This weekend due to a birthday brunch, we had to drive "downtown".
I do not drive "downtown" much - in fact, I do not drive down there at all if I can help it. We are comfortably ensconced in the nearby suburbs and really, my world has shrunk to a radius of about 5 miles (except for Iai class, which is farther out). I do not enjoy the traffic, I do not enjoy the masses of people, I do not enjoy urban sprawl or urban renewal (which are often the same in my mind).
That said, my trips down there are so infrequent that it is at least interesting to see the changes.
What I noticed is how many apartments are being thrown up.
Houses (actual houses) do still get built this close in (although most of that development happens far beyond these environs), but they are running out of room to put them on. A ten acre plot seems to now hold fifteen to twenty houses, all smashed together in the now ubiquitous California "Zero Clearance" style (so named because in California, the spacing between new houses in the 2000s came to be a little less than one person wide on each side of the fence).
As a result of the land diminishing, it simply is more valuable to build apartments.
These are not the ten or twenty units I knew growing up. These are hundreds of units spread out over large acres, three to five stories up in the sky (or more, if you are downtown). Banks of empty sockets that will become windows and possibly decks stare back as you drive by.
I shudder when I see them.
Let us assume a three hundred unit apartment complex, with three people average per apartment. That is 900 people crammed into a space less than some small towns that have less populations.
The units, of course, are totally dependent on local utilities for electricity, gas, and water. No "pull out a generator" or "borrow your neighbor's" when the power goes out in Winter (or worse here, in Summer where there is nothing but the face of the Sun). Minimal ability if any exists to do something like provide some element of food for one's self in any way.
Then multiply all of this. By tens easily, but one could probably find 50 such projects going on right now.
We lived in apartments the first seven to eight years of our marriage. We moved after that into a house, and have been in a house ever since. Beyond just the fact that I have some level of space from my neighbors, there are any number of things I can do even on my limited piece of property, should I choose to. But for those that will inhabit these towering hives, there is little if anything they can do.
It all works well of course - utilities, groceries, water - until something bad happens. Something that takes down the power that heats and cools and powers the cooking and refrigeration units and drives the city pumps that move the water. Then, things get a bit more dicey.
This is what truly terrifies me as I see these edifices going up.
Compact urban planning, like many things, depends on a number of factors to make it effective. And it is not just space and willingness of people to live that way. It depends on reliable food, fuel, and water to always be available, to always be delivered, and to only fail in the most limited of circumstances. It relies on an economic system and supply chain that always functions and always prioritizes making sure supplies are delivered to the city.
Many probably drive by and marvel at the newness and sheen of the building. I drive by and wonder "What happens when something goes wrong?"