Urban Issues

Today’s Orange County: Not Right Wing—and Kinda Hip


What comes to mind when you think about Orange County? Probably, images of lascivious housewives and blonde surfers. And certainly, at least if you know your political history, crazed right-wing activists, riding around with anti-UN slogans on their bumpers in this county that served as a crucial birthplace of modern movement conservatism in the 1950s.  read more »

Two Cheers for NIMBYism


Politicians, housing advocates, planners and developers often blame the NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — lobby for the state’s housing crisis. And it’s true that some locals overreact with unrealistic growth limits that cut off any new housing supply and have blocked reasonable ways to boost supply.

But the biggest impediment to solving our housing crisis lies not principally with neighbors protecting their local neighborhoods, but rather with central governments determined to limit, and make ever more expensive, single-family housing. Economist Issi Romem notes that, based on the past, “failing to expand cities [to allow sprawl] will come at a cost” to the housing market.  read more »

America's Next Great Metropolis Is Taking Shape In Texas


If you drive south from Dallas, or west from Houston, a subtle shift takes place. The monotonous, flat prairie that dominates much of Texas gives way to a landscape that rises and ebbs.  read more »

The Rival Future Visions of Peter Thiel and Scott Adams


Our mental model of the world shapes our behavior at fundamental levels in ways we often can’t even recognize. I was struck by this when reading two books almost back to back, Scott Adams’ How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big and Peter Thiel’s Zero to One.

Both authors lay out a schema for modeling the future and how to behave relative to it, but come to very different conclusions.  read more »


Welcome to Rosemont, IL


Millions of people pass through O'Hare, settle into the adjacent hotels, go to conferences and meetings in the nearby convention centers, shop in the nearby stores or drink and eat in the nearby bars and restaurants, and believe they're in Chicago.  But they're not.  In most cases, they're in the small village of Rosemont, the tiny town that's done more than any community I know to capitalize on its location.  read more »

A Better Way


My recent post at Granola Shotgun described how a town in Georgia spent an enormous amount of public money on a new civic center and road expansions, but somehow managed to devalue nearby private property in the process. Here’s an example of a neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee that took a different approach that cost a lot less and achieved a radically better set of outcomes.  read more »

Honolulu Rail: From $4.6 B to $8.6 B in Eight Years. Now What?


With its official cost now having risen to $8.6 billion and a funding gap of $1.8 billion, both of which are certain to rise, Honolulu’s rail project will run out of money before construction reaches the downtown area, perhaps even before it reaches Middle Street.  read more »

Carnegie Deli and Other Bad New York Restaurants


When you’re a kid, there are certain cartoons you just love. That love remains over time as your warmly think back on childhood memories. It lasts, that is, until you foolishly go back and watch an episode of two of a favorite show, what which point you say, “Holy cow! That show is terrible.”  read more »

Urban Containment, Endangered Working Families and Beleaguered Minorities


Working families and the middle class are becoming an increasingly endangered species in   many parts of United States. Median household income remains below its 1999 peak (inflation adjusted). But the problem is not just stagnant incomes. Expenses are also rising, especially the costs of housing in some cities. As a result, it is becoming more and more difficult to make ends meet.  read more »

OC Model: A Vision for Orange County's Future


This is the introduction to a new report on Orange County published by the Chapman University Center for Demographics and Policy titled, "OC Model: A Vision for Orange County's Future." Read the full report (pdf) here.

Blessed by a great climate and a highly skilled workforce, Orange County should be at the forefront of creating high wage jobs. The fact that it is not should be a worrying sign to the area’s business, academic, political and media leaders. Despite some signs of recovery in OC, long-term trends, such as a dependence on asset inflation and low wage employment, seem fundamentally incompatible with sustainable and enduring growth in the County.  read more »