Urban Issues

Rust Belt Realities: Pittsburgh Needs New Leaders, New Ideas and New Citizens

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The current recession provides a new opportunity for Pittsburgh's elite to feel good about itself. With other boom economies from Phoenix to Miami on the skids – and other old Rust Belt cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo even more down on their luck – the slow-growth achievements of the Pittsburgh region may seem rather impressive.

Yet at the same time, the downturn also poses longer-term challenges for which the local leadership is likely to have no answers.  read more »

Farmer’s Markets: Reviving Public Space in Central Florida

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By Richard Reep

Noted architect Daniel Liebeskind, teaching at Yale in the early 1990s, proclaimed “Public space is dead”. A provocative notion at the time, he was simply observing American cultural phenomena, and our evolution away from Main Street into the mall, away from the downtown church to the suburban megachurch, and away from common space into private space. While all this is true, it misses a countercyclical element in our cities, and in the Orlando area, public space is very much alive and assuming a new role in the neighborhoods.  read more »

China Should Send Western Planners Home

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For centuries, the West sent missionaries around the world to spread various gospels. It is no different now, though the clerics tend to hold degrees from planning schools rather than those overtly specializing in theology.

This could also create tragic results as ideologies created in one context are imported into a totally foreign one.  read more »

City Planning and The Politics of Pollution

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Part Two. Yesterday, in Part One, Critser discussed scientific advances in understanding air pollution. Today, he addresses the social implications.

The new science of air pollution, with its emphasis on dose-response mechanisms, may remake the traditional advocacy realm of social and environmental justice. In the past, that world has been focused on class, race and ethnicity, classic markers of inequality and vulnerability. Today, the focus is more “exposure driven.” “Dosage… may be something people who have ignored environmental justice can get their heads around,” one researcher at last month’s Environmental Epidemiology conference in Pasadena noted. “It may get people’s attention on something that affects us all.”  read more »

Will The New Air Pollution Science Choke City Planners?

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Part One of A Two-Part Series

Not long ago, Michael Woo, a former Los Angeles city councilman and current member of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, took up a case pending approval by that body: a mixed housing-retail development near the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard and Riverside Drive. Like many of the remaining buildable sites in the city, the property is right next to a roaring motorway; the windows of some apartments would look right out onto the 134 Freeway. To Angelinos, who have grown up in a car culture, it was hardly a remarkable proposal. But Woo, perhaps one of the brainier members of the city’s political elite—after losing a mayoral race to Richard Riordan in the early 1990s he became a professor of public policy at University of Southern California—had a problem with it, and he couldn’t quite let it go.  read more »

Rethinking Risk During a Financial Crisis: Learning from Mexico

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Last month I visited a small town in southern Mexico. It is a quiet and modestly prosperous place. Outside some of the homes are older Suburbans, Jeeps and Explorers; the license plates show that their owners have recently returned from the US, driven out by the collapsing economy and heightened nativist anxieties. Almost every family, it seems, has some member who has spent time up north; only a very few of them are still hanging on through the recession.  read more »

Former Insider on the Auto Bailout: Never Underestimate Brainpower in Detroit

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In all the many (how many) years I worked as an engineer in and around the auto industry, I got to compare conditions in Europe, Japan and America. Yet in many ways the American situation was perhaps the most tragic – the most potential, most eagerly squandered. It’s not Americans who are flawed, but the business model imposed from the top.

For example, I do not believe American engineers are inferior to those working elsewhere. It’s just the way their inputs are handled. Toyota and Honda have long-term viable plans that forecast many years down the road. This gives engineers a clear direction.  read more »

Euroburbia: A Personal View

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The image of the European city as a tourist’s paradise of charming inner-city neighborhoods interconnected by high-speed rail networks is not entirely false, but it does not give the full picture of how most Europeans live. Contrary to the mythology embraced by romantics among planners and ‘green’ politicians, urban areas of Europe sprawl just as much as any American or Western city.  read more »

L.A.’s Big-Bucks Plan for Upper Floors on Broadway Overlooks Facts at Ground Level

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City officials and private business owners recently gathered to celebrate the extended holiday hours of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro Red Line train service between Hollywood and Downtown. Private businesses put up $50,000 or so to pay for the Red Line to run an extra two hours — until 3 a.m. — on weekends through December 27. The local business community also came up with private funds for free service on city-operated DASH buses that will offer connections to late-night Red Line riders and others.  read more »

Can Millennials Turn around the Housing Bust?

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Many of the nation’s youth (and a few of their elders) are expecting a magical turnaround of America’s economic fortunes as soon as their candidate for President, Barack Obama, is sworn in on January 20th 2009. But the Millennial Generation, born between 1982 and 2003, may be more the source of the country’s economic salvation as any initiative the new President might propose.

Millennials are the largest generation in American history, more than 91 million strong. They are coming of age just in time to join the workforce, enter the housing market, stabilize home prices, and buy the nation's expanding inventory of durable goods to furnish their new homes.  read more »