Mistaking an Aberration for the End of Home Ownership


It is well known that home ownership has declined in the United States from the peak of the housing bubble. According to Current Population Survey data, the national home ownership rate fell 2.9 percentage points from the peak of the bubble (4th quarter 2004) to the third quarter of 2011.  read more »

Three Cheers for Urban Sprawl


“Hands off Our Land!” screams the Daily Telegraph, like some shotgun-toting red-faced farmer.  The newspaper, on behalf of the reactionary toffs who form the least pleasant section of its readership, has launched a campaign directed against ‘urban sprawl’ (ie. the rest of us).

On a good day, the Telegraph serves up enlightened articles by progressive liberals like Janet Daley and Simon Heffer and Jeff Randal (I’m talking about real liberals here, not American Trotskyites).  But then it disappears under the desk, drinks some devilish, bubbling potion and emerges looking like Mr Hyde, all wonky teeth and messy hair.  “Hands off Our Land” is the Telegraph at its worst - a campaign to thwart the government’s all-too-modest suggestions to reform Britain’s vicious planning laws.    read more »

Urban Development: Playing Twister With The California Environmental Quality Act

Ventura, CA-KMART standing empty.jpg

When it comes to environmental issues, emotions often trump reasoned argument or sensible reform, especially in California. In Sacramento at our state capitol, real world impacts are abstracted into barbed soundbites. It’s the dialogue of the deaf as environmental advocates rally around our landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -- and economic interests decry it as “a job killer.” Perhaps the polarization can be put aside to ask about a specific example in the real world. Why does an old K-Mart sit vacant on Ventura’s busiest boulevard despite initial City approval for a Walmart store? All the thunder and lightning surrounding whether a Walmart belongs in Ventura is behind us. A vigorous and contentious debate (and a failed citizen initiative) have rendered the verdict that filling an empty discount retail space with a different discount retailer is a function of the market, not government regulation.  read more »

The Driving Decline: Not a "Sea Change"


The latest figures from the United States Department of Transportation indicate that driving volumes remain depressed. In the 12 months ended in September 2011, driving was 1.1 percent below the same  period five years ago. Since 2006, the year that employment peaked, driving has remained fairly steady, rising in two years (the peak was 2007) and falling in three years. At the same time, the population has grown by approximately four percent. As a result, the driving per household has fallen by approximately five percent.  read more »

Central Florida: On the Cusp of Recovery?


Central Florida is poised at the cusp of a major turnaround, and its response to this condition will either propel the region forward, or drag it backward.  This cusp condition is brought about by a train and a road; neither of which have begun yet but both of which appear imminent.  Sunrail uses existing 19th century railroad tracks as a commuter spine through Orlando’s disperse, multipolar city.  The Wekiva Parkway completes a beltway around Orlando, placing it with Washington DC, Houston and other ringed cities.  Before either gets built, the region deserves some analysis  read more »

California: Codes, Corruption And Consensus

Two Tree Hill, Ventura, CA.jpg

We Californians like collaboration. Before we do things here, we consult all of the “stakeholders.” We have hearings, studies, reviews, conferences, charrettes, neighborhood meetings, town halls, and who knows what else. Development in some California cities has become such a maze that some people make a fine living guiding developers through the process, helping them through the minefields and identifying the rings that need kissing.

Here’s an example. This is a (partial?) list of the groups who will have a say on any proposed project in my city, Ventura:  read more »

Durban, Reducing Emissions and the Dimensions of Sustainability


The Durban climate change conference has come to an end, with the nations of the world approving the "Durban Platform," (Note 1) an agreement to agree later on binding greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets by 2020.  read more »

Tilting at (Transit) Windmills in Nashville


As in other major metropolitan areas in the United States, Nashville public officials are concerned about traffic congestion and the time it takes to get around. There is good reason for this, given the research that demonstrates the strong association between improved economic productivity and shorter travel times to work.  read more »

Is Suburbia Doomed? Not So Fast.


This past weekend the New York Times devoted two big op-eds to the decline of the suburb. In one, new urban theorist Chris Leinberger said that Americans were increasingly abandoning “fringe suburbs” for dense, transit-oriented urban areas.  read more »