Suburbs

People, Planet, Prefurbia

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The term “sustainable” relates to a concept called the "Triple Bottom Line” (TBL): People, Planet, and Profit (the three P’s), endorsed by the United Nations in 2007 for urban and community accounting.

American suburban land planning is about the SBL (Single Bottom Line): Profit. In city after city, mindless cookie cutter subdivisions, with characterless architecture, serve cars more than people. This dysfunction is caused by the boiler-plate regulations; engineers adhere to the minimum dimensions mandated by city ordinances to gain density, which maximizes developer’s profits.  read more »

Downtown Central-Cities as Hubs of Civic Connection

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There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world.  read more »

ULI Moving Cooler Report: Greenhouse Gases, Exaggerations and Misdirections

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Yesterday a group of environmental advocacy groups, foundations and other organizations released a report, Moving Cooler, amid much fanfare, seeking to have us believe that it is a serious study of GHG reduction options in the transportation sector. It is immensely disappointing. The world could use a dispassionate, objective and broad-based assessment of petroleum reduction options as well as their positive and negative consequences. This is not it.  read more »

Globalization Leads to Civic Leadership Culture Dominated by Real Estate Interests

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"Cleveland’s leadership has no apparent theory of change. Overwhelmingly, the strategy is now driven by individual projects. These projects, pushed by the real estate interests that dominate the board of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, confuse real estate development with economic development. This leads to the 'Big Thing Theory' of economic development: Prosperity results from building one more big thing."  read more »

Moving to Reloville, America's Cross-Country Careerists

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Peter T. Kilborn’s Next Stop, Reloville: Life Inside America's New Rootless Professional Class documents an important piece of social history: the lives of relocating corporate executives. These modern-day ­nomads—overwhelming white, well-educated and middle-class—maintain the business machine of large companies. They include the technicians, marketing executives and professional managers who accept a rootless life in exchange for handsome remuneration.  read more »

The Blue-State Meltdown and the Collapse of the Chicago Model

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On the surface this should be the moment the Blue Man basks in glory. The most urbane president since John Kennedy sits in the White House. A San Francisco liberal runs the House of Representatives while the key committees are controlled by representatives of Boston, Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and the Bay Area—bastions of the gentry.  read more »

The Next Culture War

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The culture war over religion and values that dominated much of the last quarter of the 20th century has ended, mostly in a rout of the right-wing zealots who waged it.

Yet even as this old conflict has receded , a new culture war may be beginning. This one is being launched largely by the religious right's long-time secularist enemies who are now enjoying unprecedented influence over our national politics.  read more »

Housing the Next Generation with Old Shipping Containers

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If the predictions are accurate, America will have to house some 100 million more people by 2040 to mid-century than is now the case. Despite the current round of foreclosures and rising apartment vacancy, over the long term the demand for humane, affordable, sustainable housing is going to escalate dramatically in the coming years.

In this recessionary time, it may be tempting to ignore the coming boost in housing demand. Yet eventually growth will pick up and the housing market will become re-invigorated. Nonetheless, the problem of meeting the demand for affordable housing will remain.  read more »

Forcing Density in Australia's Suburbs

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Australia is a continent sized country with total urbanized area of only 0.3%.  As is the case with the USA, the population is increasing as a result of natural growth and immigration. The country is blessed with a sunny climate and enough space to enable its inhabitants to enjoy a relaxed, free lifestyle.

Given this, one would expect there would be little support for the higher density housing ideology of the Smart Growth advocates. Yet since the early 1990s the Australian Federal Department of Housing has been pushing exactly this approach.  read more »

Solar Gains On The Green Competition

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The living room of my electrician friend Harry Gres was filled with solar panels which were destined for his roof to demonstrate the advantages of his new eco-business venture. In the spirit of Herbert Hoover's campaign pledge of a car in every garage, Harry envisions solar panels on every roof (including garages).  read more »