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 Urban Undernews
The Progressive Review

TOPICS

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LINKS

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BIG BOXES
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PUSHING LOCAL BUSINESS

 

CITIES & URBAN PLANNING
ALL ABOUT CITIES

AMERICA WALKS
ARCHITECTS - DESIGNERS -PLANNERS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

CITY FOR SALE
COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS

COUNTIES RATED FOR SPRAWL
CRITICAL MASS

GREEN BUILDING SITES
DEVELOPMENT CTR FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY
FIGHTING SPRAWL
NEIGHBORHOOD INFO

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GATEWAY
SPRAWL WATCH
STRONG TOWNS

WALKABLE COMMUNITIES

COMMUNITIES
CENTER FOR NEIGHBORHOOD TECHNOLOGY
COMMUNITY INVESTING

NEW RULES

HOMELESSNESS
NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS

PEDESTRIANS & BIKING
AMERICA WALKS
NAT CTR FOR BIKING & WALKING
WALKABLE COMMUNITIES
WALKABLE STREETS

SPORTS & STADIA
FIELD OF SCHEMES

STATS
CITY FORWARD

TRANSPORTATION
AIRLINE MEALS
NAT ASSN OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS

URBAN ECOLOGY
THE ECOPOLITAN

ESSAYS

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The case for urban statehood

Why smart growth isn't as smart as it thinks it is

Saving the city from itself

High speed, high cost, high income rail

How cities became black & poor

Bringing devolution to the hood

New Orleans and urban planning

Why urban policies don't do what they seek

Street talk

Cities and the environment

No dreams on H Street

San Francisco

MAKING CITIES BLACK & POOR: THE HIDDEN STORY

A SHORT HISTORY OF BLACK WASHINGTON

CHANGING HOW URBAN PLANNING WORKS

MEMO TO A NEW MAYOR

WHAT RAILS AND ROADS TELL US ABOUT CLASS & POWER

NEIGHBORHOODS & DEVOLUTION OF POWER

PRESERVING CULTURE & COMMUNITY

SAVING CITIES FROM THEMSELVES

FILMS

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Films: Detroit's black community

Independent film on Detroit

Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans

Film of 1906 San Francisco street life

Where our transit money should be going instead of high speed rail

7 MINUTE MOVIE OF BARACELONA IN 1908
SHOT FROM THE FRONT OF A STREETCAR

BOOKS

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301 East Capitol: Your editor bought this book because it's title placed it within four blocks of his last home in DC. It turned out to be one of the most pleasant reading surprises he's had in a long time.

BUILDING POWERFUL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: A Personal Guide to Creating Groups That Can Solve Problems and Change the World, by Michael Jacoby Brown, Long Haul Press, $19.95.

CALLING ALL RADICALS: How Grassroots Organizers Can Save Our Democracy, by Gabriel Thompson, Nation Books, $14.95.

TOOLS FOR RADICAL DEMOCRACY: How to Organize for Power in Your Community, by Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos, Chardon Press, $29.95.

POCKET PARADIGMS
SAM SMITH

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We have in recent decades been so intent on making our cities neat and orderly that we have forgotten that the major contribution of the city is its explosive and random potential. Our goal has been physical order and fiscal benefits; the results have been social disorder and huge deficits. A thriving urban ecology should not just be about clean air and trees; but also about communities and economic survival, justice, decent education, security, happiness, the joy of chance, variety, and opportunity.

Cities often fail us but it is their enduring service to both shelter and venture that makes even the grimmest among them continuing magnets. Even as those who have used them well and long for their own purposes flee to the quiet, comfort, and safety of another place, the artist, the drug dealer cashing in his chips for a legal business, the ambitious new immigrant, the young college grad, the entrepreneur, move in and begin the urban story again. Free from the predetermined human and physical geography of a rural or small town community, we have a chance to design our own environment. In the end, the city, becomes not just a place but, as Brown University's Arnold Weinstein has suggested, "work being done."

We now comprehend the hazards of blithely pouring DDT over crops, slashing through treelands, or fouling the air. But we still act as thought we can, without penalty, wipe out neighborhoods, force mass migrations, rip out favorite meeting places for people, or tear down centers of communications, culture and commerce that are as important to a community as a marsh is to a flyway

One of the reasons liberals don't do better is because they use phrases like "urban sprawl" to describe the places where about half of America lives, most by some degree of choice. While there is nothing wrong with trying to encourage denser, less traffic dependent communities, it doesn't help to bad mouth all contrary communities while doing it. What is happening now is the suburban equivalent of the 1960s when liberals and urban planners disparaged inner city communities by calling them ghettos. Like Toronto planner Terry Fowler, one can speak of the importance of replacing mobility with access or of the advantages, with high fuel costs, of having more of what we need closer to where we live. People will respond to practical solutions far better than to vague goals disrespectful of their communities. The key point should not be to reach some abstract goal but to improve the life of communities affected by decades of poor urban planning. Many of these communities are already attractive places to live but suffer from transportation, shopping and energy inefficiencies. The key is to plan for the people who live there and not for the soulless desires of master plans. The next time you're tempted to use the word, just remember: it ain't sprawl, it's somebody's home.

Good urban economics would be the economics of small business, of self-generating economies, of cooperatives and of neighborhood-owned companies. It would be the economics of recycling money within the city, of making things other cities need, and of giving every resident a fair chance to make a buck.

The key to the economic revival of the older city is the development of these self-generating economies. The self-generating economy has a long history in America. Many of the country's early communities were largely self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency, however, disappeared with the concentration of industry and land ownership. In cities, one can easily find self--generating economies although we seldom recognize them as such. The explosion of the legal profession, for example, reflects in no small part the ability of lawyers to create jobs for each other. The yuppie phenomenon can be seen as a self-generating economy: yuppies creating artificial needs for other yuppies and with some selling and others buying items that fulfill these needs. The importance of such economies tends to be disregarded because they don't have the visible form of a single corporation or factory. Yet the impact can be dramatic. For example, if all of Washington's taxi drivers worked for a single company, they would form the largest firm in the city. You'd never guess it from public policy, which is far more concerned with the regulation of these activities than with the encouragement of them. They are treated more as a nuisance than an essential part of the economic life of the city. Thus, one of the few industries anyone in the city can enter without the vagaries of "personnel procedures" and without a college education is actively discouraged. . .

The more we step into a paradigm of urban ecology, the more we find ourselves drifting closer to other things -- our work, our food, our environment, and our neighbors. Our sense of order no longer relies -- in the tradition of American city planners from L'Enfant to Robert Moses -- upon outward symmetry, illusions of order, and grandeur. Rather it seeks inner integration and grace. Our concept of the city steps away from the cold rigidity of the blueprint and comes closer to the joyful exuberance of a Richard Scarry drawing. We stop worrying about the sleek exterior of the car and concern ourselves with the less aesthetic but more essential engine.

For each of us there is a public and a private city. Some live primarily in former and typically describe the city with concrete numbers -- so many of some problem per 100,000 -- and abstract phrases such as "we need a public-private partnership." Many, many more, though, know the city as a collection of specific stories and people. It is not just understanding that gets lost in this gap. Urban policy seeks to improve a city's numbers rather than the specificity of individual lives. The result is that many plans still -- although more covertly than in the days of "urban removal" -- implicitly assume that part of the solution is a better class of people moving to the place being planned. We do not yet require human impact statements that might reveal a plan's true cost in higher rents, ethnic and economic change, effect on existing social structure and institutions, or access to places that matter.

The problem with urban planners is two fold. First, they work for the wrong people, the government, rather than for the citizens. As local governments have become more corrupt and more beholden to the interests of a small number of developers and other businesses, urban planning has inevitably come to reflect these perverse priorities. Second, urban planners believe in sweeping physical solutions to social problems. The idea, Richard Sennett has written, goes back to the 1860s design for Paris by Baron Haussmann. Haussmann, Sennett suggests, bequeathed us the notion that we could alter social patterns by changing the physical landscape. This approach was not about urban amenities such as park benches and gas lighting or technological improvements such as indoor plumbing but about what G. K. Chesterton called the huge modern heresy of "altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul."

Modern planning was in part spurred by the desire of the elites to recover their cities from the immigrant politicians and riff raff who had seized urban America in the late 19th and early 20th century. Much of what was described as "reform," was in fact just a transfer of power - including the power to corrupt - back to the elites.The same thing would happen again folloowing the migration of blacks to the cities in the last half of the 20th century. It was not urban development for the masses but urban recovery for the elites.

More Pocket Paradigms

KATRINA
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2011

New Orleans population down 29%

2010

GALLERY: UNFORGETTABLE KATRINA PHOTOS

FIVE YEARS LATER: THE KATRINA PAIN INDEX

MORE KATRINA NEWS

2009

KATRINA VICTIMS TO BE HOMELESS AGAIN

2008

ASSIVE DISCRIMINATION COLORS KATRINA RECOVERY

NEW ORLEANS THREE YEARS LATER

Bill Quiqley, Truthout - Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast three years ago this week. The president promised to do whatever it took to rebuild. . . This is what New Orleans looks like today.

0: Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post- Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant - compared to 116,708 homeowners.

0: Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development.

0: Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financed, privately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.

0.8: Percentage of rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied - a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.

4: Number of the 13 City of New Orleans Planning Districts that are at the same risk of flooding as they were before Katrina.

10: Number of apartments being rehabbed so far to replace the 896 apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the Lafitte Housing Development.

11: Percent of families who have returned to live in Lower Ninth Ward.

20-25: Years that experts estimate it will take to rebuild the City of New Orleans at current pace.

32: Percent of the city's neighborhoods that have less than half as many households as before Katrina.

36: Percent fewer tons of cargo that move through Port of New Orleans since Katrina.

38: Percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.

41: Number of publicly funded, privately run public charter schools in New Orleans out of total of 79 public schools in the city.

43: Percentage of child care available in New Orleans compared to before Katrina.

46: Percentage increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.

56: Percentage fewer inpatient psychiatric beds compared to before Katrina.

80: Percentage fewer public transportation buses now than pre-Katrina.

81: Percentage of homeowners in New Orleans who received insufficient funds to cover the complete costs to repair their homes.

6,982: Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleans area.

8,000: Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans by federal government.

10,000: Houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina.

12,000: Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people living under the bridges have been resettled - double the pre-Katrina number.

14,000: Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricane rental assistance expires in March 2009.

32,000: Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans, leaving the public school population less than half what it was pre-Katrina.

39,000: Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding who still have not received any money.

46,000: Fewer African-American voters in New Orleans in 2007 gubernatorial election than in 2003 gubernatorial election.

71,657: Vacant, ruined, unoccupied houses in New Orleans today.

132,000: Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the City of New Orleans current population estimate of 321,000 in New Orleans.

1.9 billion: FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to metro New Orleans for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

2.6 billion: FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to State of Louisiana for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

KATRINA KIDS FACE LIFELONG HEALTH PROBLEMS

HALF OF NEW ORLEANS POOR PERMANENTLY DISPLACED

2007

STUDY FINDS ONLY 30% OF KATRINA FUNDS SLATED FOR LONG TERM REBUILDING

Two years after the onslaught of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, much of the Gulf Coast is still in crisis -- and billions of federal recovery money remains bottled up or has been squandered due to red tape, failures of oversight and misguided priorities. That's the conclusion of a new report from the Institute for Southern Studies..

The study, published in collaboration with Oxfam America and the Jewish Funds for Justice, looks at 80 statistical indicators and draws on interviews with more than 40 Gulf Coast leaders to identify roadblocks to recovery, and ways federal leaders can tackle critical needs in the region like housing, jobs and coastal protection.

The Institute reveals that, out of the $116 billion in Katrina funds allocated, less than 30% has gone towards long-term rebuilding-and less than half of that 30% has been spent, much less reached those most in need.

"The President says he's written a 'big check' for the Gulf Coast, but the over 60,000 families still in FEMA trailers must be wondering if the check bounced," says Jeffrey Buchanan of the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights and co-author of the report on Katrina spending.

Amount that Bush administration says has been spent on Gulf Coast recovery since 2005 hurricanes: $116 billion

Estimated percent of those funds that are for long-term recovery projects: 30

Percent of FEMA's 2005 disaster relief budget that was spent on administrative costs: 22

Of $16.7 billion in Community Development Block Grants earmarked for long-term Gulf Coast rebuilding, percent that had been spent as of August 2007: 30

Of $8.4 billion allocated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for levee repair in Louisiana, percent that had been spent as of July 2007: 20

Percent of rebuilding costs that Gulf Coast local governments were required to pay up front to receive matching federal funds, due to a Stafford Act provision that Congress has since waived for the region: 25, later reduced by President Bush to 10

Percent that New York had to pay after 9/11 and Florida after Hurricane Andrew, because the federal government waived the Stafford Act's matching requirement: 0

As of June 2007, value of controversial "cost plus" Katrina contracts given out by three federal agencies, which allows companies to charge taxpayers for cost overruns and guaranteed profits: $2.4 billion

As of August 2006, value of Gulf Coast contracts that a Congressional study found were "plagued by waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement": $8.75 billion

http://www.southernstudies.org/gulfblueprint.p

HOW TO DESTROY AN AFRICAN AMERICAN CITY IN 33 STEPS

BILL QUIGLEY, BLACK COMMENTATOR - Step One. Delay. If there is one word that sums up the way to destroy an African-American city after a disaster, that word is DELAY. If you are in doubt about any of the following steps - just remember to delay and you will probably be doing the right thing.

Step Two. When a disaster is coming, do not arrange a public evacuation. Rely only on individual resources. People with cars and money for hotels will leave. The elderly, the disabled and the poor will not be able to leave. Most of those without cars - 25% of households of New Orleans, overwhelmingly African-Americans - will not be able to leave. Most of the working poor, overwhelmingly African-American, will not be able to leave. Many will then permanently accuse the victims who were left behind of creating their own human disaster because of their own poor planning. It is critical to start by having people blame the victims for their own problems.

Step Three. When the disaster hits, make certain the national response is overseen by someone who has no experience at all handling anything on a large scale, particularly disasters. In fact, you can even inject some humor into the response - have the disaster coordinator be someone whose last job was the head of a dancing horse association.

Step Four. Make sure that the President and national leaders remain aloof and only slightly concerned. This sends an important message to the rest of the country.

Step Five. Make certain the local, state, and national governments do not respond in a coordinated, effective way. This will create more chaos on the ground.

Step Six. Do not bring in food or water or communications right away. This will make everyone left behind more frantic and create incredible scenes for the media.

THE OTHER 27 STEPS

2006

KATRINA: A GRIM ONE YEAR FACT SHEET

PROGRESS REPORT - 1,833 lives lost. 270,000 homes destroyed. $55 billion in insured damage. Up to $1.4 billion in American tax dollars wasted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But even more staggering has been the slow pace of recovery on the Gulf Coast.

Yesterday, as part of the White House's "public relations blitz," Bush trumpeted in his weekly radio address that the federal government has "committed $110 billion to the recovery effort." But those billions of dollars have yet "to translate into billions in building."

In his Sept. 15 speech, Bush stated that his administration "will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives" and promised to "get the work done quickly." But one year after the storm, repopulation in New Orleans "has slowed to a trickle, leaving the city with well under half its pre-storm population of 460,000." Lacking the resources to return to the city are many African-Americans who formed the working-class backbone of the city. The Houston Chronicle notes, "Vast sections of New Orleans are still devoid of life, populated by endless rows of broken, empty houses waving For Sale signs like flags of surrender." Many New Orleans property owners may lose their former homes. The one year anniversary of Katrina is the deadline when property owners "must have gutted the buildings or shown some signs they intend to rebuild when they can. If they don't, the city can take it as a given they do not intend to return."

The average selling price for homes in areas that weren't affected by flooding has risen 25 percent. Rental rates have risen 40 percent, disproportionately affecting black and low-income families. In Biloxi, MS, 70 percent of renters affected by the storm are black, according to an NAACP study, and another report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights noted that almost "100 percent of public housing families in New Orleans are African-American." Approximately 112,000 low-income homes were damaged, but only a fraction of federal housing assistance has been earmarked for rental units.

More than 81,000 regional businesses were affected by the storm, resulting in the loss of 450,000 jobs. . . Bush touted the government's $110 billion commitment to Katrina recovery, . . . but in reality, just $44 billion has been spent. Approximately 60 percent of the businesses in New Orleans have still not reopened. According to a report by the Democratic members of the House Small Business Committee, "80 percent of small businesses on the Gulf Coast have not yet received loans promised by the federal government."

A White House "Fact Sheet" released in advance of Katrina's one year anniversary notes that FEMA has provided $5.6 billion to repair and replace damaged public infrastructure. But Gulf Coast Recovery Coordinator Donald E. Powell has admitted that nearly a third of the trash in New Orleans has yet to be picked up. Sixty percent of New Orleans homes still lack electricity and just 66 percent of public schools have reopened. Only 17 percent of the city's buses are operational, causing severe problems for the many residents who don't own cars.

"Look at what we're getting in terms of services," said Janet Howard, of the Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit group in New Orleans. "It's basically a nonfunctioning city." Crime has risen again in New Orleans -- the homicide rate is nearly 10 times the national average -- but only seven of 13 courtrooms have reopened and judges have a backlog of nearly 7,000 cases. A recent report by the Department of Justice found that in New Orleans, "justice is simply unavailable." But where the federal, state, and local governments have been absent, citizen activism has surged in the wake of the storm, "chipping away at some of this city's unhealthy institutions." Many schools -- formerly in "the control of a corrupt district office" -- are now being managed by parents and community activists as charter schools, and newcomers are pushing for reform and tighter ethics in the City Council.

Health care is an increasing problem in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals estimated that "New Orleans has lost half of its physicians and suffers from a shortage of 1,000 nurses." Forty-four percent of adult caregivers now lack health coverage and "34 percent of children in FEMA-subsidized communities have at least one chronic health condition that requires treatment, but half of the affected children no longer have a medical provider." Even though the population of New Orleans is at less than half of its pre-storm population, the suicide rate has tripled and there is no capacity to deal with mental health and substance abuse problems. The people of New Orleans are also suffering from a lack of hospitals and the inability to receive immediate care from emergency rooms.

A June Government Accountability Office report found that between $600 million and $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars has been wasted on "improper and potentially fraudulent individual assistance payments." Payments went to Katrina evacuees to pay for items such as Dom Perignon champagne, New Orleans Saints season tickets, and adult-oriented entertainment. A recent report by the House Committee on Government Reform found that 19 Katrina contracts -- worth $8.75 billion -- "experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement."

The head of the Army Corps of Engineers recently expressed skepticism that the New Orleans levees could withstand a hurricane with a heavy storm surge this year. In order for the levees to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and for residents of New Orleans to finally feel safe, another $30 billion will need to be spent. Unfortunately, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes, the federal government's "commitment to the long-term protection of South Louisiana is still uncomfortably murky."

LINKS TO FACTS

New York City approves segregated entrances at major development

Daily Mail, UK - The City of New York approved a proposal by one of the largest real estate developers in the city to build in a 'poor door', or a separate door for residents living in affordable housing to enter their building.

According to a report from the New York Post, the city approved the application of Extell, one of the most prominent developers in New York, to install this separate set of doors into a high-rise located on 40 Riverside Boulevard, a location situated next to the Hudson River.

Extell's proposal allows them to force affordable housing tenants to walk through an entrance located in a back alley behind the building to enter, leaving the more prominent front entrance for tenants paying for nicer apartments. A view of the high-rises lining Riverside Boulevard, in New York.

