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WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

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WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Pops » Sun 08 Apr 2012, 08:18:58

WSJ has an opinion piece on the move by California planners to reduce sprawl by increasing housing density and confine new construction to "transit corridors". Link

In San Francisco and San Jose, for example, the Association of Bay Area Governments has proposed that only 3% of new housing built by 2035 would be allowed on or beyond the "urban fringe"—where current housing ends and the countryside begins. Over two-thirds of the housing for the projected two million new residents in these metro areas would be multifamily—that is, apartments and condo complexes—and concentrated along major thoroughfares such as Telegraph Avenue in the East Bay and El Camino Real on the Peninsula.


IMHO, the only long term "solution" to peak oil is to not need oil.

Mass transit is a first step from virtually unlimited personal transit to the inevitable end state of no daily transit beyond walking distance. These "transit corridors" will begin to instruct American how to make increased density livable without cars. Today we build apartments then surround them with carports and roads, just like suburban housing. There is no functional difference between them and suburbs. There is nothing there except beds and garages.


But it is heresy at the alter Levitt and Ford. No wonder the Vicars of BAU dividends rant and rail.

hehe, They rail about rail.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby AgentR11 » Sun 08 Apr 2012, 09:28:17

One should note that the Bay Area is substantially different from most of the country, both physically and culturally. They have very particular physical impediments to sprawl that make it exceptionally inefficient and difficult. As I noted in the Merriam vs Kansas City thread earlier, the distances involved there present little difficulty to continued useability regardless of whether oil is affordable for commuting or not; this is the typical state of things in most of the US; lay those same distances on to the Bay Area and you create a nightmare that would force even myself to choose an in-town apartment.

It might also provide a bit of "boom" to construction for the sake of construction.

That said, I thank my lucky stars I don't live there.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Pops » Sun 08 Apr 2012, 10:45:25

Not really sure what you are saying AR.

The BA definitely has sprawl. It could have been the origin of "Drive to Qualify". Commuters leap-frogged across the hills and down the Central Valley all the way to Merced county 100+ miles away.

Stockton is only 60-70 miles (?) from San Fran proper and is in a world of hurt. Here is a article talking about everything but the cost of the commute.

http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/03/ ... -a-thread/
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby evilgenius » Sun 08 Apr 2012, 11:18:26

I think any hope for the future, as it pertains to this argument, lies in the proper implementation of the structure of transportation. Basically, I think it needs to undergo a revolution along the same lines as the revolution in computer programming: from structured design to object oriented design. Different types of transit logically fall into different types of transit answers, but we demand our one overarching answer, the auto, for everything. Sometimes the Luddites in various places get washed away in waves of sensible thinking brought on by a refusal to suffer anymore under old structured thinking. Sometimes the people groan, but the only answer they ever see is bigger projects which are essentially redos of last period's now failed solutions.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby AgentR11 » Sun 08 Apr 2012, 12:12:17

Pops wrote:Not really sure what you are saying AR.
The BA definitely has sprawl.
It could have been the origin of "Drive to Qualify". Commuters leap-frogged across the hills and down the Central Valley all the way to Merced county 100+ miles away.


Of course it has sprawl, but it is the KIND of sprawl that is the problem, long, leggy, pushed and pulled in random directions by physical barriers. Take the sprawl condition of Houston, and drop it centered on the Bay Area. Most of the area consumed by single family houses on Houston overlay will land on completely unusable land with the Bay Area map (ocean, moutainside, preserve, base, etc) consequently, Houston+exurb has far more houses, but none are 100 miles out.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby pstarr » Sun 08 Apr 2012, 13:01:03

Image
Great lakes and Northeast megalopolis both 50 million. Socal 20, Norcal 12. The Pearl River Delta in China has 120 million. Mumbai metro is only 20.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Lore » Sun 08 Apr 2012, 14:51:39

We need to really wipe the slate clean. Just talking out of my ass here, but as I mentioned a few years back, we should have followed the ideas of Paolo Soleri. Who I consider is one of the greatest architectural planners of our time. Mankind living in harmony with nature, think star ship earth communities. Mega-plans of sky high cities while our surrounding country is left virgin.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Soleri
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Pops » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 07:59:23

I see AR, you're right, the BA is unique because of the ocean/bayhills/Pt Reyes/ etc. and that causes the leap-frog aspect. Although not many people commute 100 miles daily, I knew a couple of 40 on - 4off workers, EMT/Firemen and some guys in construction who drove all the way to SF for short periods. I'd guess most people work 20 miles up the road.

It's like this, the people who work in downtown SF commute 20 miles out. The people who work 20 miles out are out-bid for housing so they move 20 miles farther out – repeat the process on down the valley. One of my clients in the 90's was a builder whose best sale prospects for new homes in the central valley were people who had bought one of the builders houses 2 years before, 30 minutes closer to the city. Some people took the profit and bought a bigger house, farther away, every 2 years.

Until they were stuck with a big white elephant when the tide went out. ...Mixed metaphor there but you get the drift.


