James Howard Kunstler, "New Urbanism" Guru, Blasts "Fiasco Known as Irvine"

Categories: OC Media

james-howard-kunstler_TED.jpg
TED
Irvine has Kunstler seeing red.
James Howard Kunstler, a New York-based author and social critic known for his 1994 book The Geography of Nowhere, articles in The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times and elsewhere, as well as TED lectures on suburbia, urban development and "the global oil predicament," has lowered the boom on Orange County's most-planned city.

Bend over and take it like a man, Irvine!

The Irvine Co.'s master planned capital comes up after Kunstler rants for three opening paragraphs on the lack of leadership these days.

I can especially understand this after being in a particular part of the USA for three days last week: Orange County, California, specifically the fiasco known as Irvine. This so-called "city" was once a ranch comprising hundreds of thousands of acres consolidated out of old Spanish land grants by one James Irvine, an Irish immigrant who made a fortune selling groceries and dry goods during the California Gold Rush and parlayed it into real estate--including eventually the nearly 200-square-mile tract of creosote bush and sagebrush forty-odd miles south of nascent Los Angeles. The so-called city named after Mr. Irvine--and still largely controlled by a private real estate development company he founded--prides itself on being rationally planned. By this they mean that all the angles have been figured out for producing massive volumes of exquisitely-tuned suburban sprawl at a nice profit.

One thing this demonstrates is that rational planning is not the same thing as intelligence because the end result on-the-ground is a nightmare of the most extreme car dependency in the nation, arguably even worse than Los Angeles. That it is also a nightmare of crushing uniformity, disconnection, boredom, and ennui probably matters less because the essence of the place's character is that it has no future. There is absolutely no way that the American people can continue their Happy Motoring frolic for another generation, yet the Irvine Company is still busy slapping together new monocultures of housing pods, strip malls, and all the other usual furnishings with the kind of stupid confidence of people intoxicated on Rotary Club bullshit--which is to say zeal minus consciousness. It is the same frame-of-mind that produces the famous Orange County right wing politics.

Orange County, and places like it, represent a tremendous tragic problem for this country. They were the products of emergent economic forces that humans only pretended to control with their vaunted rational planning. They almost certainly cannot be fixed. They're too big and the money won't be there; it's the essence of our predicament that capital formation is crippled and that situation will only get worse.These places will enter a state of widespread crisis within the next ten years, and possibly much sooner. The people who live there will see their property lose all its value, and then they will have to make choices about where to move to. In the process, they will dig in their heels, cause an immense amount of political mischief, and eventually lose anyway.

On the bright side ... uh ... scratch that: Mr. Kunstler sees no bright side here.

Keith Shirey posted the entire piece on For the Left.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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23 comments
John Castro
John Castro

I am a huge proponent of new urbanism. And i learned it at UCI!

RocketJ
RocketJ topcommenter

Zero credibility, as others have noted Irvine is one of the more bike friendly cities in Orange County. My problem with Irvine is the overzealous HOAs. And why the slam on the Rotary club which is a service organization, I wonder if he wanted to be a member but was never asked?

landorf1
landorf1

College students are among the most walking/biking oriented of groups. How do UC irvine students deal with an environment that's so spread out? Do they consider it to be a significant problem?

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

Guy's a tard. Been whining about this for years like others said. Also Irvine is one of the most bike friendly cities in the country.

rpmcestmoi1
rpmcestmoi1

Excessive to be sure, but that is his schtick. It's a pretty good living. Look how well known Chicken Little became.

There are glimpses of truth to be sure, in his screed. It can be gloriously dull in this dense suburb called city. Particularly for those uninterested in biking, walking, hiking, swimming, general outdoor spirt or birdwatching. Public transport is modest but better used daily. Beige is, indeed, the dominant color. And the Irvine company is an irresponsible commercial landlord furter homogenizing the retail landscape by finding mom and pops unsuitable and chains irresistable. Car dependency is a fact of American life. I don't like it, nor did my friend Jane Holtz Kay, whose great book on the subject is often spoken of with some of Kunstler's work. Too gd big a country and a n American point of view (warped) about the nature of independence are perfect for sprawl, alas. But I love it here, just as I do being in NY or Boston or Chicago or LA or Paris,all for different reasons.

No time soon, the apocalypse.

Ro Ar
Ro Ar

He pretty much nailed it

mdozier2
mdozier2

I've lived in: Caracas, Miami's South Beach, Gainesville, Fl, Indian Harbor FL, Indialantic FL, Mar Vista (LA), Humacao PR, and Westwood (LA). 

