them!

Finally, Mike complains about people saying more than they need to in expressions like et cetera et cetera, or and so on and so forth, or in any way, shape, form, or fashion. But Mike doesn't show any interest in the general phenomenon of pleonasm, and he fails to wonder why it turns up so often in great literature:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
That Robert Frost -- what a maroon!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Free Eats for Greensboro Cyclists Tomorrow

Neighbor Justin Smith emailed me this from Bicycling in Greensboro:

This Friday, May 18, is National Bike to Work Day.

Bicycling In Greensboro, Inc. (BIG) is hosting a bicycle commuter 'refueling' station at Governmental Phil McDonald Plaza on Greene Street in downtown from 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM. Commuters will be able to pick up free coffee, donuts, bagels, OJ, etc., to help replenish their 'engines' and to thank them for choosing to bike to work.
I'll be there!

Update: I stopped by just before 9 a.m. and got some food and bike-oriented trinkets. The people at the table told me they'd had about 30 bicycle commuters had stopped in, which is about twice as many as last year. It's not Amsterdam, but it's not nothing, either.

I've been pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily I can get around my area of town (central G'boro) on my bike. Special bonus pleasure: gliding by locked-up traffic on Elm St. during rush hour!

Adieu, Médecins Sans Frontières

We have been supporters of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) for many years.

But today Laurette found this story from the Jerusalem post, which relates how an employee of MSF, Mazab Bashir, allegedly used his status to enter Israel and plot to assassinate Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

MSF's response? A spokesman, asked if MSF was embarrassed, said,

I don't think embarrassed would be the right word. We are very sad for Bashir who has been working for us for almost six years. But we would like to make it very clear that we make a distinction between his professional work and what he does on his personal time in the sense that all our staff is hired for professional reasons and I don't think our organization can be held liable for every aspect of their life.
A humanitarian organization is not embarrassed that one of its employees used his job status to plot and train for an assassination? It is "sad" for him, but not outraged or disgusted?

Maybe MSF will be even more sad when people like us withdraw their financial support.

Another Bad Park?

Michelle Jarboe writes today that Starmount Co. has abandoned plans to develop 5 acres of underused property across from Friendly Center, and will instead donate it to the city for use as a park.

Oh, boy.

Starmount had wanted to develop the property for offices, which would have been a very sensible use for that location. It's near a busy retail center, and some of the office workers could have lived nearby in Starmount Forest, giving them short or non-existent commutes. The office workers could have taken advantage of nearby retail and grocery stores. Efficiency and convenience all around.

But the neighbors were gearing up for a rezoning battle, and I think their attitude toward non-residential development in the area is best summed up by the tall brick wall that was built between them and the Shops at Friendly along Friendly Avenue.

Starmount Co. had also considered townhouses at that location, but spokesman Ron Wilson said that the idea didn't "trip his trigger." Since Greensboro's single-family homeowners tend to treat new townhouse developments as if they were invading Huns, I can understand his attitude.

However, the neighbors' hostility to commercial development isn't entirely unjustified. Car-oriented office and retail as it has been practiced in Greensboro -- that is, strip development -- is typically ugly and neighborhood-unfriendly. Only a few places so far have mixed uses successfully, namely Southside, the Village at North Elm, and soon Willow Oaks, and Starmount Co. was not involved in any of these.

Still, before the city accepts this "gift" from Starmount Co., it should take into consideration that good parks are expensive to maintain, some in Greensboro costing several hundred thousand dollars per year.

And bad parks, which cost less, are often underused, or worse, attractors of neighborhood problems. Do the Starmount Forest neighbors want the city to pay for the upkeep of a convenient gathering spot for the many petty criminals that naturally gravitate to Friendly Center? A quick and incomplete search of police records returned 19 arrests or incidents there in the last month. Does Greensboro have the police and Parks & Recreation resources to keep this park crime free? I don't think it does.

