Planning

Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland

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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

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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 »

The Simulated City Vs The Urban Downtown

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While the city’s star is rising in popular literature, it has fallen in popular usage. Where have our sidewalks gone—and why is sidewalk activity disappearing?  read more »

Growth and the Suburban Chassis

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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

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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

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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 »

How the California Dream Became a Nightmare

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Important attention has been drawn to the shameful condition of middle income housing affordability in California. The state that had earlier earned its own "California Dream" label now limits the dream of homeownership principally to people either fortunate enough to have purchased their homes years ago and to the more affluent. Many middle income residents may have to face the choice of renting permanently or moving away.  read more »

Inside the Bubble

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I was recently asked by a neighbor to write a blog post about greed in the super heated economic bubble here in San Francisco. I told her I think the problems that vex her are more complicated than pure greed, but I’d give it a shot. Keep in mind, where a person stands on any of these issues depends a great deal on their particular circumstances. The point of this post isn’t to argue in favor of one thing or another, but to illustrate how some people experience the city at this moment in time.  read more »

Behind the Driving Increase

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The Federal Highway Administration reported that driving increased 1.7 percent between 2013 and 2014 in the United States. This compares to virtually no increase over the period from 2004 to 2013. The 2014 increase will come as a disappointment to those who have perceived that the flat driving volumes of recent years signaled a shift in preferences away from driving.  read more »

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Decline and Gentrification

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Recently I attended a presentation at Mission Dolores Church sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle called “A Changing Mission”. The discussion was based on a newspaper article and associated short film about the neighborhood. It’s well worth a quick look here.  read more »