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Old 02-19-2009, 04:12 AM   #1
a630
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Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

From Edward Glaeser:

http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_1_green-cities.html
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Old 02-19-2009, 04:48 PM   #2
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

Research I wish I had done, and an article I wish I had written.

Now someone needs to get this under Obama's nose.
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Old 02-19-2009, 05:17 PM   #3
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

Considering Obama seems to love using Air Force One on an almost DAILY basis and his children and being ferried about on Marine One rather than a conventional motorcade for no apparent reason, I somehow doubt he's going to live up to being the 'green' president he campaigned as.
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Old 02-19-2009, 06:18 PM   #4
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

Ya ablarc I thought, like almost all of Glaeser's research, it was original and informative. Of course it doesn't take into account some things that CA cities are not very good at (preserving watersheds, or water, for that matter) ... but it is so much better informed than the opinions of many who control development in our state (sadly) ... try selling this to the pseudo-environmentalists of the valley or west side, they'll accuse you of inventing another excuse for development. It's all a conspiracy to destroy their welfare you see.
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Old 02-19-2009, 07:09 PM   #5
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

One issue that isn't mentioned in this research is the tendency of Urban NIMBYs to not allow power plants anywhere near cities. The pollution gets dumped on the countryside and efficiency is lost by transmitting the power over long distances.

a630 is spot on with issues around watersheds and sewage in California. It's often not mentioned that many of those praising eco chic in California are bleeding neighboring states bone dry.
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Old 02-20-2009, 12:41 AM   #6
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

Quote:
Considering Obama seems to love using Air Force One on an almost DAILY basis and his children and being ferried about on Marine One rather than a conventional motorcade for no apparent reason, I somehow doubt he's going to live up to being the 'green' president he campaigned as.
Don't forget the caravans of SUVs!
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Old 02-20-2009, 12:58 PM   #7
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

Take away point: if you don't build it in the city where environmental impact will be small, you'll be building it in the suburbs where environmental impact will be big.

Glaeser's the faculty head of the Rappaport Center for Greater Boston at Harvard, so hopefully he has (or can get) the ear of some local pols. That being said, I can just picture him explaining this to Menino and the mayor's eyes glazing over after the first 30 seconds.
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Old 02-20-2009, 10:32 PM   #8
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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a630 is spot on with issues around watersheds and sewage in California. It's often not mentioned that many of those praising eco chic in California are bleeding neighboring states bone dry.
Oh, yeah!

Paying for it the next few years and longer, we, ummm, they, will be. I'm running away, just in time.

So tired of the mythologies about California and the Bay Area (and even about your neck of the woods, too, a630 ). Je deteste poseurs.

This place is about as eco-friendly as a Texas cattle ranch dotted with oil derricks for as far as they eye can see. As somebody on here likes to say, 'smoke and mirrors' boys--all smoke and mirrors.

Instead of being flip any more about this, I will say that my guided tour of Olmsted's Mountain View Cemetery (posted in the East Bay thread) provided me with information that made me appreciate him and his disciples much more. He (they) determined, before the turn of the 20th Century, that CA was not a place that warranted and could provide the water in the same manner for the kinds of landscaping he was accustomed to doing. When he designed his parks here--and he encouraged others to do the same--he recommened landscaping that required a minimum of water.
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Old 02-20-2009, 11:20 PM   #9
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

I'm doing some side work at the Boston Review, so I thought I'd post this article from the upcoming edition that's vaguely related to Glaeser's argument. Does Tumber's push for urban agriculture in declining cities contradict Glaeser's for more concentrated urban development?

Quote:
Small, Green, and Good
The role of neglected cities in a sustainable future
By Catherine Tumber
Boston Review

Growing up in a small town, I regularly took bus trips with my mom and little sister into ?the city?: Syracuse. Like most middle-class families in the 1960s, we had only one car, which my dad drove to work. So we would buy our tickets at the village pharmacy, board the Big Dog, and barrel though miles of farms and sparsely developed land until we reached the highway. Nearing the final stretch, we had to endure the stench of the Solvay chemical works to our right, and the creepy mint green of polluted Onondaga Lake on our left. But we would disembark in Syracuse?s vibrant downtown, all glittering lights and vertical planes, filled with department stores, jewelry and candy shops, theaters and movie palaces, ?ethnic? food, and people who were interestingly not like us.