Under the Inclusionary Housing Program, for which the city approved Nextell's application, larger properties are allowed to be built as long as they include a portion of affordable housing units.

Despite the approval of this application, the New York Post reports that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer vowed to reject future developments with separate entrances.

However, some developers dismiss the outcry over the 'poor door' concept.

'No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,' David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers, another developer specializing in luxury residencies, told The Real Deal in 2013. 'So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.'

Cities making poverty a crime

Liz Dwyer, Take Part - The latest report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty reveals that most municipalities believe in criminalizing, not helping, the down and out.

For the report, the organization studied laws in 187 cities. Seventy-six percent of towns prohibit begging in specific public places, a 20 percent increase since 2011. However, the most dramatic uptick, the authors write, “has been in city-wide bans on fundamental human activities” such as sleeping in your car.

A full 43 percent of cities prohibit people from sleeping in vehicles, an increase of a shocking 119 percent since 2011. And 53 percent of cities prohibit people from parking themselves on a curb or against a building. That’s down 3 percent since 2011..

The report puts places like Clearwater, Fla., and Santa Cruz, Calif., on blast. Although 42 percent of the homeless people in Clearwater and 83 percent of the homeless in Santa Cruz “are without access to affordable housing and emergency shelter,” these towns criminalize “camping in public, sitting or lying down in public, begging in public, and sleeping in vehicles,” write the authors.

In June a federal appeals court ended a 31-year-old ban on sleeping in cars in Los Angeles.

What summers in your city will be like in 2100

Gentrification strikes again

When your editor lived in Washington, he was struck by how little attention was given by the media to the demolition of public housing units. There was, it seemed, a placid assumption that the residents would be taken care of by programs like Section 8 housing, essentially quiet subsidies for landlords and developers. Now, with gentrification in full force, Section 8 is the target.

Washington City Paper - Last month, word spread among the residents of the Museum Square Apartments about a notice posted in the building informing them that they’d have to come up with $250 million or lose their homes. It wasn’t a ransom note or a mob warning, but to the tenants in the Mount Vernon Triangle residence, it might as well have been.

Everyone who lives at Museum Square, located at 401 K St. NW, receives a Section 8 housing subsidy from the federal government. Most of the residents are Chinese, and many are elderly, speak little English, and live on fixed incomes, often as low as a few hundred dollars a month.

“When we first realized that this was happening, we were panicking,” says Jianhong Wang, 76, who’s lived in the building for eight years. “We couldn’t sleep at night.”

Museum Square tenants receive a project-based Section 8 subsidy. The residents all pay 30 percent of their income; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development covers the rest of the rent. The building’s Section 8 contract is set to expire on Oct. 1, and last fall, the property owner, the Bush Companies of Williamsburg, Va., informed HUD of its intent not to renew the contract. Bush, listed on some documents as W. H. H. Trice & Company, which appears to share the same address, followed up with the notice to the tenants in June naming the price they’d have to pay to stay.

Under D.C.’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, when a property owner sells a building, the tenants have the right of first refusal to buy it, either themselves or through an agent like a developer. Typically, this means they’re able to match whatever price is offered by a prospective buyer—a price determined by the market. But the Museum Square case is unusual because the building owner isn’t planning to sell the property, but demolish it.

John Atlas and Peter Dreier, 1994 - By the late 1960s, the housing industry convinced Congress to replace public housing with privately owned, subsidized housing (Known by their statute numbers: Sections 236, 221d, and 8) that gave private developers tax breaks, low-cost mortgages, and rent subsidies to house the poor. These inefficient and costly programs led to widespread political abuses and eventually to the HUD scandals of the 1970s, which were repeated in the 1990s.

Strategic Practice - The story of [Chicago's] Cabrini-Green's demolition uncovers a string of broken promises. At first, they said there would be one-to-one replacements. They offered residents vouchers to rent apartments on the private market, while also allowing more landlords to opt out of Section 8 (meaning there would never be enough private rentals available). They hyped the benefits of mixed income developments where subsidized residents would live side-by-side with residents paying full-market rates. They failed to mention that such developments would have built-in incentives to slowly push out the subsidized residents.

Ben Austin, Harper's, 2012 - Today, what seems harder to fathom than the erasure of entire high-rise neighborhoods is that they were ever erected in the first place. For years the projects had stood as monuments to a bygone effort to provide affordable housing for the poor and working-class, the reflection of a belief in a deeper social contract. And although that effort had by most accounts failed, the problems represented by the likes of Cabrini-Green persist, and nothing remotely adequate has been built to replace what has been demolished. Chicago has yet to complete the Plan for Transformation’s 15,000 family units, and even that number would fall woefully short of need: when the CHA opened its public-housing waiting list in 2010, more than 215,000 families applied. Since only about a third of the units in the mixed-income buildings are reserved for public-housing tenants, hundreds of these developments would have to be built all across Chicago—in a market glutted with foreclosures and short on buyers. In numerous cases the cleared sites that public-housing residents hoped one day to repopulate were still vacant lots. Only 2,100 former public-housing residents, and fewer than 400 from Cabrini-Green, currently live in mixed-income buildings citywide. Most of the others were uprooted and replanted in unfamiliar areas no less uniformly poor and black—though now they had to manage without the support networks and extended family that had surrounded them in public housing.

Detroiters protest shut off of their water

Global Research - Detroit activists concerned about the massive water shutoffs across the economically devastated city blocked entrances into the yard of Homrich, a firm given a nearly $6million contract to terminate services for hundreds of thousands of people. The firm was hired by emergency manager Kevyn Orr who was appointed by right-wing Gov. Rick Snyder in March 2013 who later forced the city into the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history a year ago.

A picket line set up before 7:00 a.m. on July 10 blocked the entrance to Homrich for over an hour. Eventually police arrived and attempted to force demonstrators out of the driveway prompting resistance leading to ten arrests.

The actions are part of a citywide efforts to declare a moratorium on water shut-offs.

On July 15 hundreds will gather outside the federal courthouse in conjunction with a bankruptcy hearing where at least 60 people will present legal objections to the so-called “plan of adjustment”. The plan, if approved, would implement huge cuts in retirees’ pensions and further disempower and expropriate Detroit residents of city assets and municipal governance rights.

Already Belle Isle, the Detroit Public Lighting, Detroit Public Works, Human Services and the city health department have been taken over and privatized. Tens of thousands of retirees have had their healthcare programs cancelled and are also facing substantial cuts to pension benefits.

There is currently an effort to privatize the management of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The water department was struck hard when $530 million was taken out of the system in 2012 to terminate yet another fraudulent interest-rate swap deal controlled by JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and other banks.

The Buddy Cianci story

Detroit denying its citizens water

Detroiters appeal to UN for help in getting water

Nearly half of mayors in largest cities elected by less than 20% of voters

Counterterrorism on behalf of gentrification: treating NYC like Afghanistan

Global cities taking climage change seriously

Baltimore wants to put its kids under house arrest at 9 pm

Spokane bans sitting on sidewalk

The bleaching of San Francisco

Moving towards an all urban world

The City of Los Angeles spent at least $51 million more in Wall Street in fees than it allocates for its entire budget for the Bureau of Street Services.

About the that Philadelphia accent

The sad revival of streetcars

The slow city movement

Why suburban cul de sacs are bad for your health

The war on public housing

Classic city planning con in Berkeley

2013

Are Las Vegas and Atantic City the next Detroit?

Shopping malls in trouble

There'll always be a Chicago

Boston's new mayor comes out of the labor movement

Socialist elected to Seattle city council

Seattle voters rejected a ballot measure that would have made the city one of a handful that match private contributions with public funds in city council races.

Cambridge MA shows how to vote

How 'sharing' is changing our cities

Meet a Green Party mayor

What the smart (sic) growthers don't tell you

Big reinsurance company lists LA among top ten cities in danger of major natural disasters

Survey of young New Yorkers shows how bad stop and frisk is

Chicago alderman holds toilet paper drive for cash-strapped schools

City people revolting against the gigantic

Federal judge rejects challenge to city's threat to seize mortgages

Entropy update New Yorkers are using phony vests and ID tags to get fake service dogs into posh restaurants

California town using eminent domain to save homeowners from banks

Governor Snyder continues with plans to subsidize Detroit hockey stadium

NY Supreme Court rules Bloomberg out of bounds on soda ban

Hundreds of American cities face sea level threat

Nanny cities banning saggy pants

Nation's mayors ask Obama to let cities and states decide how to handle pot

Anger in the cities

Britain's transition towns movement

Transitioning America's towns

Hidden benefits of community gardens

Update on the Supreme Court assault on individual rights you may have forgotten about

San Francisco fining citizens for not pruning trees the way it wants

Hedge fund vultures circle near bankrupt towns

Polls: Best and least liked cities
 
 
Dumb growth strikes again
 

For Thriving Public Spaces, Just Add Seating

16 ounce sodas liberated from meanest mayor

Why urban population growth doesn't work the way they say

Militarization of our cities

Judge rules against speed camera payment system

Documentaries; Cool Disco Dan

Each of DC's traffic spy cameras made an average of $250,000 in January

Why crime went down in NYC: a thousand small sanities

NYC decides not to privatize parking meters

2012..

In Los Angeles, L.A. Weekly has learned, 48 percent of auto crashes were hit-and-runs in 2009, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available.

The changing city: Granny flats and corner stores

World's deadliest cities

San Diego elects first Democratic mayor in two decades

The rural seeping into our cities

Bloomberg would rather the homeless starve than eat too much salt

Oakland becoming a fascity

Stats: Death by drone



Rogue signs in the London Underground

Don't tell Michael Bloomberg about this
Reason - The Eternal City this week made it illegal for tourists to sit and eat near public attractions: Tourists will still be allowed to eat while they walk, but stop with a bag of chips in your hands or sit down while chewing on your panino, and you are eligible for a fine of 25 to 500 euros ($3..

Recovered history: Before a "hipster neighborhood" became hip

Rahm Emanuel's privatize Chicago plan

The flaw in Bloomberg's soda tyranny


Portland OR gets new kind of public loo

How San Francisco deals with chain stores

NYC women don't want Bloomberg telling them how to feed their babies

Cities where employees are most likely to swear at work

Cities looking to immigrants to boost population

Gallery


The collapse of Camden NJ

DC threatening to take children away from homeless parents

Bloomberg wants to turn over parking fee income to corporation

The best and worst cities to get a job last year

Latino growth rate dips in many cities

Cities can be more tree friendly than we think

San Francisco has highest rents in country

How cities can get out of their financial bind

 Stats
BACK TO TOP

2014

Nine of the ten cities where people feel least safe walking at night are in the south or in California

25 greenest cities

CHANGE IN THE WORLD'S URBANIZATION

Drop in urban murders

Homes in walkable locations sell for 18% more than houses in car-dependant areas

2010

FIVE WORST CITIES FOR YOUTH

 

Gentrification
BACK TO TOP

2014

Kale konspiracy spreads with gentrification to New Orleans

Even gentrification has been gentrified

Spike Lee on gentrification

Gentrifying the soul out of San Francisco

2013

Gentrification hitting Chinatowns

Half of New Orleans' black community has moved since Katrina. Of the remaining, "Nearly half of them are unemployed. And African-American households are earning 50 percent less than their white counterparts."

The false language of smart growth

Gentrification doesn't stop on Sundays

Urban apartheid: DC man has everything taken by city for owing $134 in property taxes

Transportation, class & ethnicity

Poor now predominantly in the suburbs

Cities criminalizing poverty

Manhattan condos to have separate entrances for rich and poor

How to tell your 'hood is being gentrified

California is back to destroying property of the homeless

Neighborhoods becoming more segregated

How the global hyper rich are changing London

City planning
BACK TO TOP
 
Smaller buildings may be better for urban economic growth

Building for the bad times

Word: Urban density

Are crowded cities bad for our minds?

Urban economic segregation increasing

America's capital may be ruined by developer & politician greed

Megacities are high density metropolises with at least 10 million inhabitants. The number of these megacities climbed from 10 in 1992 to 21 in 2010, a 110% increase, adding on average one megacity every two years. Fifteen of the world’s 21 megacities are found in developing countries. The largest megacity today is Tokyo which counts nearly 37 million persons, more than Canada’s total population. - UN Environment Program

How urban planning killed Washington's Chinatown

Myth busted: Fastest growing urban areas not the best off

2010

GETTING CONTROL OVER DEVELOPERS

DETROIT MAYOR SAYS CITY CAN'T SUPPORT ALL ITS NEIGHBORHOODS: RESIDENTS WILL HAVE TO MOVE

FLORIDA AMENDMENT WOULD GIVE VOTERS SAY IN DEVELOPMENT

 
Libraries
BACK TO TOP

2010

Population
BACK TO TOP

Policing
BACK TO TOP

2014

LAPD: Every car in Los Angeles part of ongoing investigation

Lawless law enforcement in New Orleans

SAN FRAN PROTESTS AGAINST NO SIDEWALK SITTING LAW

EVIDENCE OF CRIME STAT FRAUD

MORE EVIDENCE THAT RED LIGHT CAMERAS DON'T WORK

Public parking in private driveways

Cities turning off street lights to save money

Heaviest drinking cities

Why not municipal banks?

NYC's medium income same as Greece, bottom third is below China

Michael Bloomberg would cut city's teaching staff by half

65 story underground skyscraper proposed for Mexico City

IBM finds new way to rip off cities

Cities may do better with carbon emissions than thought

Not all big cities screwed up on snow removal
 
The urban liberal ban mania

Chris Hedges on Camden NJ: America's worst off city

Michael Bloomberg
BACK TO TOP

2013

2012

2011

2010

BILL DE BLASIO

De Blasio has hidden advisors who also counseled Emanuel

Bratton would have crushed OWS sooner

NYC's new police chief strongly favors stop and frisk

De Blasio gives support to fast food workers

RAHM EMANUEL
BACK TO TOP

2013

Rahm Emmanuel kills over 50 public schools but spends $100 million on basketball arena

2012

Rahm Emanuel's war against First Amendment continues

Chicago & Secret Service reported plotting forced evacuation during summit

Rahm Emanuel's war against First Amendment continues

Emanuel tries to squash investigation into Chicago insurance firm

Rahm Emanuel ups his war against protest

Rahm Emanuel's war on democracy

More on Rahm Emanuel

Detroit
BACK TO TOP

Detroit creditors out for all of its art collection

Detroit could be just the beginning

Turning Detroit's debt into a human disaster

A Detroit union leader tells what it's like

2013

City's emergency chief calls Detroiters "dumb, lazy, happy and rich"

Fleecing Detroit pensioners to bail out banks

Federal Judge lets Detroit bankruptcy catastrophe continue


The ruins of Detroit

Facts about Detroit

Two Detroit pension funds sue to prevent disaster

Detroit slasher has cushy job

Entropy update: Detroit dictator wants to sell off city's art

The corporate invasion of Detroit
 
Detroit plans to cut street lights by half

 

Detroit homes for sale at $1 each

2012

Cities becoming meaner towards homeless

Many cities ban feeding the homeless

Rhode Island passes country's first homeless bill of rights

More cities making it harder to be homeless

2009

NATION'S CAPITAL TO PUSH HUNDREDS OF HOMELESS OUT OF SHELTERS

LOS ANGELES RANKED 'MEANEST CITY' FOR HOMELESS

BLOOMBERG TO NYC HOMELESS: FIND SHELTER OR LOSE YOUR SHELTER

ATLANTA DESTROYING ALL PUBLIC HOUSING

RECOVERED HISTORY: PUBLIC HOUSING

A HOMELESS MAN TELLS WHAT HE DOESN'T LIKE ABOUT SHELTERS

A satellite tour of world's largest slums

2010

LIVING SMALL: A 12X36 HOME

MOST METRO AREAS STILL LOSING JOBS

TOWN FINALLY MAKES AMENDS FOR ETHNIC CLEANSING

WHICH CITIES HAVE THE MOST DEPRESSING LOCAL NEWS?

FIVE WORST CITIES FOR YOUTH

VANCOUVER OLYMPICS ALREADY HAVE A LOSER; THE HOMELESS

BUILDING A NEW ORLEANS HOUSE THAT FLOATS

DECEMBER 2009

RECOVERED HISTORY: SPITE HOUSES

NOVEMBER 2009

DAN BROWN CREATES A MYSTICAL CITY THAT DOESN'T EXIST

URBAN PANHANDLING LAWS HURTING NON PROFIT FUND RAISING

HOW SACRAMENTO TREATS THE HOMELESS

SEPTEMBER 2009

BOOK SHELF: EDUCATION OF AN URBAN FARMER

NYC REQUIRES BIKE SPACE IN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

THE RISE OF THE DIGITAL NOMAD DIGITALNOMAD SITE

JULY 2009

GUESS WHAT THIS BUILDING IS USED FOR

JUNE 2009

THE MYTH OF URBAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

IMMIGRANTS REVITALIZE CITIES

THE DANGERS OF PRIVATIZING CITY PROGRAMS

GALLERY: STREETS FOR NYC PEOPLE

MAY 2009

DETROIT TURNS TO FARMING

CITY GOVERNMENTS SQUEEZING CITIZENS WITH NEW FEES

BASEMENT APARTMENTS IN THE SKY

APRIL 2009

A SUBURB WITHOUT CARS?

NYC LOSING ITS MIDDLE CLASS

ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET MELTING WOULD SWAMP DC, NYC, LA

MARCH 2009

GALLERY: DETROIT'S DECLINE

FEBRUARY 2009

HOW CITIES AFFECT YOUR BRAIN

JANUARY 2009

VOTERS HAVE APPROVED $74 BILLION IN NEW PUBLIC TRANSIT THIS YEAR

WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE SUBURBS?

HOW CITIES AFFECT YOUR BRAIN

2008

OCTOBER 2006

HOW GREEN IS NEW YORK CITY?

DAVID OWEN, NEW YORKER, 2004 - Most Americans, including most New Yorkers, think of New York City as an ecological nightmare, a wasteland of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams, but in comparison with the rest of America it's a model of environmental responsibility. By the most significant measures, New York is the greenest community in the United States, and one of the greenest cities in the world. The most devastating damage humans have done to the environment has arisen from the heedless burning of fossil fuels, a category in which New Yorkers are practically prehistoric. The average Manhattanite consumes gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn't matched since the mid-nineteen-twenties, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. Eighty-two per cent of Manhattan residents travel to work by public transit, by bicycle, or on foot. That's ten times the rate for Americans in general, and eight times the rate for residents of Los Angeles County. New York City is more populous than all but eleven states; if it were granted statehood, it would rank fifty-first in per-capita energy use.

STEVE COHEN, EARTH INSTITUTE - While New York may consume relatively less fossil fuels than other American cities and may do a good job in providing clean water, it does a poor job of reducing, recycling and disposing of its waste. . .

Why do New Yorkers create so much garbage? The use of large amounts of packaging material, and the relatively minimal level of recycling are reflections of the community's collective values. New Yorkers clearly value the benefits of the throwaway society. Moreover, it is hard to get garbage on the political agenda. Let's face it, garbage is physically unpleasant and reminds some of us of our great wealth in the face of poverty. We discard food and clothing from which the world's poor could derive sustenance. We prefer not to think about garbage or where it will end up. This propagates the fantasy that those green plastic mounds of garbage bags on the street are magically transported to some mythical solid waste heaven.

