Suburbs

Decentralize The Government

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From health care reform and transportation to education to the environment, the Obama administration has--from the beginning--sought to expand the power of the central state. The president's newest initiative to wrest environment, wage and benefit concessions from private companies is the latest example. But this trend of centralizing power to the federal government puts the political future of the ruling party--as well as the very nature of our federal system--in jeopardy.  read more »

What is the Answer to the Suburban Question?

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We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!).  read more »

Land Planning: Put Tech and Team on The Same Page

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Technological advances allow Civil Engineering and Land Surveying professionals to perform, in minutes, tasks that would have taken days or weeks before computer usage became widespread. I have been fortunate to have been part of the technology industry from its humble beginnings. In the 1960s, working for a Land Planning firm, I began inventing devices to reduce the time it took to draft plans. These contraptions would hang on the wall, jokingly labeled Rickometer1, Rickometer2, etc. My systems allowed me to get the plans out faster, but the designs were no better because of these devices.

Fast forward four decades and nothing has changed.  read more »

Housing Unaffordability as Public Policy: The New Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

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The just released 6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey shows some improvement in housing affordability, especially in the United States and Ireland but a continuing loss of housing affordability, especially in Australia.  read more »

Phoenix, Put Aside Dreams of Gotham

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Now that Phoenix's ascendancy has been at least momentarily suspended, its residents are no doubt wondering what comes next. One tendency is to say the city needs to grow up and become more like East Coast cities or Portland, Ore., with dense urban cores and well-developed rail transit. The other ready option is always inertia - a tendency to wait for things to come back the way they were.

Neither approach will work in the long run.  read more »

Suburbs & Cul-de-Sacs: Is The Romance Over?

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The Virginia Department of Transportation does not like cul-de-sacs. You know, those little circles that suburban home dwellers worship so much and pay a premium to be located on? Under its regulations, all new subdivisions must have only through streets. Essentially, no more cul-de-sacs. Getting rid of these desirable dead-ends, according to the DOT, will improve safety and accessibility for emergency vehicles.  read more »

The War Against Suburbia

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A year into the Obama administration, America’s dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime that many perceive threatens their way of life, values, and economic future. Scott Brown’s huge upset victory by 5 percent in Massachusetts, which supported Obama by 26 percentage points in 2008, largely was propelled by a wave of support from middle-income suburbs all around Boston. The contrast with 2008 could not be plainer.  read more »

Reducing Traffic Congestion and Improving Travel Options in Los Angeles

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While traffic congestion plagues many cities, Los Angeles stands apart. The Texas Transportation Institute tracks congestion statistics for U.S. metropolitan areas on an annual basis, and Los Angeles routinely ranks first for both total and per-capita congestion delays. Considering the value of wasted time and fuel, TTI estimates the annual cost of traffic congestion in greater Los Angeles at close to $10 billion.  read more »

Housing: Density & Desire

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Density — the number of units per acre on a proposed site plan — is at the heart of the developer’s mantra: More density, more profit. Meanwhile, environmentalists and many planners preach high density as the promise for a better future. The compression of families is an attempt to curb sprawl and reduce transportation energy consumption. For these reasons, many Green programs demand a minimum density to qualify for certification.  read more »

Urbanity Drives Gay Rights Victory in Washington

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If anyone were to doubt that there really are two Washingtons, that the Seattle metropolitan core (and its playgrounds) are another world from most rural to small city Washington (especially east of the Cascade crest), a look at the maps for the vote on Referendum 71 last November should be persuasive. These are not subtle, marginal differences, but indisputable polarization in what political and cultural researchers may call the modernist-traditional divide.  read more »