Planning

Pimp My Stripmall, Please!

Phoenix Village Mall, Ft Smith AK.jpg

If anything characterizes the face of Florida’s landscape, it is the proliferation of shopping malls of all types. Generation by generation, as population swelled, country roads widened into highways and each intersection seemed to blossom into four parking lots framed by strip centers decorated with small, freestanding stores and restaurants. These malls represented the prosperity of the American middle class. Now that consumerism has slowed and been rechanneled online, new malls aren't being built and the existing ones are looking a bit dog-eared, with shuttered stores, empty parking lots, and aging facades. Repurposing the American mall is a huge opportunity waiting for the right moment, and represents an opportunity to heal much of Florida’s economic stagnation.  read more »

Why Affordable Housing Matters

house-row.jpg

Economists, planners and the media often focus on the extremes of real estate — the high-end properties or the foreclosed deserts, particularly in the suburban fringe. Yet to a large extent, they ignore what is arguably the most critical issue: affordability.  read more »

Irvine, by Design

irvine.jpg

Different is not necessarily better or worse. I took notice of this upon moving from the Echo Park district of Los Angeles to Irvine. Some acquaintances and casual observers viewed it as a shift from ground zero of hipster chic to the center of conformity. Neither comes close to capturing the truth about either place.

Irvine is very different from Echo Park—not necessarily better or worse. That’s my point of view as a resident who appreciates aspects of both places.  read more »

GIS and Online Mapping: Stretching the Truth Scale

GIS of Hayes Valley.jpg

When I began my land planning career in 1968, one of the first things I learned about was the use of the Rubber Scale. What is it? Rubber Scale was a term used by civil engineers and land surveyors to describe an inaccurate plan that ignored the physical limitations of the existing terrain. To say that the planner or architect had used a Rubber Scale to create a beautifully rendered plan with pastel colors and soft shadows cast from tree stamps was a negative comment, since these plans were pretty much worthless to the engineer and surveyor that had to make the plans conform to regulations.  read more »

Coalition of the Unwilling

london-model.jpg

This week the UK government announced an ”end to anti-car policies” reversing the guidance to local authorities to dissuade citizens from using their cars in favour of public transport. Charges for parking will be reined in, they promise.

It should be good news. The comically-named ”traffic calming” schemes put in place by the outgoing government were deeply unpopular. Still, we are getting used to taking our announcements from the new coalition government with a pinch of salt.  read more »

Yes, We Do Need to Build More Roads

carmel-road.jpg

Road are clearly out of fashion in urban planning circles. Conventional wisdom now decries roads in favor of public transit, walking or biking in developments designed to mimic traditional 19th century urbanism. Common refrains are “we can't build our way out of congestion” or “widening roads to cure congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.” Also frequently noted is the vehicle miles traveled has – at least until recently – outpaced population growth.  read more »

Faith-Based City Planning: Exorcising the Suburban Dream

church and town, college hill RI.jpg

We're coming to the end of the season when we focus a great deal of attention on faith. What is faith? The Biblical definition calls it the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Humans have the capacity to firmly believe in something that cannot be explained by reason and is not visibly evident. Faith is the basis of the world's major religions, and often is a cause for war, and today, terrorism. But though the season of faith may be winding down, there is still a place where faith remains strong year round: It is often the basis of the way we plan our communities.  read more »

Overselling Transit

orcoI5.jpg

A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times eloquently illustrated the limits of mass transit in modern societies. This is not to imply that that transit does not have its place, nor that it does not provide a most useful service where it can. The problem has been the overselling of a mode that has very serious limitations.  read more »

Toronto: Three Cities in More than One Way

toronto-night-skyline.jpg

The issue of income disparity in Toronto has once again been brought into the public eye by a December 15th report by University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski. The report, “The Three Cities Within Toronto,” points to a growing disparity in incomes between Downtown Toronto, the inner suburbs, and the outer suburbs of the city. The report demonstrates that between 1970 and 2005 the residents of the once prosperous outer suburbs have been losing ground compared to the now wealthy downtown core. The results for the inner suburbs have been mixed.  read more »

Washington Opens The Virtual Office Door

home office on back deck.jpg

On December 9, President Obama signed into law the Telework Enhancement Act, a bill designed to increase telework among federal employees. Sponsored by Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the legislation gives federal agencies six months to establish a telework policy, determine which employees are eligible to telework, and notify employees of their eligibility.  read more »