Smaller American cities, places like Syracuse?and Decatur, New Bedford, Kalamazoo, Buffalo, Trenton, Erie, and Youngstown?were once bustling centers of industry and downtown commerce, with wealthy local patrons committed to civic improvements and the arts. In the ?70s they began a decline from which they have not recovered. Today, most are scanted as doleful sites of low?paying service jobs, with shrinking tax bases and little appeal to young professionals or to what urban theorist Richard Florida calls the ?creative class.? In Syracuse itself the center of gravity has shifted northward, toward Carousel Mall, leaving a ghostly downtown where Rite?Aid, now the largest store, presides over parking lots and abandoned buildings.

Historians and economic demographers generally attribute the decline of small?to?mid?size cities of 50,000 to 500,000 souls to deindustrialization, since many sit in the Midwestern Rust Belt or the Northeast. But the history of smaller?city decline is more complex than that. Smaller cities were also victims of post?war development policies better suited to large cities?or rather, that were painful, but less disastrous, for large metropolitan areas.

Extraordinary mid?twentieth century changes in transportation, zoning, housing construction, mortgage financing, and domestic taste facilitated the creation of wide swathes of ?bourgeois utopias? that now ring our cities far out into the exurbs. They are the products of a radical transformation of land?use policy that extended supply chains with vast highway systems, further separating people from their workplaces, energy producers from consumers, and farmers from their markets. Large cities survived the changes and the resulting onslaught of suburban shopping malls?itself a reaction to extended supply?chains?in the late ?70s. In smaller cities, malls decimated what was left of retail districts already damaged by massive downtown highway systems that choked off commercial centers from surrounding urban neighborhoods.

Neglect of the smaller city, as both place and idea, continued through the rest of the century. As large?metropolitan real estate values skyrocketed in the 1990s, big cities attracted millions of dollars in capital improvements and large?scale development. ?New Urbanism? among designers and architects, though not in theory intended only for big cities, attracted funding for pedestrian?friendly thoroughfares, mixed?use building, open spaces, and the preservation of historic architecture that enhanced the metropolitan boom. Now, with the call for reducing the urban carbon footprint, cosmopolitan living is going green. Two recent books proposing models for a low?carbon economy?Thomas Friedman?s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks?s Apollo?s Fire?speak throughout of ?villages? and ?large cities.? Not a word for the distinctive role smaller cities might play in a low?carbon world.

That is too bad. Smaller cities have idiosyncratic charms of their own?worthy of sustained attention and renewal. And, fortuitously, they have a distinctive and vital role to play in the work of the new century: small cities will be critical in the move to local agriculture and the development of renewable energy industries. These tasks will almost certainly require a dramatic rethinking of land?use policy, and small cities have assets that large cities lack. Their underused or vacant industrial space and surrounding tracts of farmland make them ideal sites for sustainable land-use policies, or ?smart growth.?

Yet current urban planning models offer little guidance on how we might begin to make those changes. Nor, until recently, has there been a national forum that matches smaller?city renewal initiatives to national needs. The Revitalizing Older Cities Congressional Task Force, formed just last year, held its first national summit (organized by the Northeast?Midwest Institute) in mid?February. Local governments and advocates of eco?sustainability must build on this new conversation for they have a shared stake in the future.
See full article here: http://bostonreview.net/BR34.2/tumber.php
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Old 02-23-2009, 07:43 PM   #10
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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Originally Posted by Lurker View Post
Considering Obama seems to love using Air Force One on an almost DAILY basis and his children and being ferried about on Marine One rather than a conventional motorcade for no apparent reason, I somehow doubt he's going to live up to being the 'green' president he campaigned as.
Mr. President should've included some room in the stimulus for some AF1 upgrades: Virgin, GM, Rolls Royce Team Up to Go Green.

And for his daughters/the Secret Service: Hybrid of the Sky.

From a realistic standpoint, stop moping around with all this technology stuff, and develop government style video-conferencing. Or e-mail, that works too.

