MLewyn's blog

Does statewide planning matter very much?

When California passed SB 375 (a law requiring local planners to create strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions) environmentalists were enthuasiastic, while pro-sprawl commentators used hyperbolic rhetoric to attack the law. 

The no-lose argument

There will always be those who argue that the suburb-dominated status quo is inevitable.  

When cities were declining, they had an easy case to make.  They could argue: "look, cities are declining so suburbia is inevitably the wave of the future!"

Then when cities started to gain population, defenders of suburbia moved the goal posts.  They argued: "Sure, cities are growing, but suburbs are growing faster."

Why front lawns?

In a recent post on Planetizen's group blog, Todd Litman discusses the pros and cons (mostly cons) of lawns.  

Why the rent is too high

Today I began my apartment search, looking at an apartment in the neighborhood next to mine (a neighborhood less high-income than Forest Hills, Queens, where I now live).  In addition to being in a cheaper area than mine, the building is a fairly long walk to the subway (about 15 minutes, farther than numerous competing buildings) and across the street from a cemetery.  Yet the cheapest apartment rin this new building rents for 30 percent more than in my current building (closer to the subway and in a fancier area).  Why?

How Road Subsidies Might Cause Transit Subsidies

A recent article by Josh Barro admits that cars are subsidized through road spending, but argues that roads are less subsidized per capita because so much of car-related spending is private.  

The Transportation Bill- Not As Bad As You Might Think

Congress recently passed a two-year transportation funding bill, to less-than-glowing reviews from environmentalist-oriented transportation lobbies.

No, Cities Aren't Losing Their Poor

According to some media commentary, any form of civic improvement (such as, say, light rail) is dangerous because it might lead to something called gentrification (i.e. middle-class people moving back into cities) which allegedly leads to displacement (i.e. poorer people being priced out of an area by rising rents).

Sprawl lobby wants to have it both ways

A recent video on the Reason Magazine website criticized Washington, DC's bikeshare program, on the ground that the program's primary beneficiaries are well-off whites.

New Urbanists are to Environmentalists as Republicans are to the Tea Party

After participating in the PRO-URB listserv while following the Republican primaries, it occurs to me that there's some similarity between the Republican Party's problems with its more extreme activist wing and the relationship between the new urbanist/smart growth movements and environmentalists.

The lion can lie down with the lamb

There's been a lot of argument on a new urbanist listserv about DC's height limits. (In the interest of full disclosure I note that I'm doing some of the arguing!)  I think one of the concerns animating opponents of taller buildings is the fear of a high-rise monoculture. 

Coincidentally, I was walking down Fifth Avenue in New York, just a block or two from the Empire State Building.  But in addition to that famous skyscraper, I saw a whole row of four-story buildings- evidence that the high-rise lion can lie down with the low-rise lamb.