Land UseRSS

Photo by jennifer yin licensed under Creative Commons

Greater Greater Washington writes about where we live, work, and play, why we make the location choices we do, and what forces shape these places.

Many people would like to live in safe, diverse, walkable neighborhoods with access to transit, stores, parks, good schools, and other amenities. While our region has more walkable urban places than most, the demand still exceeds available housing, making these places more expensive (and prices keep rising rapidly).

We must ensure that there are enough housing choices so everyone who wants to live in such a neighborhood can choose to do so. We should ensure that housing in desirable areas is available to people at many points along the income spectrum, and take action to fight segregation. And we can improve the vitality of all neighborhoods by encouraging new retail and amenities to improve the quality of life for all residents.

  • Thin layer of ice found in hell

    Smart growth, transit-oriented development - there are many names for the idea of building mixed-use, walkable communities.  Whatever you call it, it’s starting to catch on in suburban communities from San Mateo to Silver Spring.  But most are areas with existing transit, near to already walkable cities.  What about America’s great bastions of…  Keep reading…

  • Westwood Station

    In Westwood, MA is the Route 128 rail station, a stop on Amtrak’s Acela and Regional trains between Boston and the rest of the Northeast Corridor cities to the south.  It is also a stop on the MBTA’s commuter rail, and immediately off Massachusetts’ Route 128, (in that area at least) better know to the rest of the country as I-95.  Keep reading…

  • Economists for sprawl?

    A Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser, got some press recently for a report he has written about the connection between land-use rules in Massachusetts towns and housing prices.  It’s really not much of a surprise that many towns, like Lincoln and Weston (among the richest towns in the Commonwealth) use land restrictions to keep their towns small and expensive.  Keep reading…

  • A backbone for people and bicycles

    I first read about this idea in the RPA’s analysis of congestion pricing, but now that traffic reduction ideas are a talked-about topic, another more radical idea has hit the blogs: closing Broadway to traffic.  Paul White of TA brings up the idea in a Gothamist interview, and MemeFirst follows up with some more detailed detailed thoughts.  Keep reading…

  • A conservative take on the importance of public spaces

    Consider two groups of people, both of whom call themselves “conservatives.”  One is the Republicans of Bush, Frist, DeLay, Enron, and the oil companies.  They believe that unregulated business and low taxes are the cures for all ills.  They also claim to believe in small government, but they really believe in big government that gives subsidies,…  Keep reading…

  • Principled development

    This summer, I convened a series of discussions about development, urban planning, and policy in New York City.  Out of those discussions I wrote down some thoughts, but ended up putting them in a drawer as people got busy with the campaign, other jobs, and life… but better late than never, here is a draft. The Imperative Today, New York City is entering a new era of…  Keep reading…

  • Five things not to do when building a convention center

    1. Surround your building with an imposing stone facade that completely isolates it from the nearby street.  Place no cafes or other businesses on the street, no places to sit, or anything to engage pedestrians.  Keep reading…

  • Memorable Phrases for Parks

    I’m in the bloggers’ area of the Parks1 Mayoral Forum.  Up on stage, Democrats Gifford Miller, Virginia Fields, Freddy Ferrer, and Republican Tom Ognibene, are telling us why they all love parks.  Keep reading…

  • When will they ever learn?

    The Death and Life of Great American Cities was published in 1961.  It’s understandable that back then, urban planners thought single-use zoning was great.  Cozy residential neighborhoods, grand shopping districts, polluting industry far away, beautiful soaring towers with verdant parkland in between - who wouldn’t be seducded by that vision, standing…  Keep reading…

  • The all-purpose suburban mega-home

    Robert Samuelson writes about the dangerous trend toward larger and larger homes.  “By and large,” he says, “the new American home is a residential SUV. It’s big, gadget-loaded and slightly gaudy.”  Encouraged by tax breaks for mortgages, American families are buying larger and larger homes even as the prices soar.  Keep reading…

  • A picture is worth a thousand activists

    Aaron Naparstek discusses a few reasons for the momentum shifting away from Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal: New York losing the 2012 Olympic bid, the Extell competing bid, but most interesting of all, a suggestion that showing a picture of the bizarre looking buildings in the New York times galvanized previously unconcerned citizens into opposition:…  Keep reading…

  • Get yer community plans here - maybe

    Theresa Toro points out the Greenpoint/Williamsburg community plan, whose difficulty of finding I lamented earlier.    Keep reading…

  • Green along the blue

    In New York City’s industrial past, waterfronts were industrial zones.  New York became America’s largest city by being America’s busiest port.  Manhattan’s coastlines were piers and warehouses, for transferring goods between ships; the entire waterfront of Jersey City was railyards where goods would switch between ship and train.  Consequently, the land in the middle of Manhattan…  Keep reading…

  • El Camino Bonito

    I walked across El Camino Real - once.  This road, once the main thoroughfare through Silicon Valley, is now a 50 mile long strip mall of motels, gas stations, mattress stores, car rental places, fast food, and one major university.  Every business or shopping center along its length has a parking lot.  In the utopia of sprawl, El Camino Real would be Main Street.  Keep reading…

  • What free market?

    Houston is the poster child for bad urban planning - or should I say the complete lack of any planning.  Developers build subdivisions across the Texas plains, and the government builds freeways to them, in an endless cycle of sprawl.  This Houston Chronicle article talks about the many negative effects this is having on the region, from decaying inner-ring suburbs to…  Keep reading…

  • Harvard’s Allston plan: wow

    The architects hired by Harvard University to study locating facilities in Allston have created an interim report, and it’s really nice.  If Harvard really implements most of it, rather than getting cheap and cutting the more expensive pieces which improve quality of life, it sounds as though a really nice new campus might result.  I’m pleasantly surprised,…  Keep reading…

  • Two plans for Times Square

    Times Square was once a seedy place that many New Yorkers avoided, except for brief forays to a Broadway show.  Today, many New Yorkers still avoid it, but for the opposite reason - it is really, really crowded.  According to the Times Square Alliance, streets in Times Square burst with up to 16,817 people per hour on the busiest sidewalks, plus 1,279 people who can’t…  Keep reading…

  • Stop the space elevator, or, it’s the Battery Bridge all over again

    This is wonderful.  And a very clever satire on an important issue.  Keep reading…

  • The sprawl lovers

    There’s something aesthetically appealing about big, soaring highway ramps conveying a feeling of speed and mobility.  And I can understand why, in Robert Moses’ day, people could have thought building highways was a grand endeavor.  But we now know they just don’t work.  Or do we?  Alex Marshall, author of one of the best books on sprawl,…  Keep reading…

  • Don’t play SimCity (Classic)

    Like many people my age, I grew up playing SimCity, the 80s classic video game of city planning.  The player lays out transportation infrastructure, parks,  and residential, commercial, or industrial zones into which the Sims build their own buildings.  All the zones are square and exactly the same size.  (There have since been two sequels, SimCity 2000 and…  Keep reading…

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