And hey, why can't his Cadillac limo be electric powered? Built off of a Volt/Converj engine? Batteries don't blow up (I don't think) and the motorcade hardly ever travels faster than 30 mph (I don't think), and electricity provides more torque and faster acceleration due to instant energy (I think).
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:43 PM   #11
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

Hi Czsz,
Interesting article. Well, as for the clash with Glaeser, the two authors are talking about two different city types: Glaeser is talking about cities in which demand factors are there to drive land costs up when there are supply shortages, and Tumber is talking about cities in which demand factors are not as strong, so supply factors are therefore not as relevant. Throughout much of CA, which faces a chronic land shortage, I believe, that is it is my opinion, that there is some hesitation to give urban agriculture greater legitimacy, even though it is a almost a fetish of many planners, as it conflicts with efforts to preserve scarce industrially zoned land. I think in cities facing land shortages, you could say that urban agriculture clashes with calls for more intense uses. However Syracuse and the like are not facing any sort of land shortage. In my research I've been quite surprised to see that many smaller declining cities have the mechanisms in place for infill development. Problem is there isn't much demand. I figure in those situations urban agriculture would be appropriate, and if it holds the key to any industrial creativity, should be encouraged. However even when city governments do pursue the preservation or encouragement of urban agriculture, I believe it's mostly treated as a program for social sustainability. The possibility of creativity may not be sufficiently explored, I'm not sure. Statements such as "small cities will be critical in the move to local agriculture and the development of renewable energy industries" leave me with more questions than answers. Please cite empirical evidence if you have any!

Last edited by a630; 02-24-2009 at 02:54 AM.
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:33 AM   #12
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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In my research I've been quite surprised to see that many smaller declining cities have the mechanisms in place for infill development. Problem is there isn't much demand.
If those "mechanisms" are represented by the zoning categories I'm familiar with for this purpose, they're ludicrously flawed. The demand is there, but the mechanism effectively thwarts its satisfaction with unintended consequences.

Problem is, bogus expertise emanating from the "experts" who write this stuff. And nobody can see the problem, because the planners aren't designers, and the zoning isn't really form-based. The architects who have to work within the parameters of this nonsense keep their mouths shut for fear of becoming personae non grata, and the whole issue is now moot because no one can build anything in the present economy anyway.
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:45 PM   #13
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

TOD, small lots, ADUs, mixed use/RAS, adaptive reuse, etc. many cities attribute hundreds or even thousands of units to these. see: los angeles, san jose, seattle, sacramento, san diego, santa cruz, arlington (VA), washington, portland, charlotte, many others. and there's plain old upzoning. often these mechanisms are flawed, often they are not, they vary, a lot. their settings vary, a lot. please explain the generalization.
if there's little demand, even if some tiny niche markets exist, infill will be limited.
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Old 02-28-2009, 02:35 PM   #14
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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please explain the generalization.
OK. Here's a plausible, desirable and seductive vision for demand-driven organic evolution:

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The suburbs in the Sunbelt are at least densely built enough that one can imagine them being easily reconfigured into pedestrian-friendly transit villages. Stores in snout-house garages could help form the quaint, mixed-use Newbury Streets of tomorrow, while streetcar lines on former strip-mall lined arterial roads could lead to development that looks a lot like Commonwealth Ave. in Allston or Beacon St. in Brookline.
What existing zoning classification could possibly accommodate it?

What planner possesses the imagination to postulate it? Haven't the planners been lobotomized by their education (bogus expertise)? That's why it takes someone in another field to come up with a vision like this.

Why must we be trapped in the boxes of planners' desiccated myopia?
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Old 02-28-2009, 03:32 PM   #15
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

I think planners simply face the problem inherent in any profession: one cannot rock the boat too much, for fear of being ostracized by the establishment.

Beyond that, they're constrained by a vast number of forces they cannot even begin to grapple with themselves - political, economic, etc.

This is why the most successful planners (in terms of what they managed to achieve) have been both a) visionary and b) extremely powerful. See Moses and Hausmann. Their contemporary equivalents will always be shackled to mediocrity so long as they have been so beaten down by processes of professional acculturation that they cannot think, or so relegated to back rooms by politicians that they cannot act.

Has any city ever elected a powerful executive with an inclination toward urban planning? It would be interesting to see the result. (I'm tempted to think this only seems to happen in Latin America - see the mayors of places like Bogota, Curitiba and Porto Alegre.)
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Old 02-28-2009, 05:20 PM   #16
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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What planner possesses the imagination to postulate it? Haven't the planners been lobotomized by their education (bogus expertise)? That's why it takes someone in another field to come up with a vision like this.

