Urban Issues

The College Town Is Obsolete

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The college town occupies a special place in the American consciousness. Small, leafy, brimming with intellectual activity, preparing tomorrow’s leaders – if we haven’t spent years, dropped off kids, or attended a football game in a college town, we have at least passed through one.  read more »

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Rx for ‘Residential Renaissance:’ Take Two Years and Ease Up on the Hype

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A big going-out-of-business sign on the Rite-Aid store at 7th and Los Angeles streets tells a bigger tale—a story I’ll call “Hype Happens.”

The Rite-Aid opened a few years ago with fanfare, arriving at just about the high-point of the hype over the “Residential Renaissance” of Downtown. Rite-Aid set up shop in the Santee Village project, an ambitious effort that saw a developer get plenty of help from various government agencies in order to convert a collection of mid-rise buildings from garment shops to residential lofts.  read more »

Boomers Go Back to College? - A Letter from Pennsylvania

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The “boomers” is a generation born between 1946 and 1964. They gave us the youth culture, hippies, Woodstock, peace movement, women’s liberation, computers, flexible work environments, consumer electronics and consumption on the grand scale to mention only a few.

Boomers have enjoyed a wonderful economy in the main that has enabled them to build wealth and live middle class lifestyles. They stay fit. They eat healthy foods. They look young compared to people of previous generations at their age.  read more »

Back to Basics: The Financial Crisis Requires a Paradigm Shift

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It’s tempting to look at the current financial meltdown – and the proposed bailout – with a Bolshevik mentality. Let’s line up the investment bankers, hedge fund managers up against a wall and spray them with an odorous substance.
If it were only so easy. Rescuing Wall Street may not solve many problems but letting the investor class implode won’t help many people either.  read more »

Creating an Authentic Place: Tales from Two Southern California Cities

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What makes a place “authentic”? In places we cherish, we look for something unique and tangible. But personal experience of a place is not merely a product of the landscape and “built environment.” It is also shaped by myths and perceptions.

As City Manager of two California towns, I’ve grappled with the treacherous crosscurrents of reality and myth, of change and preservation.  read more »

The Smart Growth Bailout?

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One way to see the federal rescue of the home mortgage market is to call it “the smart growth bailout.” True, the proximate cause lay with profligate lending practices. The flood of mortgage money covered the entire country, irrespective of state, regional or local land use regulations. That’s where the similarity stopped.  read more »

Atlanta's Atlantic Station: The Suburbs Come to the City

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Atlantic Station is a new development near the core of Atlanta being built on disused railroad tracks. It combines residential, housing and retail uses and, among proponents of the New Urbanist movement and is often held up as a model for developments to come.  read more »

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Searching for Los Angeles by the Gateway Arch - a Reminiscence

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The obsession started before the earthquake.

I was driving on Manchester Road, and something about the slant of light off the car dealerships, the particular combination of Mexican-food diner/meat market/bank/shoe store/train-whistle-in-the-distance, and the unending nature of my errand was enough to take me back. I was on San Fernando Road, and for a just a split second, I was happy – happy to be in traffic, happy to have the glare of the sun in my eyes, happy, even, to be hopelessly late -- because I thought that I was back in Los Angeles.  read more »

A New Model for New York --- San Francisco Anyone?

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From the beginning of the mortgage crisis New York and other financial centers have acted as if they were immune to the suffering in the rest of country. As suburbs, exurbs and hard-scrabble out of the way urban neighborhoods suffered with foreclosures and endured predictions of their demise, the cognitive elites in places like Manhattan felt confident about their own prospects, property values and jobs. So what if the rubes in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tampa and Riverside all teetered on the brink?  read more »

Sports Complexes: Economic Prosperity or Pompousness?

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In the heart of downtown Indianapolis lies a recently constructed monolith, the envy of other cities aspiring for new digs for their NFL football team. Lucas Oil Stadium has 63,000 seats and features a retractable roof allowing for comfort control during Indiana's fickle fall weather season. And for those urban enthusiasts in the crowd, when open, the roof provides a captivating view of an Indy skyline that in years past was barely visible to the naked eye.  read more »