Housing

Should Middle Class Abandon the American Dream?

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Over the past few years, particularly since the bursting of the housing bubble, there have been increasing calls for middle-class Americans to “scale down” from their beloved private homes and seek a more constrained existence. Among these voices recently was Michael Milken, for whom I have worked and have enormous respect. He suggested Americans would be better off not buying homes and living smaller, for the sake of their own economic situations, families and the environment.  read more »

Insights into Planning for the Future From Long Island

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Recently, Long Island-based Foggiest Idea launched an all-new feature called The Foggiest Five, which asks influential Long Islanders five questions regarding the future of the region. The first participant was Andrew Freleng, who serves as Suffolk County's Chief Planner. Freleng's experience and dedication to the field made for the perfect first featured guest.  read more »

The New Downtown Los Angeles

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There was a time when downtown Los Angeles was the commercial center of Southern California. According to Robert Fogelson, writing in his classic Downtown: Its Rise and Fall (1880-1950)"nearly half" of Los Angeles residents went downtown every day in the middle 1920s. A time traveler from 1925 might think that to still be the case, with the concentration of tall buildings, and the frequent press reports about downtown’s resurgence.    read more »

Focusing on People, Not Sprawl

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For seven decades urban planners have been seeking to force higher urban population densities through urban containment policies. The object is to combat "urban sprawl," which is the theological (or ideological) term applied to the organic phenomenon of urban expansion. This has come at considerable cost, as house prices have materially increased relative to incomes, which is to be expected from urban containment strategies that ration land (and thus raise its price, all things being equal).  read more »

City of Villages

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Los Angeles is unique among the big, world-class American cities. Unlike New York, Boston, or Chicago, L.A. lacks a clearly defined core. It is instead a sprawling region made up of numerous poly-ethnic neighborhoods, few exhibiting the style and grace of a Paris arrondissement, Greenwich Village, or southwest London. In the 1920s, the region’s huge dispersion was contemptuously described—in a quotation alternately attributed to Dorothy Parker, Aldous Huxley, or H. L. Mencken—as “72 suburbs in search of a city.” Los Angeles’s lack of urbane charm led William Faulkner to dub it “the plastic asshole of the world.” But to those of us who inhabit this expansive and varied place, the lack of conventional urbanity is exactly what makes Los Angeles so interesting.  read more »

'Lone Eagle' Cities: Where The Most People Work From Home

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In an era of high unemployment and limited opportunity, more Americans are taking matters into their own hands and going to work for themselves out of their homes.  read more »

We Had To Destroy the City In Order to Save It

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As housing prices and rents soar out of control in tightly regulated cities like San Francisco and New York, many people have called for a significant loosening of zoning rules to permit greater densification. Many policies contribute to unaffordable housing, including rent control, historic districts, eminent domain abuse, and building codes, but zoning puts an absolute cap on dwelling units per acre thus is generally part of any solution to the supply problem.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Suburbanizing Mexico

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There is an increasing recognition – at least outside the academy, planning organization and urban core developer groups – that the spatial expansion of cities or suburbanization represents the evolving urban form of not only the United States and virtually all of the high income world but also across the developing world, whether middle income or third world.  read more »

San Francisco Photo Essay: I Used to Live Here

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This is my old apartment in SF’s Mission District from way back when Mrs. UpintheValley and I were just dating.  My waystation before cohabitation and matrimony. I notice the curtains haven’t changed.  Flea market bedspreads and pillowcases were the order of the day then, and apparently still are.  Which means P. has kept the lease on the place and presumably lived in uninterrupted squalor with a revolving cast of characters from Roommate Finders all these years.  At the prices we were paying then, why would you ever leave?  read more »

The Illusions of Charles Montgomery's Happy City (Part 2)

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This is the second of a two-part series discussing Charles Mongomery's Happy City. Read part one here.

‘The system that built sprawl’

Montgomery faces the hurdle of explaining why, if low-density suburbs cause unhappiness, so many millions of people, over so many decades, across several countries, flocked to that way of life. As he writes, ‘since 1940, almost all urban growth has actually been suburban.’ He must account for this fact, even though it means little to him personally. For the green-tinged intelligentsia, working and middle-class people are pawns who rarely think for themselves.        read more »