The Urban Land Institute (ULI) has put together a study of suburban densification strategies called Shifting Suburbs: Reinventing Infrastructure for Compact Development. I haven’t read it yet, but based on my experience of Belmar in Lakewood (which is one of their case studies) I’m not particularly optimistic. Maybe Belmar is better now than it was a few years ago — further built out, etc… but back then it seemed like a weird Disneylandish island lost in a sea of cars. Like a mall on steroids, ringed with parking structures. Dunno. Should be interesting reading.
A good list summarizing the ways in which density is good for affordability, ending with this zinger:
Income inequality is the core reason why housing affordability is such an intractable problem in the United States. In pretty much every other industrialized nation on earth, greater redistribution of wealth helps ease the problem of affordable housing. This includes social investments that significantly reduce other major household expenses, such as healthcare, education, childcare, and transportation, thereby freeing up more income to pay for housing. Here in the U.S, we will be beating our heads against the wall forever trying to provide enough affordable housing to make up for this underlying inequity.
Painful because it’s true.
Strong Towns looks at the absurdity of having separate city departments of transportation and land-use planning, which often end up directly at odds with each other, even when they’re both doing their jobs. In Boulder this dynamic has been bad enough that the city recently made the two departments go to conflict resolution training together. Like, inter-departmental couples counseling or something. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have done a whole lot of good.
Don’t Expect Driving Rates to Rise Again, says that eco-leftist rag… The Economist. People don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes each way commuting, and you just can’t give very many people access to that much opportunity within 30 minutes of travel in a sprawling urban geography. Certainly not cost-effectively. Demographically, cars are becoming something that old people like. Now, if only we could convince China to leapfrog the whole car culture and go straight to Cities for People… lots and lots of people.
A long post about urban infrastructure finance via “Land Value Capture” from Next American City. The general idea is that the provision of public goods — roads, sidewalks, transit lines, sewers, utility lines, etc — adds value to the property which it serves. This value pertains to the location, not the improvements any developer might have built (or refrained from building) on the property. Land value capture mechanisms seek a slice of that incremental value to re-pay (or finance) the provisioning of those improvements. It’s a feedback loop that results in density without lots of debt financing on the part of the city.
Many new apartment complexes in Portland have no parking, because many of their residents have no cars, and building parking spaces would bump rent from $750 to $1200. Cities that don’t require you to drive are often more affordable than those that do. And nicer to live in, too…
How far will we walk to go somewhere depends on the quality of the walking experience. An obvious conclusion maybe, but one that bears repeating. In central Paris or Rome, folks will regularly walk 5 miles a day, and enjoy it, because the cities are lively and interesting the whole way. I have an elderly friend in San Francisco who regularly walks all the way from the Presidio, where she lives, to downtown (and sometimes back again) for errands, but also for the people watching and joy of it. Density alone is not enough to make a place walkable, and lower density — if it’s interesting enough — can still entice people to wear their comfortable shoes. Good details in the original post.
It’s entirely possible that in The Future, we’ll come to realize that slower cities are better than fast. A city in which the fastest thing on the street is a bicycle is a place for living, for being, for enjoying in its own right. Walking, chatting, stopping on a whim at any shop or park or patio. We were lulled into a view of the future that was all high speed and high energy by the explosive industrialization of the early 20th century. But our visions of the future can and do change. We get to define what progress means.
News of Suburbia’s demise reaches the New York Times Op-Ed pages. Let’s hope someone out there allocating federal transportation dollars is reading.
Last fall I and other representatives from Community Cycles participated in a discussion with the city and various stakeholders regarding upcoming redevelopment along Pearl Parkway. I wrote about the experience and the Transit Village Area Plan (TVAP) more generally from the perspective of a human-powered urbanist. Mostly, we looked at different possible streetscapes for Pearl Parkway between 30th and the railroad tracks. The property at 3100 Pearl Parkway is slated to be developed in the near future, as a 320 unit rental apartment complex, and as one of the first major developments in the area plan. The city is interested in experimenting with novel street treatments in order to try and make the place special and attractive. Community Cycles got involved largely because the TVAP “Connections Plan” had, with minimal fanfare, superseded the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) and removed the bike lanes which had long been planned along Pearl Parkway in favor of off-street only infrastructure. We felt that this change was not necessarily in the best interest of cyclists, and wanted to ensure that whatever did end up getting built would be safe and efficient.