I've worked at offices in Downtown LA, Venice Beach, Irvine, Downtown Santa Ana and Downtown Long Beach. 

Lived in Irvine for past 15 yrs, and what I like is exactly what Mr Pereira put into the design for the city. It ain't so bad Mr Cuntsler.

qdpsteve
qdpsteve

What bphood, 20ftjesus, mpro and Biff said. Of course there's lots to criticize about Irvine, just like there's lots to criticize about OC and California in general... but overeducated bigots like Kunstler are the last people who should be doing it.

Also, like mpro said, these assholes usually live in communities so isolated and white that they would make Irvine look like Santana. But apparently in the pages of OCW, it's okay to be a screaming hypocrite as long as you're also a liberal.

bphood
bphood

If Irvine had more crime it would be more interesting.......right? The central planning marxist doesnt like irvine.........well dont move there then jerk off

20ftjesus
20ftjesus topcommenter

1. most extreme car dependency in the nation -- Wrong.  Ask 5 Points about what they have to allocate to build neighborhoods in Irvine.  (i.e. stores, parks, walking paths, sport facilities, water features, etc.)

2.  place's character is that it has no future -- Wrong.  A new high school, police HQ, fire station are going in new neighborhoods to the east.  Asian immigrants get in line to send their kids to Irvine schools.  No future?  Gimme a break.  Property prices are supported by these same people.

3.  the money won't be there -- Wrong.  Irvine is flush with cash and more is on the way.  5,000 new homes are in the planning process.  OC is having to give back millions because Irvine overpaid one of its contracts.  Lastly, Irvine still owns acres of land (free and clear) that are allocated to building future neighborhoods. Ask any vendor what they pay to the city to operate in Irvine.  Running out of cash?  HA!

mpro
mpro

America is a melting pot of communities and people with strong opinions.   We all choose a place to live for very personal reasons.  Mr Kunstler is from a small community in upstate NY (95% white) that is more an example of historical practices than anything progressive enough to face a grim future, that Mr. Kunstler writes and speaks about.  When our economy transitions away from Oil and into this uncertain future, It will likely be that the ethnically diverse, economically sound, efficient communities such as Irvine (50% white), that will continue to provide the Tax dollars and support that everyone needs to transition into a new reality.

Biff
Biff

Not to deny Irvine's soul-crushing homogeneity, but Kunstler is a world-class, grade-A crackpot who's been predicting the imminent and total collapse of civilization JUST AROUND THE CORNER!!1! for years now. Back in the day, it was Y2K that was going to push us over the edge; then he moved on to Muslim terrorists and the war in Iraq; now, I guess, it's going to be a "lack of leadership" and the Irvine Company.

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

"...all the angles have been figured out for producing massive volumes of exquisitely-tuned suburban sprawl at a nice profit."

"...a nightmare of crushing uniformity, disconnection, boredom, and ennui..."

Yep, that's Irvine, California.  

 

BobLoblawsLawBlog
BobLoblawsLawBlog

Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Howard. Seriously, Irvine is terrible and you can't walk anywhere. It's all shades of adobe red, beige and green. Why are property prices in these sub-urban pergatories stagnating and prices around more livable neigborhoods(Old town Orange, Fullerton, Santa Ana, Garden Grove) going up? Where I live I can walk to everything I need and I know my neighbors. Novel, eh?

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@qdpsteve Here comes Steve again whining that we don't trash liberals...until we do, and then we're suddenly great. Just stick to the facts of the story, son...

n2bigmuscle
n2bigmuscle topcommenter

Maybe that guys is just jelous he cannot live there?  Is he even relevent if he wrote something 20 years ago?  The world was a far, far different place.

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

@Biff  

Agree.  The worst part of his essay was his prediction that a "widespread crisis" is forthcoming.  As much as I wish that were true, Irvine, 10 years from now, is going to be exactly the same -- only with even more 1,000+ unit apartment communities with addresses like 20 Milano 

 

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@JBinOC The only thing I'll criticize Howard for is him not mentioning the sole thing that saved this cursed 'burb: immigrants. Then again, they're all middle-class folks who turn into Irvine zombies...

20ftjesus
20ftjesus topcommenter

@GustavoArellano If you want to bash Irvine over something real, then look into the new high school being built next to a hazardous waste dump and the new 7,000 bed med/max security prison.

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