Urban Issues

Understanding the Geography of the 2008 Election

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Scholars as well as pundits and politicians will study this remarkable election exhaustively. Many, including me, will use county data, because they are convenient and available. From a statistical point of view, counties are lousy units, because of huge variation in size and excess internal variability. But we can’t resist, so here are some at least suggestive findings.  read more »

California’s Inland Empire: Is There Hope in the Heart of Darkness?

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Few areas in America have experienced a more dramatic change in fortunes as extreme as Southern California’s Inland Empire. From 1990-2008, the Inland Empire (Riverside & San Bernardino counties) has been California’s strongest job generator creating 20.1% of its employment growth. The area also consistently ranked among the nation’s fastest growing large metropolitan areas. However in 2008, the mortgage debacle has sent this area, which had not seen year-over-year job losses in over four decades, into a steep downturn.  read more »

Urban Infill With Less Hype and More Serendipity

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By Richard Reep

Urban infill in cities of the Southeast follows typical patterns: assemblage of several blocks of older building stock at a low price; careful navigation through the zoning and public process to mix uses and increase density; and finally design and construction of parking, office, residential, and retail uses. The next phase is often marked by alienation and departure of the existing surrounding residents, concerns of safety and security within the development, and a socioeconomic wall between new and old.  read more »

In Ethnic Enclaves, The U.S. Economy Thrives

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Dr. Alethea Hsu has a strange-seeming prescription for terrible times: She is opening a new shopping center on Saturday. In addition, more amazingly, the 114,000 square foot Irvine, Calif., retail complex, the third for the Taiwan native's Diamond Development Group, is just about fully leased.

How can this be in the midst of a consumer crack-up, with credit card defaults and big players like General Growth struggling for their existence? The answer is simple: Hsu's mostly Asian customers – Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese – still have cash.  read more »

Island of Broken Dreams

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A The New York Times editorial wonders why foreclosure rates are so high in the two Long Island counties it rightly calls the “birthplace of the suburban American Dream.” After all, the area has “a relative lack of room to sprawl.” which in Times-speak should be a good thing, since “sprawl” is by definition both bad and doomed.

Yet it is precisely the constraints on new housing that has served as a principal cause for Long Island problems.  read more »

Influence of 'Creative Class' Ideas in Sweden

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By Nima Sanandaji, Johnny Munkhammar, and Peter Egardt

The American academic Richard Florida has gained international attention for his theories about the “creative class”. According to Florida, the key to urban success lies in attracting certain groups of people, such as artists, scientists and twenty-something singles. Florida insists that this can be accomplished through nursing a specific type of culture within a city: hip cafes, art galleries and other manifestations of indigenous street-level culture.  read more »

Orlando: The Limits of Form

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By Richard Reep

To date, luminaries of the New Urbanist movement such as Andres Duany and Peter Calthorpe have done little to change Orlando. The central Florida city remains balkanized, market-driven, and vaguely cosmopolitan in nature. Orlando’s vitality does not depend on the physical form of the city, but rather the spiritual involvement of its citizens, the safety and security that they gain from their urban choice as well as the unique mix of jobs created by the employment of Orlando. These three intangible factors drive the form, and a healthy city planning process will not ignore this in favor of a rigid dress code.  read more »

Washington Wins…Everyone Else (except maybe Chicago) Loses

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What could prove to be the worst economic decline since 1929 may also have the unintended consequence of creating a booming real estate market for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area over the next few years. Ironically this has been brought on not, as one might expect, by Democrats – traditionally the party of Washington – but by the often fervently anti-DC Republicans.  read more »

Toronto: The Action is Where You Make It

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You get mean-spirited when you feel left out of joy. Somebody else’s joy raises envy when you haven’t had any yourself. Cities are like that, jealously eyeing other cities as if there were more fun and delight and oh, “buzz,” to be had elsewhere.

In fact it’s an illusion that the party is going on somewhere else. The action is where you make it, and in a city you have lots of help doing it. In fact that’s what justifies city life – the signature of any great city. Self-rejoicing. It’s something more than plain pride, or confidence or superiority, or a call for “buzz,” excitement, or (yech) prosperity.  read more »

Sundown for California

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Twenty-five years ago, along with another young journalist, I coauthored a book called California, Inc. about our adopted home state. The book described “California’s rise to economic, political, and cultural ascendancy.”

As relative newcomers at the time, we saw California as a place of limitless possibility. And over most of the next two decades, my coauthor, Paul Grabowicz, and I could feel comfortable that we were indeed predicting the future.  read more »