Why must we be trapped in the boxes of planners' desiccated myopia?
Are you against education or something? Whether it's you or not, I feel like there are a lot of people on this board who just don't like architecture/planning schools. How the hell else do you become a successful architect?

I'd say there's just way too many planners with no imaginations (that's why they run development a.k.a. land-investment companies, not architecture firms) and are driven almost solely by economics, which usually does not call for complex, mixed-use venues.

I'd say a sunbelt subdivision was planned by a mathematician. Not architects/planners.
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Old 02-28-2009, 05:51 PM   #17
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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This is why the most successful planners (in terms of what they managed to achieve) have been both a) visionary and b) extremely powerful.
You needed to have added: c)not trained as planners.

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See Moses and Hausmann.
Haussmann was a lawyer and Moses had a PhD in political science. Neither was burdened with a planning "education."

Quote:
Their contemporary equivalents will always be shackled to mediocrity so long as they have been [a)]so beaten down by processes of professional acculturation that they cannot think, or [b)]so relegated to back rooms by politicians that they cannot act.
It's a), not b). They come out of school already full of shit and useless.

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Has any city ever elected a powerful executive with an inclination toward urban planning?
Maybe Ken Livingstone?
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Old 02-28-2009, 05:56 PM   #18
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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I'd say a sunbelt subdivision was planned by a mathematician. Not architects/planners.
Planned by mathematics, not a mathematician. Suburban land subdivision is the application of formulas with one correct answer, like a physics problem.

The mathematical formulas are concocted by professional planners at the behest of citizen committees like city councils or planning commissions. These are made up of a mixture of businessmen and housewives.
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Old 03-01-2009, 11:26 AM   #19
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
OK. Here's a plausible, desirable and seductive vision for demand-driven organic evolution.
What existing zoning classification could possibly accommodate it?
What planner possesses the imagination to postulate it? Haven't the planners been lobotomized by their education (bogus expertise)? That's why it takes someone in another field to come up with a vision like this.
Why must we be trapped in the boxes of planners' desiccated myopia?
The reason that this vision was not proposed/implemented earlier is because there was [is?] no problem [no demand]. Barring an intervening calamity, I think something like it will happen in the future. I don?t think it could be successfully mandated through zoning or planning but over time it will evolve naturally [organic].

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Suburban land subdivision is the application of formulas with one correct answer, like a physics problem.
On a major level, suburban development is successful. The goal was to make money for the developer[s].
One of Glaeser's arguments is that if there were less development restrictions in urban areas, suburbs would make less financial sense and since urban is greener than suburban, this would be better.
This would be an even more laissez faire arrangement for developers than at present. Glaeser?s goal is economic growth.
I think it is a leap of imagination to assume that 'urban' developers will create a significantly more inspired physical landscape than their vapid suburban counterparts.
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Old 03-01-2009, 11:52 AM   #20
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Re: Green Cities, Brown Suburbs

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The reason that this vision was not proposed/implemented earlier is because there was [is?] no problem [no demand].
The problem and the demand have been around for a while, like the demand for a car in 1886. Sometimes you have to produce the product to demonstrate the demand. We've been at the mercy of oil sheikdoms for decades (problem) and my clients are thwarted every day in their property development wishes (demand) by provisions in the zoning code.

Quote:
Barring an intervening calamity, I think something like it will happen in the future.
I'm glad you think this, and I agree it's inevitable. But it will be delayed for decades by zoning. It's there to prevent change, to maintain the status quo, and it's the "intervening calamity" that's already in place. It will eventually be changed when the ocean has devoured Florida, but that's scant consolation.

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I don?t think it could be successfully mandated through zoning or planning
Well, yes it could if the planners were less hidebound, the politicians more courageous, and the public more enlightened. A tall order, but bigger things have been done before by collective goodwill.

Quote:
but over time it will evolve naturally [organic].
It will indeed --when it's too late.

Maybe it's too late already.

Quote:
I think it is a leap of imagination to assume that 'urban' developers will create a significantly more inspired physical landscape than their vapid suburban counterparts.
It's not a question of inspired developers; it's a function of the rules they're required to conform to. They play by whatever rules they're given, and if you give them good rules, they'll produce good products. Haussmann's rules for Paris generated acceptable products in every case; you can't tell by looking at a Boulevard building whether its developer was "inspired" or greedy.
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