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<-- my life, by webgoddesscathy -->

:: Friday, March 31, 2006 ::
Smart Growth Principles
Author: WebGoddessCathy
Audience: for those who are too lazy to read a website's "About" section and who think it is weak to place a link in their comments to a website that explains everything
Bibliography: (direct quotes used without attribution)

(For some history on this post, you might want to read about the war going on.)

Smart Growth is not about how suburbs are bad for cities, specifically. It is about why suburbs (or "sprawl" in general) are no longer in the long-term interest of our cities, existing suburbs, small towns, rural communities, or wilderness areas.

Smart Growth is part of the puzzle of building sustainable communities.

The prevalence of many of our current environmental challenges -- air and water pollution; global warming, habitat fragmentation and conversion -- is in part due to the way in which we have built our neighborhoods, communities and metropolitan areas during the past half-century -- dispersed, inaccessible, and automobile-oriented -- in a word, sprawling.

There are many characteristics of Smart Growth: having a range of housing options, using compact building design, high density living, locating goods, services and transportation within a safe, easy walking distance.

The prevalence of many of our current environmental challenges -- air and water pollution; global warming, habitat fragmentation and conversion -- is in part due to the way in which we have built our neighborhoods, communities and metropolitan areas during the past half-century -- dispersed, inaccessible, and automobile-oriented -- in a word, sprawling.

The farther we have to travel between home and work, work and play, the more likely it is that we will drive. As the distances between trip origins and destinations has increased so has the amount of driving we have done. The end result of all of this driving is that our air quality has suffered. Research has shown that compact, pedestrian and transit friendly communities have a positive impact on air quality by improving travel alternatives.

As we build, we replace our natural landscape -- forests, wetlands, grasslands with streets parking lots, rooftops, and other impervious surfaces which... OK, this is getting really long.

Toronto is not necessarily a Smart Community. However, at the moment, living here currently fulfills more Smart Growth principles than living in many of the suburbs I could live in, while still holding the position I enjoy. (Which, by the way, I feel really good about - I find it a worthwhile endeavor.) Also note that my belief in specific principles varies in intensity.

If your suburb is walkable - if you can walk (or if there are bike paths) safely and easily to the grocery store and a restaurant or whatever services you use frequently - then your suburb is using a Smart Growth principle.

If those places are located close to where you live, there's another Smart Growth principle that they're using!

If your suburb has apartment buildings, townhouses, semis and detached houses in close proximity to each other, then your suburb is using a Smart Growth principle.

If you are paying a lot for your utilities because you have low-density neighbourhoods, you can blame it on your choice to live in the sprawl. On a per-unit basis, it is cheaper to provide and maintain services like water, sewer, electricity, phone service and other utilities in more compact neighborhoods than in dispersed communities.

I believe that Smart Growth is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps you are not able to make the same choices as I am. I chose to rent an apartment and live very frugally in order to save money for a downpayment on an acceptable house.

To preclude the comments - YES, I'm sure you are very frugal too. I am cheap. Extremely cheap (you can ask Alex to corroborate that).

Now, I am going to list some of the ways in which my new house (should the house inspection go well) meets some of the principles I believe in. This does not mean I am trying to tell you how good I am. I simply want to pre-answer the accusation that I am a hypocrite.

  • My house is within easy, safe walking distance to the subway
  • My neighbourhood has mixed use - there are shops nearby (within walking distance)
  • There are a variety of housing options in the area
  • There are green spaces nearby (within walking distances)
  • There is quite a lot of community involvement in Greektown and a strong sense of community ownership

There are improvements that could be made. It's not perfect. But it's the best that I could do with the resources available.

And I really want to be happy with the choice that I've made instead of being accused of making unintelligent statements when I've only made statements that someone else doesn't agree with.

You are welcome to post comment. Please play nice and do not attack me. I don't deal well with it (as has been noted several times and I have confirmed whole-heartedly). Anonymous has the advantage of being, well, anonymous. I do not.

:: Cathy 4:58 PM [+] :: 5 comments

:: Thursday, March 30, 2006 ::
OK, I had to freak out and celebrate last night and talk to the family first. Now, the details!

Let me tell you the story...

On our final visit to the place we put in an offer on, our agent took me on a drive-by of another barn-style house around the corner that was just coming on the market. Seemed OK, but thought nothing of it.

Lost the stupid house on Sammon. Good. Too expensive. It went for about $35,000 over asking. Pretty house, but totally not worth it. No parking, unfinished basement.

We get the listing for the "drive-by place" at 117 Marlow Ave (find it on google maps here). It's listed at more than the place we lost around the corner. And it's cute, so I'm thinking: no chance.

But Alex went to the open house on Saturday while I was out skiing. He loved it and wanted to put in an offer anyway, even though he knew we wouldn't get it. I thought it was a waste of time.

