Land Use Regulations and “Social Engineering”


All forms of land use regulation are explicitly “social engineering”. Full stop. Let’s acknowledge that reality as we move forward. The question is never whether we’ll be engaging in manipulating society through land use regulations, but how and why.  read more »

Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland


Portland has been among the world leaders in urban containment policy. And, as would be predicted by basic economics, Portland has also suffered from serious housing cost escalation, as its median multiple (median house price divided by median household income) has risen from a normal 3.0 in 1995 to 4.8 in 2014.  read more »

Silicon Valley: Jelly in the Jam


My last post was about how Silicon Valley is evolving into an urban form that’s not quite leafy and open enough to be a suburb anymore, but not really vibrant and compact enough to be a proper city either. “Too thin to be jelly. Too thick to be jam.” The story got an unusually large number of visits. I received some well informed comments that touched on the reality that Silicon Valley is a big place and I shouldn’t generalize. Palo Alto is very different from Fremont and so on.  read more »

Growth and the Suburban Chassis


I tend to explore what happens to suburbs as they age and begin to decline. But this time I’m going to explore what happens to suburbs that thrive and continue to grow and work their way up the value chain. It isn’t exactly what many people expect. “Be careful what you wish for.”

A friend moved from San Francisco to San Jose this winter. Now that I’ve been visiting her on a regular basis I have an excuse to poke around. It’s actually pretty fascinating.  read more »

Southern California Housing Figures to Get Tighter, Pricier


What kind of urban future is in the offing for Southern California? Well, if you look at both what planners want and current market trends, here’s the best forecast: congested, with higher prices and an ever more degraded quality of life. As the acerbic author of the “Dr. Housing Bubble” blog puts it, we are looking at becoming “los sardines” with a future marked by both relentless cramming and out-of-sight prices.  read more »

Dispersion in Europe's Cities


For any who had been following demographic trends closely in Western Europe, it is long been obvious that suburbanization was following generally the same track as in Canada (more than 75 percent suburban), Australia and the United States (85 percent suburban). Nearly all growth in the major cities has been in the suburbs for the last four decades.  read more »

Is Suburbia Crashing? Suburban Traffic Myths Refuted

car accident-lane change.jpg

Traffic crashes are a cause of ill health, impaired living or curtailed lifespan. Does city growth, in its sprawl-type outward expansion, increase the incidence of fatal and injurious crashes? This factor is the latest addition to numerous attempts to pin a correlation or causality linking traffic accidents with any number of causes.

The twentieth century is not the only time in city evolution at which traffic accidents became a concern. Around the end of nineteenth century, when all in-city transportation was hoof and foot-dependent, accidents in cities were common.  read more »

Big Box Urbanism


I’m ambivalent about big box stores. I occasionally shop at places like Walmart, Costco, and Target just like most people. I buy various packaged goods in bulk from these mega retailers to take advantage of a volume discount. I don’t moralize over these things. But when it comes to meat, dairy, and fresh produce I walk around the corner or down the street to my local mom and pop stores, farmers market, or Community Supported Agriculture plan. I’m fine with buying a pallet of inexpensive toilet paper that was manufactured on an industrial scale. Chicken? Not so much.  read more »

Still Moving to Texas: The 2014 Metropolitan Population Estimates


Texas continues to dominate major metropolitan area growth. Among the 53 major metropolitan areas (with more than 1 million population), Texas cities occupied three of five top positions in population growth, and four of the top 10 (Figure 1).  read more »

How the California Dream Became a Nightmare


Important attention has been drawn to the shameful condition of middle income housing affordability in California. The state that had earlier earned its own "California Dream" label now limits the dream of homeownership principally to people either fortunate enough to have purchased their homes years ago and to the more affluent. Many middle income residents may have to face the choice of renting permanently or moving away.  read more »