Michael Lewyn is an assistant professor at Touro Law Center in Long Island.
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
Yesterday’s Washington Post contained a list of elite public schools- schools where the average student SAT is over 1300. Since suburban schools generally have better reputations than urban schools, one might expect that all the schools on the list would be in prestigious suburban school districts. But in fact, this is not the case. Three New York City schools (Stuyvestant, Hunter College, Bronx High) and one school near downtown Richmond (Maggie Walker) are on the high-SAT list- despite the fact that the New York City and Richmond school districts, like nearly all urban school districts, have mediocre reputations.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 - 7:38am PDT
For nearly all of my adult life, I have lived in small towns or urban neighborhoods. But for the past two years, I have lived in sprawl. When I moved to Jacksonville two years ago, I moved to Mandarin, a basically suburban neighborhood about nine miles from downtown. As I looked for apartments in 2006, I noticed that in many ways, Mandarin is typical sprawl: our major commercial street (San Jose Boulevard) is as many as eight lanes in some places, and even most apartments are separated from San Jose’s commerce. [See http://atlantaphotos.fotopic.net/c872477.html for my photos of Mandarin and other Jacksonville neighborhoods.] I thought Mandarin would be a typical suburb: homogenously white and upper-middle class.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - 8:57pm PDT