The high population density of New York City would never have been possible without a number of technological innovations: an extensive network of mass transit, the electrical power grid, the water system, modern sewage removal and treatment, product packaging, food refrigeration, preservatives and, of course, solid waste removal. The technology of waste incineration has advanced dramatically since the 1960s. In Japan, 70% of all waste is burned and generates electricity. While incineration pollutes the air, there is no question that it is less polluting than transporting waste in diesel-fueled trucks to leaking landfills. Nevertheless, New York City's public does not trust experts or government to tell the truth on this issue, and the not-in-my-backyard syndrome dominates New York's waste politics. Science has a "solution" to this problem, but politics makes utilizing new technology unachievable.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/10/new_york_city_waste.php#perma

MAYOR DALEY WANTS AN UBER-ORWELLIAN CHICAGO

FRAN SPIELMAN, CHICAGO SUN TIMES - Security and terrorism won't be an issue if Chicago wins the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games because, by that time, there'll be a surveillance camera on every corner, Mayor Daley said. "By the time 2016 [rolls around], we'll have more cameras than Washington, D.C. . . Our technology is more advanced than any other city in the world -- even compared to London -- dealing with our cameras and the sophistication of cameras and retro-fitting all the cameras downtown in new buildings, doing the CTA cameras," Daley said. "By 2016, I'll make you a bet. We'll have [cameras on] almost every block."

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/92811,CST-NWS-bside12.article

STUDY: TOWNS USE PARKING TICKETS FOR REVENUE

THE NEWSPAPER - A Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis working paper concludes that municipalities use traffic tickets as a means of supplanting falling local revenue. Economist Thomas A. Garrett and University of Arkansas at Little Rock Professor Gary A. Wagner explain that although there is ample anecdotal evidence to show that this is the case, no empirical studies have ever examined the question in detail.

Using county-level data from North Carolina between 1989 and 2003, the working paper analysis takes into account demographic factors such as population and traffic growth that could influence the number of tickets written for offenses such as speeding, failure to yield and following too closely. Some counties issued as many as one ticket for every resident, while the average was closer to one ticket for every ten residents.

Garrett and Wagner found that for each one-percent drop in local government revenue there followed a .38 percent increase in the number of tickets written, each worth between $5 and $250. When local revenue increased, however, there was no corresponding decrease in the number of citations issued.

"The fact that local governments increase traffic tickets during periods of revenue decreases but do not decrease traffic tickets in response to revenue increases reveals some degree of revenue maximization on the part of local governments," the authors concluded.

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/13/1388.asp

STOCKHOLM'S EXPERIMENT IN TRAFFIC CONTROL

LEILA ABBOUD and JENNY CLEVSTROM, WALL STREET JOURNAL - From January through July, Stockholm tested one of the world's most sophisticated traffic-management systems as part of a plan to reduce gridlock, lower smog levels and improve quality of life in the city. Unlike most other traffic-control plans in place in cities such as London and Rome, Stockholm used a dynamic-pricing system in which drivers were charged different amounts depending on the time of day. If [a driver], for example, left the city center at the busiest time of the afternoon rush, from 4 to 5:29, he would have paid the equivalent of $2.76. But by waiting until 6:30 p.m., he traveled toll-free. . .

The Stockholm system, implemented by International Business Machines Corp. in a contract with the Swedish national government, used small transponder boxes, laser detectors and a network of cameras to track the path of every car in the city. Each time a car passed through one of 23 tolling points, the system identified the car either from its transponder or by reading its license plate. It then checked it against vehicle-registration information and calculated the appropriate fee depending on the time of day and location. Drivers using a windshield-mounted transponder, similar to the E-ZPass in the U.S., had the tolls deducted automatically from their bank accounts. . .

The results showed that traffic passing over the cordon decreased 22%, while traffic accidents involving injuries fell by 5% to 10%. Exhaust emissions, including carbon dioxide and particles, decreased by 14% in the inner city and by 2% to 3% in Stockholm County. . . Before the trial, a drive into the city during morning rush hour used to take almost triple the time of a non-peak trip. By the end of trial, the morning rush was just over double the time of an off-peak ride. . . In spring 2006, during the trial, use of all forms of public transportation jumped 6% and ridership on inner-city bus routes rose 9%, compared with a year earlier.

BIG MYTHS ABOUT BIG BOXES AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM

NEW RULES - The United States is now littered with thousands of empty big-box stores and hundreds of vacant shopping centers and malls. Part of what's fueling this epidemic is that, in their quest for greater market share, chains like Wal-Mart and Home Depot have built far more retail space than consumers can actually support. Between 1990 and 2005, the amount of retail space in the U.S. doubled, while per capita income, adjusted for inflation, grew by only 28 percent.

Also contributing to the problem is that fact that many chains reinvent themselves every decade or so, abandoning their older outlets for new formats. Wal-Mart, for example, has been vacating its earlier generation of stores to build super-centers that are twice as large and include a full grocery department. As of early 2006, the company had more than 300 vacant or soon-to-be-vacant stores across the country.

These derelict boxes tend to remain empty for many years, causing blight and eroding nearby property values. Retailers often hang on to these empty buildings or, in the case of leased sites, continue to pay rent, in order to prevent their competitors from occupying the locations. Cities occasionally find non-retail uses for these old shells, but that's relatively rare.

Curbing the construction of new big-box stores and shopping centers is the only real solution to the epidemic of retail vacancy. Cities and towns need to recognize that the vast majority of new retail development projects proposed today are driven not by growth in consumer spending, but by the developer's belief that the new store or shopping center will grab market share from established businesses, which in turn will contract and close.

Most cities and towns have zoned far more land for retail than they actually need or can support. As chain stores sprawl on the fringe, older shopping centers and historic business districts almost invariably struggle and decline.

Limiting where and how much land is open for retail development, especially big-box stores, forces retailers to redevelop existing centers rather than leaving them vacant and moving on to green fields. It also encourages developers to employ higher quality, more durable construction and to make maximum use of the available land (by, for example, developing multi-story buildings that have offices or housing in addition to retail).

In addition to limiting how much land is zoned for retail, cities can also use store size caps to prevent big-box sprawl and economic impact review requirements to analyze the need for new retail stores before projects are approved.

Some cities, such as Oakdale, California, now require that retail developers set aside money in a performance bond, which is held in escrow and can be used by the city to demolish the structure and maintain the site should the store or shopping center become vacant.

Often retailers continue to pay rent after they have vacated a building in order to block a competitor from taking the location. Or they may include clauses in their leases that require the property owner to obtain their approval before renting the site to a new tenant. Some cities, such as Peachtree City, Georgia, have adopted ordinances that prevent this by mandating that landlords are free to place retail properties on the market as soon as they become vacant.

These ordinances make no difference if the retailer owns, rather than leases, the property (this is less common, but true in perhaps 15 percent of the cases). They also are ineffectual if there is no market for the abandoned store, which is common given how much open space is currently zoned for retail development, the limited number of companies that are suited for stores several acres in size, and the fact that most retailers prefer to build new structures to suit their specific formats.

Bozeman, Montana, requires developers of retail stores of 40,000 to 75,000 square feet in size to submit plans for re-using the structure should the original tenant leave. (Stores over 75,000 square feet are prohibited altogether.)

The city's ordinance mandates that developers include specific design elements when constructing large stores to facilitate re-use by multiple tenants (e.g., provision for interior subdivisions and multiple entryways). These plans are reviewed as part of a conditional use permitting process. This approach has its limits too. It will not help if the owner does not wish to redevelop and release the property, or if there is no market for the abandoned site.

http://www.newrules.org/retail/vacantbox.html

HOW ONE CITY PUSHES LOCAL BUSINESS

[FROM Portland Buy Local in Portland, ME]

For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local economy, creating jobs and expanding the city's tax base. For every $100 spent at a national chain or franchise store, only $14 remains in the community.

Portland is a city of neighborhoods. Where we shop, where we eat and hang out -- all of it makes our neighborhood home. Chain stores are getting more aggressive throughout Portland and are threatening to change the unique character of our city. One-of-a-kind, independent businesses are an integral part of what makes Portland a great place to live.

Studies show that locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than national chains.

Local business owners tend to set up shop downtown and in walkable neighborhood business districts, rather than developing on the city's fringe or in suburban strip malls accessible only by automobile. Having a diverse array of businesses within walking or biking distance in Portland reduces the amount of driving Portland residents must do to shop for goods and services. It also helps to conserve land, rein in sprawl, and lessen traffic and air pollution.

Local business owners and employees often possess a level of expertise and a passion for the products they sell that is unmatched by employees and managers of national chains. They also tend to have a greater interest in getting to know their customers -- who are, after all, also their neighbors. Simply put, local owners and employees take a special pride in their trade.

Small neighborhood and downtown businesses require less public infrastructure and make more efficient use of city services compared to sprawling big-box stores and shopping centers, which are far more costly in terms of road maintenance and police services, according to several studies.

A marketplace of thousands of small businesses helps to ensure more innovation and competition, and lower prices over the long term. Independent businesses, choosing products based on what their local customers need and desire, not a national sales plan, guarantees a more diverse range of product and service choices.

Independent businesses are owned by people who live in this community and are committed to investing in Portland's future. Studies have found that locally owned businesses contribute more than twice as much of their revenue to charitable causes as corporate chains do. And advocates of local causes find that local business owners are generally much more accessible than executives of huge corporations based in other states.

Entrepreneurship fuels America's economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class. Plus, the success of locally owned, independent businesses provides real-life inspiration to our young people, proving that they can stay in Maine and prosper on their own terms.

In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character are more likely to attract entrepreneurs and new investment. Portlanders, like Mainers in general, place a high value on individuality and consider our homegrown enterprises a source of pride. They are also an attraction to visitors.

http://www.portlandbuylocal.org/

JULY 2006

VERBAL SPRAWL

SAM SMITH - One of the reasons liberals don't do better is because they use phrases like "urban sprawl" to describe the places where about half of America lives, most by some degree of choice. While there is nothing wrong with trying to encourage denser, less traffic dependent communities, it doesn't help to bad mouth all contrary communities while doing it. What is happening now is the suburban equivalent of the 1960s when liberals and urban planners disparaged inner city communities by calling them ghettos.

Like Toronto planner Terry Fowler, one can speak of the importance of replacing mobility with access or of the advantages, with high fuel costs, of having more of what we need closer to where we live. People will respond to practical solutions far better than to vague goals disrespectful of their communities.

The key point should not be to reach some abstract goal but to improve the life of communities affected by decades of poor urban planning. Many of these communities are already attractive places to live but suffer from transportation, shopping and energy inefficiencies.

The key is to plan for the people who live there and not for the soulless desires of master plans. The next time you're tempted to use the word, just remember: it ain't sprawl, it's somebody's home.

THE URBAN MYTH OF URBAN REFORM

SAM SMITH - As lower income ethnic residents are increasingly removed from America's major cities we find this change cloaked in the language of reform. The changes are described as "revitalization" or "economic development" when, in fact, those being truly revitalized or developed typically constitute a small percentage of the population.
For example, a study by David Schwartzman found that in 1998 those earning over $100,000 paid 66% of all US income taxes paid in Washington DC. Those earning over $200,000 paid 50% of all US income taxes. It has clearly only gotten more so since.

In 1998, those earning over $200,000 and paying 50% of all US income taxes represented only 2.6% of DC's population. Those earning over $100,000 represented 8.1%.

How many people are we talking about? Less than 22,000 taxpayers, 7,000 of whom earned over $200,000.

At the other end are 209,000 taxpayers who earned less than $50,000. Together, they provided only 16% of the city's federal income tax.

One would assume that a city that is truly being revitalized would find more and better jobs for its residents. In fact, jobs for DC residents have declined fifteen percent over the past 20 years.

One would also assume that a city that is truly being revitalized would find its population growing. But this isn't the case for those urban areas that make the most noise about economic development.

A recent study reported in USA Today found that "more cities with 100,000-plus residents shrank from 2004 to 2005 than in the previous year: 97 vs. 82. Costly coastal cities are among the new losers: New York, San Diego and Long Beach" along with Washington which once was the tenth largest city in the country and may be soon smaller than Las Vegas. Only 20 cities went from loss to gain, including Indianapolis, Wichita, Jersey City and Fort Wayne - not ones that you generally associate with the much ballyhooed "creative class."

As happened in the previous century, urban elites are simply reclaiming cities from ethnic groups - while calling themselves reformers and revitalizers. In fact, they are just taking power. In Creating Portland, a book about Portland, Maine, Joseph Conforti describes how it happened there in the last century:

"Portland's increasing ethnic diversity played a role in the adoption of a city manager form of government in 1923, a Progressive-Era reform that altered politics in many American urban communities. As cities expanded social services and assumed more debt, city manager government offered the promise of greater efficiency and economy in the conduct of municipal affairs. Business principles would replace partisan politics as the mainspring of city government. Such a prospect appealed to many citizens in cities seemingly caught in a spoils system of partisan ward politics that divided a predominantly native-born Republican constituency from a rising Democratic Party increasingly ethnic and immigrant in its makeup. . .

"Republicans long dominated city government, but Democrats controlled ethnic wards on the peninsula. After voters narrowly rejected a new city manager charter in 1921, reformers mounted a second, acrimonious campaign two years later. . . Fissures emerged between the working-class wards of Munjoy Hill and the upper-middle-class neighborhoods of the West End; between the peninsula and Deering; and between Catholic-Jewish voters and native-born citizens. A prominent Jewish lawyer ridiculed city manager reform in 1923, claiming that 'If this plan goes through, every man of Irish descent may as well pack up his trunk and leave the city as far as representation on the city government is concerned.' A revitalized Ku Klux Klan organized rallies in support of the new charter and encouraged voters to purge municipal government of Catholics and Jews."

It is assumed by many - particularly in academia and the media - that we are well rid of old-style ethnic urban government and its corruption, replacing it with such modern tools as city managers and urban planning. The truth is that in the old days one could buy favors, but today you can buy the whole city for the benefit of a few developers and other big businesses. The truth is that many of these corrupt ethnic politicians did more to help the underclasses of their cities than the reformers who replaced them.

This is an issue I addressed some years back:

|||| In 1816, Columbus, Ohio, had one city councilmember for every hundred residents. By 1840 there was one for every thousand residents. By 1872 the figure had dwindled to one to every five thousand. By 1974, there was one councilmember for every 55,000 people.

The first US congressional districts contained less than 40,000 people; my current city councilmember represents about twice that many. Today the average US representative works for roughly 600,000 citizens. This is double the number for legislatures in Brazil and Japan, and more than five times as many as in Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, Italy, and West Germany.

It isn't just a matter of numbers. Back in the early days of television and the late days of the Daley era in Chicago, Jake Arvey was an important man in national Democratic politics. At Democratic conventions, Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley would ponder what Arvey was going to do; presidential candidates would seek his blessing.

Yet Arvey's power base was not a national organization nor telegenic charisma, but rather the 24th Ward of Chicago, from which he helped to run the city's Democratic machine.

Another Chicago politician described it this way: "Not a sparrow falls inside the boundaries of the 24th Ward without Arvey knowing of it. And even before it hits the ground there's already a personal history at headquarters, complete to the moment of its tumble." There was plenty wrong with the Daley machine and others like it. One job seeker was asked at a ward headquarters who had sent him. "Nobody," he admitted. He was told, "We don't want nobody nobody sent."

Among those whom nobody sent were women and minorities. The old machines were prejudiced, feudal and corrupt.

And so we eventually did away with them.

But reform breeds its own hubris and so few noticed that as we destroyed the evils of machine politics we also were breaking the links between politics and the individual, politics and community, politics and social life. We were beginning to segregate politics from ourselves.

George Washington Plunkitt would not have been surprised. Plunkitt was a leader of Tammany Hall and was, by the standards of our times and his, undeniably corrupt. As his Boswell, newspaperman William Riordon, noted: "In 1870 through a strange combination of circumstances, he held the places of Assemblyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and County Supervisor and drew three salaries at once -- a record unexampled in New York politics.". Facing three bidders at a city auction of 250,000 paving stones, he offered each 10,000 to 20,000 stones free and having thus dispensed with competition bought the whole lot for $2.50.

Tammany Hall was founded in 1854; its golden age lasted until the three-term LaGuardia administration began in 1934. For only ten intervening years was Tammany out of office. We got rid of people like Plunkitt and machines like Tammany because we came to believe in something called good government. But in throwing out the machines we also tossed out a philosophy and an art of politics. It is as though, in seeking to destroy the Mafia, we had determined that family values and personal loyalty were somehow by association criminal as well.

Plunkitt was not only corrupt but a hardworking, perceptive and appealing politician who took care of his constituents, qualities one rarely find in any plurality of combinations in politics these days. Even our corrupt politicians aren't what they used to be. Corruption once involved a complex, if feudal, set of quid pro quos; today our corrupt politicians rarely even tithe to the people. . .

Tammany Hall, at its height, had 32,000 committeemen and was forced to use Madison Square Garden for its meetings. In contrast, when the Democratic National Committee decided to send a mailing to all its workers a few years ago, it found that no one had kept a list. The party had come to care only about its donors. . .

Wrote a newspaperman of the time, William Riordon:

The Tammany district leader reaches out into the homes of his district, keeps watch not only on the men, but also on the women and children, knows their needs, their likes and dislikes, their troubles and their hopes, and places himself in a position to use his knowledge for the benefit of his organization and himself. Is it any wonder that scandals do not permanently disable Tammany and that it speedily recovers from what seems to be crushing defeat?

Such practices contrast markedly with the impersonal, abstract style of politics to which we have become accustomed. It was, to be sure, a mixture of the good and the bad, but you at least knew whom to thank and whom to blame. . . ||||

It has been a favorite myth of political scientists and historians is that corrupt ethnic machines of the Tweed or Curley variety were replaced by progress. A similar myth surrounds today's urban gentrification. In fact, much of the change merely transferred the power to corrupt from one ethnic group or economic class to another. The term corruption, of course, is no longer used, but rather revitalization. And it is happening all over urban America.

It has been a favorite myth of political scientists and historians is that corrupt ethnic machines of the Tweed or Curley variety were replaced by progress. A similar myth surrounds today's urban gentrification. In fact, much of the change merely transferred the power to corrupt from one ethnic group or economic class to another. The term corruption, of course, is no longer used, but rather revitalization. And it is happening all over urban America.

JUNE 2006

HOUSING FIRST PROGRAM CLAIMS SUCCESS

ERIK ECKHOLM, NY TIMES - The "housing first" policy that this city adopted last year is part of an accelerating national movement that has reduced the numbers of the chronically homeless - the single, troubled men and women who spend years in the streets and shelters - in more than 20 cities. In this campaign, promoted by a little-known office of the Bush administration, 219 cities, at last count, have started ambitious 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness.

The cities include New York, which is stepping up efforts to house the estimated nearly 4,000 people huddling on sidewalks or sleeping in parks, and Henderson, N.C., population 17,000, which recently counted 91 homeless people, 14 of them chronic cases.

Many of the early starters are reporting turnarounds. In Philadelphia, street dwellers have declined 60 percent over five years. In San Francisco, the number of the chronic homeless is down 28 percent in two years, in Dallas 26 percent and in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., 15 percent. . .

Typically, people in such programs are put into sparsely furnished apartments free. Soon after, as they are helped into jobs or sign up for disability or other government benefits, they are required to pay modest rents.