This part of town is already rich in parks and open space. Within a 1-mile radius of this location are the Lake Daniel Greenway, the long park between East and West Greenway Drives, the Arboretum Trail, the Market Street Park, the Starmount Natural Area, the Bicentennial Garden, the Bog Garden, and the Guilford Hills Natural Area.

Finally, would this park have the features for success that the Project for Public Spaces identifies, such as good pedestrian connectivity, an image and identity, a seasonal strategy, and good management?

In a word, no.

Greensboro needs to grow up, both literally and figuratively. It has hundreds of acres of underused land that should be usefully developed --vertically -- to make efficient use of our existing infrastructure and increase our tax base.

And its developers and neighborhoods need to stop bickering like children over their narrow interests, and start negotiating toward the kind of infill development that will serve future generations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time Travel By Bike

People say that a lot of things make them "feel like a kid" again, and I don't know how true that is for most of them -- I looked at's list of such things, and I don't think any of them would actually work for me.

But my new bike did yesterday, at least for a few seconds, as I was coming up the hill and zipping through the roundabout on Greene St. I had to put on a little speed so as not to annoy the driver behind me, since he was nice enough not to try to pass me in that narrow stretch.

As I stood on the pedals and rocked the bike side-to-side to get some acceleration, I had a "body memory" of that very move from the time when I used to ride one of these to school, sparkly banana seat and all, in about 1967.

I haven't done that for years, but it felt just like it did when I was 10, which is not a bad feeling to have if you're 50.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My Day Job

Maila Rible of WFMY interviewed me a couple of weeks ago about neologisms, and the story (of which I was a small part) showed up on the news tonight. You can see it here.

WFMY also has posted a link to a WMV file of the whole interview.

I find it difficult to say intelligent things while on camera, but Maila was pretty kind to me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Farewell, and Hello, Beautiful!

I ended an extended affair today, and though I'm feeling a little regret at having unceremoniously tossed aside a beloved longtime companion, I'm confident things will work out for the best for both of us.

I refer, of course, to my longstanding relationship with Miss Kymco, who has escorted me about town for almost 3 years with style and verve. I would have stuck with her, but unfortunately, she was beginning to embarrass my friends.

And the truth is, I fell in love with another.

It was a chance meeting -- as these things so often are! -- as I was browsing the aisles at REI in search of ... well, it doesn't matter what I was in search of.

But what I found was a new, sleek black beauty, who promised not only to "get me where I need to go," but also to, you know (nudge nudge wink wink y'know what I mean), help me "work up a little sweat" while doing so.
I couldn't afford to maintain both of my beloveds in the style to which they've become accustomed.

So it was lucky that a friend was waiting in the wings to take on the upkeep of Miss Kymco.

Tomorrow my new, sleek black beauty and I are hitting the road together. And my wife says it's OK!

How lucky can a guy get?

Update: Apparently, I can get even luckier. Today's Fast Forward column (my favorite regular N&R column -- no, really) says I'm eligible for prizes and free food just for riding a bike.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Garden Shots

Clematis Jackmanii , Chamaecyparis Obtusa "Cripsii," Frances Williams Hosta.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What To Make of a Diminished Thing

David Hoggard has the latest lowdown on the city's plans to dismantle most of Greensboro's World War Memorial Stadium, which will cost over $1 million.

In a guest Op-Ed for the News and Record last October, I wrote,
For about the cost of single a loaf of bread bought annually for 15 years, the average Greensboro voter can keep faith with the 80 Guilford County citizens who gave their lives for their country, and preserve North Carolina's last living and active World War I memorial. Or voters can break that faith, and pay later to have the memorial demolished and hauled to the landfill.
Time for the $1 million landfill run.

Update: Brenda Bowers, in the comments says, "I tried to tell David and others what they must do to get what they want," indicating that all that was done to preserve the stadium (by Hoggard and me and others) was write blog posts.


