Stack and Pack vs. Smear All Over


I drove out to a distant suburb recently to attend to some business and I passed by a cluster of billboards on the side of the freeway that got me thinking. The general gist of the slogans asserted a conservative anti-government anti-urban rebellion. These are clearly people who don’t want density and public transit imposed on them by pointy headed liberal idiots. I have to admit I have some sympathy for this perspective, although probably not for the same reasons as the billboard people.  read more »

The California Dream has Moved Away

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Southern California faces a serious middle income housing affordability crisis. I refer to middle income housing, because this nation has become so successful in democratizing property ownership that the overwhelming majority of middle income households own their own homes in most of the country.  read more »

Land Use Regulations and “Social Engineering”


All forms of land use regulation are explicitly “social engineering”. Full stop. Let’s acknowledge that reality as we move forward. The question is never whether we’ll be engaging in manipulating society through land use regulations, but how and why.  read more »

Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland


Portland has been among the world leaders in urban containment policy. And, as would be predicted by basic economics, Portland has also suffered from serious housing cost escalation, as its median multiple (median house price divided by median household income) has risen from a normal 3.0 in 1995 to 4.8 in 2014.  read more »

Silicon Valley: Jelly in the Jam


My last post was about how Silicon Valley is evolving into an urban form that’s not quite leafy and open enough to be a suburb anymore, but not really vibrant and compact enough to be a proper city either. “Too thin to be jelly. Too thick to be jam.” The story got an unusually large number of visits. I received some well informed comments that touched on the reality that Silicon Valley is a big place and I shouldn’t generalize. Palo Alto is very different from Fremont and so on.  read more »

Growth and the Suburban Chassis


I tend to explore what happens to suburbs as they age and begin to decline. But this time I’m going to explore what happens to suburbs that thrive and continue to grow and work their way up the value chain. It isn’t exactly what many people expect. “Be careful what you wish for.”

A friend moved from San Francisco to San Jose this winter. Now that I’ve been visiting her on a regular basis I have an excuse to poke around. It’s actually pretty fascinating.  read more »

The French housing Bubble also has Roots in Excessive Land Use Regulations


Despite the claim to uniqueness that is quintessentially French, the housing bubble shares the same root as we see in the Anglo-Saxon world. To be sure, some analysts blame it only on low interest rates: they made the households more solvent, and thus drove home prices up. This rise in purchasing power might have been enhanced by some specific subsidies to new rental units. Some also y point to normative constraints on new buildings have added to production costs.  read more »

Southern California Housing Figures to Get Tighter, Pricier


What kind of urban future is in the offing for Southern California? Well, if you look at both what planners want and current market trends, here’s the best forecast: congested, with higher prices and an ever more degraded quality of life. As the acerbic author of the “Dr. Housing Bubble” blog puts it, we are looking at becoming “los sardines” with a future marked by both relentless cramming and out-of-sight prices.  read more »

Florida's Everglades: A Vernacular Far From Miami

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South Florida connotes a certain lifestyle in media and popular culture. Miami’s bright, tall energy has always been intertwined with the Florida Everglades’ quiet, flat landscape – low, grassy plains soaked with swamp water and edged by dense jungle. The seam where these two opposites meet is neither active nor passive; it is, instead, a third thing, where man’s activity has subtly modified the landscape, and nature has slowed man’s pace closer to its own.  read more »

Affordable Housing Maui Style


I was recently at a friend’s wedding on Maui. It was a beautiful ceremony in a magnificent location. The wedding was a week-long affair and the other guests were thrilled to enjoy the beach and sip drinks along the cascade of infinity pools at the resort. But I’m weird. I can’t sit still that long so I started to explore how the place works – not just the one resort, but the whole Maui tourist economy. First, I checked out real estate prices in the area. The cost of even the most modest homes and apartments are off the charts expensive.  read more »