Diana DeRubertis is an environmental writer focusing on the urban planning field.

A Glimpse of California's Past

Travel a few miles outside of Santa Barbara and you’ll encounter a truly rare scene – rare for coastal California in the year 2007, that is.

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.

New Urbanism is great, if you're rich

So I went to see two new New Urbanist communities this weekend - Warwick Grove in the Mid-Hudson Valley, about 50 miles from NYC, and Plainsboro Village Center in central N.J.

Sleepless in Shanghai #3 - The Future of Mobility

I'm just back from China. Waht a week. Among other amazing experiences, we got to go for a ride in one of only 19 GM Sequel hydrogen minivans.

The car is remarkably similar to a regular vehicle, except for a small computer screen on the dash that provides a detailed diagnostic readout on the hydrogen fuel cell stack.

That's my colleague Mike Liebhold of the Institute for the Future behind the wheel.

Blade Runner Watch: Fashion

Well, it's not quite urban-theory-related, but my brilliant colleague Nancy Miller pointed me to the invasion of the Blade Runner aesthetic into the fashion world this year. At left, that's Darryl Hannah, playing the kooky sexbot Pris in the movie.

And here's the work of designer Peter Christian, from the blog ZooZoom:

See what I'm saying?

More after the jump.

Is Vancouver Still a City by Design?

Vancouver has earned many titles and nick-names on its way to becoming an international model of urban livability. One used frequently is the title “city by design”. The language of the title is deliberately specific, particularly the choice of the word “by”. A city by design is one that has taken public or civic responsibility for its physical development. A city that has embraced the value of design, both in the broad strokes and in the details, in the achievement of its public goals, be they livability, sustainability, civic beauty or economic success.

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.

Why should planners care about the Farm Bill?

Every five to seven years, Congress votes to reauthorize one of the largest and most significant legislative measures affecting land use policies in the U.S - the Farm Bill. This year, Congress will debate the omnibus legislation that defines not only America’s agricultural policy, but determines funding priorities for rural development, food and nutrition assistance, energy and environmental issues.

Sleepless in Shanghai, #2

Two moments in this trip bring home the pace of change here. Sunday morning, 8am, I wake up in the Zhongshan Park section of west-central Shanghai. Head out into the backlanes of the superblock behind the hotel and construction on a high-rise gated apartment building is already at full tilt. Two other construction projects intitimate in my life... a dorm across from our apartment in Manhattan, and a restaurant next to the Institute in Palo Alto, are definitely not on the same aggressive shifts.

Next moment, Wednesday evening 11:18pm at our hotel in Pudong, I glance out the window before bed and see a line of cement mixers 10-12 deep waiting to unload at the construction site across the street.

Sleepless in Shanghai

I'm in Shanghai this week conducting workshops for two of my Fortune 500 clients looking at the future of mobility in the Shanghai region and Chinese cities more broadly. If you've never been to China, get on a plane now and come here. You will never think about cities or urbanization the same way again.

Shanghai has created a city larger than Manhattan in less than 20 years, and is set to create another in the next 15. The earth literally sags under the weight of the new buildings, as they push the former rural swampland into the earth.