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Josh Stephens is a contributing editor of the California Planning & Development Report (www.cp-dr.com) and former editor of The Planning Report (www.planningreport.com)
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USA Today: A Rude Wake-Up Call For Cities

LOGAN AIRPORT, Boston – I’m on my way home from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s Journalists Forum , an annual event, co-sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Neiman Foundation, in which journalists from around the country convene to discuss, jointly, the fate of our industry and the fate of American cities.

Starbucks Initiative Could Brew Up Urban Vitality


I am writing this missive from the living room of a Starbucks. Not that you'd care where I'm writing from. Except this time it's relevant. 
Here on Montana Avenue, in Santa Monica, I'm joined by other folks who are also on their laptops, recovering from yoga, or just biding their time. The guy sitting at my table just sold a pilot to Fox. That's nice for him. A few weeks ago I sat next to Hillary Swank here. She's not hurting either.  

But others aren't so lucky. To its credit, Starbucks seems to want to do something about it.

Borders’ Demise Could Open New Chapter In Urban Retail

To its minimal credit, Borders Books & Music always had a a few shelves where the works of Jacobs, Mumford, Kunstler, Whyte, Florida, and others resided. 

But, judging by the financial and aesthetic bankruptcies of, respectively, Borders and many American cities, it seems that copies of Life and Death (or anything else) weren't exactly flying out the door. If the public's understanding of urban economies even began to rival its fascination for gossip, self-help, and vampires, Borders never would have arisen in the first place.

The Trouble With Monuments to the Living

Living public figures, whether they be Lockyer, Haggarty, Sarah Palin, or Mummar Gaddafi generate their own fanfare. They do not need a building, an airport, or a trail to speak for them.

How Smart Are 'Intelligent Cities'?

Most trends are fleeting, some of them mercifully so. Some last no longer than a Lady Gaga wardrobe change. But urbanism is still, by and large, a leisurely exercise, so it's no wonder that planners still embrace fashions on a nearly generational basis. It often takes that long just to see if something works. Or not. 

So, while Gaga would inspire us to attach telephones to our heads and light our bustiers on fire, planners who ascribe to the principles of smart growth are still rhetorically swaddling cities in the urban equivalent of flannel. For better or worse, this age may finally be coming to a close. Don't cry, Monster.

Deconstructing A Tea Party Muse

For some lucky candidates, tomorrow’s election will have a storybook ending. Unfortunately for anyone who understands architecture, planning, and land use, that storybook will, in many cases, turn out to be The Fountainhead.

The train wreck of ideologies that is emerging this election season is too much for anyone to categorize.

ULI's Odd Notion Of 'Global Excellence'

I write this blog from the concrete cradle of Nokia Plaza, an urban space so wondrous that the global arm of the Urban Land Institute has bestowed upon it one of five “2010 Global Awards for Excellence." In winning such a distinguished award, you’d think that developer AEG would have invited the Laker Girls and be pouring Champagne for an ebullient crowd here in one of the world’s great public spaces. Except they’re not. In fact, I’m pretty much alone.

I don’t suppose the pigeons are carrying Cristal underwing?

Campaign Fundraising Holds City Hostage

I wasn't even in Los Angeles yesterday, and for once I'm glad. Everything from my Facebook feed to the morning headlines told me that traffic on the Westside yesterday afternoon was so awful that only a parade of obscenities accompanied by words like "cluster" and "show" would have sufficed to describe it. Hardened locals were driven nearly to tears behind the wheels of their unmoving cars.  

The president was in town.

Christmastime in the City

Even more so than usual, few people will be receiving buildings as gifts this season.  They're too expensive, you can’t return them, and, notwithstanding Barbie’s Dream House, they probably won't fit under your tree.  But still, this Yuletide affords ample opportunity to take stock of the works that have arisen in this most momentous of decades. 

Mixing It Up at RailVolution

BOSTON -- If you've ever studied the bar menu at Trader Vic's then you know about such wonders as Tropical Passion, Moku Nani, and the Potted Parrot. Each is made of a unique but secret blend of dark rum, light rum, spiced rum, tropical juices, and of course "subtle flavorings."  But by the time you'd realize that the only real difference is the glass they come in, you're too probably drunk to notice--or care. 

Minus the palm fronds, the RailVolution conference is much the same.  

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