What kind of Cities do we Want, Sustainable, Liveable or Resilient?


A critical issue from the dreadful earthquake that has severely damaged so much of central Christchurch, taken so many lives, and terrified so many residents of the whole urban area, lies in whether the Central Area should be rebuilt. Some believe it should be abandoned for some other location; others see an opportunity to set new standards in sustainability, urban design, energy efficiency, or whatever ideal urban form takes your fancy.  read more »

Britain's Housing Crisis: Causes and Solutions


British house construction has remained at a low level for a decade.   Total new house and flat completions for all tenures last year were 113,670 for England, 17,470 for Scotland, and 6,170 for Wales. Excluding Northern Ireland that is 137,310 for Britain. Under 140,000 homes a year is low for a nation of 60 million.

We are nearly at the lowest level of housing production since reliable records began in the 1920s. (Note 1)    read more »

China Housing Market More Stable Than You May Think


The sensationalist reporting of rising China tends to celebrate the country’s ascent. But there is one area where both economists and casual observers see a potential disaster: the real estate market.  Media reports of skyrocketing housing prices in first tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai and photo essays of Chinese ‘ghost cities’ inject sober skepticism into the otherwise bewildering reality of rapid growth.  read more »

Why Duany is Wrong About the Importance of Public Participation


One of the news stories circling lately is an interview with Andres Duany where he asserts that public participation requirements are too onerous to enable great work to be done.   Early in my career I worked as a public historian and historic preservation specialist, so rather than launch immediately into my opinion, let me tell you a true story.  read more »

China's Empty Trains... & Other Unintended Consequences

Bullet train, high-speed, China.jpg

In a technical sense, the economy has been in recovery since June of 2009. A year and a half into the rebound though, a general cloud of economic malaise continues to cover the nation. Fears of a diminished America are perpetuated from our political and punditry classes. We are told that our collective lack of preparation, education, innovation, industry, and of infrastructure are all setting us up to fall further. Economic indicators may reflect a bounce-back, but structurally, America is waning. It is China that is increasingly emerging as the world’s bright spot in terms of development.  read more »

Australia's Housing Affordability "Outrage"


There is mounting concern in Australia about the nature and extent of country’s housing affordability crisis. Expressions of distress are not limited to the middle income households who are locked out of the Great Australian Dream of home ownership. There is heightened interest from advocates of low income households and an opposition political party. Moreover, Australia's overvalued housing is receiving renewed attention in international circles.  read more »

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


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


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 »