Urban Issues

Salt Lake City's Sacred Space


Amid a devastating condo crash and high office vacancies across the U.S., one of the country's largest downtown development projects is taking shape in Salt Lake City. The city's center displays a landscape of cranes, cement-mixers and hard-hats--something all too rare in these tough times.  read more »

The Urbanist’s Guide to Kevin Rudd’s Downfall


The political execution of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by his own Australian Labor Party colleagues was extraordinary, the first time a prime minister has been denied a second chance to face the voters.

According to the consensus in Australia’s mostly progressive media establishment, Rudd fell victim to his “poor communication skills”, a somewhat Orwellian take since until recently he was hailed as a brilliant communicator. What went wrong?  read more »

The Changing Demographics of America


Estimates of the United states population at the middle of the 21st century vary, from the U.N.’s 404 million to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 422 to 458 million. To develop a snapshot of the nation at 2050, particularly its astonishing diversity and youthfulness, I use the nice round number of 400 million people, or roughly 100 million more than we have today.  read more »

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


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 »

Immigrant Entrepreneurs Can Turbocharge Cleveland’s Flagging Economy


In seeking to lure a Chinese lightbulb-maker to town, Cleveland leaders revealed both a vision and a blind spot.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and his team should be given credit for recognizing the tremendous opportunity in attracting foreign direct investment, or “FDI,” and the new jobs that it provides.  read more »

Millennial Surprise


The boomer's long domination of American politics, culture and economics will one day come to an end. A new generation--the so-called millennials--will be shaping the outlines of our society, but the shape of their coming reign could prove more complex than many have imagined.

Conventional wisdom, particularly among boomer "progressives," paints millennials--those born after 1983--as the instruments for fulfilling the promise of the 1960s cultural revolt. In 2008 the left-leaning Center for American Progress dubbed them "The Progressive Generation."  read more »

China’s Urban Challenge: Balancing Sustainable Economic Growth and Soaring Property Prices


Today, Beijing seeks to balance strong economic growth and soaring prices amidst a severe global crisis and debt turmoil in advanced economies. The challenge is colossal – to provide urban space for more than 600 million people in the coming decades.

For months, the famous hedge fund wizard, James Chanos, has been predicting a severe Chinese property slump. As he puts it, “Dubai times 1,000 – or worse,” with the “potential to be a similar watershed event for world markets as the reversal of the U.S. subprime and housing boom.”  read more »

Planning’s Cultural Cringe?


First it was Portland, Oregon, touted as a poster child for urban planning in Australia. Now, Vancouver, Canada, is the comparison, and are we seeing another incarnation of Australia’s infamous cultural cringe?

Advocates of higher density and the “brawl against sprawl” in Australia frequently cite overseas cities as model case studies. Portland, Oregon, was for a long time cited as a good example of pro-density housing strategies which sought to limit ‘sprawl’, to promote public transport by investing in things like light rail, and to promote cycling and a range of other planning ‘solutions’ that would sound remarkably familiar in Australia.  read more »

Time to Dismantle the American Dream?


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 »

L.A.'s Economy Is Not Dead Yet


"This is the city," ran the famous introduction to the popular crime drama Dragnet. "Los Angeles, Calif. I work here." Of course, unlike Det. Sgt. Joe Friday, who spoke those words every episode, I am not a cop, but Los Angeles has been my home for over 35 years.

To Sgt. Friday, L.A. was a place full of opportunities to solve crimes, but for me Los Angeles has been an ideal barometer for the city of the future. For the better part of the last century, Los Angeles has been, as one architect once put it, "the original in the Xerox machine." It largely invented the blueprint of the modern American city: the car-oriented suburban way of life, the multi-polar metropolis around a largely unremarkable downtown, the sprawling jumble of ethnic and cultural enclaves of a Latin- and Asian-flavored mestizo society.  read more »