Planning

San Antonio: Growth and Success in the Mexican-American Capital

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This essay is part of a new report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism titled "The Texas Way of Urbanism". Download the entire report here.

For decades, as many U.S. cities declined, and others became overly exclusive, cities in Texas evolved into places of opportunity. Due in large part to liberalized economic policies, the state’s “Big Four” metro areas — Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio — consistently rank among the nation’s leaders in population growth and job growth, experiencing the rapid urbanization once common among America’s legacy cities. In a state once defined by cowboy towns, these metros have become intense human and business agglomerations, growing more global and ethnically diverse in the process.  read more »

Opportunity Urbanism: The Tech Edition

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This essay is part of a new report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism titled "The Texas Way of Urbanism". Download the entire report here.

Any observer of urbanism in America knows that Austin tops numerous rankings of urban dynamism. Austin --- defined as a metropolitan area, not just the city --- is consistently atop Forbes’ annual list of Best Cities for Jobs in America over the past five years, which is why so many people move there in the first place.  read more »

Houston, City of Opportunity

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This essay is part of a new report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism titled "The Texas Way of Urbanism". Download the entire report here.

Creative friction – unchaperoned and unprescribed – is Houston’s secret sauce.

At a time when Americans’ confidence in all major U.S. institutions – minus the military and small business – has sunk below the historic average, and only about 20 percent of Americans say they spend time with their neighbors, one would expect pessimism to be universal. But come to the concrete sprawl just north of the Gulf and you’ll find a different vibe, one that other cities would do well to emulate.  read more »

The Texas Urban Model

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This essay is part of a new report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism titled "The Texas Way of Urbanism". Download the entire report here.

The future of American cities can be summed up in five letters: Texas. The metropolitan areas of the Lone Star state are developing rapidly. These cities are offering residents a broad array of choices — from high density communities to those where the population is spread out — and a wealth of opportunities.  read more »

San Francisco Observations

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I made quite a few trips to San Francisco during the late 90s into the early 2000s, but hadn’t been back in a very long time – probably close to 15 years.

Recently I was there for a conference and a long weekend and got to spend some time exploring the city. I won’t claim a comprehensive review, but I did have a few takeaways to share.  read more »

Cat and Mouse in Frogtown

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A friend recently expressed an interest in how some cities are reforming their land use regulations. “I mean, there are places like LA that say they’ve thrown out the code books and are rewriting their zoning.” My short response was… No. The reality is that the city plays an expensive and byzantine game of cat and mouse with each individual neighborhood.  read more »

Were Urban Freeways a Good Idea?

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It’s almost a truism in urbanist circles that construction of urban freeways was a bad idea.

Indianapolis Monthly magazine takes a somewhat more charitable view in its retrospective on the 40th anniversary of the completion of the downtown “inner loop” freeway.  read more »

Suburban. Comma. Transit.

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I explored the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that runs for eighteen miles across the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. The Valley is a profoundly suburban city-within-a-city and home to 1.8 million people spread out over 260 square miles. Attempts to upgrade public transit by the central authorities in LA proper have been fought tooth and nail by folks in the Valley and illustrate why transit just doesn’t work when the local culture doesn’t want it. I’m not sure why LA keeps pushing on this particular string.  read more »

A Capital Improvement and Revitalization Idea for Detroit

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You may have heard that Detroit is in the midst of a modest but enduring revival in and around its downtown. Residents and businesses are returning to the city, filling long-vacant skyscrapers, prompting new commercial development and revitalizing adjacent old neighborhoods. As a former Detroiter I'm excited to see the turnaround. After so many false starts, Detroit's post-bankruptcy rebound seems very real.  read more »

Two Cheers for NIMBYism

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Politicians, housing advocates, planners and developers often blame the NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — lobby for the state’s housing crisis. And it’s true that some locals overreact with unrealistic growth limits that cut off any new housing supply and have blocked reasonable ways to boost supply.

But the biggest impediment to solving our housing crisis lies not principally with neighbors protecting their local neighborhoods, but rather with central governments determined to limit, and make ever more expensive, single-family housing. Economist Issi Romem notes that, based on the past, “failing to expand cities [to allow sprawl] will come at a cost” to the housing market.  read more »