Housing

Green Jobs Sink Down Under

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Remember when President Obama declared that insulation was sexy? In the wake of the global economic downturn, a “green jobs” formulation has been launched, not just here, but in every major world capital. While the White House’s financial and rhetorical commitments to the creation of green jobs are significant, no administration has made these policies as central to their government as that of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Australia. The results there should provide a cautionary tale for President Obama, whose trip “Down Under” is currently scheduled for June.  read more »

Subjects:

America in 2050 -- Where and How We'll Live

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The presence of 100 million more Americans by 2050 will reshape the nation's geography. Scores of new communities will have to be built to accommodate them, creating a massive demand for new housing, as well as industrial and commercial space.

This growth will include everything from the widespread "infilling" of once-desolate inner cities to the creation of new suburban and exurban towns to the resettling of the American heartland -- the vast, still sparsely populated regions that constitute the majority of the U.S. landmass.  read more »

Forced March To The Cities

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California is in trouble: Unemployment is over 13%, the state is broke and hundreds of thousands of people, many of them middle-class families, are streaming for the exits. But to some politicians, like Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the real challenge for California "progressives" is not to fix the economy but to reengineer the way people live.  read more »

The Myth of the Strong Center

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At the height of the foreclosure crisis the problems experienced by some so-called “sprawl” markets, like Phoenix and San-Bernardino-Riverside, led some observers to see the largest price declines as largely confined to outer ring suburbs. Some analysts who had long been predicting (even hoping for) the demise of the suburbs skipped right over analysis to concoct theories not supported by the data. The mythology was further enhanced by the notion – never proved – that high gas prices were forcing home buyers closer to the urban core.  read more »

Transit Oriented Development: If Not San Francisco, Where?

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“The Great Transit Oriented Development Swindle?” reads the headline in the Fog City Journal, one of the growing number of internet newspapers providing serious, professional web-based journalism as an alternative to declining print newspapers (and their often less than effective web sites).

The article does not directly answer the question in the headline, but certainly provides enough ammunition to what has become a commonly accepted mantra among planners and urban boosters. It reveals how transit oriented development (TOD) is often based upon fragile foundations that amount to an ideological swindle. It is important to recognize that the Fog City Journal is no right wing or libertarian organ. There is little market for that in the city of San Francisco.  read more »

Green Wash: The Church of Sustainability

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The term green-wash is used to describe something that has been promoted as 'green', but is not. Has the term 'sustainability' worn out its welcome as well?  read more »

Suburban Design: Square Peg In A Round Hole

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Remember that Fisher Price toy – “Baby's First Blocks”? It was supposed to teach us one of life's first lessons: Place a square shape in a square hole, and a round shape in a round hole. We're supposed to understand this idea before we learn to say our first words, or to walk. Yet in the development of our neighborhoods, we have put that square shape into every hole, no matter what the shape of that hole.  read more »

Eminent Domain as Central Planning

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Free markets are out of vogue. The unfortunate lesson that policymakers have learned over the past two years is that a big, brainy government that supposedly creates jobs is superior to irrational, faceless markets that just create catastrophic errors. So Washington has seized on the financial and economic crises to enlarge its role in managing the economy—controlling the insurance giant AIG, for example, and trying to maintain high housing prices through tax credits and “mortgage modification” programs.  read more »

What is the Answer to the Suburban Question?

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We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!).  read more »

Welcome to Ecotopia

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In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.

In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle--largely approvingly--the emergence of a future green nation along the country's northwest coast.  read more »