MAY 2006

NEW URBANISM MEETS BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI

JIM LEWIS, NY TIMES - As radical as New Urbanism is, its principles are relatively straightforward and easily applied. Most of them are formalized in a book called "Smart Code," a zoning manual that breaks the built environment down into six zones, or "transects," of various densities, from wilderness to urban core. Each transect comes with its own building code, specifying everything from permissible architectonic elements (rooflines, porches, stoop heights) to the width of sidewalks and the style of street lights. Identify the transects, make some allowances for local building traditions, apply the code and, in theory at least, the community emerges.

It took six days for the Congress for the New Urbanism to come up with a rough set of recommendations for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast - six exhausting and exhilarating days spent hashing out everything from highway relocations to affordable housing. To add local flavor, the architects scoured old books of photographs and put together a "pattern book" for builders, portraying traditional Gulf Coast architecture: Creole cottages with gabled roofs and louvered windows, Victorian houses with dormers and narrow-columned porches.

When it was done, the plan for Biloxi showed a picturesque little city, with graceful boulevards and pretty streets flanked by neat houses and stately mansions and even the casinos concealed in stylish towers. The Back Bay harbor, where shrimpers moored their boats, had been augmented with a seafood market and a waterside promenade for tourists. A rail line had been moved, and so had one of the bridges. There were parks and squares everywhere and, according to the architects' elegant renderings, tall trees lining almost every road (though, in fact, the hurricane had destroyed many of the city's trees, and it would take decades to grow new ones). It looked like a quintessential sleepy Southern city, or perhaps a parody of one. . .

Main Street runs through the center of East Biloxi. Tyrone's Barber and Beauty Shop stands about halfway down Main Street. . . There were two women at Tyrone's, Renee Scott and Bernice Catchings. Before Katrina wrecked it, they had both worked at the Boomtown Casino, Scott as a wardrobe clerk and Catchings as a cook; each had been making $8.75 an hour and taking home about $6 after taxes - $12,000 a year for a full-time job and the jobs had disappeared six months previously. I flipped to the part of the plan that covered affordable housing, and they looked at it skeptically. "Affordable to who?" Scott said. "It won't be me, I can assure you of that."

"Affordable to who?" That's the first question, and the most difficult to answer. There used to be a lot of ways for people to get by in Biloxi: the communities were stable, houses were old and often passed down through generations and rental properties were plentiful and inexpensive. Now that much of it needs to be rebuilt, everything is going to cost a great deal more. I asked Andrés Duany what he meant by "affordable," and he said: "$140,000. We can make a really nice three-bedroom house for $140,000, working with mobile-home manufacturers." When I asked Bill Stallworth, a black councilman whose ward includes about half of East Biloxi, he was just as blunt. "That's not affordable for this area," he said. "Affordability is $65,000 to $95,000."

Besides, Moule and Polyzoides's plan had come down from above, and it felt like a decree. New Urbanism appeals to a broad group of decision makers - from conservative politicians, who believe that its old-fashioned approach to neighborhood development helps strengthen "family values," to Henry Cisneros, Clinton's H.U.D. secretary, who endorsed it as an alternative to the obvious failure of towering inner-city housing projects. But it's one thing to build a housing subdivision on green field and invite prospective homeowners to buy in if they want to, or to transfer people out of monstrous high-rises and put them into H.U.D.-built row houses. It's quite another to take a great swath of the Mississippi coast, still reeling from the largest natural disaster in American history, and suggest that the whole thing can be subject to a new sort of code.

The New Urbanists like to point to their inclusiveness and respect for regional traditions. Liz Moule told me several times that they had gone out of their way to bring local people into the forum. But judging from the list of invitees, that meant "local designers.". . . Stallworth, the councilman, described a process that was already well under way before any of the residents were asked how they wanted to rebuild: "It took into account a lot of great planners and their ideas, but not very much from the people. At the town meetings, they pulled out all these plans and said, 'Isn't that nice' and 'What do you think about that?' But the time to ask these questions is on the front end, before you draw up all these plans." The working people of Biloxi - the shrimp fishermen, the bus drivers, the men and women who clean the casinos - weren't consulted, and there was no way to know what the plan might have looked like if they had been.

New Urbanism is like Whole Foods: it's meant to be good for you, but it's expensive, at least on the front end, and it comes with a set of cultural connotations that generally play best among the prosperous and the self-consciously progressive. . .

In the wealthier sections of Biloxi, the problem was control. Most of the New Urbanists I talked to seemed vexed by the very idea that anyone could disagree with a creed they found self-evident, but the movement does have its critics, especially among architects. They find its principles overbearing and the result sentimental - a mawkish nostalgia for a middle-class, middle-American life that never really existed and wouldn't be worth yearning for even if it had. To its adversaries, New Urbanism is regressive, authoritarian and hidebound. Smart Code, for example, calls for the regulation of elements that most zoning laws leave up for grabs - how trees may be planted or what shape windows can be. One section of the Smart Code reads: "Pitched roofs, if provided, shall be symmetrically sloped no less than 5:12, except that porches may be attached sheds with slopes no less than 2:12."

Moreover, the movement can come across as faintly cultish, with converts rather than mere adherents, proselytizers instead of spokesmen and an air of Manichaeism that can seem both self-aggrandizing and somewhat paranoid. . . One city councilman, Mike Fitzpatrick, was immediately suspicious of the New Urbanist style and reluctant to take its commandments to his constituents. "You know," he said to me, "that's that person's property. I would never say you have to build this way. You can build what you want, because that's the American way."

HOUSE SIZE IN FACTOR IN URBAN SHIFT

[This story makes a couple of interesting points: (1) the role of small 1950s housing in encouraging upper scale migration to the city and (2) the crime rate in exurbia]

MELANIE MAYHEW, DAILY PROGRESS VA - Singles, young professionals, empty nesters and baby boomers are moving to cities, a pair of University of Virginia planning professors has concluded. Professors William H. Lucy and David L. Phillips found that since the 1990s, per capita income and median owner-occupied housing values have increased in 22 cities in large metropolitan areas compared with their suburbs. . .

Middle-aged suburbs, characterized as areas with homes built between 1945 and 1970, feature smaller homes often in varying states of disrepair and in need of updated features. An average house in the 1950s was about 1,100 square feet, Lucy said, but today, the typical homebuyer wants a house about double that size and is "unlikely to be eager for a 1950 house and neighborhood." Because these aging homes don't have up-to-date amenities, potential homebuyers must make a series of decisions.

First, they must decide if they're willing to live in a home that is not upgraded and potentially pay for costly improvements and repairs. If they decide to leave, they may head to newer, more expensive suburban areas or move to cities. Families are more likely to remain in the suburbs, and others will likely relocate to cities. . .

Some families living in suburbs may choose to move further out, oftentimes rural-like areas called "exurbia," Lucy said. Safety in these areas is a concern now and in the future, he said. It's more dangerous in exurbia," he said, citing a greater likelihood of being a victim of a random homicide or being killed in a traffic accident.

It's more dangerous to leave home in Albemarle, Greene and Fluvanna counties than in the city of Charlottesville, he said. Between the late 1980s and late 1990s, per year and per 10,000 people, the annual rate of deaths from traffic fatalities and murders by strangers combined was 4.5 in Albemarle, 5.2 in Fluvanna and 6.4 in Greene. In Charlottesville, the rate was 1.3.

NEW URBANISM MEETS BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI

JIM LEWIS, NY TIMES - As radical as New Urbanism is, its principles are relatively straightforward and easily applied. Most of them are formalized in a book called "Smart Code," a zoning manual that breaks the built environment down into six zones, or "transects," of various densities, from wilderness to urban core. Each transect comes with its own building code, specifying everything from permissible architectonic elements (rooflines, porches, stoop heights) to the width of sidewalks and the style of street lights. Identify the transects, make some allowances for local building traditions, apply the code and, in theory at least, the community emerges.

It took six days for the Congress for the New Urbanism to come up with a rough set of recommendations for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast - six exhausting and exhilarating days spent hashing out everything from highway relocations to affordable housing. To add local flavor, the architects scoured old books of photographs and put together a "pattern book" for builders, portraying traditional Gulf Coast architecture: Creole cottages with gabled roofs and louvered windows, Victorian houses with dormers and narrow-columned porches.

When it was done, the plan for Biloxi showed a picturesque little city, with graceful boulevards and pretty streets flanked by neat houses and stately mansions and even the casinos concealed in stylish towers. The Back Bay harbor, where shrimpers moored their boats, had been augmented with a seafood market and a waterside promenade for tourists. A rail line had been moved, and so had one of the bridges. There were parks and squares everywhere and, according to the architects' elegant renderings, tall trees lining almost every road (though, in fact, the hurricane had destroyed many of the city's trees, and it would take decades to grow new ones). It looked like a quintessential sleepy Southern city, or perhaps a parody of one. . .

Main Street runs through the center of East Biloxi. Tyrone's Barber and Beauty Shop stands about halfway down Main Street. . . There were two women at Tyrone's, Renee Scott and Bernice Catchings. Before Katrina wrecked it, they had both worked at the Boomtown Casino, Scott as a wardrobe clerk and Catchings as a cook; each had been making $8.75 an hour and taking home about $6 after taxes - $12,000 a year for a full-time job and the jobs had disappeared six months previously. I flipped to the part of the plan that covered affordable housing, and they looked at it skeptically. "Affordable to who?" Scott said. "It won't be me, I can assure you of that."

"Affordable to who?" That's the first question, and the most difficult to answer. There used to be a lot of ways for people to get by in Biloxi: the communities were stable, houses were old and often passed down through generations and rental properties were plentiful and inexpensive. Now that much of it needs to be rebuilt, everything is going to cost a great deal more. I asked Andrés Duany what he meant by "affordable," and he said: "$140,000. We can make a really nice three-bedroom house for $140,000, working with mobile-home manufacturers." When I asked Bill Stallworth, a black councilman whose ward includes about half of East Biloxi, he was just as blunt. "That's not affordable for this area," he said. "Affordability is $65,000 to $95,000."

Besides, Moule and Polyzoides's plan had come down from above, and it felt like a decree. New Urbanism appeals to a broad group of decision makers - from conservative politicians, who believe that its old-fashioned approach to neighborhood development helps strengthen "family values," to Henry Cisneros, Clinton's H.U.D. secretary, who endorsed it as an alternative to the obvious failure of towering inner-city housing projects. But it's one thing to build a housing subdivision on green field and invite prospective homeowners to buy in if they want to, or to transfer people out of monstrous high-rises and put them into H.U.D.-built row houses. It's quite another to take a great swath of the Mississippi coast, still reeling from the largest natural disaster in American history, and suggest that the whole thing can be subject to a new sort of code.

The New Urbanists like to point to their inclusiveness and respect for regional traditions. Liz Moule told me several times that they had gone out of their way to bring local people into the forum. But judging from the list of invitees, that meant "local designers.". . . Stallworth, the councilman, described a process that was already well under way before any of the residents were asked how they wanted to rebuild: "It took into account a lot of great planners and their ideas, but not very much from the people. At the town meetings, they pulled out all these plans and said, 'Isn't that nice' and 'What do you think about that?' But the time to ask these questions is on the front end, before you draw up all these plans." The working people of Biloxi - the shrimp fishermen, the bus drivers, the men and women who clean the casinos - weren't consulted, and there was no way to know what the plan might have looked like if they had been.

New Urbanism is like Whole Foods: it's meant to be good for you, but it's expensive, at least on the front end, and it comes with a set of cultural connotations that generally play best among the prosperous and the self-consciously progressive. . .

In the wealthier sections of Biloxi, the problem was control. Most of the New Urbanists I talked to seemed vexed by the very idea that anyone could disagree with a creed they found self-evident, but the movement does have its critics, especially among architects. They find its principles overbearing and the result sentimental - a mawkish nostalgia for a middle-class, middle-American life that never really existed and wouldn't be worth yearning for even if it had. To its adversaries, New Urbanism is regressive, authoritarian and hidebound. Smart Code, for example, calls for the regulation of elements that most zoning laws leave up for grabs - how trees may be planted or what shape windows can be. One section of the Smart Code reads: "Pitched roofs, if provided, shall be symmetrically sloped no less than 5:12, except that porches may be attached sheds with slopes no less than 2:12."

Moreover, the movement can come across as faintly cultish, with converts rather than mere adherents, proselytizers instead of spokesmen and an air of Manichaeism that can seem both self-aggrandizing and somewhat paranoid. . . One city councilman, Mike Fitzpatrick, was immediately suspicious of the New Urbanist style and reluctant to take its commandments to his constituents. "You know," he said to me, "that's that person's property. I would never say you have to build this way. You can build what you want, because that's the American way."

APRIL 2006

CHICAGO TO BECOME ONE BIG ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT

IF PEOPLE LIKE RICHARD DALEY had founded this country we would have had the Dunkin' Donuts Declaration of Independence and the Pledge Pledge of Allegience:

GARY WASHBURN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE - It turns out the skyway is not the limit when it comes to naming rights for the city of Chicago. Even as the Daley administration seeks a company willing to pay big bucks to put its corporate logo on the Southeast Side toll road, City Hall on Friday issued a "request for proposals" to marketing firms interested in surveying city buildings, events, programs and even vehicles and then seeking corporate sponsors willing to shell out money to be associated with them. . .

Officials studied the possibility of offering sponsorships in a similar vein six years ago, and nothing came of it. But Friday's action signals a new and serious look at the feasibility of the money-making concept. . .

NEXT?

Smithfield for the World,
Craftsman, Stacker of ADM products
Player with Amtrak and the Nation's CSX Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Mac
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have
seen your lobbyists under the gas lamps luring the politicians.
And they tell me you are crooked, and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the corporation rip you off and go free to rip you off again.
And they tell me you are brutal, and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the brands of decadent capitalism

PASSINGS: JANE JACOBS

CBC - Toronto-based urban critic and author Jane Jacobs died Tuesday morning. . . Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and most recently, Dark Age Ahead, was 89. . .

Her powerful critiques about the urban renewal policies of North American cities have influenced thinking about urban planning for a generation. . .

The strong themes of her writing and activism were opposition to expressways, including the Spadina Expressway in Toronto, and the support of neighborhoods. Jacobs has been arrested twice while protesting urban plans she believed to be destructive. She also explored these ideas in books such as The Economy of Cities, Cities and the Wealth of Nations and Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, questioned the sprawling suburbs that characterized urban planning, saying it was killing inner cities and discouraging the economic vitality that springs organically from neighbourhoods.

In New York where she lived for 30 years, Jacobs developed into an outspoken activist, opposing the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a downtown expressway that was to cut through urban neighborhoods.

She and her husband fled New York during the Vietnam War to protect their two sons from the draft. Jacobs settled in Toronto's Annex neighborhood in 1969. . .

She herself was never sure that her writing and activism had made a difference. . . In her introduction to a new edition of Death and Life in 1992, she concluded that she'd boosted the confidence of people who prefer to walk rather than take the car and given them ammunition against the "credentialed" experts smothering their cities with bad policies. But among "car people," she said, the book bombed. . .

http://www.cbc.ca/toronto/story/to_jacobs20060425.html

ENTROPY BEAT: GRAFFITI COMES BACK TO NEW YORK

THOMAS J. LUECK, NY TIMES - Of all the images from the 1970's and 1980's of a city out of control, perhaps none is etched more deeply into the public consciousness than that of the graffiti-covered subway train screeching into a station, every inch of its surface covered with a rich patina of spray-painted slashes and scrawls. Opponents of a citywide ban on the possession of "graffiti instruments," including etching acid, call it an infringement on freedom of speech. It took decades of work and millions of dollars to clean up the trains. But now officials are seeing a fresh surge of subway graffiti, in which windows are irreparably damaged with acid. Raising the specter of the bad old days, transit officials are vowing to fight a problem they say is even more menacing than the graffiti of decades past. . .

He said the most common material used by the new breed of graffiti vandals is Armor Etch-All, an etching acid sold in art supply stores that is used by craftspeople to etch into glass or other materials. To create graffiti with the acid, it is mixed with paint or shoe polish, Mr. Albert said. And when applied to subway windows, it most commonly leaves broad, sweeping, indelible marks, which subway crews cannot remove in subway yards, as they do with painted graffiti.

Transit officials said that most subway windows are vulnerable and pose an expensive problem because they cost up to $130 each to replace. Only the newest of subway cars, acquired since about 2000, are resistant to the new generation of graffiti, because their windows are protected with Mylar, a plastic coating that can be peeled off and replaced.

HOW TO MAKE WELFARE RECIPIENTS DISAPPEAR

CASSI FELDMAN, CITY LIMITS - [NYC Mayor Bloomberg] grabbed headlines earlier this month when he announced that welfare rolls had dipped to their lowest level in 40 years. But new data obtained by City Limits from the Human Resources Administration reveals a less impressive trend: Of the recipients who leave welfare each month, only around 23 percent are known to have found work. The rest, according to HRA, just stop showing up for appointments. Meanwhile, a dramatic 67 percent of cases added to the rolls each month are returnees, proof of what advocates call "churning," the tendency of low-wage workers to cycle between government assistance and dead-end jobs. . . A recent report from CSS found that despite citywide job growth, real wages at the bottom rung have fallen by 3.6 percent since 2000, and overall employment levels have declined.

  • A culture is unsalvageable if stabilizing forces themselves become ruined and irrelevant. . . The collapse of one sustaining cultural institution enfeebles others, makes it more likely that others will give way . . . until finally the whole enfeebled, intractable contraption collapses.
  • Economic life develops by grace of innovating; it expands by grace of import-replacing.
  • Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

- Jane Jacobs

NO DREAMS ON H STREET

Sam Smith

IT'S STRANGE HOW SOMETIMES it's the little stories that get you. For example, this morning, April 4, I read Paul Schwartzman's article in the Washington Post metro section about Capitol Hill's H Street strip:

"Bernard Gibson had a simple wish: to open a Cluck-U Chicken in the H Street neighborhood where his grandparents have lived for decades. Bound and determined, he held two jobs to squirrel away the cash: He owned a carwash and worked as a mechanic for the city. Last year, after selling the carwash, he got a permit for a sit-down restaurant and opened his dream. 'Best Buffalo Wingers in the World,' declares the bright purple awning on H Street, between the Family Dollar store and the check-cashing outlet. But in the age-old way that one person's dream is another's bedevilment, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission said not so fast: H Street in Northeast Washington is a strip trying to shed its bedraggled past and become a gleaming urban paradise.

"Cluck-U is not a sit-down restaurant, the [advisory neighborhood commission] argued. It's a fast-food joint, just like McDonald's and Burger King, and, under zoning laws, neighbors should have had a say before it opened. Because they never got that chance, the ANC wants Cluck-U's permit stripped, an appeal it will make at a hearing today, as the struggle over H Street's future heats up. . .

"ANC Chairman Joseph Fengler said the commission's opposition is all about getting a fair, uniform interpretation of the zoning code. But some merchants and longtime residents see it as a war on black Washington. The ANC, which became majority white in 2002, wants to push 'the African-Americans from the corridor," said Clifton Humphries, owner of the H Street Martini Lounge, who is black. "They're trying to steer what comes down here. They want an upscale environment, where they are comfortable around their own'". . .

"Ravaged by the 1968 riots, H Street -- a strip stretching from Third Street to Bladensburg Road -- is still largely defined by boarded-up storefronts, tattered carryout joints and discount stores, by weekend street preachers and panhandlers loitering on corners. But on the western end, just past Union Station, the developer who helped remake Logan Circle is building Senate Square, a 480-unit condominium complex. At the eastern end, the Atlas Performing Arts Center opened last year with a dance school, near the H Street Playhouse and Humphries's sleek new bar, where the orange-tinged "Dean Martini" costs $10. . ." .

