Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Linkages

Richard Florida raises the dead to speak with Jane Jacobs. Actually, he did it a decade or so ago. Here he cites a conversation with her about gentrification. To me, gentrification means investment. And like investment, development, and density, it can be good or bad or even neutral.
And when I asked her what should one do about “bad gentrification” – I blurted out something like, “Well, how do we stop it” - she corrected my underlying assumption. She pointed to the difference between the heavy hand of government-sponsored urban renewal programs and the complex workings of urban real estate markets. She went on to describe how cities have an amazing capacity to reorganize and reenergize themselves. The dulling down of one neighborhood, as the diversity of social and economic life was sucked out of it, would lead invariably to the rise of new, energized neighborhoods elsewhere in the city. And then in what remains my single favorite comment of hers – and the best single comment I have ever heard on the issue – she simply said: “Well, Richard, you must understand: when a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.”
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Statistician, typically focused on Baseball and Elections, Nate Silver of Five-Thirty-Eight is turning his attention to cities. I tweeted about this yesterday, but the survey is now closed unfortunately. Still, I have high hopes for this as it seems to represent an effort to quantify what was typically considered subjective, our preferences for what we consider necessary for great neighborhoods and how much we are willing to pay for them.
Literally everything from the number of cockroaches to the number of Whole Foodses is considered, along with all of the more obvious things that can make an urban neighborhood a great or terrible place to live. Although this all sounds very whimsical it's actually a fairly rigorous project and from what I can tell is the first time that anybody has tried to evaluate New York's neighborhoods in exactly this fashion.
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Showing that our preferences in home buying are beginning to mature a bit from the big = better mindset, the LA Times cites new surveys of recent homebuyers:
The survey by Avid Ratings of Madison, Wis., found that current homeowners planned to be "more practical" the next time around.

"People are willing to live in less square footage, but it has to be livable," Lavender said.
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While I have many more thoughts on the topic that are still in draft form, architects in Cali are getting bent out of shape about city general plans becoming to proscriptive. Sorry, it isn't your creativity that is intentionally being stifled, but rather your willingness to accommodate developers building projects on the cheap that are non-participatory in the urban environment.
Not all are enamored. Kris Barkley, a principal at Sacramento-based Dreyfuss and Blackford Architects who has watched Sacramento planners take more control over the design process, said, “It’s like an idealized, theme park attitude rather than coming up with interesting pieces that come together into a whole that’s interesting in itself. It can be very difficult from a design perspective.”
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At HuffPuff, the Aral Sea is dry as a bone. I've been saying for ten years that oil, coal, and nukes aren't the minerals we will be fighting over for the next hundred years but oxygen and water are those most under threat.
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Tomorrow night, Tuesday April 6th, Fort Worth City Council will be debating what to do with the funds that had previously been set aside for a street car study necessary to make it "shovel-ready." If you support the effort, show up and get a free t-shirt.
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Apparently, Boris the Bullet Dodger has moved to Germany and tires of the cars speeding through his quaint neighborhood streets. Can't an ex-KGB sociopath just get some peace and quiet. By the way, this will be your car if you valet in downtown Dallas, as I similarly grow frustrated by valets returning your car at 60 mph down Commerce and Jackson Streets.