City Planning and The Politics of Pollution

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Part Two. Yesterday, in Part One, Critser discussed scientific advances in understanding air pollution. Today, he addresses the social implications.

The new science of air pollution, with its emphasis on dose-response mechanisms, may remake the traditional advocacy realm of social and environmental justice. In the past, that world has been focused on class, race and ethnicity, classic markers of inequality and vulnerability. Today, the focus is more “exposure driven.” “Dosage… may be something people who have ignored environmental justice can get their heads around,” one researcher at last month’s Environmental Epidemiology conference in Pasadena noted. “It may get people’s attention on something that affects us all.”  read more »

Voting and Families: America’s Second Demographic Transition

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It has been widely accepted that geographic areas with more unconventional forms of family formation – cohabitation; children born to cohabitors; postponement of partnership, marriage and parenthood to much later ages; acceptance of interference with fertility through abortion and efficient contraception – would vote for Democrats. Conversely, those geographic areas that retain classic forms of family formation – early marriage and parenthood – and more conventional gender roles would display a preference for Republicans.  read more »

Will The New Air Pollution Science Choke City Planners?

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Part One of A Two-Part Series

Not long ago, Michael Woo, a former Los Angeles city councilman and current member of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, took up a case pending approval by that body: a mixed housing-retail development near the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard and Riverside Drive. Like many of the remaining buildable sites in the city, the property is right next to a roaring motorway; the windows of some apartments would look right out onto the 134 Freeway. To Angelinos, who have grown up in a car culture, it was hardly a remarkable proposal. But Woo, perhaps one of the brainier members of the city’s political elite—after losing a mayoral race to Richard Riordan in the early 1990s he became a professor of public policy at University of Southern California—had a problem with it, and he couldn’t quite let it go.  read more »

Rethinking Risk During a Financial Crisis: Learning from Mexico

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Last month I visited a small town in southern Mexico. It is a quiet and modestly prosperous place. Outside some of the homes are older Suburbans, Jeeps and Explorers; the license plates show that their owners have recently returned from the US, driven out by the collapsing economy and heightened nativist anxieties. Almost every family, it seems, has some member who has spent time up north; only a very few of them are still hanging on through the recession.  read more »

Former Insider on the Auto Bailout: Never Underestimate Brainpower in Detroit

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In all the many (how many) years I worked as an engineer in and around the auto industry, I got to compare conditions in Europe, Japan and America. Yet in many ways the American situation was perhaps the most tragic – the most potential, most eagerly squandered. It’s not Americans who are flawed, but the business model imposed from the top.

For example, I do not believe American engineers are inferior to those working elsewhere. It’s just the way their inputs are handled. Toyota and Honda have long-term viable plans that forecast many years down the road. This gives engineers a clear direction.  read more »

Euroburbia: A Personal View

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The image of the European city as a tourist’s paradise of charming inner-city neighborhoods interconnected by high-speed rail networks is not entirely false, but it does not give the full picture of how most Europeans live. Contrary to the mythology embraced by romantics among planners and ‘green’ politicians, urban areas of Europe sprawl just as much as any American or Western city.  read more »

"Milk" Puts New Attention on San Francisco's Castro District

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The Castro District of San Francisco has found itself thrust into the national spotlight by recent events. With the premiere of Gus Van Sant’s “Milk” across the country and the continuing controversy over Proposition 8, the neighborhood so instrumental in the gay rights movement is receiving a new surge of attention – and more importantly respect – for its rich history. Yet the Castro is not a museum district; it is a living, breathing neighborhood that is changing and facing significant challenges in a down economy.  read more »

Is the U.S. Capitalist, Socialist or Something In-between?

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During the Presidential campaign, then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama inartfully described his proposed federal income tax cuts for the middle class as “sharing the wealth.” His more strident right-wing opponents – including Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin – almost immediately labeled Obama “a socialist,” adding to a litany of alleged infirmities as a presidential candidate that included lacking executive experience; being a closet Muslim; and “someone who pals around with terrorists.”  read more »

Auto Bailout: Help Mississippi, Not Michigan

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We should be getting used to the depressing spectacle of once-great corporations begging for assistance from Washington. Yet perhaps nothing is more painful than to see General Motors and other big U.S.-based car companies – once exemplars of both American economic supremacy and middle-class aspirations – fall to such an appalling state.

Yet if GM represents all that is bad about the American economy, particularly manufacturing, it does not represent the breadth of our industrial landscape. Indeed, even as the dull-witted leviathan sinks, many nimble companies have shown remarkable resiliency.  read more »

L.A.’s Big-Bucks Plan for Upper Floors on Broadway Overlooks Facts at Ground Level

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City officials and private business owners recently gathered to celebrate the extended holiday hours of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro Red Line train service between Hollywood and Downtown. Private businesses put up $50,000 or so to pay for the Red Line to run an extra two hours — until 3 a.m. — on weekends through December 27. The local business community also came up with private funds for free service on city-operated DASH buses that will offer connections to late-night Red Line riders and others.  read more »