Cat and Mouse in Frogtown

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A friend recently expressed an interest in how some cities are reforming their land use regulations. “I mean, there are places like LA that say they’ve thrown out the code books and are rewriting their zoning.” My short response was… No. The reality is that the city plays an expensive and byzantine game of cat and mouse with each individual neighborhood.  read more »

Were Urban Freeways a Good Idea?


It’s almost a truism in urbanist circles that construction of urban freeways was a bad idea.

Indianapolis Monthly magazine takes a somewhat more charitable view in its retrospective on the 40th anniversary of the completion of the downtown “inner loop” freeway.  read more »

Suburban. Comma. Transit.


I explored the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that runs for eighteen miles across the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. The Valley is a profoundly suburban city-within-a-city and home to 1.8 million people spread out over 260 square miles. Attempts to upgrade public transit by the central authorities in LA proper have been fought tooth and nail by folks in the Valley and illustrate why transit just doesn’t work when the local culture doesn’t want it. I’m not sure why LA keeps pushing on this particular string.  read more »

A Capital Improvement and Revitalization Idea for Detroit

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You may have heard that Detroit is in the midst of a modest but enduring revival in and around its downtown. Residents and businesses are returning to the city, filling long-vacant skyscrapers, prompting new commercial development and revitalizing adjacent old neighborhoods. As a former Detroiter I'm excited to see the turnaround. After so many false starts, Detroit's post-bankruptcy rebound seems very real.  read more »

Two Cheers for NIMBYism


Politicians, housing advocates, planners and developers often blame the NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — lobby for the state’s housing crisis. And it’s true that some locals overreact with unrealistic growth limits that cut off any new housing supply and have blocked reasonable ways to boost supply.

But the biggest impediment to solving our housing crisis lies not principally with neighbors protecting their local neighborhoods, but rather with central governments determined to limit, and make ever more expensive, single-family housing. Economist Issi Romem notes that, based on the past, “failing to expand cities [to allow sprawl] will come at a cost” to the housing market.  read more »

Welcome to Rosemont, IL


Millions of people pass through O'Hare, settle into the adjacent hotels, go to conferences and meetings in the nearby convention centers, shop in the nearby stores or drink and eat in the nearby bars and restaurants, and believe they're in Chicago.  But they're not.  In most cases, they're in the small village of Rosemont, the tiny town that's done more than any community I know to capitalize on its location.  read more »

How to Make Post-Suburbanism Work


Are you ready to become a “real” city yet, Southern California? Being “truly livable,” our betters suggest, means being “infatuated” with spending more billions of dollars on outdated streetcars (trolleys) and other rail lines, packing people into ever small spaces and looking toward downtown Los Angeles as our regional center.  read more »

A Better Way


My recent post at Granola Shotgun described how a town in Georgia spent an enormous amount of public money on a new civic center and road expansions, but somehow managed to devalue nearby private property in the process. Here’s an example of a neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee that took a different approach that cost a lot less and achieved a radically better set of outcomes.  read more »

Urban Containment, Endangered Working Families and Beleaguered Minorities


Working families and the middle class are becoming an increasingly endangered species in   many parts of United States. Median household income remains below its 1999 peak (inflation adjusted). But the problem is not just stagnant incomes. Expenses are also rising, especially the costs of housing in some cities. As a result, it is becoming more and more difficult to make ends meet.  read more »

Palo Alto and the Tech Shop of Horrors


This piece by Zelda Bronstein (original to goes behind the story of the Peninsula planning commissioner who made national news by saying she had to leave town to buy a house for her family.

On August 10, Kate Vershov Downing, a 31-year-old intellectual-property lawyer, set the media aflutter when she posted on Medium a letter to the Palo Alto City Council stating that she was resigning from the city’s Planning Commission because she was moving to Santa Cruz. The reason for her move: She and her 33-year-old husband Steven, a software engineer, couldn’t find a house they could afford to buy in Palo Alto. Downing said that they currently rented a place with another couple for $6,200 a month, and that if they “wanted to buy the same house and share it with children and not roommates, it would cost $2M.”  read more »