Michael Lewyn is an assistant professor at Touro Law Center in Long Island.
Last week, voters in San Francisco voted against a measure to compel the city to set aside $30 million for affordable housing. Opponents of the proposal argued that "the city already has spent more than $200 million on affordable housing in the past several years, and is building more units - some affordable, some not - than anytime in recent history." (1) San Francisco is not alone; government at all levels seeks to provide housing assistance for the poor.
But at the same time, government zones and rezones property to protect "property values" (2) - in other words, to cause home prices to increase over time rather than decrease. So government makes housing expensive with one arm while trying to provide affordable housing with the other.
Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 2:17pm PST
A few days ago, someone asked a question on one of my listservs about the likely impact of America’s economic crises upon urbanism.
The best answer is: it depends.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - 9:11pm PDT
A PLANNER’S PRAYER
Next week, Jews around the world (including myself) will spend the day in synagogue for Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. On that day, we will pray for forgiveness for our sins. One Yom Kippur prayer, the Al Chet (Hebrew for “for the sin”) lists a variety of sins, requesting Divine forgiveness for each. (One English translation can be found at www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/6577/jewish/Text-...
Friday, October 3, 2008 - 1:48pm PDT
Last Friday, I was in two different suburban environments in
Atlanta. Both are sprawl by any normal definition of
the term - car-oriented environments where residential streets are separated from commerce, sidewalks are rare, and densities are low. But the two places are as different
as sprawl and new urbanism.
Sunday, September 21, 2008 - 1:17pm PDT
The battle for the White House has reached my inbox, as even listservs about urbanism crackle with endorsements and denunciations of Obama, McCain, Palin, etc.
But all of this frenzied activity assumes that what a President says or thinks is particularly relevant to urban issues. But this need not be so. The policy areas most relevant to sprawl and urbanism, land use and transportation, are not likely to be directly affected by the results of the presidential election.
In particular, zoning and similar land use issues are generally addressed by state and local governments. Even the most pro-urban president is unlikely to take on anti-infill NIMBYism (1), make strip malls more walkable. or make streets narrower.
Monday, September 15, 2008 - 12:15am PDT
Smart growth supporters tend to prefer grid systems to cul-de-sacs, for excellent reasons. A proliferation of cul-de-sacs artificially lengthens walking distances: if streets don’t connect to each other, you might have to walk a mile to go just a few hundred feet. In addition, cul-de-sacs increase traffic congestion by dumping most vehicular traffic on a few major streets. And because biking is less safe on busy, high-traffic streets, bikers benefit from a grid system as well.
Thursday, August 28, 2008 - 1:57pm PDT
I recently read Oscar Newman’s 1970s book on crime prevention, “Defensible Space.” In this book, Newman addressed the question of why some public housing projects are insanely dangerous, and others only moderately so. Although Newman’s analysis is mostly confined to low-income housing, commentators of all stripes have relied on his work: new urbanist commentator Laurence Aurbach asserts that Newman’s work supports new urbanists’ emphasis on heavily trafficked, walkable streets (1) while Randall O’Toole considers Newman to be a defender of single-use, cul-de-sac sprawl (2).
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 9:18pm PDT
As gas prices keep rising, the public demand for buses and trains keeps growing. Yet in some cities, government is actually cutting back transit service, because rising gas prices make transit vehicles more expensive to operate.(1) But as a matter of substantive policy, service reductions are not only less desirable than service increases, but also less desirable than fare increases. As a bus rider, I’d rather pay $1.50 and know that my service is safe from fiscal crises than pay $1 and worry that my service might be reduced or canceled next month. Moreover, if fairness means spreading pain equally throughout the population, it is fairer to have everyone pay a little more than to have some neighborhoods be left without service.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008 - 1:31pm PDT
This morning, one of my listservs was aflutter with discussion of a new article by Joel Kotkin, attacking an alleged "war against the suburbs." According to Kotkin, this "war" consisted of Jerry Brown’s efforts to "compel residents to move to city centers." After reading Kotkin’s article, I couldn’t really figure out exactly what Brown was trying to do- and since I don’t live in California, it really isn’t that important to me.
However, it is important to realize that "smart growth" need not be the enemy of suburbs. Here’s why:
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - 2:45pm PDT
Last week marked the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kelo v. New London. The first time I read Kelo, I thought what many Americans probably thought: that any government could seize property for any reason, so long as it compensated prior owners.
But after having taught Kelo to law students several times over the past few years, I now realize that Kelo is much more complex. Kelo was a 5-4 decision, and Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate concurrence. Because Justice Kennedy was the “swing vote”, his decision predicts future Court decisionmaking more accurately than the Court’s primary opinion, because a taking which fails to satisfy Kennedy might not be able to get five votes in the Supreme Court.
Friday, July 4, 2008 - 12:46pm PDT