Josh Stephens's blog

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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Acronym Atrocities Afoot in Washington

To paraphrase the New York Times' summation of the Anaheim Angels' rhetorical exodus to Los Angeles a few years ago: some ideas are so stupid that you just have to stand back and watch. To that I would add, some things are so stupid that they deserve derision no matter how long ago they occured. Though it crawled out from the Senate floor in the summer of 2005, SAFETEA-LU -- the $240 billion federal transportation bill -- has, for the past two years, gotten off way too easy.

Terrorism, Gay Marriage, and...Land Use(!)

This week Salon.com published a remarkable interview with a contender for the White House. The candidate didn't offer the solution to stabilizing Iraq, strengthening the economy, or bringing down the price of a six-pack (at least not directly), but for the first time in the history of American campaigning that I'm aware of, he referred to the issue of "land use."

Europe's Glory, America's Opportunity

WROCLAW, Poland--I have been swanning about Eastern Europe for the better part of two months, wandering the streets of cities large and small, famous and obscure. As should be apparent to anyone short of Toby Keith or James Inhofe, even the most undistinguished European city could teach any American city a thing or two about charm, walkability, and gracious living.

Building History Anew In Old Town Warsaw

WARSAW, Poland --I'm on my fourth city in a two-month excursion, and so far I've found all the quaintness, density, pedestrian life, and vernacular architecture that I was looking for as an antitode to my beloved, loathed Los Angeles. The cores of Riga and Vilnius come right out of proverbial fairy tales, and even Helsinki, though historically torn between Sweden and Russia, has plenty of the best trappings of Boston and San Francisco (as well as some of the worst of Atlanta or Dallas; more on that later).

Then there's Warsaw.

Reading, Writing, And Planning: Urbanism In High School

The high school curriculum overlooks a great many subjects, so we could go on at length pointing out its ironies and shortcomings. But the topic at hand happens to be urban planning, so let's stick with that.

The Persistence of Bad Ideas, Part 1: The Devil Strip

(Prefatory musing: As the title implies, this is Part 1 in a series. I haven't yet mapped out any of the other parts, but considering the boundless errata that clutter American cities, I anticipate little trouble finding objectionables to raise my ire next time my monthly deadline approaches. I welcome my fellow Interchangers to follow suit.)

So Many Cities, So Much Mediocrity

Here's an item that should be more than enough to make you spew your morning latte all over the Starbucks:

In a survey, conducted last year and released yesterday by Mercer Consulting, ranking the top 50 global cities by quality of life, not a single American city cracks the top half. Zero.

The Quiet Evils Of America's 'Favorite' Buildings

The American Institute of Architects recently threw its authority behind a list of America's "favorite architecture," ranking three centuries of indigenous design one to 150 specimins. The resulting menu, culled by survey, of buildings, bridges, monuments, and other solid things amounts to a joyous celebration and a remarkable commentary on America's embrace of beauty. It also reinforces the desperation that arises when aesthetics and nationalism mix.

Planning And The Scourge Of The Collective Action Problem

In its most forward attempt to ensnare the fabled “discretionary rider,” my local transit agency recently set out handsome billboards touting the pleasures of the bus and the miseries of driving alone. They employed pithy admonishments and graphics such as a hand cuffed to a gas pump and a merry executive knitting and purling his way to the office.

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