I put down the paper and drove my car to Distads's - about the best repair place in DC, grabbed a free cup of coffee after discussing our mutual maritime pasts with mechanical maestro Mark, walked to my bank and then to Sizzler, the Korean buffet which offers discounts to cops and firefighters so sometimes you'll find a couple of ambulances or a hook and ladder double parked outside. Along the way I counted what some might consider fast food places in what most consider the better part of Capitol Hill. There were about a half dozen including Starbucks, a fast food place for young whites.

It wasn't a new story. It's happening all over urban America. It was happening on Capitol Hill when I lived here in the 1960s. But at least the displacers were a little quieter back then, not as openly boastful and aggressive about the righteousness and bounty of their presence.

One of the reasons we moved back to Capitol Hill after years in more homogenous Northwest Washington was the pleasure of being around people who weren't all like you. And it's not just a matter of ethnicity. Although the Hill is still more biracial than most of DC, blocks near the Capitol were always white or mixed going back to the 19th century. But in our first five years back on the Hill our one block has included a former woman astronaut, two old cab drivers who remember when our house sold for $7,000, Trent Lott's best man, a carpenter, a physicist, a Baptist preacher born again from the legal profession, a former dean of the mostly black University of DC Law School, a gynecologist with her office in the basement, and a hermit lady whose vines covered her entire house and who we never saw before she died. At how many block parties in America do you find a physicist and a born-again preacher discussing eternities with civility if not resolution?

But the recapture of American cities by the white gentry doesn't leave much room for that sort of thing. There are little problems like soaring property values.

For example, Eighth Street SE, a block away from Distad's, was long one of those places progress didn't think was worth messing with. As was true for H Street, they even ran out of fire engines by the time it burned in the 1968 riots leaving the Marines from the barracks at the south end to send sentries to guard the laundry through which their dirty uniforms flowed.

The street offered little but utility - a headquarters and laundry for the Marines; a Popeye's; overflow space for the Shakespeare Theater; a Seven-Eleven and a Subway; one of Capitol Hill's two hardware stores; a dollar emporium; video stores, a fire station, and some restaurants that were looking for cheap space. It was one of the few urban strips where you could find homeless, yuppies, gays, Marines, firefighters, and Shakespearian actors all enjoying the same space.

The secret of such places is their non-discovery and 8th Street was too close to the already found and desiccated to last. It is, after all, the holy jihad of planners to root out such heresies and turn them to the path of progress. And so 8th Street is now being spruced up as part of Main Street, a campaign to cleanse America of urban greasy spoons, seedy emporiums with seedy customers, and places of scruffy usefulness. My neighbors seem to welcome it. I have gently tried to suggest that they should welcome instead being one of the few hoods in America with two hardware stores, but in this land only resurrection ranks ahead of progress.

Eighth Street will become a tree and bench lined paragon of new urban style; one of those places where progress comes in only one flavor. The rents will rise to meet the charm and the scruffy and the seedy and greasy will not be able to pay the rents and will be gone. In its place will come antiseptic, clerical urbanity. Payless Shoes has already been replaced by Paymore Coffee, a.k.a. Starbucks, where you can drink your latte grande and be grateful that 8th Street is becoming just like everywhere else.

Walking the remaining half mile home I was reminded that a couple of blocks away was Montmartre, one of the best restaurants in town, that shared its restroom with the adjoining Ben and Jerry's. Sometimes the hook and ladder would truck pull up in front as the crew went inside for their triple scoop cones.

Sharing is what cities that work are about. The gated minds of today's gentry don't understand it. They think they are bringing culture, taste and value by their presence when they're really just making the place duller. Homogenization in the name of beautification. And other people have to pay the price. Not just in evictions but by having their own culture, their own values, their own tastes declared unacceptable and inappropriate. It's one of the places that anger and hate come from.

I know something about anger and hate on H Street. In the 1960s I started a neighborhood newspaper that attempted to serve both the black and white parts of the community. To do so we had to rename the hood. We called it Capitol East so it included not just the white part known as the Hill but places like H Street as well.

In late 1967 I came up with the idea of pulling together the various leaders of Capitol East into an informal leadership council with the possibility of forming a major neighborhood coalition. Fourteen people attended the first meeting: 7 white and 7 black. But it didn't have much of a chance.

In February 1968, I wrote in the Capitol East Gazette:

"As contrary as the thought is to our national self-image, it is entirely possible that we are giving up the struggle to solve the deepest problems of our cities. . . National Guard troops are undergoing special training. Hotlines are being established. Armored trucks are being purchased. Police riot equipment is being beefed up. . . . Ramsey Clark, the Attorney General, was probably correct when he told a group of police chiefs and city officials recently that the nation's power to deal with urban riots is increasing faster 'than the underlying layers of frustration that cause them.'"

On the evening of April 4, 1968, I was up on T Street at the mayor's house with a group of anti-freeway protesters, when word came of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death. We went home as the police cars poured by filled with shotgun-armed and helmeted police.

The next morning things were quiet enough that we went about our business as usual. But I came home that afternoon from the office to find a slow stream of people walking down the street with liberated articles: hangers full of clothes, a naugahyde hassock, a television set. Somewhere in our neighborhood a woman walked off with a case of whiskey from a liquor store. When she got home she realized she didn't have any soda to go with it. She went back and was arrested as she tried to liberate her chaser.

There were only a few whites living in the block; but I felt little tension or hostility. I mainly noted the black smoke drifting down from H Street, four blocks away. My wife was out back working in our foot-wide strip of garden, listening to reports of looting and arson on a portable radio as a black fog settled in. We decided to go up on the roof for a better look. H Street was burning. Others areas had gone first and the radio reported a lack of fire equipment to deal with the situation a few blocks to the north. I tried to count the fires but they congealed under the curtain of smoke.

We decided to pack just in case. For about ten minutes we gathered an instinctive selection of nostalgic items, favorite photos, the non-valuable but irreplaceable. Then we looked at what we had done and laughed. Like loyal children of our generation, we settled down in our smoky living room to watch on television what was happening to us.

At six-thirty the next morning, a white friend rang our doorbell. He wasn't in trouble; he just wanted company on a tour of the area. We got into his car and drove to H, Seventh and 14th Streets. As I looked at the smoldering carcass of Washington and observed the troops marching down the street past storefronts that no longer had any brakes, I thought, so this is what war is like. As we drove past a gutted store on 14th Street it suddenly reignited itself and flames leaped towards the pavement.

For a year and a half of running a neighborhood newspaper, I had observed, and tried to report, a part of the community seething with emotions much of the other part refused to recognize. Now it was worse than even I had thought and anger, frustration, and helplessness washed up on my mind's shore.

The riot did more than $3 million worth of property damage. In the vicinity of H Street and some 124 commercial establishments and 52 homes were damaged. Another 21 businesses were damaged on or near 8th street.

At the time of the riot nearly 25% of the labor force in Capitol East was either unemployed, earning less than $3000 a year or employed only part-time. Over half of all adults living in the east part of the neighborhood had eight years or less of schooling. Over a quarter of the housing units in this same area were listed by the census as dilapidated or deteriorating.

Now, here it is April 4 again. Thirty-eight years since the one you can't forget. During most of those years no one did anything much to help H Street. You could still find the charred wood on some of the buildings. It was like during the riots: all the equipment was someplace else.

Then a few years ago, white America decided it wanted the cities back again. H Street leaped from despair to displacement without ever stopping for a dream. Now you can't even install the car part you just bought in the Auto Zone's parking lot without someone calling the cops. Someone who doesn't understand that the city isn't only theirs. Someone who doesn't understand that there are people with as much right as they to live near H Street but who would rather go to Cluck-U Chicken than Starbucks. Someone who doesn't understand that what you don't do with decency, you pay for in anger.

MARCH 2006

STUDY: BANK MERGERS BAD FOR COMMUNITIES

BLACKWELL PUBLISHING - An article published in The Journal of Finance finds that neighborhoods affected by bank consolidation are subject to higher interest rates in the future, diminished local construction, lower real estate prices, and an influx of poorer households. The lack of competitiveness in the local loan markets results in lower commercial real estate investment and a drop in real estate prices. This causes unemployment to rise alongside an influx of lower-income households. Consequently, there is an increase in property crime within the affected neighborhoods.

The article's authors applied their results to the FBI's national crime figures from the Uniform Crime Reports and found, "a mean decline in banking competitiveness due to mergers from 1992 to 1995 is associated with approximately 24,300 more property crime offenses over the period 1995 to 2000."

The poorest neighborhoods are found to suffer the greatest increases in crime following bank mergers. The authors maintain that bank mergers should be carefully regulated to prevent economic deterioration of the affected neighborhoods.

www.blackwellpublishing.com/jof

FEBRUARY 2006

THE CASE FOR JAYWALKING

CHRISTOPHER, DEWOLFE, MAISON NEUVE - Traffic engineers want streets to act as traffic funnels; to them, pedestrians are mere nuisances. Regulating pedestrian crossings is a way to keep cars flowing, but the failure of lawmakers to control pedestrian behavior shows that this approach simply does not work. Instead of trying to force pedestrians to conform to streets designed primarily for cars, why not adapt them to the behavior of pedestrians?

The first step is to accept walking as a legitimate form of transportation, one that is equal - or even superior - to vehicle transport. "What we need to do is to shift our mentality and conceive of pedestrians as part of traffic," says Dylan Reid, member of the Toronto Pedestrian Committee, a pedestrian watchdog group created by the City of Toronto. "Being a pedestrian is the most efficient form of transport. The more people you have walking, the safer [the streets are] and the less pollution there is." On streets that already bustle with pedestrians, Reid suggests that narrowing lanes and widening sidewalks is a good way to encourage walking and slow down traffic. "The speed of traffic is not related to efficiency," he explains. Consistently slow traffic makes for streets that are less dangerous, less noisy and a lot more pleasant - while still moving cars along at a steady pace.

Amy Pfeiffer, a program director at the New York advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, chimes in with even more ways to make streets pedestrian-friendly. Corner bulb-outs give pedestrians greater visibility at intersections; mid-block crossings, especially signalized ones, allow for more opportunities to safely cross the street and advance signal timing gives people crossing the street a head start over vehicles. Similarly, pedestrian-exclusive signals are ideal for busy corners, letting people cross the intersection in every direction at once. "It's made a big difference in rationalizing what people do," explains Pfeiffer. "It's really hard to control pedestrian behavior." Pedestrians aren't sheep. They will go where they want, when they want, as long as it's safe - and in many cases, that involves taking a calculated risk by crossing the street mid-block or against the light. "If it's safe to cross, they will," says Pfeiffer. "It's also about safety in numbers: you'll get a huge platoon of people crossing [against the light] at the same time and they just assume that a car won't run down twenty people.". . .

http://www.maisonneuve.org/index.php?&page_id=12&article_id=2108

MAYOR DALEY WANTS ALL ORWELLIAN CITY: EVERY BUSINESS MUST SPY ON CUSTOMERS

FRAN SPIELMAN, CHICAGO SUN TIMES - Mayor Daley on Monday embraced a radical plan to require every licensed Chicago business open more than 12 hours a day to install indoor and outdoor cameras. "Block clubs, community organizations want cameras. . . They can't walk down the street. . . Their kids have to go around a corner away from the gang-bangers. You can't walk to church. You can't get on the CTA. . . Cameras really prevent much crime. Cameras also solve a lot of crime. The terrorist attacks in London were solved by cameras. The whole incident was solved by cameras," Daley said. Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper estimated that 12,000 businesses -- maybe more -- are open for more than 12 hours a day and, therefore, would be covered by the sweeping camera mandate. That includes roughly 7,000 restaurants, more than 100 hotels and scores of retail establishments. . .

"Some places will take a look at the cost and say, 'We'll only be open for one shift or a shift and a half. They'll take a look at their last two hours and say, 'I'm not making that much anyway. I'll just close earlier.' Employees will lose that money," Roper said.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-camera31.html

JANUARY 2006

ANTI-GROWTH PORTLAND LOSING TO SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT

PLANETCITIZEN - Office space in the Portland metro area grew by a net 1.45 million square feet in 2005, but only 150,000 was added to Portland's commercial core in Multnomah county. The rest, almost 90 percent, was distributed across three suburban counties. Portland continued in the last year to exhibit a recent pattern of job dispersal to suburban employment sites, a trend that conflicts with regional goals to limit sprawl. Some observers attribute the suburbanization of employment to higher taxes and land development costs in the central city and county. Others believe that it reflects market preferences for campus-style office parks and low-rise buildings that can more easily accommodate the needs of high-tech firms for flexible space. One long-time broker said "It's basically not growing" downtown. "The growth is in the suburbs, and it's spilling into downtown." Another, whose firm is active in both the Portland and Seattle markets, said "The same general trends are occurring in Seattle as well." He indicated that the Bellevue area east of Seattle has performed far better than downtown in recent years. "The trend you're seeing out in Portland is more exaggerated than you're seeing in other downtown markets," he added. "The challenge we have as a community is to figure out why that's occurred."

http://www.planetizen.com/node/18633

SAN DIEGO BUILDS APARTMENTS FOR HOMELESS NEAR SERVICES

RANDY DOTINGA, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR - With its Italian-style architecture and striking views of skyscrapers and the glittering bay, it's no surprise that passersby drop in to ask how much the condos cost at the Villa Mandel building in downtown San Diego. But nothing is for sale, and anyone who asks the question almost certainly makes too much to live here. At just $399 a month, the Villa Mandel's 90 rooms are only rented to the poor and the homeless, including many who take advantage of counseling, medical, and religious services at a Catholic-run complex next door. . .

Just five or 10 years ago, a place like Villa Mandel wouldn't have existed in San Diego or in most other American cities. The homeless were often left to fend for themselves once they left shelters and rehabilitation programs, a difficult proposition for those with mental or physical disabilities or both. . .

But over the past few years, cities from coast to coast have begun embracing a new strategy: permanent housing for the homeless with supportive services built in. . . With an annual budget of $30 million, St. Vincent de Paul Village has 12 psychiatrists along with doctors, dentists, case workers, and drug counselors.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0104/p13s01-lihc.html?s=planetizen

DECEMBER 2005

SENIORS GIVE UP CARS, GET FREE RIDES

CHRISTINE VESTAL, STATELINE - As his health declined, Irving Anzmann of Portland, Maine, decided it was no longer safe to drive. But he still needed to visit a dialysis center three times a week. It was there that he learned about a local service for the elderly that would give him and his wife door-to-door rides in exchange for donating their car.

The 84-year-old used the service offered by Independent Transportation Network for the last few months of his life, and his wife, Necia, has been getting free rides ever since. "He set up a good thing for me. He didn't want me to get out there on the roads alone," she said. . .

Despite increased overall state spending on public transportation, many elderly people in suburban and rural areas either don't have access to mass transit or find it too confusing or physically challenging. They are left with no way to get to the doctor's office and grocery store, much less community events and the homes of friends and family.

Maine's ITN program makes it easier for elders to give up driving, because they don't have to face the daunting task of learning how to navigate a public transportation system designed primarily for younger people who commute to and from work.

In return for donating their cars, seniors receive a number of free rides, based on the value of their vehicle. "It's like a reverse mortgage on their car," said founder Katherine Freund. Elders also can volunteer to drive in return for free rides later, when they decide to give up their cars -- a sort of "'transportation social security," she said.

CONDO CONVERSION STATS

PETER SLATIN, SLATIN REPORT - According to data from New York-based Real Capital Analytics, sales to converters have already more than doubled in 2005 over all of 2004, rising from $11.6 billion, for 75,000 units, to $23.9 billion for 152,000 units. For apartment sales, the growth figures are not nearly so steroidal - in fact, they are just plain healthy. Apartment sales rose from $38.7 billion for 488,000 units to $47.9 billion for 544,000 units. . .

The richest conversion market: Manhattan, where investors have plunked down $3 billion for 5,700 units this year. Price per unit? It's a 501% increase over 2004, when converters paid $500 million for 1,460 units . . .

But for sheer hyperinflation, nothing comes close to Phoenix. The desert city lured condo converters to the tune of $1.3 billion, for 11,862 units - up an astonishing 1,384% from the mere $91.9 million spent in 2004 for a paltry 961 conversion units.

Things are cooling off in some markets. Last year's busiest city, Miami, which saw $1.7 billion in condo-conversion sales (11,524 units), dropped 29% to 8th place with $1.2 billion for 8,693 units. The rest of Florida is making up for it, though: Broward County, Orlando and Tampa are second, third and fourth this year, with Tampa activity rising a dramatic 483%. Adding Jacksonville, Palm Beach and Southwest Florida gives the state seven of the top 20 markets nationwide. Phoenix rounds out the top five.

Chicago, in ninth place, saw an eye-popping 405% gain in activity, despite much talk about a condo glut. Not surprisingly, California accounts for 20% of the top 20. Its most active city is San Diego at number 11, followed immediately by L.A. and the East Bay of San Francisco, with Orange County in 15th place. The O.C. had the second-biggest boost in activity for any area, as spending grew a whopping 892%, from $41 million in 2004 to $407 million so far this year. In San Diego, where buying rocketed from $333 million in 2003 to $1.5 billion last year, dealmaking has fallen by a third to $990 million to date in 2005. The 32% drop is the largest of any market in RCA's list.

Washington's Virginia and Maryland suburbs account for another pair of high-flying markets, up 81% and 55%, respectively. Seattle saw the third-biggest surge, up 598%, from $59 million last year to $406 million. Boston, on the other hand, saw sales drop 24%, from $427 million to $324 million so far this year.

http://www.theslatinreport.com/top_story.jsp?StoryName=1201converts.txt

NOVEMBER 2005

NATION'S LARGEST EMINENT DOMAIN SCAM WOULD EVICT BLACKS TO BUILD YACHTING COMMUNITY

JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG, LA TIMES - It's across the inlet from Palm Beach, but this town - mostly black, blue-collar and with a large industrial and warehouse district - could be a continent away from the Fortune 500 and Rolls-Royce set. In what has been called the largest eminent-domain case in the nation, the mayor and other elected leaders want to move about 6,000 residents, tear down their homes and use the emptied 400-acre site to build a waterfront yachting and residential complex for the well-to-do.

The goal, Mayor Michael D. Brown said during a public meeting in September, is to "forever change the landscape" in this municipality of about 32,500. The $1-billion plan, local leaders have said, should generate jobs and haul Riviera Beach's economy out of the doldrums. Opponents, however, call the plan a government-sanctioned land grab that benefits private developers and the wealthy.

"What they mean is that the view I have is too good for me, and should go to some millionaire," said Martha Babson, 60, a house painter who lives near the Intracoastal Waterway.

"This is a reverse Robin Hood," said state Rep. Ronald L. Greenstein, meaning the poor in Riviera Beach would be robbed to benefit the rich. Greenstein, a Coconut Creek Democrat, serves on a state legislative committee making recommendations on how to strengthen safeguards on private property. . .

TELECOMMUTERS OUTNUMBER TRANSIT RIDERS IN 27 METRO AREAS

ADRIAN MOORE, REASON FOUNDATION - Technology is doing something transit planners have been unable to do for decades - get people out of their cars. People working from home now outnumber mass transit commuters in 27 of the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas. Telecommuting may be the most cost effective way to reduce rush-hour traffic and it can even improve how a weary nation copes with disasters, from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. It helps improve air quality, highway safety, and even health care as new technology allows top-notch physicians to be (virtually) anywhere.

