Urban Issues

Britain Fears a Developer’s Charter

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The UK Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced that there were only 127,780 new housing completions last year in Britain. British house building activity is down to levels of after the First World War, when reliable industrial records began, and still falling. In 1921 the British population was nearly back up to 43 million following the slaughter of the First World War. In 2011 the population of England, Wales, and Scotland is approaching 61 million people. By 2031 the British population is expected to be closer to 70 million.  read more »

Florida’s Quick Rebound

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Adding nearly 119,000 people in 2011, Florida has capped a decade of steady population increase  to see the state grow 19% since 2000.  Despite 2009, an historic year where more people left than arrived, the overall net growth of Florida has yielded two additional congressional seats, moving the state well on its way towards the becoming third most populous state in the nation.  This ascendancy brings new responsibility to the shoulders of the state’s leaders, and the direction this st  read more »

Three Cheers for Urban Sprawl

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“Hands off Our Land!” screams the Daily Telegraph, like some shotgun-toting red-faced farmer.  The newspaper, on behalf of the reactionary toffs who form the least pleasant section of its readership, has launched a campaign directed against ‘urban sprawl’ (ie. the rest of us).

On a good day, the Telegraph serves up enlightened articles by progressive liberals like Janet Daley and Simon Heffer and Jeff Randal (I’m talking about real liberals here, not American Trotskyites).  But then it disappears under the desk, drinks some devilish, bubbling potion and emerges looking like Mr Hyde, all wonky teeth and messy hair.  “Hands off Our Land” is the Telegraph at its worst - a campaign to thwart the government’s all-too-modest suggestions to reform Britain’s vicious planning laws.    read more »

Urban Legend: Wei Ping Contemplates Motherhood

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Driving through the bustling Orchard Road in the heart of Singapore, Wei Ping stares at the shiny new Prada hoarding. Maybe she should ”invest” in a new Prada bag. She must watch out for the next big season sale. Her birthday is a distance away but ever since she and her husband had started talking about the baby, she needed some retail therapy to lift her mood.  read more »

Urban Development: Playing Twister With The California Environmental Quality Act

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When it comes to environmental issues, emotions often trump reasoned argument or sensible reform, especially in California. In Sacramento at our state capitol, real world impacts are abstracted into barbed soundbites. It’s the dialogue of the deaf as environmental advocates rally around our landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) -- and economic interests decry it as “a job killer.” Perhaps the polarization can be put aside to ask about a specific example in the real world. Why does an old K-Mart sit vacant on Ventura’s busiest boulevard despite initial City approval for a Walmart store? All the thunder and lightning surrounding whether a Walmart belongs in Ventura is behind us. A vigorous and contentious debate (and a failed citizen initiative) have rendered the verdict that filling an empty discount retail space with a different discount retailer is a function of the market, not government regulation.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Kolkata: 50 Mile City

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More than a decade ago, the Sierra Club and I crossed keyboards over urban density. The Sierra Club had just posted a new "neighborhood consumption calculator," that gave visitors the opportunity to look at the purported impacts of various density levels. The Sierra Club designated 500 dwelling units per acre as "efficient urban." Independently, Randal O'Toole and I quickly were on the Internet pointing out the absurdity of such high density.  read more »

Citibank, Citizen Wriston, And The Age of Greed

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Robert Sarnoff , the CEO of RCA before it was absorbed by GE, once said, “Finance is the passing of money from hand to hand until it disappears.” That process is very clearly defined in The Age of Greed by Jeffrey Madrick. It recounts, in concise terms, how a few dozen individuals—some in the private sector, some in government--brought us to our current economic pass, in which finance seems to have been completely detached from life. Names from the past come back, and their crimes are explained. Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, and Dennis Levine look guiltier in the retelling than they did in the newspapers at the time. And in this telling, the philosopher king of the new finance was Walter Wriston, CEO of Citicorp.  read more »

California's Deficit: The Jerry Brown and 'Think Long' Debate

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California has three major problems: persistent high unemployment, persistent deficits, and persistently volatile state revenues. Unfortunately, the only one of these that gets any attention is the persistent deficit. It is even more unfortunate that many of the proposals to reduce the deficits are likely to make all three of the problems worse over the long run.

Two major proposals to deal with the deficit will shape the coming debate. One is from the newly formed Think Long for California Committee; the other from the governor.  read more »

The U.S. Economy: Regions To Watch In 2012

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In an election year, politics dominates the news, but economics continue to shape people’s lives. Looking ahead to 2012 and beyond, it is clear that the United States is essentially made up of many economies, each with distinctly different short- and long-term prospects. We have highlighted the five regions that are most poised to flourish and help boost the national economy.  read more »