MLewyn's blog

The pros and cons of elevator suburbs

As I was looking through my Twitter feed last night, I noticed an article on Canada's "elevator suburbs"- suburban streets (often, but not always, in low-income areas) filled with mid-and high-rise apartment buildings and shops, with lower-density housing on side streets.  How do these places stack up (pun intended) from an urbanist perspective?

Passover and New Urbanism

A few days ago, I came to Atlanta to spend the Jewish holiday of Passover with my family, a holiday commemorating the deparature of Hebrew slaves (also known as "the Exodus") from Egypt about 3300 years ago.

At one level, this liberation was about freedom- and so is new urbanism.  Just as the Exodus liberated the Hebrews from Egyptian kings, new urbanism seeks to liberate Americans from the four-wheeled kingdom of automobile-dependent sprawl. 

Hollywood's Suburban Role Model

Hazel Borys's recent post on joggable suburbs reminds me of something I had meant to blog about during Oscar time: a movie that gives us a fairly good role model of walkable suburbia: The Silver Linings Playbook.

Kotkin and Florida, Part II

Richard Florida has responded to Joel Kotkin's attack on "creative class" centered policies.  Kotkin doesn't really deny Florida's point that places with high-skilled workers have higher wages, but says that wage gains in high-skill cities are outweighed by high housing costs. Florida agrees. 

Mr. Kotkin and Mr. Florida

Joel Kotkin tried to take down Richard Florida today, arguing that trusting the "creative class of the skilled, educated and hip...to remake American cities" is "pernicious." Mr. Florida can speak for himself, but I do have a few thoughts about the article.

1.  Can Both Ideas Be True?

Using terminology to frame the debate

I recently saw a listserv post with the headline "the costs of automobilism."  The phrase "automobilism" makes automobile dependence seem like an alien ism, a sinister ideology like communism or fascism.  

By contrast, sprawl lobby types prefer the term "auto-mobility."  By associating driving with mobility, they suggest that cars equal freedom and opportunity.  After all, who would be against being mobile (or at least having the opportunity to be mobile)?

No, We Don't Need Walk-Ups (Or At Least Not Just Walk-Ups)

In reading arguments about Washington's height limits, one anti-height argument that I occasionally see is: "We don't need height for density-  we can just build 5-6 story buildings."  These kind of "walk-up" buildings typically can't afford elevators (except maybe at the high end of this range).  

Good trees, bad trees

Normally, trees on a street are a good thing.  Good trees (like this row of trees in Forest Hills, Queens) provide shade for a sidewalk.  But not all trees are so-well behaved.  Where there is no sidewalk, a tree can actually endanger pedestrians by preventing them from walking on grass.  For example, these

Getting serious about affordable housing

When I was at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Kansas City, I saw a speaker argue that walkability increases property values (a proposition I'm not taking a position on, at least not in this blog post).   When someone asked about affordability, he suggested inclusionary zoning as a solution.

When One-Way Streets Go Bad

In some places (e.g. Midtown Manhattan) one-way streets are relatively harmless.  In others, one-ways turn streets into speedways, threatening pedestrian safety and gutting neighborhood businesses (since someone going 50 mph is going to be less likely to stop for any reason).  How do you tell the difference?