Telecommuting expands opportunities for the handicapped, conserves energy, and-when used as a substitute for offshore outsourcing-it can help allay globalization fears. It can even make companies more profitable, which is good news for our nation's managers, many of whom have long been suspicious of telecommuting.

Other than driving alone, telecommuting is the only commute mode to gain market share since 1980. The Census Bureau notes that from 1990 to 2000 the number of those who usually worked at home grew by 23 percent, more than twice the rate of growth of the total labor market. Since 2000, telecommuting has continued to grow in popularity. Roughly 4.5 million Americans telecommute most work days, roughly 20 million telecommute for some period at least once per month, and nearly 45 million telecommute at least once per year. . .

Although they effectively receive no public subsidies, telecommuters actually outnumber transit commuters in a majority (27 out of 50) of major metropolitan areas (those with populations over 1 million). Telecommuters outnumber transit commuters in places like San Diego, Dallas, and Phoenix. They outnumber transit commuters by more than two to one in places like Raleigh-Durham, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Nashville. In Oklahoma City telecommuters outnumber transit commuters by nearly five to one."

http://www.planetizen.com/node/17968

JULY 2005. . .

AN EGO GROWS IN BROOKLYN

NY TIMES - The massive building plan surrounding a new Nets arena east of Downtown Brooklyn will include a ridge of a half-dozen skyscrapers as high as 60 stories sweeping down Atlantic Avenue, along with four towers circling the basketball arena, according to new designs completed by the developer Bruce C. Ratner and the architect Frank Gehry. . . With 17 buildings, many of them soaring 40 to 50 stories, the project would forever transform the borough and its often-intimate landscape, creating a dense urban skyline reminiscent of Houston or Dallas.

MASSACHUSETTS GETTING INTO GREEN CONSTRUCTION

RUSSELL NICHOLS, BOSTON GLOBE - At first glance, the new Maverick Landing public housing development in East Boston is impressive, with neat rows of brick buildings within walking distance of Boston Harbor. But there is nothing noticeably "green" about the townhouse-style structures, until you spot the solar panels on the roofs.

Maverick Landing is a development full of energy-efficient homes, which boast low-flow toilets, broad fiberglass windows that draw in more natural light, construction materials made of recycled wood, wind-powered generators, and Energy Star appliances. . .

The new program brings together three organizations -- the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and the Enterprise Foundation -- to provide about $209 million in incentives, including loans, grants, and tax credits, for developers to build 1,000 "green" homes for low-income families across the state. "If you want to stop talking about it and start doing it, you got to bring the money to the table," said Tom Gleason, executive director of Mass Housing, an independent agency working to create and preserve affordable housing in the state. It will provide $125 million in mortgage financing to the project. Massachusetts Green Communities is part of the National Green Communities Initiative, a five-year, $555 million effort to build more than 8,500 affordable, environment-friendly homes nationwide.

JUNE 2005. . .

NEW LONDON VICTIM OF EMINENT DOMAIN PROMISES A FIGHT TO THE END

WORLDNET DAILY - Michael Cristofaro, one of the Connecticut homeowners on the losing end of the Supreme Court's recent decision allowing a city government to seize residents' property for a private development, says his family and the six others are not about to give up their fight. "If all fails, we'll chain ourselves to our houses," Cristofaro told Joseph Farah. "They'll have to rip us apart from it. We'll fight them tooth and nail."

Cristofaro's family has lived in New London, Conn., for 43 years, but the 5-4 ruling last week allows the city to push ahead with its plan to destroy the homes to make room for a hotel and office complex. . . Cristofaro said the seven homeowners will meet later this week with members of the Insitute for Justice - the public interest group defending them - to consider their options. . .

But Cristofaro said his parents, Pasquale and Margherita Cristofaro, and the other homeowners have been heartened by the response from citizens across the nation. "I was amazed about the outrage, the response we've received from fellow Americans," he said. " . . . That has made us feel like our fight wasn't for nothing."

Cristofaro said that when approached by the city five years ago, the families were not offered anything close to fair market value for their properties. His parents were offered $60,000, Cristofaro said, but the house could have been sold on the market for about $280,000. Later in 2000, just before the Institute of Justice took the case, the city made a final offer of $150,000, he said. But even the city's tax appraisal valued it at $215,000.

WHAT CORPORATIONS HAVE DONE TO URBAN AMERICA

RICHARD L. FRANKLIN, FRANKLIN DIGEST - I was raised in Minneapolis, which was once a beautiful city. Laced with lakes and parkways, it proudly called itself the City of Lakes. It had a marvelous streetcar system. They provided completely smog-free transportation with relatively low overhead. The streetcars lasted forever, and maintenance was simple. And the air was clear.

Then along came a huge national bus manufacturer. It proceeded to bribe everybody on the City Council with huge campaign contributions. Bear in mind that one of the quaint customs in most cities is that of allowing politicians to keep whatever money remains in their campaign chests when they retire. This makes for a perfectly legal, albeit blatant, bribery system.

To make a long story short, the city council passed an ordinance banning streetcars. The city proceeded to rip up a vast system of rails that had taken generations to build. An enormous fleet of buses was purchased sans competitive bidding. The entire fleet of streetcars were sold to Mexico City at a giveaway price. I suspect pols in both Minneapolis and Mexico City had their fingers in the pie.

The increase in smog was immediately enormous, and traffic moved far less smoothly. Today, when you approach Minneapolis from the south, long before you can see the city, you see a vast black cloud that permanently hovers over the city on the clearest of days.

The next thing the corporations wanted was a system of freeways. Within a decade the city was massively interlaced with broad, vehicle-packed freeways being used by people who lived outside Minneapolis. The center of the city became a bowl of freeway spaghetti. Smog increased still further as non-residents of Minneapolis traveled in and out in their gas guzzling oversized cars. Fatal car accidents rocketed and are still climbing. Within a year after any freeway was opened, all the giant elm trees along that freeway died. People who lived along the new freeways noticed that their house plants were dying. The freeways sliced through neighborhoods, filling the air with noise and poison, and devastating any sense of community. In one case, a gorgeous park and pond bordering the downtown loop, was sacrificed to a freeway. And so on.

Today Minneapolis no longer is recognizable. When I visit it to see my mother, I'm invariably saddened. The happy folks are the politicians who banked large amounts of money and/or became 'consultants' for corporations after leaving political office.

Was any of this necessary? Absolutely not. If you want proof, pay a visit to Madison, Wisconsin. This city has boasted a progressive activist population for decades, and this has made an enormous difference. It has huge beautiful lakes and spacious wild parkland within the heart of the city. The city has never allowed any kind of development to come close to the extensive lake shore. And get this. They have never allowed one single freeway to be built within the city limits. I kid you not.

People get around fine using the wide boulevards and parkways that wind around the huge lakes. Wide bicycle lanes allow people to safely bike almost everywhere. You can hike in wild woods and along wild lakeshore within walking distance of the downtown area and the Capitol building. The University of Wisconsin, set next to a huge lake, also is within walking distance of both downtown and gorgeous wild parkland. On summer afternoons, in the quaint business district next to the U of W, musicians play along the streets, and students dance in the courtyards.

I could go on and on about Madison. If you want to see what a city could be, as opposed to what the pols and corporations have done to most American cities, spend one week in Madison. You'll love it.

I once met with a couple of my readers who were visiting Madison. As we sat eating at a sidewalk table of an ethnic restaurant, they were amazed when a woman came strolling by with her daughter, a girl who looked to be about nine and who was wearing a T-shirt with the logo, 'Don't Fuck With Me!' I wasn't surprised. That expresses the community spirit of that marvelous city. They have fought mightily to create what is arguably the most livable city in America.

Things could have been different in America had it not allowed the market's 'invisible hand' to control the ways in which urban American has grown.

EMINENT DOMAIN UPDATE

A READER MAKES A GOOD POINT ABOUT EMINENT DOMAIN - Eminent domain can serve the public interest (cf. John Locke), and it can be abused (cf. Wal-Mart). There is a simple remedy, however. In a democracy, all seizures of private assets for public use would be subject to a voter referendum by the relevant community. In a democracy, any subsequently authorized eminent domain seizures would have "just compensation" decided by a jury of the owner's peers rather than the local tax collector (who has a conflict of interest). This would go a long way towards preventing abuse of eminent domain.

NEW YORK CITY PLANS TO TAKE NEW JERSEY BY EMINENT DOMAIN

WATLEY REVIEW - Buoyed by the Supreme Court's decision to expand cities' power of eminent domain, New York City filed today to acquire the state of New Jersey for commercial development. "New York has been facing some very difficult economic decisions," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "Building viable economic development strategies for the city has been our number one priority. We think that the Supreme Court decision really opens a door for us, and will allow New York City to finally resolve some of these intractable issues.". . .

New York will compensate the current residents of New Jersey with "fair market value" for their property, a total amount estimated to be well within Bloomberg's ability to pay out of his own pocket. After evicting all current residents from New Jersey, New York plans to add a new Olympic stadium, a Trump apartment complex, international airport, and, most critically, a 4,000 square mile landfill. . .

EMINENT DOMAIN MEANS THE EMINENT GET THE DOMAIN

THE SAD STATE of liberalism was revealed again in the applause of some commentators of the ilk over the Supreme Court decision that allows cities to seize people's homes and small businesses in order to favor big developers, often major contributors to the politicians making the decisions. A few cases in point:

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HOYAPAUL, DAILY KOS - if the Court had ruled differently and not allowed local governments to do this, it would have been a disaster for local governments to build for the community (including when the purpose is to help the environment, build affordable housing, create jobs, etc.). It would have sacrificed needed community power at the hands of the sort of property-rights extremism frequently displayed by right-wing libertarian types.

MATTHEW YGLESIAS - All that was at issue here was the precise scope of the government's authority to, in effect, force you to sell your house. Since the just compensation does need to be paid, and since if you're prepared to pay fair value for something you can typically purchase it on the open market, there's no reason to think this is going to unleash some massive tidal wave of evictions. If the Court had gone the other way, we'd see fewer abusive uses of eminent domain, and also fewer worthwhile economic development schemes.

EZRA KLEIN - I believe this was a good decision. The key passage from Stevens' opinion is this: "[t]he disposition of this case therefore turns on the question whether the City's development plan serves a 'public purpose.' Without exception, our cases have defined that concept broadly, reflecting our longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments in this field." I am sympathetic to the defendants, who were forced to sell their property for what seems to me like a boondoggle, and I understand what O'Connor means when she suggests that "for public use" might as well be deleted from the Fifth Amendment. But once the courts start making determinations about what constitutes the "public interest," the Court becomes an all-purpose economic regulator. . .

NY TIMES - The Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that the economically troubled city of New London, Conn., can use its power of eminent domain to spur development was a welcome vindication of cities' ability to act in the public interest. It also is a setback to the "property rights" movement, which is trying to block government from imposing reasonable zoning and environmental regulations.

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SUCH endorsements ignore the long history of city takings in the name of public purposes that, in fact, serve as a sop to major corporate interests, especially campaign contributors. Part of the problem is that it is the least fortunate land owners who get hit the worst, since they can't afford to take the city to court.

Unfortunately, liberals have never seen this issue clearly. The first great eminent domain case - based on public taking for private development i.e. urban renewal - was in Southwest Washington in 1954. The design was hailed by planners and liberals; a 1955 report for the District was titled 'No Slums in Ten Years.' Not everyone was so sanguine, however. In a 1959 report of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the Rt. Rev. Msg. John O'Grady said, "It is sad. It is not urban renewal; it is a means of making a few people rich. Instead of improving housing conditions, it is shifting people around from one slum to another."

But the Supreme Court upheld the underlying law and in a decision written by none other than the preeminent liberal, William O. Douglas, who declared:

"It is within the power of the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy, spacious as well as clean, well-balanced as well as carefully patrolled . . . The experts concluded that if the community were to be healthy, if it were not to revert again to a blighted or slum area, as though possessed by a congenital disease, the area must be planned as a whole."

Five years later 551 acres had been cleared. Some 24,000 people and 800 businesses were kicked out to make way for the program. 80% percent of the latter never went back into operation. A few years after that, some of the places to which these folks were evicted became the major riot strips of 1968.

Your editor, then a radio reporter, interviewed a woman who was refusing to move out of her house. Hundreds of acres had been leveled around her and still she clung on like a survivor of the Dresden carpet bombing. Years later, my wife, a historian, met a woman who had grown up there. She said that she had never known how crazy her mother was until they were forced out of Southwest because as long as they were there, there were always neighbors and relatives nearby to take her in when her mother had a spell. Yet according to liberal commentators at the time the neighborhood was without redemption.

Every subsequent grand plan for Washington DC along with their eminent domain takings -- freeways, the subway system, the convention center, the Pennsylvania Avenue plan, various urban renewal schemes -- shared a number of damaging characteristics:

-- The uprooting of stable communities, producing new long-term demands on the social welfare systems.

-- The destruction of small business and the jobs it created.

-- The strong support of the welfare fathers -- the Washington Post and downtown business interests -- who, it inevitably turned out, were prime beneficiaries of the projects they were boosting.

Some of these plans were stunning disasters. Perhaps the single worst economic mistake was DC's participation in the construction of a subway system without, at very least, a non-resident income tax. In effect, DC greatly subsidized a convenient means by which workers could live in the suburbs while employed in DC and not have to pay any city taxes other than those for their lunch-time yogurt and salad. As a result, two out of three dollars earned in the city are now exported tax-free each evening to the suburbs.
And what was the final payoff for the city after all its "economic development' schemes? Sales tax revenue grew at less than the rate of inflation in the 1980s, and actually declined in the 1990s. Employment of DC residents has declined markedly, street traffic has increased, badly needed intra-city bus service has deteriorated along with public schools and public healthcare. Yet not once did anyone in power question whether the takings that supported these projects were a good thing.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/6/23/10559/5709
http://yglesias.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/6/24/13026/7261
http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2005/06/takings_and_the.html

CITIES AND STATES TRYING TO DEAL WITH BIG PROPERTY TAX INCREASES

MAY 2005. . .

STAY FREE MAGAZINE

CITIES AREN'T DOING AS WELL AS YOU THINK http://tnr.com/docprint.mhtml?i=w050523&s=kotkin052305

JOEL KOTKIN, NEW REPUBLIC - The idea that American cities, indeed cities worldwide, are experiencing a renaissance has been widely, and often uncritically, accepted since the late 1990s. . . Books like Cities Back from the Edge, by Roberta Brandes Gratz, have asserted that many Americans are ready to give up their suburban dreams for dense, compact cities modeled on places like Prague. Then there are the popular works of Richard Florida, who seems to offer a simple formula for urban revitalization: Get hip and gay. Hip cities like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Boston are the new role models, Florida has argued; and non-hip locales are duly forewarned, as a headline in The Washington Monthly put it, that cities "without gays and rock bands are losing the economic race.". . .

The renaissance of American cities has been greatly overstated--and this unwarranted optimism is doing a disservice to cities themselves. Urban politics has become self-satisfied and triumphalist, content to see cities promote the appearance of thriving while failing to serve the very people--families, immigrants, often minorities--who most need cities to be decent, livable places. The myths that have grown up surrounding the urban renaissance are now often treated as fact. . .

What is needed is for cities to craft their own New Deal. Given their shrinking political power, they will not be able to extract resources from Washington or most state capitals. They will have to get smart about how they are run and focus their resources on basic issues, like schools, infrastructure, boosting small business, and creating jobs--rather than promoting bread, circuses, and tattoo parlors.

This will mean making choices. New York needs to decide that fixing its subways represents a more important use of its bonding authority than a stadium for the Jets. Los Angeles needs to decide its biggest priority lies in preventing the region's port complex, its largest generator of private sector jobs, from becoming hopelessly congested and obsolescent. Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, and the other hard luck cases need to focus on trying to fix their schools, transportation systems, and economies. Phoenix needs to concern itself with generating jobs and opportunities for its soaring immigrant population. Let the glitzy restaurants and rock clubs take care of themselves.

THE YORKSHIRE Ranter reports that Vienna has started using its tram system to haul freight. This is something we recommended a long time ago for Washington's subway: using the system after hours for moving mail and deliveries throughout the city with delivery centers at the stations. Back in the 19th century, the DC streetcar system had a post office that functioned this way.

http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2005/05/this-is-cool.html

STREETS WITHOUT BORDERS ATTRACTING ATTENTION

CHRISTOPHER HUTSUL, TORONTO STAR - Imagine, for a moment, a busy downtown intersection with no traffic lights, signs or sidewalks.
There are no markers on the ground, no speed bumps, no police officer conducting the flow of vehicles. There's not even a curb. Every element of traffic - pedestrians, bikers and drivers - is left to fend for itself. Sounds like a recipe for chaos, right?

Wrong.

The implementation in a number of European communities of what some have dubbed "naked streets" has been hugely successful.

Urban planners in Holland, Germany and Denmark have experimented with this free-for-all approach to traffic management and have found it is safer than the traditional model, lowers trip times for drivers and is a boost for the businesses lining the roadway.

The idea is that by removing traffic lights, signage and sidewalks, drivers and pedestrians are forced to interact, make eye contact and adapt to the traffic instead of relying blindly on whether that little dot on the horizon is red or green.

Planners have found that without the conventional rules and regulations of the road in place, drivers tend to slow down, open their eyes to their environment and develop a "feel" for their surroundings.

In effect, every person using the street, be it an SUV owner or a kid with a wagon, becomes equal.

THE WAR ON AMTRAK

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - The arguments for the war on Amtrak are the equivalent of arguing that all highways in the Boston area should be closed because of the cost overrun on the Big Dig. As a matter of fact, here's something the Amtrak bashers won't tell you: you could run Amtrak for more than a decade on the subsidy that went into the Big Dig, Boston's corrupt monument to bad transportation planning. Or, if you prefer, you could close down Amtrak and run the Iraq war for another six days. Or you could replace Amtrak's eastern corridor with more highway lanes between Washington and Boston. That would only cost you 59 times the annual federal subsidy to Amtrak nationwide.

Here are some other points that get lost in the shuffle that were noted by Deborah White:

- Subsidies for Amtrak since it began in 1971 are less than "loans" given to US airlines since 9/11.

- Amtrak uses just 54% of the energy per passenger mile that airlines consume.

- Many smaller communities are poorly served, or not served at all, by other forms of public transportation. Many people. . . elderly, disabled, those with medical conditions. . . cannot fly, and need trains as a travel option.

- Trains create less pollution because they use less energy. Also, one rail line can carry the equivalent of 16 highway lanes, thus additionally reducing both gas usage and air pollutants.

http://usliberals.about.com/od/environmentalconcerns/a/AmtrakBudget.htm

THE GOVERNMENT'S OWN STATISTICS point to another factor: the differences in transportation use by class and, consequently, ethnicity. Many of those writing editorials against Amtrak are on expense accounts and are making a big enough salary to fly to Vermont rather than take the regional Amtrak train. Their rhetoric ignores one of the great bastions in American socioeconomic disparity: public transportation. Here are a few of the facts:

||| BUREAU OF TRANSPORTATION STATISTICS - While, on average, each person in the United States made nine long-distance trips in 2001, socio-demographic variables influence the number of these trips that individuals take. Among these variables are household income, gender, and age.