Just to clarify: In 2002 our neighborhood hired a design firm to come up with this plan to renovate the stadium. We raised $20,000 to do so. We brought many people to several city council meetings to lobby for it.

When that failed, Hoggard and I and others served for two years on the committee that worked out the best potential uses, and then the best designs, for the stadium. We brought these recommendations to the Parks and Recreation board and to the city council.

We worked with A&T, Greensboro College, the VFW, and youth sports groups to lobby the city council to put the renovation project on the last bond referendum.

We worked with the Citizens' Committee for Greensboro to publicize the bonds in newspapers, on the radio, and on billboards. We met with neighborhood and community groups, we went on the radio, we distributed brochures and yard signs.

And we lost.

Anyhow, thanks for the advice, Brenda.

Earlier posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Celebration in Greensboro?

Rumors are flying over at Word Up about Disney possibly building something big in downtown Greensboro. For now, this is sheer speculation.

But people might be interested to know that Disney has built one of the most innovative New Urbanist communities in the country: Celebration, Florida.

Here's review essay on some books that deal with Disney's foray into city planning from The Urban Affairs Review: When the Mouse Runs the House: Disney Urbanism.

I've never been interested enough in Disney's theme parks to visit any of them, but mine is obviously a minority taste.

Update: Downtown resident Sean Coon doesn't like the idea of Disney in Greensboro (and links to an interesting video about corporate branding and Disney).

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Prom Night

Two of my children were on the town last night, at dinner and then at prom, their first. A rite of passage for them and for their parents.

I spent the early part of the evening initiating Sam in the mysteries of the tuxedo, though of course I was completely excluded from my daughter's preparations. Then came the awkward attachment of floral vegetation in the presence of multiple parents, then the photographs, then the stern warnings to young men and women about the evils of strong drink.

After that, they're on their own, and you hope they have fun, and use their heads, and get home ok.

And they did, and they did, and they did.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

John Hartford

You probably don't know who John Hartford was.

He was a genius of American music. He made enough money as the composer of Gentle On My Mind to finance a long career breaking new ground using traditional American music as a base.

Here's an early video of him doing straight-up bluegrass with Johnny Cash at the Grand Ole Opry, with Vassar Clements on fiddle.

When I was learning to play the banjo in the early 70's, his Morning Bugle record was a revelation to me of what could be done with that instrument, but not in a flashy way. He played the banjo with soul.

He was also seminal to the Newgrass movement, and a band I was in in college -- The Corn Palace Conquistadors -- covered almost every song from his album Aereo-Plain.

John later started performing solo, using his feet on plywood for rhythm. His album Mark Twang, which consists of solo recordings, won a Grammy. I especially like "Long Hot Summer Days" (next video) because it came out when I was working summers loading grain barges on the Mississippi River, and that's what the song is about. John had a lifelong love of riverboat life in the Midwest, and was a licenced riverboat pilot.

John recorded dozens of records, and did some of the voice work and music for Ken Burns' Civil War documentary. He also recorded some tracks for O Brother Where Art Thou when he was quite ill with cancer. He died in 2001.

George Clooney Visits War Memorial Stadium

I didn't get to see George Clooney or Renée Zellweger when I walked over to the stadium for some pictures of the Leatherheads shoot, but I did get a picture of a picture of George John Krazinski (last photo below).

Do I need to comment on the irony in the fact that the old stadium's charm has managed to attract the attentions of two major Hollywood productions (Bull Durham and Leatherheads), but Greensboro's own citizens were not willing to put up the money to renovate it?

No, I do not.

Anyway, here are some shots of the old girl all dressed up for George and Renée. I thought the extras looked great. Hooray for Hollywood! Click photos to enlarge.

And here's the picture of the picture of George John Krazinski.

Finally, here's a YouTube video montage that seems to evoke the period of Clooney's movie (1925), with "Hooray for Hollywood" as the soundtrack. I just like the song!

