Victor’s Restaurant, a nondescript coffee shop on a Hollywood side street, seems an odd place to meet for a movement challenging many of Los Angeles’s most powerful, well-heeled forces. Yet amid the uniformed service workers, budding actors, and retirees enjoying coffee and French toast, unlikely revolutionaries plot the next major battle over the city’s future. Driving their rebellion is a proposal from the L.A. planning department that would allow greater density in the heart of Hollywood, a scruffy district that includes swaths of classic California bungalows and charming 1930s-era garden apartments. read more »
The "urban scaling" research of Geoffrey West, Luis Bettencourt, Jose Lobo, Deborah Strumsky, Dirk Helbing and Christian Kuhnert on cities has attracted considerable attention (references below). They have provided strong quantitative evidence, based upon voluminous econometric analysis that cities tend to become more efficient as they grow in population. read more »
Is there any high speed rail boondoggle big enough to make rail transport advocates reject it? Sadly, for all too many of them, the answer is No, as two recent developments make clear.
The first is in California, where the state continues to press forward on a high speed rail plan for the state that could cost anywhere from $68 billion to $100 billion. Voters had previously approved $10 billion in bonds for the project, but as the state's economy and finances have continued to sour – including multiple major cities going bankrupt – the polls have turned against it, and with good reason. read more »
When we think of places with high salaries, big metro areas like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco are usually the first to spring to mind. Or cities with the biggest concentrations of educated workers, such as Boston. read more »
Facebook‘s botched IPO reflects not only the weakness of the stock market, but a systemic misunderstanding of where the true value of technology lies. A website that, due to superior funding and media hype, allows people to do what they were already doing — connecting on the Internet — does not inherently drive broad economic growth, even if it mints a few high-profile billionaires. read more »
California Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg countered my Wall Street Journal commentary California Declares War on Suburbia in a letter to the editor (A Bold Plan for Sustainable California Communities) that could be interpreted as suggesting that all is well in the Golden State. read more »
Jean Gottman in 1961 coined the term megalopolis (Megalopolis, the Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the Unites States) to describe the massive concentration of population extending from the core of New York north beyond Boston and south encompassing Washington DC. It has been widely studied and mapped, including by me. (Morrill, 2006, Classic Map Revisited, Professional Geographer). The concept has also been extended to describe and compare many other large conurbations around the world.
Maybe it’s time to see how the original has fared? And what has happened to other metropolitan complexes in the US, most notably Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and should we say Florida? read more »
For generations New Orleans‘ appeal to artists, musicians and writers did little to dispel the city’s image as a poor, albeit fun-loving, bohemian tourism haven. As was made all too evident by Katrina, the city was plagued by enormous class and racial divisions, corruption and some of the lowest average wages in the country. read more »
Every now and then, some East Coast based publication sends a reporter out to California to see how the West Coast's economy is doing. I think they write these things sitting at a restaurant patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. That can be seductive, and lulled into a comfortable sense that all is well with the world, the reporter always gets it wrong. read more »
When it comes to environmental issues, emotions often trump reasoned argument or sensible reform, especially in California. In Sacramento at our state capitol, real world impacts are abstracted into barbed soundbites. It’s the dialogue of the deaf as environmental advocates rally around our landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -- and economic interests decry it as “a job killer.” Perhaps the polarization can be put aside to ask about a specific example in the real world. Why does an old K-Mart sit vacant on Ventura’s busiest boulevard despite initial City approval for a Walmart store? All the thunder and lightning surrounding whether a Walmart belongs in Ventura is behind us. A vigorous and contentious debate (and a failed citizen initiative) have rendered the verdict that filling an empty discount retail space with a different discount retailer is a function of the market, not government regulation. read more »