San Francisco

California’s Third Brown Era

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Jerry Brown’s no-frills inauguration today as California governor will make headlines, but the meager celebration also marks the restoration of one of the country’s most illustrious political families. Save the Kennedys of Massachusetts no clan has dominated the political life of a major state in modern times than the Browns of California. A member of this old California Irish clan has been in statewide office for most of the past half century; by the end of Jerry Brown’s new term, his third, the family will have inhabited the California chief executive office for a remarkable two full decades since 1958.

Brown, at 72 the oldest governor in state history, may well determine the final legacy of this remarkable family. His biggest challenge will be to reverse the state’s long-term secular decline — a stark contrast to the heady days of the first Brown era, presided over by paterfamilias Edmund “Pat” Brown.  read more »

If California Is Doing So Great, Why Are So Many Leaving?

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Superficially at least, California’s problems are well known. Are they well understood? Apparently not.

About a year ago Time ran an article, "Why California is Still America's future," touting California's future, a future that includes gold-rush-like prosperity in an environmentally pure little piece of heaven, brought to us by "public-sector foresight."  read more »

Building the Train to Nowhere

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The California High Speed Rail Authority has approved building its first 54 miles in the San Joaquin Valley. A somewhat longer route, 65 miles, has been indicated in a number of press reports, but Authority documents indicate that only 54 miles of high speed rail track will be built. The route would start in Corcoran, and go through Fresno to Borden, a small, unincorporated community south of Madera. All of this would cost $4.15 billion. The route would include two stations, in Fresno and Hanford/Visalia.  read more »

California’s New Grassroots Movement: High-Speed Rail on the Peninsula

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In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A to allocate $9.95 billion of the state’s money to a high-speed rail system. Just two years later, many of these same voters are yelling and screaming at the High-Speed Rail Authority to revise their plans. Why have Californians turned against this project so quickly?  read more »

California's Failed Statesmen

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The good news? Like most rock or movie stars, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with California. It's still talented, and retains great physical gifts. Our climate, fertility and location remain without parallel. The state remains pre-eminent in a host of critical fields from agriculture to technology, entertainment to Pacific Rim trade.  read more »

Despite Transit's 2008 Peak, Longer Term Market Trend is Down: A 25 Year Report on Transit Ridership

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In 2008, US transit posted its highest ridership since 1950, a development widely noted and celebrated in the media. Ridership had been increasing for about a decade, however, 2008 coincided with the highest gasoline prices in history, which gave transit a boost.  read more »

Time to Dismantle the American Dream?

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For some time, theorists have been suggesting that it is time to redefine the American Dream of home ownership. Households, we are told, should live in smaller houses, in more crowded neighborhoods and more should rent. This thinking has been heightened by the mortgage crisis in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices rose most extravagantly in the past decade. And to be sure, many of the irrational attempts – many of them government sponsored – to expand ownership to those not financially prepared to bear the costs need to curbed.  read more »

The Myth of the Strong Center

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At the height of the foreclosure crisis the problems experienced by some so-called “sprawl” markets, like Phoenix and San-Bernardino-Riverside, led some observers to see the largest price declines as largely confined to outer ring suburbs. Some analysts who had long been predicting (even hoping for) the demise of the suburbs skipped right over analysis to concoct theories not supported by the data. The mythology was further enhanced by the notion – never proved – that high gas prices were forcing home buyers closer to the urban core.  read more »

Transit Oriented Development: If Not San Francisco, Where?

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“The Great Transit Oriented Development Swindle?” reads the headline in the Fog City Journal, one of the growing number of internet newspapers providing serious, professional web-based journalism as an alternative to declining print newspapers (and their often less than effective web sites).

The article does not directly answer the question in the headline, but certainly provides enough ammunition to what has become a commonly accepted mantra among planners and urban boosters. It reveals how transit oriented development (TOD) is often based upon fragile foundations that amount to an ideological swindle. It is important to recognize that the Fog City Journal is no right wing or libertarian organ. There is little market for that in the city of San Francisco.  read more »

Welcome to Ecotopia

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In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.

In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle--largely approvingly--the emergence of a future green nation along the country's northwest coast.  read more »