But I went to the open house on Sunday with my mom and thought: the house is OK, but it's totally NOT worth what people are going to over-pay for it. So I just forgot about it.

Well, on offer day, our real estate agent calls to let us know that there were NO offers on the house. Did we want to make an offer? Of course we did! So we offered what we actually could afford and wanted to pay for the place. Under asking.

Yesterday, they made a counter-offer that changed the closing date to June 23rd (90 days) instead of May and asked for an extra $2000 (which is still under asking). Alex and I talked about it and decided it was fair and so... voila! House!

The house purchase is totally conditional on financing (no prob) and a house inspection. To be honest, I'm really glad we've kept the inspection in our offer - many people routinely leave that out to make their offer more competitive. But I'm kind of wary of how easy this was. Why didn't any other offers come in?

There doesn't SEEM to be much wrong with the place, but that could be deceptive.

You used to be able to find out more about the place by searching MLS number E862653 in But it's no longer listed.

House inspection is on Saturday and I'm firming up my financing now.

Holy crap. Alex and I are so excited and amazed that we didn't compromise on what we wanted and got it so easily (of course, I'm ignoring all the hours spent looking at houses and postings).

:: Cathy 6:16 AM [+] :: 9 comments

:: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 ::

:: Cathy 3:41 PM [+] :: 3 comments

Again with the eery horoscope:

"It'll be that kind of week, Leo: a time when opportunities will come your way cloaked in seemingly absurd circumstances."

2 things have already happened:

  1. I discovered a fantastic seat sale by testing out a cool new technology
  2. We made an offer on a place that we had dismissed as 'beyond our reach' but that happened to have NO offers by their deadline

I sit here, waiting on pins and needles to find out what's going to happen.

:: Cathy 8:34 AM [+] :: 1 comments

:: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 ::
You know, probably the best thing you can do when you're about to put all of your money down on a house is to spend more on a vacation.

So following this ultra-logical line of thinking, I decided to book my ticket for my next vacation.

I figure that locating myself in Halifax during the move is actually a good way to get out of packing. I finally figured out how to make sure that someone else does it!

So, May Two-Four weekend (and the whole week beforehand), I'll be in Halifax visiting Raye.

OK, I confess, I didn't actually do it to get out of moving. I really did it because there was a ginormous seat sale and that was the best weekend for Raye and I figured that, if I didn't have a house already, then I probably wouldn't be moving that week.

Well, I guess I've just guaranteed we won't be moving that week now.

And if Halifax has bad weather that week? I'll just spend a lot of time eating buttery popcorn and horrible amounts of sweets and ice cream in front of her TV.

:: Cathy 8:07 PM [+] :: 0 comments

Remember when I posted about buying stocks in Ameritrade?

Remember the comment of scorn about buying said stock?

Well, today TD Ameritrade announced that they expect to exceed their earnings guidance, and that they're on track for a "record quarter." Click here to read the news.

My "wannabe musician boyfriend" has a gift and I'm thankful that he's using it for the greater good (of my portfolio).

:: Cathy 2:21 PM [+] :: 1 comments

Last night, I sat next to Jack Layton on the subway. It was weird to see him so close up.

I am happy to see him taking the TTC, actually. This is the kind of politician that I can get behind.

On top of that, he had a conversation with a couple of strange people who recognized him and he treated them very well, even though I'm sure he had about a hundred other things that he could think of that he'd rather be doing. He gave them his attention. Admirable.

:: Cathy 8:09 AM [+] :: 2 comments

:: Monday, March 27, 2006 ::
Alright, I did it. I finally walked to work from Yonge and Eg. It was an hour, door to door, but it felt great!

I love looking in all the shop windows as I march along. I daydream and think - I didn't even need my MP3 player, although I had meant to bring it.

I like walking so much more than running or bike riding. I just wish it didn't take so long to get from place to place or I'd do it all the time!

There's also the added annoyance of having to wear the right footwear and have shoes at work.

I've thought of riding my bike to work, taking back streets so as not to stress myself out or get run over. But I find I get so sweaty when I bike ride. And there's even MORE of an issue of making sure you wear appropriate clothes or take clothes with you in your backpack.

However, I do want to do this more often. It's such a great way to get in my exercise and save TTC money and raise my spirits in the morning.

:: Cathy 11:57 AM [+] :: 1 comments

Dear People of Toronto:

Stop paying too much for bad-quality houses just because they're staged nicely or happen to be within a 15-minute walk to the subway.

Let's be honest: you have a car anyway - you'll be happier in the 'burbs.
You don't want that house - it may be nicely decorated, but it has a crappy basement and no backyard.

Stop paying $30,000 over asking for a paint job worth a couple hundred dollars.

Please. Because you're making it difficult for me to buy a house. And I'm tired of tripping over all of you every time I go to an open house.

:: Cathy 9:20 AM [+] :: 14 comments

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