Housing

Irvine, by Design

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Different is not necessarily better or worse. I took notice of this upon moving from the Echo Park district of Los Angeles to Irvine. Some acquaintances and casual observers viewed it as a shift from ground zero of hipster chic to the center of conformity. Neither comes close to capturing the truth about either place.

Irvine is very different from Echo Park—not necessarily better or worse. That’s my point of view as a resident who appreciates aspects of both places.  read more »

GIS and Online Mapping: Stretching the Truth Scale

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When I began my land planning career in 1968, one of the first things I learned about was the use of the Rubber Scale. What is it? Rubber Scale was a term used by civil engineers and land surveyors to describe an inaccurate plan that ignored the physical limitations of the existing terrain. To say that the planner or architect had used a Rubber Scale to create a beautifully rendered plan with pastel colors and soft shadows cast from tree stamps was a negative comment, since these plans were pretty much worthless to the engineer and surveyor that had to make the plans conform to regulations.  read more »

The Urban Energy Efficiency Retrofit Challenge

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I was welcomed home to Chicago from visiting family on Christmas Day by a cold house and a gas furnace that wasn't working. The next day a repair tech gave me the bad news about a blown circuit board that would cost over $500 to replace. But I heard that were was a $1500 tax credit for energy efficient upgrades that was expiring at year end. With $2000 in “free money” to spend, I thought maybe furnace replacement might be a better option. At eight years old, the furnace might have more years of life.  read more »

Fuzzy Thinking by Famous Economists

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Edward L. Glaeser, in an end-of-year piece for the New York Times, claims that generous housing supply is the reason that Texas’s economy is performing so well. As he says in his final paragraph:

“Housing regulations, more than those that bind standard businesses, explain the Sun Belt’s population growth. If New York and Massachusetts want to stop losing Congressional seats, then they must revisit the rules that make it so difficult to build. High prices show that the demand would be there if the supply is unleashed.”

This can’t be true.  read more »

Coalition of the Unwilling

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This week the UK government announced an ”end to anti-car policies” reversing the guidance to local authorities to dissuade citizens from using their cars in favour of public transport. Charges for parking will be reined in, they promise.

It should be good news. The comically-named ”traffic calming” schemes put in place by the outgoing government were deeply unpopular. Still, we are getting used to taking our announcements from the new coalition government with a pinch of salt.  read more »

Faith-Based City Planning: Exorcising the Suburban Dream

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We're coming to the end of the season when we focus a great deal of attention on faith. What is faith? The Biblical definition calls it the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Humans have the capacity to firmly believe in something that cannot be explained by reason and is not visibly evident. Faith is the basis of the world's major religions, and often is a cause for war, and today, terrorism. But though the season of faith may be winding down, there is still a place where faith remains strong year round: It is often the basis of the way we plan our communities.  read more »

Holiday Greetings from New Geography

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Here’s to the end of our 31st month publishing NewGeography.com. It’s been another good year of steady growth. Thanks for reading, for the good natured arguments, and your submissions. We hope your holiday season is relaxing and safe (for me it’s a 350 mile drive across the frozen tundra.)

Here’s a look at of some of our most popular pieces over the past year.  read more »

Smart Growth and the Quality of Life

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The idea of “smart growth” should be like mom and apple pie. But take a closer look and you find, for the most part, that smart growth policies often have unintended consequences that are anything but smart.  read more »

Don’t Touch My Junk – At the Airport OR at the Zoning Office

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Until recently, “Don’t touch my junk” was only a rallying cry for people who liked to accumulate broken down cars in their yards, in defiance of local nuisance ordinances. The internet meme radiating from San Diego International Airport puts an entirely new spin on the phrase.  read more »

Belly-Up In The Burbs: Bank-Owned Developments

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In 2009, the number of repossessed autos increased to 1.9 million. The number of homes under foreclosure varies from month to month, but the 2009 total was about 2.8 million. For 2010, it seems that a million new foreclosed homes would be conservative, with a large percentage in California. Miss a few payments on an auto loan and you may wake up to an empty driveway.  read more »