Suburbs

The Other Side of the Tracks

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I tend to fixate on certain places – sometimes because I love them, other times because I can’t help but stare at twisted wreckage. Lancaster, California has always been 30/70 leaning toward wreckage, although it does show signs of ongoing reinvention so I keep going back. Lancaster is highly representative of most places in suburban America. If Lancaster can successfully adapt to changing circumstances then there’s hope for the rest of the country.  read more »

Would the Twin Cities Survive New Urbanism?

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In December, the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis and St. Paul is scheduled to vote on a vision for the region's housing and transportation future. "Thrive MSP 2040” is the council’s comprehensive development plan for the seven-county Twin Cities metro area for the next 30 years. It's a regional growth plan that will result not in a cure for the area's ills, though, but in a virus that will kill its vitality.  read more »

The Progressives' War on Suburbia

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You are a political party, and you want to secure the electoral majority. But what happens, as is occurring to the Democrats, when the damned electorate that just won’t live the way—in dense cities and apartments—that  you have deemed is best for them?     read more »

The Reluctant Suburbanite, Or Why San Francisco Doesn’t Always Work

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This week I’m helping a friend move house after watching her grapple with some unappealing options for the last couple of years. In the end she’s leaving San Francisco and moving to the suburbs forty-seven miles to the south. She absolutely hates the suburbs, but given all the possibilities it really is the right thing to do under the circumstances. Here’s a little background. She attended Berkeley University in the 1990′s as a foreign exchange student and fell in love with the Bay Area.  read more »

Long Island Suburbs: How Planners Should Treat Age Spots

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Long Island is the birthplace of suburbia, from colonial-period Brooklyn to Levittown and beyond, and its economy has survived booms and busts since the 1950s. As stagnant as it may be, if it's anything, it is resilient. Today, its problems mirror those of many older suburban areas scattered across the country, and, like many other suburbs, its problems cannot be solved by simply shoehorning in more development - and more tax revenue. Are policymakers addressing the true thorns in the region's side: Affordable housing, cost-of-living, taxes, racism and fear of change?  read more »

California's Southern Discomfort

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We know this was a harsh recession, followed by, at best, a tepid recovery for the vast majority of Americans. But some people and some regions have surged somewhat ahead, while others have stagnated or worse.  read more »

The New Bohemia: Not Where You Expect

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There’s an established image in the collective imagination of the kinds of places artsy types tend to live: the painter in a Paris garret, the actor in a Brooklyn brownstone, the musician in a San Francisco Victorian, or the playwright in a fisherman’s shack on Cape Cod. It’s all very romantic. We currently associate these places with vacation destinations and cutting edge high culture so of course that’s where the avant garde would naturally congregate. But people forget that in their day these were the cheapest least desirable locations available.  read more »

City and Suburb 2010-2013

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Three years is a short time, but perhaps enough to give a sense of what is happening to US metropolitan areas. For both reasons of less uncertainty (and less work for me), I look at just the 107 US metro areas with 500,000 or more people in 2013. These regions house 213 million, two-thirds of the population. I look at the populations of core cities and their suburbs, comparing amounts and rates of change, with further comparison by population size and by region.  read more »

Los Angeles: Rail for Others

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A few years ago, the satirical publication, The Onion ran an article under the headline "98 Percent of US Commuters Favor Public Transit for Others." The spoof cited a mythical press release by the American Public Transit Association (APTA), in which Lance Holland of Anaheim, California said "Expanding mass transit isn't just a good idea, it's a necessity," Holland said. "My drive to work is unbelievable.  read more »

Should the Gas Tax Go Local?

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After approving yet another general budget stopgap for highway construction in July, legislators across the country are acknowledging the obvious: The Federal Highway Trust Fund, the primary pot of federal roadway dollars, is nearly out of gas.  read more »