The number of long-distance trips increases with household income. On average, in 2001, people in households earning $100,000 or more made over twice as many long-distance trips (13 per person) as people in households with incomes of less than $25,000 (6 per person)

The vast majority of long-distance trips are made by personal vehicle, one reason lower income households make fewer long-distance trips. Households earning $25,000 or more a year are almost 10 times more likely to have a vehicle compared with households with incomes less than $25,000.

Higher income households are also more likely to travel by airplane. For instance, people in households earning $100,000 or more made 17 percent of their trips by air, while those in households earning less than $25,000 made 3 percent of their trips by this mode. Low-income households (under $25,000) made a slightly higher share of their trips by bus than did households in higher income groups (4 percent versus about 1 to 2 percent). For train travel, because of small sample sizes, differences in the shares of train trips by household income group cannot be discerned.

BTS - The differences in daily travel among racial and ethnic groups are more readily apparent for miles traveled than for trip-making. Whites traveled farther, averaging 41 miles a day locally (4.4 trips), compared with 34 miles (4.2 trips) for Hispanics, 31 miles (3.9 trips) for blacks, and 31 miles (3.9 trips) for Asians. Long-distance trip taking in 1995 shows a wider variation with non-Hispanic whites taking more than twice the number of long-distance trips as non-Hispanic blacks (4.6 person-trips per capita versus 1.9) and Hispanics (2.1 trips per capita). Asians and Pacific Islanders made 3.0 person trips per capita on average. |||

Finally, there is the matter that the establishment does not like to discuss: its preferred modes of travel - plane and car - are the most dangerously polluting. Sooner or later we are going to have to stop flying so much. For example, during the three day flight suspension following September 11, the variation in high and low temperatures increased by two degrees.

APRIL 2005

VIEWING PLATFORMS FOR GATED COMMUNITIES

WE RECENTLY reported that a group of anonymous architects had come up with viewing platforms from which to look inside gated commnities. We have now found their web site complete with blueprints for the platforms as well as thoughts on gated communities.

HEAVY TRASH - Most people want to live in communities that are safe for their families and most homeowners want to protect their property values. Although these are fundamentally reasonable goals, walling off one section of the city from another is not a reasonable way to achieve them. . . According to USC Lusk Center Director Ed Blakely and UC Berkeley professor Mary Gail Snyder, "When public services and even local government are privatized, when the community of responsibility stops at the gates, the function and the very idea of democracy are threatened. Gates and barricades that separate people from one another also reduce people's potential to understand one another and commit to any common or collective purpose."

Why viewing platforms? Like the historic viewing platforms at the Berlin Wall that allowed Westerners to see into East Berlin, the Heavy Trash viewing platforms call attention to the walls of gated communities and provide visual access to parts of the city that have been cut off from the public domain.

Facts & Myths About Gated Communities

FACT - The phenomenon of gated communities - the fastest growing form of housing in the United States - continues unabated in California and across the nation. There are now more than one million homes behind such walls in the Greater Los Angeles area alone. About 40% of new homes in California are behind walls.
In the United States, one in 10 of its population now chooses to live in gated communities.

"This symbolism of wealth and security is so pervasive that there are now even faux gated communities, called 'neighborhood entry identities' in Simi Valley that sport walls and guardhouses but no locked gates or guards." - Setha Low

MYTHS - Statistics on whether gates actually do serve as a deterrent to crime are mixed. In security-zone communities, one study found declines in crime right after closure of the gates, but no decline was sustained for more than a short time.

The quality of community is no different in gated communities. Even though residents have moved to gated areas believing that they would find their nostalgic idea of community, they have not. In fact, these communities promote privacy within privacy: residents tend to stay in their own backyard and do not visit on porches or front lawns.

SAN FRANCISCO RESIDENTS THINK CITY DETERIORATING

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - San Francisco parks, recreation programs, streets, bus service and libraries are all in worse shape than they were before Mayor Gavin Newsom took office, according to a state of the city resident survey. . . And about the only positive note was that residents said they felt the city was safer. Only 37 percent said the city was doing a good or very good job, according to the 10th annual survey by city Controller Ed Harrington's office. Parents, who might spend more time at playgrounds and recreation centers, had a worse opinion of life in the city. . . Newsom's response? Things could be worse.

MYTH AND FACT IN HIGHER DENSITY DEVELOPMENT

[From a booklet from the Urban Land Institute]

MYTH - Higher-density development creates more regional traffic congestion and parking problems than low-density development.

FACT - Higher-density development generates less traffic than low-density development per unit; it makes walking and public transit more feasible and creates opportunities for shared parking. Although residents of low-density single-family communities tend to have two or more cars per household, residents of high-density apartments and condominiums tend to have only one car per household. And according to one study using data from the National Personal Transportation Survey, doubling density decreases the vehicle miles traveled by 38 percent.

MYTH - Higher-density developments lower property values in surrounding areas.

FACT - No discernible difference exists in the appreciation rate of properties located near higher-density development and those that are not. Some research even shows that higher-density development can increase property values. The precise value of real estate is determined by many factors, and isolating the impact of one factor can be difficult. Although location and school district are the two most obvious determining factors of value, location within a community and size and condition of the house also affect value.

MYTH - Higher-density development overburdens public schools and other public services and requires more infrastructure support systems.

FACT - The nature of who lives in higher-density housing - fewer families with children - puts less demand on schools and other public services than low-density housing. Moreover, the compact nature of higher-density development requires less extensive infrastructure to support it.

OCTOBER 2008

HOW TO REDUCE VEHICLE FUEL CONSUMPTION 75%
WITH CURRENT TECHNOLOGY

MORE CYCLISTS MEAN FEWER ACCIDENTS

URBAN FASCISM GROWING

ECO HOUSING FOR OUR CITIES

SEPTEMBER 2008

THE NOT ALL THAT SMART GROWTH MOVEMENT

Sam Smith, Progressive Review - A movement to reduce the number of parking spaces in urban areas has attracted an odd coalition of developers and environmentalists. DC, one of the most developer abused cities in the country, is currently considering such a move. But, so far as one can see, developers are the only ones who will truly benefit from it, reducing their apartment/rental costs by $20-50k a unit from what it would be if they were required to provide parking for their clients.

To some environmentalists it has a nice anti-car ring to it, but on closer look a number of issues come up:

For example, if you don't want people to use their cars, give them less need to do so. I'm lucky to live in one of the best urban 'hoods you'll find - DC's Capitol Hill - one that owes a part of its charm and utility to the fact that much of it was built before automobiles yet provides - thanks to a lack of high rises and some of the biggest and best alleys you'll find - plenty of parking spaces for residences. It is one of the most dense parts of the city, achieved not with modern big boxes, but with attractive row dwellings, many with basement apartments. But that doesn't mean those on the Hill are excessively car dependent. In fact, thanks to the convenience and number of neighborhood commercial services available, it encourages walking in a big way. I could go to the gas station, hardware store, auto repair shop, UPS, Kinko's, Radio Shack, post office, fire and police station, public library, medical center and more than a dozen eating spots and never be more than ten blocks from my house. In addition, we have two convenience stores and two laundries within a three blocks walk.

This is in no small part thanks to places that were grandfathered into modern zoning - one of the major reasons we now use our cars so much. All over urban America are communities where it would be against the zoning law to emulate Capitol Hill. Little attention is paid to this issue by planners or environmentalists but it is far more important than reducing the number of parking spaces.

Further, people on Capitol Hill use their cars far, far less than the average person in the metropolitan area, yet it is precisely the sort of neighborhood the developers would like to densify, preferably without having to provide parking spaces for the their customers.

And who pays the price of this? The person buying or renting the apartment or condo adds it into the calculations when they move there in the first place. But the neighbors aren't consulted at all. They just find themselves with fewer places to park. Another neat developer trick.

These are the same folks who convinced the Washington area to build a subway that did far more for scattered suburban development than it did for real urban transportation. Meanwhile the bus system - which far more heavily serves poorer residents - is being short changed and the same government that claims to want people to leave their cars at home has also changed the taxi fare system in such a way as to drive many drivers out of the business.

Developers are also pushing for an end to the height limit that helps to give Washington its special character and for more high rise apartment cellblocks in the name of "smart growth."

Environmentalists would be wise to distance themselves from such cons, remembering that communities are ecologies, too. If, as DC has done, you close about a score of public schools (some undoubtedly to be sold to developers), you are hurting the community ecology. When you stuff a public library into a high rise as if it were just another Starbucks, you are hurting the community ecology. And when you dump cold, isolating high rises into an urban village you are harming that village's ecology. But few ever talk about things like that.

Here are a few far better ways for environmentalists to spend their time in our cities:

- Increase the amount of commercial services available within walking distance. This may mean some zoning changes, but it can still be kept attractive and pleasant through rules on signage etc.

- Oppose mass transit plans that are really development plans in drag. This was the great failing of the Washington Metro and there are lots of similar proposals around today. Favor truly urban transit plans that encourage people to stay with a reasonable area.

- Bring back the two or three story apartments over shops and offices that used to be common in America.

- Provide neighborhood business services - including copying facilities, desk space and teleconferencing - to help encourage telecommuting.

- Encourage large businesses to decentralize within an urban area.

- Follow the motto of Henry Thoreau who once said, "I have traveled widely. . . in Concord."

SECTION 8 HOUSING COMES TO THE SUBURBS

JAMES KUNSTLER ON THE END OF SUBURBIA

AUGUST 2008

THE END OF WHITE FLIGHT. . . AND ITS HIDDEN COST

US LAGS IN WORLDWIDE BICYCLING BOOM

ECO HOUSING FOR OUR CITIES

As we have noted, developers are busy conning environmentalists and others into supporting more urban high rises in the name of "smart growth." In Washington, DC, they have even started agitating for an end to the capital's historic height limitation which has helped provide its appealing cityscape. But there are far more human, community-oriented and attractive solutions, starting with the accessory apartment:

Sam Smith, Utne Reader, 2000 - Not everyone who leaves the city wants to. In a large number of cases, the cost and availability of housing provides the impetus. Among the factors that have raised the cost and lowered the availability has been gentrification. The gentrifiers not only upscaled the housing stock, they have reduced it, since they require more space per-capita in which to live than did former residents.

One of the simplest, cheapest and quickest ways to counteract this trend is to permit accessory apartments (sometimes called granny flats) in single-family zones. Many of these apartments exist illegally -- there are an estimated 40,000 in LA alone -- supporting my theory that one of the best places to look for good ideas is in the underground economy. If normally law-abiding people insist on doing something against the rules, there's a good chance that the people know something the law doesn't.

The advantages of such apartments include lowering the effective cost of housing for the homeowner, increasing the supply of housing, providing a social and economic mix within neighborhoods, allowing voluntary individual care to replace some of the need for social services (e.g. the young apartment dweller helping the aged landlord upstairs), providing neighborhood-based economic opportunity and increasing the number of eyes on the street.

Reviving the practice of taking in boarders could also greatly improve the availability of housing. The boarder tradition played a major role in the growth of the American city, proving newcomers with an inexpensive place to stay and adding a source of income to those who had lived in the city long enough to own a house.

A more radical approach is cohousing. Cohousing involves individual homes clustered around a large common house with such facilities as a dining room, children's playroom, workshops and laundries. The houses typically have their own kitchen and are otherwise minimally self-sufficient but with the emphasis on communal facilities. Each cohousing plan is worked out with intense participation by future occupants. There is no single plan for these projects; they are designed for specific and changing needs and hospitable to spontaneity., The cohousing approach has been used for condominiums, cooperatives and non-profit rental housing.

There are other things to do. We could encourage the construction of more two and three family homes that were once a staple of urban America. We could build "grow houses" such as the 575-square foot designs of New Haven architect Melanie Taylor that are being built for as little as $30,000 in the southeastern US. Even more novel are the modular homes designed to grow or deconstruct over time as required by the occupants' changing lifestyle. The design of the Center for Maximum Building Tecnologies in Austin, Tex., allows for modules to be detached and moved to another house when the current owner no longer needs them.

JULY 2008

JAMES KUNSTLER ON THE END OF SUBURBIA

JUNE 2008

AMERICA'S OTHER HOUSING CRISIS

MAY 2008

WHITE GENTRIFIERS MEET THEIR BLACK NEIGHBORS. . . THROUGH THE WEB

IN URBAN TRAFFIC, TIMING IS EVERYTHING

NEW ORLEANS LEVEE LEAKING AGAIN

NEW ORLEANS: NO RIGHT OF RETURN

IS AMSTERDAM TURNING INTO A PRUDISH BACKWATER?

WHITE GENTRIFIERS MEET THEIR BLACK NEIGHBORS. . . .THROUGH THE WEB

Sam Smith - I've lived on Washington's Capitol Hill for some 20 years in two spurts - including editing a neighborhood paper during the time of the riots in the 1960s - but I could not recall anything like the hostility, sense of entitlement and insensitivity of recent messages that started cropping on a local listserv in response to a few teenage muggings, for which responsibility was quickly assigned a nearby public housing project, Potomac Gardens. The project has been there for decades; many of the complainants have only recently arrived on the Hill, and, as in other gentrfying parts of town, are demanding that their new neighborhood meet their standards. One resident even suggest hiring Blackwater to deal with the problem, while someone else proposed a march, not on city hall or the police station, but on the public housing project itself. It was all pretty depressing - until other voices began to be heard and I realized I was getting a unique view of how the Internet can serve as mediator, introducing people who might otherwise never meet. Here are a few excerpts from the discussion:

-- Why not march through Potomac Gardens to protest and call attention to at least the following: the consistently awful management of PG and places like it in the city; the inherent unfairness of the disproportionate number of calls for police and ambulance service to -- or as a result of -- residents residing, on the dole, at PG; the childish absurdity and paucity of the "no-snitch" code embraced and perpetuated by PG residents; the ineffectual lip-service paid to those of us who fund, through our taxes, places throughout the city like PG, but who are constantly victimized by its residents and particularly by the children of its lease-holders; the absurdity of DC's juvenile shield laws that seem to fly in the face of the 1st Amendment when it comes to sharing information. . . and finally, the simplest, we're just all sick of the crap we have been force-fed by our civic leaders, PC pundits, and apologists alike, that living in an economically, racially, and demographically diverse urban environment entails accepting that we should expect to be assaulted, stolen from, and abused by those among us who are deemed "less fortunate?" - S&P

A number of other white neighbors supported the idea but then. . .

-- I must say that I am alarmed by the idea of an angry mob storming Potomac Gardens and other public housing developments. . . I do not in any way underestimate the severity of the problem and the frustration and anger over these incidents, but a mass demonstration makes no distinction between the "good" parents and delinquent parents, the good kids and the bad. It comes across as an us/them confrontation, "we" the homeowners and "you" the "welfare beneficiaries of tax dollars." I don't like the sound of it and I don't see it as a way to promote any kind of dialogue or meaningful improvement. - Marika Rosen

-- I disagree with you. There needs to be a firmer and clearer establishment of "us" versus "them", specifically in the area of violent crime and victimization. We need to send a message that among "us," regardless of race and demographics, we do not tolerate being victimized by "them," consisting of people who directly and indirectly contribute to the violence against "us" and our victimization. I'm not suggesting writing off this generation of kids residing in places like PG, but I am stating emphatically that the time has come to forcefully send the message to them, their parents and their apologists that we, as a civilized and peace-loving segment of the greater community have had enough. That it is unacceptable for anybody living among us to violently and brutally assault and rob us.

- I feel for you and am so sorry about what happened to you on Tuesday night. I support your efforts to bring the community together to make our neighborhood safer. I've got to say, though, that a march on people's homes isn't the way to go. I know you're not trying to intimidate innocent families, and again, I fully appreciate your anger and desire to take back our streets, but honestly some of what I've read makes me think of KKK marches in the 60s. I agree with Tom and others who've said the main message is that we want to be safe in our neighborhoods. I like the idea of a broad-based march, but not a march on Potomac Gardens. - Marc

--- When I lived in Philly "Take Back the Night" marches were common and frequent. . . but these weren't people marching on the MLK Projects or the South Broad high rises. . . This was making a statement about the rights of people to walk down a sidewalk, sit on their porch or let their kids play on the stoop . . . I think that starting an idea with the assumption that people will turn this into a race and class thing is to allow it to become a statement that people aren't trying to make. This isn't about tearing down PG. . . t's about being able to be safe in our neighborhoods.

--- I honestly wonder if people know how they sound talking about the people who live in Potomac Gardens et al and the black kids in this neighborhood?

I by no stretch of the imagination think that what the kids who have been attacking people are right. I do think that they should be punished. That being said, every black youth who crosses your path in this neighborhood doesn't live in Potomac Gardens et al. I know of many black kids who live in a house just as nice as many of yours.

Also, did it occur to you that many of these kids are pissed off because their families have been displaced by the crazy prices of homes around here? The houses that they knew as their Grandma's, Aunties, cousin's are now yours. Yes, their anger is displaced but just think about it for a second. Then there is the fact that many of these kids are kids that have had to leave the neighborhood because their families couldn't afford the houses anymore and they come back to hang with their friends they grew up with. . . which again means they didn't come from the projects or section 8 housing.

I hope that you don't look at my daughter and just assume because she's black that she's in the projects. I mean really, we black people can and do amount to more than that.

This whole discussion has taken on an elitist, racist, angry mob slant. Isn't the whole idea to find a productive way to stop this? Can't something be done without making it look like this list is saying "hey all you poor black people, we don't want your kind around here?" I suddenly don't feel so welcome in this neighborhood anymore. - Manda (A single black parent who hopes her daughter never has to feel that she isn't wanted in her neighborhood!)

-- If you hadn't noticed, Potomac Gardens and the other low-income housing in the area are predominantly housed by African Americans. How could Manda, Bessie, or I not be offended by the tone and focus of your "idea". and - to make matters worse, your subsequent postings continue to suggest that low-income residents (a) - don't have morals; (b) don't know how to raise their children; and (c) - don't value living in a crime-free neighborhood.

I wonder what your exposure to inner-city life has been. I wonder just how many low-income housing projects you've lived near. And finally, I wonder if you really understand the dynamics of crime. Your focus on the low-income areas of our neighborhood and the people within them is the very thing that angers minorities (and maybe non-minorities) faced with an influx of "gentrifiers". This "us" versus "them" mentality is exactly what divides a community. How can you even suggest this approach and use "us" versus "them" in a message about building a community against crime??

Your repeated defenses of your statements later in the postings really demonstrate your ignorance of how to effectively deal with these kinds of issues. And I'm not saying I'm an expert on crime prevention or community development, but I'm pretty sure that community development can't result in a march directed on poor folks who are in our community.

In the past, we tried to combat crime by reaching out to our neighbors in hard-hit areas and encouraging them to join in the fight. To me, this would mean knocking on the doors of your neighbors who you don't ordinarily talk to and ask them if they would be willing to be more active in a neighborhood watch. . . or perhaps if they would participate more regularly in the Orange Hat activities or other. Or simply ask people to leave their porch lights on and call 311. It would not mean organizing a posse and marching on the homes of innocents and criminals, demanding change. How do you know that those criminals are even based in Potomac Gardens? How can running in the direction of a complex mean that the crime emanates from that complex? It might be your neighbor's nephew visiting his aunt who engaged in criminal mischief. But you'll never know because your blinders have you directed toward the low-income side of town.

For my part, I will continue to try and work within the community (insofar as my work schedule allows) with additional neighborhood watches, leaving my porch light on, and keeping a vigilant eye. I would not mind meeting with city officials to see if they have any ideas about how we can address these concerns - but I don't think the Housing Authority is the source for a solution . . .

