City Deficits "Driven" by Suburban Patterns

As San Diego is paralyzed by the cost to maintain its infrastructure, Howard Blackson revels in a eureka moment, provided by Chuck Marohn, in recognizing the city's explicitly suburban pattern of development is a well-documented financial blunder.

1 minute read

April 24, 2012, 10:00 AM PDT

By Hazel Borys


Much of the projected city deficits these days are due to "upgrades" to existing infrastructure that require wider, faster roads, and other auto-centric design and programming. Blackson reviews last week's analysis of San Diego by Strong Town's Chuck Marohn, and suggests the first step to solving urban woes is to understand the root problem:

"I contend that we also need to reassess how we calculate for our current infrastructure deficits. Our deficit numbers include retrofitting older urban streets into wider, faster, more suburban thoroughfares in order to achieve the mythical Level of Service C, which in fact creates more congestion. We also calculate for conventional storm drains that move water as fast as possible from point A to Point Sea; rather than promoting a more economical and ecological Light Imprint network approach. And, our new park standards require large acreage, more expensively programmed, because it's easier to maintain with fewer city workers. These improvements are assumed to be built in a suburban pattern, which is impossible to build in existing neighborhoods where the deficits exist. According to Dr. Einstein, my city is clinically insane for using conventional suburban development patterns and regulations over and over again and expecting different urban outcomes."

Thanks to Hazel Borys

Monday, April 23, 2012 in PlaceShakers

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

View of downtown Dallas, Texas skyline with skyscrapers against twilight sky.

Dallas Hopes to Boost Economy With TV and Film Tax Breaks

The Dallas city council voted unanimously to request a designation from the state that would allow the city to offer sales and use tax exemptions for redevelopment of TV and film production facilities.

May 27 - The Dallas Morning News

Close-up of mobile phone with Airbnb and VRBO app icons.

Proposed Bill Would Outlaw Nearly Half of Cleveland's Airbnbs

The proposed new ordinance aims to help combat the Cleveland's housing crunch and eliminate nuisance complaints related to short-term rental properties.

May 27 - Cleveland Scene

White and peach Florida state capitol building with palm trees in front in Tallahassee, Florida.

Florida Rolls Back Renewable Energy Goals

A new state law eliminates language calling for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and makes it easier to build natural gas pipelines.

May 27 - News Service of Florida

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.