The point being, either the current zoning regime needs to be scrapped and rewritten to encourage housing, working and shopping to co-exist in close - walkable - proximity, or, stricter zoning is required to force higher density, making efficient transit between the activities affordable. I don't see another viable plan.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby AgentR11 » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 09:51:22

Pops wrote:The point being, either the current zoning regime needs to be scrapped and rewritten to encourage housing, working and shopping to co-exist in close - walkable - proximity, or, stricter zoning is required to force higher density, making efficient transit between the activities affordable. I don't see another viable plan.


I wonder if they're too far committed physically to the current design to afford to build enough multifamily units closer in. Sure they could build some thousands, and it would make a good magazine front page picture; but would it really reduce the number of people living 30-80 miles out; especially as housing prices put many of them at a severe loss if they sell and move.

That move out to upsize thing though, that was really vicious, I suppose I'm weird in this way, but when I see a 3000sf house, I see three times the amount of work that I didn't want to do in the first place, doesn't look like luxury to me at all. 3000sf and one or two live in staff, different story, but that isn't what those folks were trying to pull off.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby furrybill » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 10:35:13

Lore wrote:We need to really wipe the slate clean. Just talking out of my ass here, but as I mentioned a few years back, we should have followed the ideas of Paolo Soleri. Who I consider is one of the greatest architectural planners of our time. Mankind living in harmony with nature, think star ship earth communities. Mega-plans of sky high cities while our surrounding country is left virgin.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Soleri


+1

Yup, we as a species should think of ourselves more as the stewards of this glorious biosphere rather than Bacon's "ravishers." Course that might also mean getting our numbers back down to a few million rather than the present few billion...bring on the die-off!

I've been thinking a lot lately that maybe we're at another "bottleneck." We're heading towards a massive extinction - is there some way a few of us could survive AND retain our technology AND somehow create a whole new type of civilization? And just how much damage will we do to the planet in the meantime?
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby jedrider » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 11:33:51

WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]


Goes to show one how out of touch the WSJ is. Their opinion pieces are stunningly 180 degrees out-of-touch with reality.

Not everyone will have that house in suburbia and then make the drive into the city. Young people especially will op to be where the activity is. Silicon Valley has it's own challenges. My gripe has always been work places without sidewalks or cafes. I hate that MacWorkPlace architecture.

The Bay Area is trying to adapt itself to the current situation and the near future.

High density housing is pretty good if there are open spaces around it. That remains to be seen. Usually, they fill in the bay to accomplish that. But if all they do is build more housing tracks, well, then you have the scenario of requiring floating houses because of sea-level rise!
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Plantagenet » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 12:00:25

These new zoning rules in California just seem like common sense to me.

Its just too bad they didn't have something like this in place 50 years ago. 8)
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby pstarr » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 12:34:23

Of course the WSJ article is insane. The entire editorial department is nuts. The point of "smart growth" is to concentrate housing, recreate the city (really popular for culture), and leave open space (equally popular for recreation, water retention, ecology, stuff the editors have out in their leafy suburbs.) But that chance has passed. We have already built out the cities and the suburbs. The housing crash was a consequence of that limit.

What do the great Megalopolises (Great Lakes, Northeast, Pearl River) have in common? Folks settled in those places to work and live because those places were the breadbaskets of the world. Those places had great soil, year-round water, and winter freezes to kill disease (human and plant pathogens). Now the topsoil is gone (necessarily scraped away and lost during housing construction) and everything is pavement. No chance of going back to local agriculture for 500 years.

We've already filled in the "open space." The real problems arise when AGW, drought, and peak oil kill of the new irrigated food growing regions in Texas, Arizona, and California.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Pops » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 12:45:18

Like everything else, the foundation reason for sprawl is simply that rural acreage is cheaper than urban. Cost is where blue-sky plans for infill always fall down because infill is always more expensive than sprawl - to the buyer anyway.

Like anything else it's about scale, 500 acres subdivided into 1/4 acre lots and filled, assembly line style, with 2,000 house in 4 floor plans and 4 exterior finishes is super cost effective and so super profitable. Especially compared to finding 2,000 infill lots and shoehorning essentially a custom home onto an odd shaped lot.

This time though it may be that infill is less expensive.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Plantagenet » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 13:55:00

Pops wrote:Like everything else, the foundation reason for sprawl is simply that rural acreage is cheaper than urban.....

This time though it may be that infill is less expensive.


Yup.

The Europeans figured this out long ago---the typical European village is a compact, dense little town with farm lands all around it. When they re-built their cities after WWII they intentionally planned for densely populated cities and taxed their gas to make it 6-8 bucks/gallon, and used the tax money to fund light rail and train networks and public works in urban areas that make their cities fun and livable.

Thanks to peak oil, the US will be dragged kicking and screaming along the same path towards smarter energy use and better urban planning that Europe took decades ago---.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby pstarr » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 14:31:13

Plantagenet wrote:
Pops wrote:Like everything else, the foundation reason for sprawl is simply that rural acreage is cheaper than urban.....

This time though it may be that infill is less expensive.


Yup.

