states we have just under 200,000 acres of built land (residential,
commercial, industrial) and 100,000 acres of open space. So we have
33% open space now -- but some of it will be developed in the future.
How can Hong Kong do it? In the 1970s the British created seven
"new towns" to house a burgeoning population of refugees pouring
across the border from China after WWII and increasing in the 1960s
during Mao Tse Tung's "cultural revolution."
Their neat and efficient architectural plan was high density
residential structures with plenty of open space around them. The
typical Hong Kong housing development is a small cluster of 30-story
high-rise apartment towers built atop a two-story shopping mall. The
mall roof may hold a green park, swimming pool, exercise course and
The result is that the towns are an incongruous (to us)
juxtaposition of steep green hillsides with ranks of giant high-rise
buildings spiking up from the flatlands.
The hillsides are truly another world. On walks to two separate
peaks, we encountered lush tropical forest similar to Hawaii's (same
latitude), alive with water seeps, singing birds and butterflies. The
forests were free of city noise, and well-attended by locals enjoying
the serenity. Think Heisler Park with tropical forest instead of
grass, and much larger: jogging paths, exercise courses, tot lots
with brightly colored play structures and extensive steep, wild
I couldn't help comparing it to the Orange County pattern: ridges
shaved, hillsides scraped, and the natural vegetation replaced by an
endless blanket of single-family residences and nonnative
landscaping. What would Orange County look like with 7-million
residents in half the space?
In Hong Kong urban parks and walking paths line the river; old men
walk their birds (in cages) and play Go. Gardeners tend the flowers
and shrubs with bamboo rakes and hand tools. No leaf blowers here;
China is not short of labor.
High-density housing in the U.S. is resisted in part because the
neighbors don't trust that the open space unused for housing will