Urban Issues

The Grenfell High-Rise Fire: A Litany of Failures?

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At this writing, the London (Kensington) Grenfell high-rise fire has taken a confirmed 58 lives, with an unknown number missing and many more sent to hospitals. The 24 story low income housing tower block caught fire on Wednesday, June 14. It was virtually all consumed, as shown in the photograph above.  read more »

The Superstar Gap

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The biggest challenge facing many cities in transitioning to the knowledge economy is a shortage of “A” talent, especially true superstars.

All “talent” isn’t created equal. Crude measures such as the percentage of a region with college degrees, or even graduate degrees, don’t fully capture this. It is disproporationately the top performers, the “A” players and superstars that make things happen.  read more »

Dispersed Cities: Starting the 3rd Decade

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Cities (urban areas or settlements) have been around for millennia. Over that time, cities have changed in form and function. But the way that people move around the city has materially changed only twice. Walking was predominant until less than 200 years ago, then came mass transit, the automobile and now autonomous cars and some substitution for driving by online technology.  read more »

How Does Housing Stock Affect Urban Revitalization?

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The second of Pete Saunders’ nine reasons why Detroit failed is “poor housing stock,” particularly its overweighting towards small, early postwar cottages. Here’s a sample:  read more »

Is Your Transportation Project a Boondoggle?

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Tony Dutzik, writing for the progressive Frontier Group, offers a ten ways of recognizing whether a highway project is a boondoggle. A few of his ideas are valid: a highway widening project aimed simply at creating a continuous four-lane road even when there is no demand for four lanes seems silly.  read more »

Las Vegas Lessons, Part 1

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I spent much of last week in Las Vegas for the International Council of Shopping Centers' RECON 2017, the world's largest real estate convention. It's a gathering for developers, brokers, property owners, retailers, architects, landscape designers, construction companies, municipalities and more to get together to discuss real estate possibilities, in the one city that owes its very existence to aggressive real estate ventures.  read more »

America's Most Suburbanized Cities

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Recently, The Wall Street Journal and Newsday, in a photographic spread, trumpeted the 70th anniversary of Levittown, the New York suburban development that provided the model for much of the rapid suburbanization that occurred after the Second World War in the United States. Levittown's production line building also set the stage for the similar suburbs of cities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.  read more »

Amtrak and Express Coach Lines: What's Competition Have To Do With It?

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Express coach lines like BoltBus and Megabus have grown dramatically in recent years, providing millions of Americans with new mobility options. When the subject of competition between bus and train arises, however, many transportation wonks instantly become minimizers. Some cite growing rail traffic to make the case that this competition hardly matters. Others point to severe congestion on the Northeast Corridor (NEC)—Amtrak’s busiest route—to build the argument that attempting to lure passengers from buses to trains is a pointless exercise.  read more »

Is California About to Clobber Local Control?

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The gradual decimation of local voice in planning has become accepted policy in Sacramento. The State Senate is now considering two dangerous bills, SB 35 and SB 167, that together severely curtail democratic control of housing.

SB 35: Housing Accountability and Affordability Act (Wiener)  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Prague

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Prague is the capital of Czechia, a nation most readers have probably never heard of. Last year, the Czech Republic adopted a new name that does not reveal its governance structure (republic). The new name has not enjoyed widespread acclaim. The union of Czechoslovakia, which dates from the end of World War I, split peacefully in 1993, resulting in the creation of Czech Republic and Slovakia.  read more »