Planning

It's A Mall World After All

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If Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants a taste of home during his visit to Washington this week, he might consider a trip to McLean, Va., home to the region's largest indoor mall, Tysons Corner Center. After all, there are few groups more mall-crazy than India's expanding affluent class.

Back here in the U.S., urban boosters and planners like to predict that malls are "vanishing." But while consumer-deflated America may suffer from mall fatigue and a hangover from overbuilding, much of the developing world has experienced no such malaise. In 2000, for example, India was virtually mall-less. Today it has several hundred, with scores of new ones on the drawing boards.  read more »

Think Globally, Regulate Locally

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It was during a recent tour of a sun-baked Los Angeles schoolyard that theories on state regulations developed by the latest Nobel Prize-winning economist came into focus. The Da Vinci Design Charter School is an oasis in an asphalt desert. Opened this year by the appropriately named Matt Wunder, the school draws 9th and 10th graders from some of the most difficult and dangerous learning environments in the country, and introduces them to a demanding, creative atmosphere.  read more »

California: The Housing Bubble Returns?

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To read the periodic house price reports out of California, it would be easy to form the impression that house prices are continuing to decline. Most press reports highlight the fact that house prices are lower this year than they were at the same time last year. This masks the reality of robust house price increases that have been underway for nearly half a year. The state may have forfeited seven years of artificially induced house price escalation in just two years but has recovered about one-fifth of it since March.  read more »

Predicting the Future of British House Building

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People are expecting British house building to pick up. Sadly they will be disappointed, even as the housing market inflates into another bubble.

There have been declines and recoveries in British house building before the 2007 collapse in construction activity. Data is in abundance. The total number of homes built annually has more than halved since the late 1960s, as successive governments withdrew from publicly funding the post-war welfare programme of council house building.  read more »

Police Pensions and Voodoo Actuarials

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A key argument that public-safety officials use to justify their absurdly high pension benefits –- i.e., “3 percent at 50” retirements that allow them to retire with 90 percent or more of their final year’s pay as early as age 50 -- is this: We die soon after retirement because of all the stresses and difficulties of our jobs. This is such a common urban legend that virtually every officer who contacts me mentions this “fact.” They never provide back-up evidence.  read more »

Congress and the Administration Take Aim at Local Democracy

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Local democracy has been a mainstay of the US political system. This is evident from the town hall governments in New England to the small towns that the majority of Americans choose to live in today.

In most states and metropolitan areas, substantial policy issues – such as zoning and land use decisions – are largely under the control of those who have a principal interest: local voters who actually live in the nation’s cities, towns, villages, townships and unincorporated county areas. This may be about to change.  read more »

Detroit: Urban Laboratory and the New American Frontier

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The troubles of Detroit are well-publicized. Its economy is in free fall, people are streaming for the exits, it has the worst racial polarization and city-suburb divide in America, its government is feckless and corrupt (though I should hasten to add that new Mayor Bing seems like a basically good guy and we ought to give him a chance), and its civic boosters, even ones that are extremely knowledgeable, refuse to acknowledge the depth of the problems, instead ginning up stats and anecdotes to prove all is not so bad.  read more »

Report from Orlando: The Spirit Rocks On

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By Richard Reep

“In hard times, people turn to God or alcohol” jokes Bud Johnson of Constructwire, a database that tracks planning and construction projects nationwide. Johnson, 50, is an industry veteran and has never seen a recession like this in his career. “This is an exceptionally broad-based downturn,” he says, “and Orlando has been hit harder than most in the South, what with your only real industries being housing and tourism.” Both industries have been trapped like mammoths in a glacier as the credit market stays stubbornly frozen in a modern banking Ice Age.  read more »

Home-Based Businesses: Residential Zoning and The Cyber Village

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Currently in the United States about 27% of all homes have some form of a home based business. These businesses can be key to conservation efforts that lower our carbon footprint by reducing transportation needs, eliminating redundant facilities, and consolidating equipment. They provide significant opportunities for two solutions to problems that face today’s growth issues.  read more »

The White City

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Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.  read more »