MLewyn's blog

What I Got Out of CNU 22

My favorite CNU 22 panel was one on street design.  The panelists (including Victor Dover and John Massengale, authors of a new book on street design) discussed a variety of walkable streets.  For me, the most memorable point was Massengale's discussion of a gigantic arterial in Barcelona; he pointed out that this seemingly very wide street accommodated pedestrians by 1) placing its slowest lanes (with on-street parking that slows down traffic) on the outside, so that at least part of the street did not have dangerously fast traffic and (2) using medians and street trees to make t

supply, demand and housing costs

I've read numerous blog posts and articles asserting that gentrification or rich foreign investors increase housing costs by increasing demand.  But people who raise this argument aren't always sensitive to the role of supply in the law of supply and demand: for example, one  New York Times article states that increasing demand has raised rents, yet cites one housing advocate's statement that “Increasing the supply is not going to increase the number

The Rise of De-Gentrification

A recent study by a Portland-are consultant and professor analyzed the rise of high-poverty neighborhoods, finding that only 105 census tracts with poverty rates over 30 percent in 1970 had poverty rates below 15 percent in 2010.  By contrast, 1231 tracts with 1970 poverty rates below 15 percent have poverty rates over 30 percent today.  (However, the study does not address the location of either group of tracts- that is, to what extent the gentrifying tracts are urban, and to what ex

If You Don't Want An Apartment, Don't Have One

One of my favorite political slogans (more because of its catchiness than because of its wisdom)* is "If You Don't Want An Abortion, Don't Have One." 

It occurs to me that this slogan would be quite appropriately adapted to an urbanist context.  In response to NIMBY attacks on compact development, one might create bumperstickers with slogans like:

"If You Don't Want An Apartment, Don't Live In One."

"If You Don't Want A Small House, Don't Buy One."

 

Cities, Suburbs and Commute Length

I recently discovered a fun tool: the Census Bureau's Census Explorer, which is full of maps about all kinds of things.  In particular, I spent some time exploring commute length.

One reason why NYC is so expensive

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of renter-occupied housing units in New York increased by only 1.8 percent, while the number of households increased by 2.9 percent.  I would imagine that if you add that to the increased demand arising from the post-recession difficulty of financing a home, you should have expected zooming rents, which is of course exactly what New York has.

DeBlasio's Unimpressive Housing Plan: No Substitute For The Free Market

New York's new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, has just proposed to spend $8 billion in taxpayers' money to create 80,000 new housing units.  80,000 is certainly better than nothing.

On the other hand, New York has 3 million occupied housing units today, so even if the DeBlasio plan works, the city's housing supply will increase by a grand total of 2.7 percent over the next decade- barely enough to keep up with population.

The Infrastructure Argument Against Infill

One common (if vague) argument against upzoning and infill development is that infrastructure in place X (wherever the proposed development is) will somehow be overwhelmed by more important.  When I see this argument I want to ask:

1.  What infastructure are you talking about?

2.  How is it currently inadequate in place X?

3.  If you don't want more people to live and work in place X where do you want them to live and work instead? 

Are Wider Streets More Congested?

In a recent Planetizen blog post, Brett Toderian had an interesting insight: "When vehicles are moving, they take up much more space. The faster they move, the more separation distance and space between vehicles is needed."  This makes intuitive sense to me: when I am driving on a 20 mph street, I am willing to drive only a few feet behind other cars, while when driving 60 mph I don't feel comfortable getting so close to the car in front of me. 

Yes, Upzone The Nice Areas Too

An interesting and provocative blog post by Chicago planner Pete Saunders argued that urbanites should not be pressing too hard for upzoning well-off urban neighborhoods because "maybe they ought to consider more of the city to live in.