The Reluctant Suburbanite, Or Why San Francisco Doesn’t Always Work


This week I’m helping a friend move house after watching her grapple with some unappealing options for the last couple of years. In the end she’s leaving San Francisco and moving to the suburbs forty-seven miles to the south. She absolutely hates the suburbs, but given all the possibilities it really is the right thing to do under the circumstances. Here’s a little background. She attended Berkeley University in the 1990′s as a foreign exchange student and fell in love with the Bay Area.  read more »

Long Island Suburbs: How Planners Should Treat Age Spots

Levittown's first house.jpg

Long Island is the birthplace of suburbia, from colonial-period Brooklyn to Levittown and beyond, and its economy has survived booms and busts since the 1950s. As stagnant as it may be, if it's anything, it is resilient. Today, its problems mirror those of many older suburban areas scattered across the country, and, like many other suburbs, its problems cannot be solved by simply shoehorning in more development - and more tax revenue. Are policymakers addressing the true thorns in the region's side: Affordable housing, cost-of-living, taxes, racism and fear of change?  read more »

California's Southern Discomfort


We know this was a harsh recession, followed by, at best, a tepid recovery for the vast majority of Americans. But some people and some regions have surged somewhat ahead, while others have stagnated or worse.  read more »

Aging America: The U.S. Cities Going Gray The Fastest


For years we have been warned about the looming, profound impacts that the aging of the U.S. population will have on the country. Well, the gray wave has arrived. Since 2000, the senior population has increased 29% compared to overall population growth of 12%. The percentage of Americans in the senior set has risen from 12.4% to 14.1%, and their share of the population is projected to climb to 19.3% by 2030. There are two principal causes for this: the baby boom generation is reaching 65 years old, while the U.S.  read more »

Affordable Cities are the New Sweet Spots


I’ve lived in San Francisco long enough (I’m getting old) that I’ve seen several waves of bright young people arrive, burn out, then move away. For some they were looking for adventure, found it, and then carried on with normal life elsewhere. But for most it was simply a matter of the numbers not adding up. Working a dead end low wage job while sharing a two bedroom apartment with seven room mates is only romantic for so long. I’m fairly inquisitive so I’ve kept up with many of these folks to see how they manage after they leave. I travel a lot and pop in to visit on occasion.  read more »

Housing Affordability in China


Finally, there is credible housing affordability data from China. For years, analysts have produced "back of the envelope" anecdotal calculations that have been often as inconsistent as they have been wrong.  read more »


Metropolitan Housing: More Space, Large Lots


Americans continue to favor large houses on large lots. The vast majority of new occupied housing in the major metropolitan areas of the United States was detached between 2000 and 2010 and was located in geographical sectors associated with larger lot sizes. Moreover, houses became bigger, as the median number of rooms increased (both detached and multi-family), and the median new detached house size increased.  read more »

The New Donut


Former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut used to like to say that “you can’t be a suburb of nowhere.” This is the oft-repeated notion has been a rallying cry for investments to revitalize downtowns in America for three decades or so now. The idea being that you can’t have a smoking hole in your region where your downtown is supposed to be. This created a mental based on a donut. You can’t let downtown become an empty hole. For reason that will become apparent soon, I call this model “the old donut”.  read more »

Seniors Dispersing Away from Urban Cores


Senior citizens (age 65 and over) are dispersing throughout major metropolitan areas, and specifically away from the urban cores. This is the opposite of the trend suggested by some planners and media sources who claim than seniors are moving to the urban cores.  read more »

The Death of Nassau Coliseum: A Harbinger of Suburban Decline?


Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is one of the last remaining old time hockey rinks. But this will be the last year that the New York Islanders play there. The old barn has long been slated for replacement. It is an old building that requires expensive repairs. Many attempts were made to reach an agreement for a new arena with Nassau County. Sadly, the team’s new location will be at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn; on Long Island physically, but not a part of the island’s suburban tradition.  read more »