Celebrating Strips Malls: Strength in Standardization


Our current urbanized form has become remarkably homogenous. Anywhere in Florida, and in much of the United States, one now experiences a new sense of sameness in the texture and the pace of places. America has entered a period of uniform buildings, roads, and infrastructure, differing only in the details. We live in a very standardized America today.  read more »


Who Benefits From Other People's Transit Use?


In the May 11 issue of Finance and Commerce, Matt Kramer, a local Chamber of Commerce representative lobbying for additional public transit and transportation spending (currently being debated at the Minnesota Legislature) is quoted as saying “Every person who is riding transit is one less person in the car in front of us.”  read more »

How Cities Can Show Resilience

Hoboken viewpoint.jpg

Resilient: Strong. Healthy. Successful again. But how does a city become resilient? Here are five ways that city leaders can help:

Designing for resilience requires systems thinking: Cities are complex, interconnected systems. Think of a city as being like a human body – a harmonious balance of cardiovascular, skeletal, respiratory, and cognitive functions. Each system is dependent on the next, and is easily stressed when unbalanced or shocked after trauma. An obvious example is PTSD, once known as “shell shock,” affecting so many military veterans today.  read more »


Land Use Regulations and “Social Engineering”


All forms of land use regulation are explicitly “social engineering”. Full stop. Let’s acknowledge that reality as we move forward. The question is never whether we’ll be engaging in manipulating society through land use regulations, but how and why.  read more »

Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland


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


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


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


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


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


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 »