I am in the middle of Jeff Speck's Walkable City, and noticed his statement that walkable cities "provide a better quality of life." (p. 70). But when I lived in car-oriented cities like Jacksonville and Atlanta, I talked to more than one ex-northerner who said they preferred the "quality of life" of the suburbs where they lived. Clearly, not everyone understands this term the same way.
Nicole Garnett of Notre Dame Law School is publishing a sympathetic critique of form-based codes (available here, soon to be published in Brooklyn Law Review). She supports the aims of form-based codes, but wonders whether they would be more appropriate as voluntary codes than as citywide zoning overlays. She has three concerns.
A few days ago, I partially responded to Joel Kotkin's defense of Sun Belt sprawl and attack on more "urban" cities like New York and Washington, arguing that the latter group of cities seem to be more attractive to the wealthy and more able to generate wealth. But of course, I didn't really address the broader argument that New York is a two-class city. Although Kotkin ferociously attacks environmentalists, his argument seems pretty similar to the left-wing argument that America is losing its
Joel Kotkin just wrote a blog post on New Geography explaining why today's Obama voters will eventually turn into Republicans - a subject not particularly relevant to urbanism. But a few paragraphs of the essay grabbed my attention, in particular this one:
It seems to me that the public argument about gun control should really be two separate arguments:
1. How do we reduce gun crime generally? This argument is primarily an urban argument, to the extent that gun crime disproportionately occurs in central cities, and especially in poorer central cities such as St. Louis and Detroit.
Some commentators note that the Los Angeles metropolitan area has more people per square mile than other regions, and use this alleged fact as an argument why density doesn't affect a region's level of car dependency. One region this argument is silly is that Los Angeles density is quite different from that of more transit-oriented cities.
While I was rummaging through some old files at my parents' house, I discovered two books that I thought were pretty interesting: the school directory for the boarding school I attended in the late 1970s, and the 1999 alumni directory for the same school.
As a new urbanist, my first thought was: I wonder where people lived then? And what have they chosen today? This was a pretty fancy boarding school so I figured its student body was a pretty good sample of people who can afford both urbanism and sprawl.
One common argument for allowing cities to continue to decay or de-densify is the specter of gentrification: the fear that a retrofitted city might price out the poor.
In an interesting article entitled "The Case for Listening to NIMBYs", Kaid Benfield mentions "that municipal planners would benefit by being more sensitive to building types that fit well with existing neighborhood character." He writes that pro-infill planners should encourage such infill to be consistent with the character of the existing neighborhood. Of course, he has a point: if a landowner wants to add housing units to a neighborhood, everyone is happier if those housing uni