I fully expect to get a heated response from you or others, but please think and breathe before writing back - I did, and I think calming down is what I needed to do. Please think about what you've said in past postings (perhaps re-read them) and think about what others have said in response to the postings and maybe we can come up with a more constructive solution to crime in the area - one other than a "march" on a housing project that some have only assumed holds criminals. - Rochelle, African American

--- I have been watching the conversation of the past several days, trying to figure out how to comment constructively. I'm pretty sure this post will fail spectacularly, but I am too angry and ashamed to stay quiet any longer.

Martin Luther King and his fellow marchers were Americans protesting immoral laws that rendered them second-class citizens. For people with every advantage (affluent, educated, white) to invoke Dr. King's name as they plan a march on their disadvantaged neighbors appalls me.

There have been constructive voices, people who speak of building alliances across racial and economic lines to achieve a common goal. But so many of the posts to this list have been angry and vindictive and, yes, racist and classist. (You don't need to use the n-word to be racist; repeat the word "babymomma" enough times and you've achieved the same effect. Likewise, saying, "it's because they're poor" is pretty much the definition of classism.)

I can't figure out what this march is supposed to achieve, either. I saw a reference to closing Potomac Gardens ­ what, so homeless kids are less likely to commit crime?

Someone mentioned threatening parents of truant children with jail time. I must've missed the news that putting parents in prison improves their children's prospects ­ I thought the evidence pretty clearly demonstrated the opposite.

If you're so passionate about reducing juvenile crime, how about proposing an intensive mentoring program at Potomac Gardens, so we can reach kids before they mug someone?

Another poster mentioned the carrot and the stick. Sticks might work on donkeys, but carrots are far more effective at changing human behavior. (Sticks tend to piss us off.) A lower birth rate isn't a cause of affluence; it comes as a result of it. If we want young women to stop having a lot of children at an early age, we have to increase their opportunities so they have an incentive not to. If we want young men to steer clear of their criminal behavior, likewise: They need an incentive not to.

What if HillEast funded a modest scholarship toward the college tuition of any child at Potomac Gardens who earned his or her high school diploma and did not get pregnant or get into trouble with the police? That's an incentive to straighten up and fly right.

A march whose message seems to be "We're rich and white and better than you, get out of our way!" might be more satisfying than other, more constructive options ­ but it's an incentive to commit mayhem.

Look, I get it: You're scared and angry. Guess what? So are those kids. Scared they'll have to leave the only home they've known, scared that their neighborhood is changing, scared they'll never know anything but poverty, scared they'll die before they're 20. The truth is, they have a lot more reason to be scared than you do. And just because they're expressing their fear as anger doesn't mean you can't come up with something more constructive. - Molly Wyman, Hill resident for 40 years come Tuesday

--- Hey Molly. . . you and I live fairly close to each other, so let's talk about who is appalled, and let's talk about fear. Think of this. . . if MLK was alive today, would he be appalled to know that he gave his life to civil rights, and this is how the kids and families use those civil rights against white people. Would he be appalled that these young black kids are committing racially motivated hate crimes. I think both you and I know the answer is a resounding yes, he would be appalled. Hey white people deserve peace and justice too!

So, he fought to end immoral laws that rendered blacks being placed as second class citizens. Well, I'm not about to become a second class citizen to the criminals. I'm not about to live in fear that my partner and I (gay partner, not business partner) might get beaten down by some young ignorant thug who has an equally ignorant parental structure. That is my fear everyday, that my tall skinny blonde boyfriend might not make it home from the metro because of these thugs. I'm not going to stand for it. I don't care "why" they are that way. I don't care if they are poor, or black, or have baby mommas, or were a product of one. I care about my loved one getting home from the three block walk safe. . . Clearly, you will not be part of the solution.

--- I suppose I'll attend to be community like. . . but is charging those rock throwing arms of the "gang of four" with our home cooked meals really going to solve the problem? I think, probably not. Then again, they'll know we are out of our homes, so please make sure to lock your roof hatches.

--- I'm proposing a weekly Friday Night Potluck Dinner and Discussion to be held at Potomac Gardens ­ open to all members of our community. I will invite Chief Lanier and Commander Kamperin from MPD to join us, as well as the leadership at Potomac Gardens, and I hope to create a conversation about safety, perceptions, and how our neighborhood builds strength in the community among all neighbors.

I'll host the first Friday Night Potluck in two weeks on Friday May 30th, 6:00 ­ 7:30 pm. Given Memorial Day Weekend next week, I think this is our first opportunity. We'll hold them each week on Friday evening through the month of June and if the residents feel we need to continue, then we can keep it going on a weekly basis after that. - Best, Tommy (the white city councilmember from the area)

CANDIDATES DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT CITIES

END OF THE ROAD FOR CUL-DE-SAC?

URBAN KIDS BOOMING IN DC, NY, ELSEWHERE

MAKING CITIES WORK

MINNEAPOLIS RANKED MOST LITERATE CITY

THE IGNORED GREENNESS OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION

CHICAGO GREENS ITS ALLEYS

GARBAGE BURNING OVENS FOR MEGACITIES

THE NEW URBAN CORRUPTION: SELLING OFF PUBLIC ICONS AND PUBLIC SPACES

THREE GUIDES TO BUILDING NEW COMMUNITIES

GAY NEIGHBORHOODS BEING HIT BY GENTRIFICATION, TOO

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE URBAN RENAISSANCE?

RISE OF THE SLOW CITY

WAL-MART REPEATEDLY ARGUES THAT WAL-MART LOWERS PROPERTY VALUES

SOME PLACES QUESTIONING THEIR TACTICS IN DEALING WITH GANGS

NYC PLANS IMPROVED BIKE LANES

NOVEL IDEA FOR THE HOMELESS: GIVE THEM A HOME

AMERICANS LOVE PARKING LOTS

CITIES TRYING TO LIMIT TEARDOWNS

APRIL 2008

WHAT'S TO LOVE ABOUT A CITY

If you listen to the average planner or big city politician, you'd think that urban happiness is the product of massive redevelopment, sports stadiums and convention centers. Your editor lives in a neighborhood that has two stadiums on its edges but has happily managed to avoid much of the other manipulations that pass for urban progress, having been largely laid out in the 19th and early 20th century. Washington's Capitol Hill is a community characterized by row houses; it is almost evenly divided between owners and tenants (many of the latter living in basement apartments). It is about 60% black and in an area of a few square miles has 18,000 jobs, its own waterfront, a beloved hardware store and a farmer's market. It also has the third highest density in the city - over 15,000 people per square mile - but contrary to the developer-serving mythology of the smart growth movement, it accomplished this with few high rises (although brutalist planners of the DC have recently torn down much of its public housing and are replacing it with condo towers). Only 16% of the population lives in buildings with ten or more units. In other words, it is an urban community that works, has density without human warehousing and is quite self-sufficient. It is, in short, a good model of how a city should function - in no small part because it has done it itself without too much inference from the urban planners and pols.

A bulletin board for one of the communities of Capitol Hill, Hill East, recently asked readers what they liked about their neighborhood. The answers are exceptional only because they offer a good sense of what attracts people to any well working 'hood. Note that the only governmental contribution mentioned in any of the replies is the Metro subway system and the weekly testing of the DC Jail siren. The answers are a good example of why so much of what we hear and read has so little to do with what really makes cities work. Some of the replies:

I like Speilberg Park (even with its graffiti and trash).

I like walking and riding my bike everywhere.

I like the sausage and cheese from Eastern Market.

I like Frager's [Hardware Store]

I like Troop 500.

I like the long growing season in our urban heat island.

I like the racial diversity of my neighbors and the fact that my daughter doesn't seem to care about skin color at all.

I like the tall trees on E St.

I like our proximity to the Metro.

I like chatting with neighbors from my front porch.

I like all the well-maintained flower boxes along the sidewalks. I like maintaining flower boxes.

I like that Jennifer Howard organizes so many neighborhood cleanups.

I like that Jim Myer is always goading us into action.

I like that Scott Christian runs the "toxic drop-off shuttle" each time DC has a hazardous waste collection.

I like all the babies in strollers.

I like the lattes at Bread and Chocolate.

I love the salsa at La Lomita.

I like it when kids at Lincoln Park ask if they can pet my dog.

I like my neighbors; they say hello to me every day.

I like the man on his porch that asks me what I am cooking on my way home from Safeway.

I like the kids chalk art on the sidewalk.

I like the guy that sells Street Sense.

I like watching the basketball, hockey, football and others sports being played at the school on D and 12.

I like the crazy lights on the house around the corner.

I like talking to the artists in the Eastern Market.

I like.. . .

Being able to walk my dog in Congressional Cemetery before sunrise and watch the big sun rise over the ridge east of Anacostia River

Seeing a full moon also rise over the same eastern ridge

Seeing folks I know while in Metro and sharing a conversation with them while riding to work

Occasional sound of a train whistle when a train crosses over the Anacostia River

DC Jail siren tests every Saturday at 12 noon

Hearing the songs of mockingbirds

Level terrain throughout the neighborhood

Not having to mow a lawn

I like the provolone cheese at Eastern Market

I like the prosciutto at Litteri

I like the fish tacos at the Argonaut

I like the dance classes at the Joy of Motion

I like the people who ride the X8

I like the tree in front of my house, even though the roots are knocking our sidewalk bricks out of whack

I like . . .

that the Marvelous Market at Eastern Market stocks Skybars, which I haven't been able to find for years.

that we have an amazing book store like Riverby Books.

being able to say to friends when picking a place to eat, "Do you like Belgian?"

margaritas at Banana Cafe.

watching the 4th of July fireworks from the roof of our front porch and realizing that people all across the country are sitting in their living rooms doing the same thing.

Things I love about our hood:

The cute blond cheese lady at the cheese kiosk in Eastern Market who never lets me walk by without feeding me some cheese.

Walking my dog to Eastern Market and noticing how many people know his name and not mine.

The ladies in their fancy hats that come out of the Church by the CVS, along with all the singing that goes on during their service.

The moral: the next time your city government talks about "revitalizing" your neighborhood, ask the people who live there what they already like about the place. You may find it is pretty revitalized already.

BRINGING URBAN PLACES ALIVE WITHOUT SPENDING MILLIONS

FEBRUARY 2008

RAILROADS ON THE WAY BACK

JANUARY 2008

THE NATION'S FIRST GREEN HOMELESS SHELTER

INSIDE BAY AREA - With solar panels supplying electricity and water-based hydronic heaters warming rooms in the 125-bed shelter, the Crossroads building of the East Oakland Community Project is said to be the first "green" homeless shelter in the nation. It replaces a cold, damp and leaky building up the road on International that has been housing homeless for the past 17 years.

"You'll wake up here and feel good because it's an environment that is healthy. We are asking our people to deal with some heavy issues, so it is best that we support their health," said Wendy Jackson, executive director of the East Oakland Community Project. "Many of the clients are ill, about 60 percent are ill, often with chronic diseases of asthma, diabetes, so we wanted to do whatever we can to make this as healthy an environment as possible," she said. The building, with high windows for natural light and walls painted with a green paint that does not emit toxins, has an airy, good feel to it.

HIGH RISE TOWN HOUSES WITH GARDENS

TREE HUGGER - Rotterdam designer Reinier de Jong notes: "Housing in big city centers seems to consist of small apartments. High rise equals apartments. Or so it seems. However many cities economically really need well-to-do middle class dwellers. They flee to suburbia as soon as salaries go up and kids arrive."

So he takes the standard suburban typology, the two story house with a garden, and stacks them on top of each other, "so we will diminish the suburban sprawl that is swallowing up our precious land."

"The project TUIN ('garden') combines high rise with a typical suburban housing typology: a two storey dwelling with garden. A height of seven meters and a depth of one meter of soil guarantees a true garden. Enough for sunlight, rain and wind to enter and nourish trees, shrubs, flowers and grass."

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/01/reinier_de_jong.php

THE GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD BOOK

By Jay Walljasper

Abandoned lots and litter-strewn pathways, or rows of green beans and pockets of wildflowers? Graffiti-marked walls and desolate bus stops, or shady refuges and comfortable seating? What transforms a dingy, inhospitable area into a dynamic gathering place? How do individuals take back their neighborhood?

Neighborhoods decline when the people who live there lose their connection and no longer feel part of their community. Recapturing that sense of belonging and pride of place can be as simple as planting a civic garden or placing some benches in a park.

The Great Neighborhood Book explains how most struggling communities can be revived, not by vast infusions of cash, not by government, but by the people who live there. The author addresses such challenges as traffic control, crime, comfort and safety, and developing economic vitality. Using a technique called "placemaking"-- the process of transforming public space -- this exciting guide offers inspiring real-life examples that show the magic that happens when individuals take small steps, and motivate others to make change.

Jay Walljasper is a Senior Fellow of Project for Public Spaces (PPS), whose mission is to create and sustain enriching public places that build communities. He is a former editor of Utne Reader and currently Executive Editor of Ode Magazine.

ORDER

BUSH REGIME DESTROYING PUBLIC HOUSING IN NEW ORLEANS

CITIES LOSING 'THIRD PLACES'

2007

SEATTLE A LEADER IN RECYCLING

ANOTHER REASON YOU MAY NOT WANT TO WRECK THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM

CHICAGO GREENS ITS ALLEYS

SOME PLACES QUESTIONING THEIR TACTICS IN DEALING WITH GANGS

THE NEW URBAN CORRUPTION: SELLING OFF PUBLIC ICONS AND PUBLIC SPACES

ZACHARY GORCHOW, DETROIT FREE PRESS - One-quarter of Detroit's 367 parks could be sold under a proposal designed to help the city shed dozens of its smallest and most worn-down parks in an effort to aid others and position the land for redevelopment. More than half of the 92 parks are less than an acre in size -- so called pocket parks -- tucked in neighborhoods. Some have swing sets, jungle gyms, slides and benches. They make up 124 acres of the city's roughly 6,000 acres of parkland.

A DIFFERENT WAY TO SEE A CITY

HOW TO FUND PUBLIC WORKS

[From Sam Smith's Great American Political Repair Manual, Norton, 1997]

The total federal state, local and private debt in this country in 1996 was around $14 trillion. The actual money supply was just under $6 trillion. So what happened to the rest of the money? Most of it doesn't exist and never did. We call this imaginary money debt. This debt is money that we (as individuals, companies and government) have borrowed, primarily from private sources. As Bob Blain, a professor at Southern Illinois University, put it:

"Most debt is not the result of people borrowing money; it is the result of people not being able to repay what they owed [to banks or individuals] at some earlier time. Instead of declaring them bankrupt, creditors just add more to their debt."

This new debt is called interest. Many people think the idea of the government printing money is shameful, yet our laws permit private financial institutions to create money all the time. Every time you fail to pay off your credit card, you're letting a banker print some more money.

You're not the first, of course. For example, when the Congress met in February 1790 to figure out how to pay off the Revolutionary War debt of $75 million, Alexander Hamilton strongly advocated issuing debt certificates and using them as money. Congressman James Jackson of Georgia warned that this would "settle upon our posterity a burden which [citizens] can neither bear nor relieve themselves from.. . . Though our present debt be but a few millions, in the course of a single century it may be multiplied to an extent we dare not think of."

An alternative to Congress borrowing money to pay off its debt would have been to have created the $75 million, using Congress's constitutional power to "coin money and regulate the value thereof." Instead Congress began a long tradition of borrowing the money that -- five trillion dollars of debt later -- many believe we can neither bear nor relieve ourselves from.

In the early 19th century, the little British Channel island of Guernsey faced a smaller but similar problem. Its sea walls were crumbling. its roads were too narrow, and it was already heavily in debt. There was little employment and people were leaving for elsewhere.

Instead of going still further into debt, the island government simply issued 4,000 pounds in state notes to start repairs on the sea walls as well as for other needed public works. More issues followed and twenty years later the island had, in effect, printed nearly 50,000 pounds. Guernsey had more than doubled its money supply without inflation.

A report of the island's States Office in June 1946 notes that island leaders frequently commented that these public works could not have been carried out without the issues, that they had been accomplished without interest costs, and that as a result "the influx of visitors was increased, commerce was stimulated, and the prosperity of the Island vastly improved." By 1943, nearly a half million pounds worth of notes belonged to the public and was so valued that much of it was being hoarded in people's homes, awaiting the island's liberation from the Germans.

About the same time that Guernsey started to fix its sea walls the town of Glasgow, Scotland, borrowed 60,000 pounds to build a fruit market. The Guernsey sea walls were repaid in ten years, the fruit market loan took 139. In the first part of the 20th century, Glasgow paid over a quarter million pounds in interest alone on this ancient project.

How did Guernsey avoid the fiscal disaster that conventional economics prescribed for it? First and foremost by understanding that when you build roads or sea walls or colleges or houses, you are not reducing your society's wealth. In fact, if you do it right, you are creating something that will add to its wealth. The money that was created was simply backed by public works rather than gold or "full faith and credit." It was, in fact, based on something more solid than the dollar bills in our wallets today. In contrast, tacking on an interest charge to public works -- as we do in the US -- creates no new wealth, but merely transfers claims on existing wealth from debtors to creditors.

P.S.

It might help if we stopped using the word "infrastructure" and went back to "public works." The growth of the former word curiously coincides with the deterioration of the latter's substance. Could it be that "infrastructure" seemed too remote and academic while "public works" we use every day?

LEVITTOWN 60 YEARS LATER

NATION'S MOST DRUG INFESTED CITY
SAFER THAN ITS MOST POLICED CITY

Since San Francisco is the city with the greatest illicit drug use and DC is one of those with the least (but the most cops), we thought we'd check and see how the war on drugs was keeping us safe. Turns out that in 5 of 7 categories of crime - including all categories of violent crime - it was safer to be living around those awful Frisco druggies. [ Area Connect chart ]

DECEMBER 2006

THE DECLINE OF MIDDLE CLASS NEIGHBORHOODS

BALTIMORE'S ARABBERS

BALTIMORE STORIES - Arabbers, also known as hucksters and entrepreneurs, are usually black males. An African-American tradition, arabbing was one of the few jobs that were available for African-Americans for a long time. It is the term for horse-cart vending - a tradition that has been halted in Philadelphia and New York City. Government officials and animal rights activists who don't want to see horses on the city streets have ceased arabbing in those cities.

Despite the small number, the arabbers who are active still make the best of their jobs and take pride in what they do. The wagons are painted bright red and yellow and the horses are adorned with "Baltimore harnesses."

"They have special harnesses called Baltimore harnesses that are black with gold trim and bone rings, which are white plastic rings. They also have red tassels and red plume with bell drops," Dan Van Allen, President of the Arabber Preservation Society said. . .

"They have hollers like most street vendors-every guy has a different holler," Van Allen said. The hollers are actually are more like songs. The vendors make it musical to draw attention and to help preserve their voice. Instead of yelling all the produce they have, they make it into a musical melody. They often advertise their produce by listing the items in song. The songs vary from person to person, but generally list their best produce items, especially out of season produce. . .

Often called "a market on wheels" the horse-drawn carts contain produce items such as fruits and vegetables. The arabbers stroll through the neighborhoods of the city providing a delivery service of produce and other items. For most residents this is a blessing, as there are few supermarkets located in the city. . . "They buy their produce from a wholesale market out in Jessup and divide it amongst the arabbers," Van Allen said. "At one time they were selling wood and ice, and they've sold crabs and fish on the wagons. I've even seen wagons with scrap metal," he added.

http://baltimorestories.com