The Illusions of Charles Montgomery's Happy City


This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.

Striking a pose of defiance, contemporary urbanists see themselves as the last champions of happiness in a world plunged into quiet despair, and Canadian writer and journalist Charles Montgomery is no exception. Drawing on the emerging ‘science of happiness’, his new book Happy City, subtitled ‘transforming our lives through urban design’, joins a wave of anti-suburban literature spurred on by climate fears and the financial crisis. ‘As a system’, writes Montgomery, the dispersed city ‘has begun to endanger both the health of the planet and the well-being of our descendants.’     read more »

Correcting Priorities: The 10th Annual Demographia Housing Affordability Survey


Alain Bertaud of the Stern School of Business at New York University and former principal planner of the World Bank introduces the 10th Annual  Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey by urging planners to abandon:

"...abstract objectives and to focus their efforts on two measurable outcomes that have always mattered since the growth of large cities during the 19th century’s industrial revolution: workers’ spatial mobility and housing affordability".  read more »

The Story of How Marin Was Ruined


Marin County is a a picturesque area across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco of quaint walkable towns, with homes perched on rolling hills and a low rise, unspoiled feel. People typically move to Marin to escape the more urbanized South and East Bay and San Francisco. Eighty-three percent of Marin cannot be built on as the land is agricultural and protected open space.   read more »

Britain's Planning Laws: Of Houses, Chickens and Poverty


Perhaps for the first time in nearly seven decades a serious debate on housing affordability appears to be developing in the United Kingdom. There is no more appropriate location for such an exchange, given that it was the urban containment policies of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 that helped drive Britain's prices through the roof. Further, massive damage has been done in countries where these polices were adopted, such as in Australia and New Zealand (now scurrying to reverse things) as well as metropolitan areas from Vancouver to San Francisco, Dublin, and Seoul.  read more »

Build It, Even Though They Won't Come


The recent decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman to reject as “fatally flawed” the densification plans for downtown Hollywood could shake the foundations of California's “smart growth” planning clerisy. By dismissing Los Angeles' Hollywood plan, the judge also assaulted the logic behind plans throughout the region to construct substantial high-rise development in “transit-oriented developments” adjacent to rail stations.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Charlotte


There may be no better example of the post World War II urban form than Charlotte, North Carolina (a metropolitan area and urban area that stretches into South Carolina). Indeed, among the approximately 470 urban areas with more than 1 million population, Charlotte ranks last in urban population density in the United States (Figure 1) and last in the world. According to the United States Census Bureau, Charlotte's built-up urban area population density was 1685 per square mile (650 per square kilometer) in 2010.  read more »

Urban Planning For People


The recent publication of the United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 2014 Annual Energy Outlook provides a good backdrop for examining the importance of current information in transportation and land-use planning. I have written about two recent cases in which urban plans were fatally flawed due to their reliance on outdated information.  read more »

NewGeography's Top Stories of 2013


A new year is upon us, here’s a look back at a handful of the most popular pieces on NewGeography from 2013. Thanks for reading, and happy New Year.  read more »

Street Furniture for 'Sitable' Cities

Longhorn Bench cropped; Freiburg.jpg

How can street furniture improve not only the walkability, but the sustainability of a city?

The completely self-sustaining city may seem like a pipe-dream to some, but as with all outwardly impossible tasks, it all starts with the first step. Urban planners have focused on making communities more walkable by improving public spaces and sidewalks. Large, pedestrian-only areas inspire people to shop, interact with others, and simply enjoy spending time in their community. Wider, safer sidewalks encourage pedestrians to walk, rather than drive from place to place.  read more »


The Law's No Ass: Rejecting Hollywood Densification


The city of Los Angeles received a stunning rebuke, when California Superior Court Judge Alan J. Goodman invalidated the Hollywood Community Plan. The Hollywood district, well known for its entertainment focus, contains approximately 5% of the city of Los Angeles’ population. The Hollywood Plan was the basis of the city's vision for a far more dense Hollywood, with substantial high rise development in "transit oriented developments" adjacent to transit rail stations (Note 1).  read more »