Urban Issues

DUBAI: A High Stakes Bet on the Future


I picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal-Europe on the concourse while boarding my Emirates Air flight from Paris to Dubai. The lead story provided an unexpected relevance to the trip – my first to Dubai. Dubai World, owned by the Dubai government, had announced a 6-month moratorium on payments of some of its $60 billion in debt. Since the announcement, stock markets have been dropping and recovering, company officials have attempted to calm borrowers and government officials have provided considerably less assurance than Dubai’s investors would have preferred.  read more »

Growing Today's Green Jobs Requires Solid Economic Development Policy


I was hired for my first Green Job, thirty-four years ago, shoveling horse stalls for a barn full of Tennessee Walking Horses. The droppings and bedding that was removed from the stables was then composted and applied to my employer’s crops in lieu of chemical fertilizers. You don’t get much greener than that!  read more »

The World's Smartest Cities


In today's parlance a "smart" city often refers to a place with a "green" sustainable agenda. Yet this narrow definition of intelligence ignores many other factors--notably upward mobility and economic progress--that have characterized successful cities in the past.

The green-only litmus test dictates cities should emulate either places with less-than-dynamic economies, like Portland, Ore., or Honolulu, or one of the rather homogeneous and staid Scandinavian capitals. In contrast, I have determined my "smartest" cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals.  read more »

When Granny Comes Marching Home Again... Multi-Generational Housing


During the first ten days of October 2008, the Dow Jones dropped 2,399.47 points, losing 22.11% of its value and trillions of investor equity. The Federal Government pushed a $700 billion bail-out through Congress to rescue the beleaguered financial institutions. The collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 was likened to an earthquake. In reality, what happened was more like a shift of tectonic plates.


The driveway tells the story. The traditional two-story 2,200 square foot suburban home has a two-car attached garage. Today’s multi-generational families fill the garage, the driveway and often also occupy the curb in front of the home. The economic crisis that is transforming America is also changing the way we live. The outcome will change the way America views its housing needs for the balance of the 21st Century.  read more »

A Return to the City or a New Divide in the Nation's Capital Region?


Census data continue to suggest that fringe areas still grow faster than cities, but some have continued to argue that the flight to the suburbs has ended, or at least slowed, and that we are experiencing a resurgence of urban living. In a 2005 article for the Journal of the American Planning Association, Robert Fishman predicts a new pattern of migration – a so-called Fifth Migration – that will revitalize inner core neighborhoods that were depopulated through decades of suburbanization. In a 2004 study of the New York region, James W. Hughes and Joseph J.  read more »

The Infrastructure Canard


One of the principal arguments used against suburbanization is that its infrastructure is too expensive to provide. As a result, planners around the high income world have sought to draw boundaries around growing urban areas, claiming that this approach is less costly and that it allows current infrastructure to be more efficiently used.

Like so many of the arguments (a more appropriate term would be “excuse”) used to frustrate the clear preferences about where people want to live and work, the infrastructure canard holds little water upon examination.  read more »

The Cycles of Industrial and Post-Industrial in Silicon Valley


For many locals, Silicon Valley surrendered to the tyranny of development when it lost its last major fruit orchard in 1996. Olson's family cherry orchards, a 100-year player in the valley's agricultural history, shut down its main operations, and Deborah Olson mournfully told a local reporter then, "We're down to 15 acres at this point." There is a happy ending. With community support, the Olson family continues to sell its famous cherries at its fruit stand in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Ultimately, Silicon Valley's history is predicated on a continual progression from industrial to post-industrial. Adding to the chaotic ferment and success, multiple sectors co-exist at different stages of maturity at any given moment.  read more »

So Much for Evidence-Based Planning


Has evidence-based planning fallen from grace in favour of catchy slogans and untested assumptions? In the case of urban planning, arguably that is just what’s happened. The evidence, in Australia at least, is worrying.

“We must get people out of cars and onto public transport.” “We must stop urban sprawl and the consumption of valuable land.” “We must build higher density communities to achieve sustainable environmental outcomes.” Phrases like this are now de rigueur across many discussions about urban planning in the media, in politics and in regulatory circles in Australia. They are rarely challenged on the basis of what the actual social, economic or scientific evidence is really saying.  read more »

Housing Bubbles: Why are Americans Ignoring Reality?


Dr. Housing Bubble (based in California), in "The comprehensive state of the US housing market", asserts that of the 129 million residential units in the United States, some 15,950,000 are vacant, resulting in a huge oversupply of residential stock across the country.

Other United States commentators are making the same assertions, such as Colin Barr of Fortune magazine with "Housing market still faces a big glut".  read more »

It's A Mall World After All


If Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants a taste of home during his visit to Washington this week, he might consider a trip to McLean, Va., home to the region's largest indoor mall, Tysons Corner Center. After all, there are few groups more mall-crazy than India's expanding affluent class.

Back here in the U.S., urban boosters and planners like to predict that malls are "vanishing." But while consumer-deflated America may suffer from mall fatigue and a hangover from overbuilding, much of the developing world has experienced no such malaise. In 2000, for example, India was virtually mall-less. Today it has several hundred, with scores of new ones on the drawing boards.  read more »