Josh Stephens's blog

Josh Stephens is the editor of the California Planning & Development Report, an independent newsletter covering land use and policy.
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Billboards, Big Money, and (Political) Blight

Planners typically pay attention to the Supreme Court when a Fifth Amendment case, like Kelo v. New London, comes along. The recent McCutcheon decision is a case in which the court could have paid attention to planners.

Secure the Terminal, Secure the City

Some of the reactions to the shooting at LAX revealed troubling attitudes towards public space. Inclined as we may be to tighten security, we ought not sacrifice the richness of public life in the name of safety -- even at an airport.

The Chemistry of Safer, Denser Cities

While the middle class sought the refuge in the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s, it turns out that the crime they were fleeing had nothing to do with density, race, or even blight. Mother Jones magazine suggest that it was all because of lead.

Shared Hardship and the Souls of Cities

I can't remember the last time I left the house and gave a moment's though to whether I'd be warm enough, or whether I needed to bring an umbrella. Meanwhile, half the East Coast is underwater. Friends on Facebook have posted status updates about "hurricane envy," and the tales of destruction, disruption, heroism, and all-night parties gush in like tidal surges. 

Blessed Are The Hipsters, For They Shall Inherit The City

How much is a hipster worth to a city? Is she worth more when she's building an app, or when she's writing a blog? Is a hipster with a walrus mustache and a mean whiffle ball pitch worth more than one who wears a sarong and practices aerial yoga? How many of them can dance on the pull tab of a PBR?

APA Poll Calls for Major Shift in Planning Profession

This week the American Planning Association proudly released the results of a recent poll entitled Planning in America: Perceptions and Priorities, which it commissioned indicating that Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of community planning. Given the state of national politics, it's no wonder that Americans are reserving their passions for local issues. Boss Tweed and Mayor Quimby are looking like angels by comparison. Some of the results are beyond obvious -- such as the fact that 77% of Americans "agree that communities that plan for the future are stronger" -- while others could, if heeded, foretell profound changes for the profession.

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

California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer would be better off dead.

Hang on. Let me explain.

I wish no harm to the treasurer. I'm willing to assume that he's a decent fellow and a dedicated public servant. Yet, as he walks among the living, even he abides by the whims of human frailty. At least one legislator, and more than a few other civic leaders, in the Bay Area seems to think otherwise.