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


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


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


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


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


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 »

Metropolitan Housing: More Space, Large Lots


Americans continue to favor large houses on large lots. The vast majority of new occupied housing in the major metropolitan areas of the United States was detached between 2000 and 2010 and was located in geographical sectors associated with larger lot sizes. Moreover, houses became bigger, as the median number of rooms increased (both detached and multi-family), and the median new detached house size increased.  read more »

America’s Newest Hipster Hot Spot: the Suburbs?


It’s an idea echoed everywhere from “Friends” to “Girls”Young people want to live in cities. And, we’re told, a lot of them (at least the cool ones) do.

It’s a common assumption. But it’s also wrong.

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of 20- to 29-year-olds in America grew by 4 percent. But the number living in the nation’s core cities grew 3.2 percent. In other words, the share of 20-somethings living in urban areas actually declined slightly.

This trend has occurred in supposedly hot cities like San Fransisco, Boston, New York and D.C., notes demographer Wendell Cox. Chicago and Portland, Ore., both widely hailed as youth boom-towns, saw their numbers of 20-somethings decline, too.  read more »

The New Donut


Former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut used to like to say that “you can’t be a suburb of nowhere.” This is the oft-repeated notion has been a rallying cry for investments to revitalize downtowns in America for three decades or so now. The idea being that you can’t have a smoking hole in your region where your downtown is supposed to be. This created a mental based on a donut. You can’t let downtown become an empty hole. For reason that will become apparent soon, I call this model “the old donut”.  read more »