The Europeans figured this out long ago---the typical European village is a compact, dense little town with farm lands all around it. When they re-built their cities after WWII they intentionally planned for densely populated cities and taxed their gas to make it 6-8 bucks/gallon, and used the tax money to fund light rail and train networks and public works in urban areas that make their cities fun and livable.

Thanks to peak oil, the US will be dragged kicking and screaming along the same path towards smarter energy use and better urban planning that Europe took decades ago---.
Will you look at that! Simple, concise, to-the-point . . . and no obama! I'll be damned. :razz:

There are so many reason that the US will not be able to duplicate Europe's success. We unfortunately have pretty much used up the land. That is the point of my map of megalopolis above. What would have been points of dense urban surrounded by open land, farm, is now an entropic sink, the insatiable energy hog of suburbia. To be fair this pattern was set in motion a 70 years ago by Robert Moses and great post war boom. Who could have imagined then that we might run out of big trees, cheap oil, and open farm land by the coasts.

Bit disingenuous of you Plant to bemoan the lack of intelligent urban/suburban planning and appropriate high taxes. Let us be very clear. It is/was the real estate industry, pro-growth and their anti-regulation Republicans stooges who fight agriculture-only open-space zoning.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Timo » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 14:53:12

Don't get me wrong, here. I offer this argument for the sake of reality, not because i like it. My job is a city planner, and over the years, my idealism in striving to design the perfect city, or at least a better city, has been squashed down by the mantra that land is cheap, and it's everybody's god-given right to build what and where they want. If it fits the regulations, then there is absolutely nothing that the regulators can do about it. Hence, we are where we are today. Land use plans mean squat! This is a quote that i use daily in my work from Ed McMahon, not the $10 million dollar guy for Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. This guy is a Seior Fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

"All development is not created equal. Communities that set low standards or no standards will compete to the bottom. If you are afraid to say no to anything, you will get the worst of everything. On the other hand, communities that set high standards will compete to the top."

Unfortunately, in many respects, we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and people, in general, are very short-sighted and are too immature in their governance intelect to think longer term than their particular stint in the government. What mark can i leave while i'm here? Nevermind the future!
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Plantagenet » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 15:03:53

Timo wrote: My job is a city planner, and over the years, my idealism in striving to design the perfect city, or at least a better city, has been squashed down by the mantra that land is cheap, and it's everybody's god-given right to build what and where they want. If it fits the regulations, then there is absolutely nothing that the regulators can do about it. Hence, we are where we are today. Land use plans mean squat!.... What mark can i leave while i'm here? Nevermind the future!


Thanks for posting. Your personal knowledge of this topic is great to hear from.

There is no doubt sprawl has been encouraged by cheap land---and by cheap gasoline.

Well----the cheap gasoline is gone.

The 21st century will be the century of urban planning. :idea:
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby Timo » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 15:37:50

I hate to say this, but i'm not overly optimistic in the intellectual capacity of mankind to do the right things in order to ensure our collective survival. Even if we gain some new miracle technology that promises everything we could ever possibly want in life, tptb will insist that it be rationed and controlled as a commodity, just like all the other civil rights we think we have. City planning has been around for thousands of years, and the best laid plans are, quite honestly, from eras long, long gone. Good plans now are dismissed because they systematically encourage the common well-being instead of the individuals rights to do whatever they want. The common well-being is, of course, a communist plot! Individual liberties trump the common good. Every true red-blooded American knows that! Thinking long term toward the survival of mankind is constitutional heresy.
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Re: WSJ Sees Future, Cringes [housing]

Unread postby AgentR11 » Mon 09 Apr 2012, 15:53:49

Timo wrote:My job is a city planner, and over the years, my idealism in striving to design the perfect city, or at least a better city, ...


That's a very vague concept, and sets my ears to twitching; and quite relevant to the original post as well. When people write about a general ill, in this case sprawl, there's always associated with it a very general solution, in this case, a picto-rama of a walkable city street with shops and reasonably well dressed people enjoying a civilized afternoon, in cleansed, pristine bliss. Maybe such a vision fits in SF, NY, or Chicago; but it doesn't fit Texas in daylight hours, it doesn't fit most of the country during winter; there's just a general lack of perception amongst would be planners towards regionally appropriate design to balance against the idealistic design. It seems almost that if you can't reach for this moderate climate ideal; then you just try to force it to look similar and call it done. If the only ones who can utilize the design in practice happen to be sweat soaked bums in ragged shorts as I often appear, then its no big deal to the planner, because they're back in their A/C protected environment of office, car, home.

Sorry, but I just can't see past what appears to me to be obvious con jobs to get upper middle class office suits to keep selling and buying to chase the latest trendiness.

"All development is not created equal. Communities that set low standards or no standards will compete to the bottom. If you are afraid to say no to anything, you will get the worst of everything. On the other hand, communities that set high standards will compete to the top."


Most people do not need, nor can they afford anything near the "top". And those that can afford the "top" do not need the services of government to plan comfortable communities for them. OTOH, planning for the bottom often looks like a barely veiled attempt to trap and bound those who lack the ability to pay their way clear of the imposed limits.
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