Urban Issues

Understanding Chongqing and the Fall of Bo Xilai


The demise of Bo Xilai, the former Party Secretary of Chongqing, has turned into one of the biggest political scandals in China in recent memory and now includes allegations that Bo’s wife Gu Kailai is connected to the murder of a British businessman close to Bo’s family. It is even rumored the businessman, Neil Heywood, may have had an affair with Gu.  read more »

Staying the Same: Urbanization in America


The recent release of the 2010 US census data on urban areas (Note 1) shows that Americans continue to prefer their lower density lifestyles, with both suburbs and exurbs (Note 2) growing more rapidly than the historic core municipalities.  This may appear to be at odds with the recent Census Bureau 2011 metropolitan area population estimates, which were widely mischaracterized as indicating exurban (and suburban) losses and historical core municipality gains.  read more »

Homebuilding: Recovery & Red Tape

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The Recovery Blueprint is a multipart series of articles that offers suggestions on how to recover from the homebuilding recession.

Since the recession began, there haven't been any significant changes in how regulations could be improved to energize the housing market and foster innovation. Three areas where big regulation changes are needed? Environmental subsidies, density requirements, and zoning laws.  read more »

Goodbye, Chicago


Odd as it may seem for someone known as The Urbanophile, I actually grew up in the countryside. I spent most of my childhood on a country road about four miles outside the town of Laconia, Indiana, population 50.  I always used to get confused when John Cougar sang about living in a small town, because I knew he was from Seymour, and with over 15,000 people that seemed a big town in my book.  read more »

Megalopolis and its Rivals


Jean Gottman in 1961 coined the term megalopolis (Megalopolis, the Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the Unites States) to describe the massive concentration of population extending from the core of New York north beyond Boston and south encompassing Washington DC. It has been widely studied and mapped, including by me. (Morrill, 2006, Classic Map Revisited, Professional Geographer).  The concept has also been extended to describe and compare many other large conurbations around the world.

Maybe it’s time to see how the original has fared?   And what has happened to other metropolitan complexes in the US, most notably Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and should we say Florida?  read more »

Review: The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City


Is gentrification the “fifth great migration,” that will fill old downtowns with upper-middle-class white folks, while the tract mansions of the outer ring become slums for immigrants? So suggests Alan Ehrenhalt, the former executive editor of Governing magazine. In The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, he proposes that a demographic shift is under way that is reversing generations of suburbanization and white flight.  read more »


As Filmmaking Surges, New Orleans Challenges Los Angeles


For generations New Orleans‘ appeal to artists, musicians and writers did little to dispel the city’s image as a poor, albeit fun-loving, bohemian tourism haven. As was made all too evident by Katrina, the city was plagued by enormous class and racial divisions, corruption and some of the lowest average wages in the country.  read more »

Census Estimates: Slowing Metropolitan Growth and the Future of the Exurbs


Recently the Census Bureau released 2011 county and metro area population estimates that showed overall slowing population growth and particularly showing slow to halting growth in exurban counties.

Someone once said to me about Chicago’s Mayor Daley that if he did something you liked, he was a visionary genius leader, but if he did something you hated, he was a corrupt machine dictator.

That seems to be how too many urbanists view the Census Bureau.  read more »

California Declares War on Suburbia II: The Cost of Radical Densification


My April 9 Cross Country column commentary in The Wall Street Journal (California Declares War on Suburbia) outlined California's determination to virtually outlaw new detached housing. The goal is clear:    force most new residents into multi-family buildings at 20 and 30 or more to the acre.  read more »

California Recovery: No, It Is Not East vs. West


Every now and then, some East Coast based publication sends a reporter out to California to see how the West Coast's economy is doing.  I think they write these things sitting at a restaurant patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  That can be seductive, and lulled into a comfortable sense that all is well with the world, the reporter always gets it wrong.   read more »