Udpate: Hoggard has more photos, and similar sentiments. And Lenslinger got some actual video of the The Man.

Update II: Neighbor Paula Patch got some pictures of George in the act of directing:

RUCO Is Working

WFMY reports that rental housing code violations in Greensboro are down 31% from last year, and inspectors attribute the improvement to the RUCO ordinance, which mandates that all rental units must be inspected to receive a Certificate of Occupancy.

The Greensboro Neighborhood Congress worked hard to get the RUCO ordinance passed. The Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition opposed it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Property Paradoxes: Two Rezonings

One of those green and yellow rezoning notices has gone up in front of a large and unused property on a busy thoroughfare just a few hundred yards from my house. The rezoning proposal will allow high-intensity business, office, and multifamily residential uses, within a stone's throw of many single-family residences.

The neighborhood's reaction? Muted approval. Neighbors want to know more about the plans, but are also excited about the possibilities.

In another area of town, on another busy thoroughfare, contiguous to a single-family neighborhood, a similar rezoning is being proposed (though on a much smaller scale), but the neighbors there are circling the wagons. I went to a party in that neighborhood last week, and joked with one of the guests that our hostess should have just told us to follow the "NO REZONING" signs in nearly every yard on the way to her house.

What accounts for the different neighborhood reactions? I think it has to do with different perceptions of self-interest, since self-interest is always what drives neighborhoods to oppose -- or approve -- zoning changes.

My neighborhood was once (90 years ago) an outlying suburb that has long since been engulfed by the city. Business and multifamily uses were integrated into it decades ago, and people who live here now mostly want the kinds of things that more urbanized land uses can bring them. We know that more people living nearby means more support for more and better neighborhood-oriented services.

But the 40-year-old suburban neighborhoods off Lawndale Ave. were founded on a completely different ideal, at a time when separation of commercial and residential uses was the dominant planning paradigm.

It's still a popular idea, and the residents of those neighborhoods say so themselves in letters to the editor. Susan Brower writes, "All want the same thing: a nice place to raise kids away from commercial enterprise." Michele van Gobes says, "The Country Park and Pineburr neighborhoods are low-density, park-like, and enhanced by proximity to both Country Park and the Natural Science Center. They are not an appropriate location for retail development." James Bennett writes, "We do not want coffeehouses, ice cream parlors, delicatessens, and other general retail, no matter how high-end, in our neighborhood. We want single family homes with quiet streets, trees, places to walk, places for our kids, our dogs, and our families."

There's no arguing that all of those are nice things that many people want. But, to paraphrase a proverb, who wants A, must also want B.

And if A is low-density, single-family housing separated from commercial services, then B entails congested thoroughfares like Battleground Avenue, Lawndale Avenue, and High Point Road, lined with strip malls to provide the services you don't want near your house.

B also entails the kind of housing and commercial development usually called "sprawl," because if you don't want to fill in or up, you have to build out. And building out entails traffic congestion, long commutes, more road construction and widenings (which have tax consequences), higher demand for gasoline (and thus higher gas prices), poorer air quality, and ... you know the rest.

So if you're in favor of low-density housing and separation of uses, and are also appalled by the development along New Garden Road or at Horse Pen Creek road, it's appropriate to quote Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us. The developers want to use that property for commercial purposes because people live there.

If I lived in the Lawndale area, I think I'd be telling my neighbors to pressure the developers to build something that would provide services to the neighborhood, that had a pedestrian-oriented, neighborhood-friendly design, and that would enhance the streetscape on Lawndale. I'd see it as an opporunity to show how good, infill development can happen, because I think that's important for Greensboro's future.

I'd also point out to Mr. Bennett that quiet streets, trees, places to walk, and places for kids and dogs also can be found in conjunction with shops and businesses, and would invite him to take a walk around Southside sometime.

Don't know how many more parties I'd get invited to, though.