Urban Issues

China Failing its Families

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China's recent decision to reverse – at least in part – its policy limiting most couples to one child marks a watershed in thinking about demographics. Yet, this reversal of the 30-year policy may prove unavailing due to reasons – notably dense urbanization and high property prices – that work against people having more children.

China already faces a demographic crisis unprecedented for a still-poor country. By 2050, China will have 60 million fewer people under 15 years of age, while the over-65 population grows by 190 million, approximately the population of Pakistan, the world's sixth-most populous country. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that China's population will peak in 2026, and then will age faster than any country besides Japan; most of the world's decline in children and workers ages 15-19 over the next two decades will take place in China.  read more »

Are Special Service Districts a Boon or a Bane?

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America’s cities have been under fiscal pressure for an extended period of time. To cope with this, and better manage assets, they’ve increasingly turned to various forms of special purpose districts or entities for service delivery. Traditional independent service districts such as sewer districts or transit districts were often designed to circumvent bonding limits or to deliver services regionally, so were larger in scale. These newer service districts are much smaller in scope. They consist of two basic components:  read more »

Silicon Valley is No Model for America

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Its image further enhanced by the recent IPO of Twitter, Silicon Valley now stands in many minds as the cutting edge of the American future. Some, on both right and left, believe that the Valley's geeks should reform the nation, and the government, in their image.  read more »

The Revolt Against Urban Gentry

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The imminent departure of New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and his replacement by leftist Bill DeBlasio, represents an urban uprising against the Bloombergian  “luxury city” and the growing income inequality it represents. Bloomberg epitomized an approach that sought to cater  to the rich—most prominently Wall Street—as a means to both finance development growth and collect enough shekels to pay for services needed by the poor.  read more »

Los Angeles: Will The City Of The Future Make It There?

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When I arrived in Los Angeles almost 40 years ago, there was a palpable sense that here, for better or worse, lay the future of America, and even the world. Los Angeles dominated so many areas — film, international trade, fashion, manufacturing, aerospace — that its ascendency seemed assured. Even in terms of the urban form, L.A.’s car-dominated, multipolar configuration was being imitated almost everywhere; it was becoming, as one writer noted, “the original in the Xerox” machine.  read more »

From Balkanized Cleveland to Global Cleveland: A Theory of Change for Legacy Cities

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Legacy cities have legacy costs, including disinvestment from the inner city, as well as regional economic decline. The spiral has been ongoing for decades. The new white paper by consultants Richey Piiparinen and Jim Russell entitled “From Balkanized Cleveland to Global Cleveland”, funded by the Cleveland-based neighborhood non-profit Ohio City Inc., examines the systemic reasons behind legacy city decline, all the while charting a path to possible solutions.  read more »

Is Economic Development Dead?

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When Bill De Blasio won New York’s mayoral election a few weeks ago, it came as no surprise to anyone. His impassioned analogies to New York’s “Tale of Two Cities” and his call for a city that provided not just for the wealthiest one or two percent, but for all, appealed to the growing sense that New York is an increasingly unfair and unequal place.  read more »

The Surprising Cities Creating The Most Tech Jobs

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With the social media frenzy at a fever pitch, people may be excused for thinking that Silicon Valley is still the main engine for growth in the technology sector. But a close look at employment data over time shows that tech jobs are dispersing beyond the Valley and its much-celebrated urban annex of San Francisco.  read more »

Shareable Cities: Blurring the Lines

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“We believed then as we do now, that the sharing economy can democratize access to goods, services, and capital – in fact all the essentials that make for vibrant markets, commons, and neighborhoods. It’s an epoch shaping opportunity for sustainable urban development that can complement the legacy economy. Resource sharing, peer production, and the free market can empower people to self-provision locally much of what they need to thrive. Yet we’ve learned that current U.S. policies often block resource sharing and peer production. – From the report “Policies for Shareable Cities”


“Digital information technology contributes to the world by making it easier to copy and modify information. Computers promise to make this easier for all of us. Not everyone wants it to be easier.” – Richard Stallman, “Why Software Should Not Have Owners”

Not long ago there were pretty clear boundaries between the personal sphere and the commercial one, as well as more clear boundaries between public and private space.  read more »

Urban Containment and the Housing Bubble in Ireland

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Economist Colm McCarthy says that urban containment policy played a major role in the formation of the housing bubble. In a commentary in the Sunday Independent, Ireland’s leading weekend newspaper, McCarthy relates how urban planning regulations led to higher house prices in the Dublin area (Note 1).  read more »