Planning

Is Climate Change Really the Cause of Mexico City’s Water Problems?

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A couple weeks ago the New York Times ran a gigantic front-page Sunday article by architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on Mexico City’s water crisis.

This piece was billed as the first installment in a series on the effect of climate change on cities. Which is a head-scratcher, since Mexico City’s problems don’t seem to have anything to do with that.  read more »

A New Age of Progressive Suburbanism?

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We are living in a global suburban age… While statistics demonstrate that the amount of the world population in metropolitan areas is rapidly increasing, rarely is it understood that the bulk of this growth occurs in the suburbanized peripheries of cities. Domestically, over 69% of all U.S. residents live in suburban areas; internationally, many other developed countries are predominately suburban, while many developing countries are rapidly suburbanizing as well.”  read more »

Los Angeles Traffic: Likely To Worsen with Higher Densities

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A few recent days driving the Los Angeles freeways impressed me with how different they are from in most other places in the country. The intensity of the traffic is astounding. Even on the weekend, travel over Sepulveda Pass on the San Diego Freeway (I-405) was highly congested. Traffic really never stopped, but frustratingly inched along for parts of the way and approached 60 miles per hour on other parts. A Saturday trip I feared might take an hour and a half was completed from Simi Valley in less than 60 minutes.  read more »

Vancouverizing Seattle?

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A recent Wall Street Journal article (“For Chinese buyers, Seattle is the new Vancouver”) reported that Seattle was replacing Vancouver as the most popular destination for Chinese buyers in North America. For years, there has been considerable concern about foreign investment in the Vancouver housing market, especially Chinese investment.  read more »

Re-inhabitation of Small Town America

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My friend Kirsten Dirksen at faircompanies.com recently posted a new video about Water Valley, Mississippi. It demonstrates that there are plenty of great compact mixed use walkable neighborhoods out there that can be re-inhabited. Building anything of this kind from scratch is theoretically possible, but it almost never happens due to endless zoning regulations, building codes, and cultural inertia. Water Valley is lucky in the sense that it’s just down the road from a prestigious university.  read more »

King Tide

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10,000 years ago San Francisco Bay was a dry grassy valley populated by elephants, zebras, and camels. The planet was significantly cooler and dryer back then. Sea level was lower since glaciers in the north pulled water out of the oceans. The bay isn’t that deep so a relatively small change in sea level pushed the coastline out by twelve miles from its present location. Further back in pre-history when the earth was warmer than today sea level was higher.  read more »

Are America’s Cities Doomed to Go Bankrupt?

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I’m a fan of Strong Towns and share their thesis that the biggest sustainability problem with much of suburbia is its financial sustainability.

recent article there about Lafayette, Louisiana has been making the rounds. That city’s public works director made some estimates of infrastructure maintenance costs and which parts of the city turned a “profit” from taxes and which were losses. Here’s their profit and loss map.  read more »

How Post-Familialism Will Shape the New Asia

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Surprisingly, the modern focal point for postfamilial urbanism comes from eastern Asia, where family traditionally exercised a powerful, even dominant influence over society. The shift toward post-familialism arose first in Japan, the region’s most economically and technologically advanced country. As early as the 1990s sociologist Muriel Jolivet unearthed a trend of growing hostility toward motherhood in her book Japan: The Childless Society? –a trend that stemmed in part from male reluctance to take responsibility for raising children.  read more »

Edward Hopper’s Rockford

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I had dinner in Rockford, Illinois recently with Jennifer and Michael Smith of the City Smiths. You will never find a more charming, kind, and industrious couple. Any town would be lucky to have such passionate and engaged citizens.  read more »

Advancing the Texan City-Building Model

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Reading the recent report “The Texas Way of Urbanism” promptly reminded me of my status – twice a migrant; from small town to big city (Athens) and from big city to another country. These moves were propelled by a singular motivation: seeking opportunity to better my lot. I knew next to nothing about the cities I moved to: their shape and history, their culture, their social divisions and even language were absent from my viewfinder. All that mattered was the chance for a new start.  read more »