Planning

Big Box Jesus

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One of my cousins recently attended an event at a suburban church and I tagged along. I’m amoral and omnivorous. I’ll go to any house of worship on the odd chance I might actually learn something useful – and I often do. And I meet a lot of really nice people along the way. But mostly I like to explore the landscapes other people inhabit. Church provides an intimate glimpse into what people are thinking and feeling in a particular location.  read more »

Canada’s Urban Areas: Descent from Affordability

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Canada is a nation of wide open spaces, yet it has high urban area densities recently driven higher by a redefinition of urban area criteria (Note 1). Canada's largest urban area (population centre) is Toronto, with a population of 5.4 million continues to be the densest of the 59 with more than 50,000 residents. Toronto has a population of 3,028 per square kilometer (7,843 per square mile), approximately five percent above the European Union average.  read more »

Is Climate Change Really the Cause of Mexico City’s Water Problems?

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A couple weeks ago the New York Times ran a gigantic front-page Sunday article by architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on Mexico City’s water crisis.

This piece was billed as the first installment in a series on the effect of climate change on cities. Which is a head-scratcher, since Mexico City’s problems don’t seem to have anything to do with that.  read more »

A New Age of Progressive Suburbanism?

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We are living in a global suburban age… While statistics demonstrate that the amount of the world population in metropolitan areas is rapidly increasing, rarely is it understood that the bulk of this growth occurs in the suburbanized peripheries of cities. Domestically, over 69% of all U.S. residents live in suburban areas; internationally, many other developed countries are predominately suburban, while many developing countries are rapidly suburbanizing as well.”  read more »

Los Angeles Traffic: Likely To Worsen with Higher Densities

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A few recent days driving the Los Angeles freeways impressed me with how different they are from in most other places in the country. The intensity of the traffic is astounding. Even on the weekend, travel over Sepulveda Pass on the San Diego Freeway (I-405) was highly congested. Traffic really never stopped, but frustratingly inched along for parts of the way and approached 60 miles per hour on other parts. A Saturday trip I feared might take an hour and a half was completed from Simi Valley in less than 60 minutes.  read more »

Vancouverizing Seattle?

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A recent Wall Street Journal article (“For Chinese buyers, Seattle is the new Vancouver”) reported that Seattle was replacing Vancouver as the most popular destination for Chinese buyers in North America. For years, there has been considerable concern about foreign investment in the Vancouver housing market, especially Chinese investment.  read more »

Re-inhabitation of Small Town America

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My friend Kirsten Dirksen at faircompanies.com recently posted a new video about Water Valley, Mississippi. It demonstrates that there are plenty of great compact mixed use walkable neighborhoods out there that can be re-inhabited. Building anything of this kind from scratch is theoretically possible, but it almost never happens due to endless zoning regulations, building codes, and cultural inertia. Water Valley is lucky in the sense that it’s just down the road from a prestigious university.  read more »

King Tide

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10,000 years ago San Francisco Bay was a dry grassy valley populated by elephants, zebras, and camels. The planet was significantly cooler and dryer back then. Sea level was lower since glaciers in the north pulled water out of the oceans. The bay isn’t that deep so a relatively small change in sea level pushed the coastline out by twelve miles from its present location. Further back in pre-history when the earth was warmer than today sea level was higher.  read more »

Are America’s Cities Doomed to Go Bankrupt?

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I’m a fan of Strong Towns and share their thesis that the biggest sustainability problem with much of suburbia is its financial sustainability.

recent article there about Lafayette, Louisiana has been making the rounds. That city’s public works director made some estimates of infrastructure maintenance costs and which parts of the city turned a “profit” from taxes and which were losses. Here’s their profit and loss map.  read more »

How Post-Familialism Will Shape the New Asia

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Surprisingly, the modern focal point for postfamilial urbanism comes from eastern Asia, where family traditionally exercised a powerful, even dominant influence over society. The shift toward post-familialism arose first in Japan, the region’s most economically and technologically advanced country. As early as the 1990s sociologist Muriel Jolivet unearthed a trend of growing hostility toward motherhood in her book Japan: The Childless Society? –a trend that stemmed in part from male reluctance to take responsibility for raising children.  read more »