Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, April 29, 2016

Real solutions to the affordable housing crisis

The right thing, right here,* right now



*Some of the problems and solutions in the video below are specifically for Portland and Oregon cities that have Housing Authorities and are experiencing a crisis in the supply of affordable housing.  

I am a landlord.  Alone and with partners, I own apartment units in Clackamas County.  I have been through some very tough times with high vacancy rates, low rents and rising costs.  I am now enjoying the other end of the real estate cycle - low vacancy rates and high rents.  The extra income has allowed me to roof buildings, pave and sealcoat parking lots, put up new fencing, resurface the pool deck, paint buildings and spruce up the landscaping.

My tenants care that I care enough to make the properties very nice places to live, and I am proud of the housing I provide.  To no one's surprise, this comes at a huge cost that goes up every year.  The recent talk about having rent control in Portland foolish, shortsighted and selfish.  If the goal is to bring down (or not increase) the cost of housing in the Portland area, rent control would only help the few people who benefited at the beginning, but it would make things worse for everyone else later on.

As with any other product, housing prices respond to supply and demand.  Right now the supply of housing cannot keep up with an extraordinarily high demand.  Here is the good news:  No new housing was being built until rents were high enough to make new construction pay off.  Now, new construction in Portland is adding to the housing supply which is beginning to make a dent in demand: Vacancy rates are inching up and the rate of rent increases are slowing. The market is working, but not fast enough for all of the people needing a place to live now.

Rent control is a political solution that doesn't address the real problem of increasing the supply of housing.  It does the opposite.  When rents are controlled, investors stop investing and building comes to a halt.  There is an abundance of research to show that rent control is counterproductive, but frustrations over how to deal with real life crises makes people demand a bad, long-term policy for what is a short-term problem. The market may not respond fast enough for people needing affordable housing now, but  programs like the State Legislature's $8 million for rental assistance should help in the short term.

In the video below, the discussion among rental housing professionals is one of the best I have seen for presenting workable solutions for dealing with the affordable housing crisis.  I may not agree with all of the suggestions they propose, but this is an excellent place to start a conversation about what actually works, instead of pounding away at what doesn't.  My pet peeve is also addressed here:  The least good option is when government builds low income housing.  The private sector does it better.   At $350k per unit for the Portland Housing Authority to build an apartment unit, that bar is very low.  The bathroom faucets must be made of gold.


HFO-TV:  MultifamilyNW Proposes 
Portland's Affordable Housing Solution
An informed discussion on Solutions for Portland's Affordable Housing Crisis









Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tree Code Amendments - Now its your turn

READ:


As you read the Draft,mask yourself if they achieve the Council's project goals described in the Introduction.  Is the tree code less stringent?  Is it clear and objective?  Do changes reduce staff time and administrative overhead?  

WRITE:


Please submit comments by 5:00 pm on May 18, 2016, in order to be considered by the Tree Committee prior to finalizing their draft recommendation to the City Council. There will be further opportunity for public comment at the public hearing before the City Council early this summer.


Please main or email comments to:



Jessica Numanoglu, Planning Manager

City of Lake Oswego Planning & Building Services Department 380 A Avenue
P.O. Box 369
Lake Oswego, OR 97034
Phone: 503-635-0283

A copy of this report and more information about this project can be found at:



GO:

It is not necessary for you to attend the final meeting of the Ad-Hoc Tree Code Committee, but it is open to the public and public comments may be allowed.  If nothing else, you can see how the committee works and get a feel for the philosophy of the majority (and minorIty) of the group.  Date and time of the meeting will be posted on the city's Tree Code webpage.   

READ:


The Final Draft of the Tree Code Amendments 
when published, prior to the City Council Study Session.
Watch the Tree Code webpage for updates and announcements.  


WRITE:

Again, send your comments on the Final Draft, but this time, send them to the City Council who will be deciding the fate of the codes. Send your comments with "Public Testimony" written on it, along with, "PP-15-0003-2015, Tree Code Review".  Send testimony prior to the 
Council's Study Session so they can review them during their discussion.  By the Public Hearing, it is common for Councilors to have their minds made up, or nearly so, so aending in testimony in advance will be most useful.  
GO:

City Council Public Hearing
Not yet scheduled, but will be sometime this summer - probably in July.  
Plan to testify in person.  Read your written testimony, or informal commentary.

Written and verbal comments and testimony should relate to your observations about some part of the Draft Code.  The draft code can be very dense and confusing, so just try your best!  Everyone's voice needs to be heard - this is for everyone, not just a few people on a committee!  
The democratic process needs your participation!  
# What do you like, or not like about it?  
# What do you like or dislike about the current code and 
how would you like to see it changed?  
# If you could write the perfect code, what would it look like?  
# What do you and your friends think generally about Lake Oswego's tree code?
# What do you want to tell your city council about the city's tree code?  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More race-based control of housing from HUD

this time for criminals.  



So far, HUD has only used "disparate impact" to claim that certain well-off communities have discriminated against protected classes of racial minorities in the location of their public housing projects.  Westchester County in New York was hit with a suit for discrimination by disparate impact even though there was no intent to discriminate and no act that led to any discrimination occurred.  But because more minority races use public housing, the impact of where they lived was a burden on them more than whites.

Now HUD Secretary Julian Castro extends his regulatory reach into rental housing "biases" by claiming denial of housing for people with criminal records is discrimination.  The Fair Housing Act maintains that protected class status is for race, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin.  Some states and cities have added to the federal, legal definition for their jurisdictions, but having a criminal record has is not protected because it involves a voluntary, illegal, action on the part of a person, not the status of who the person is.

What is HUD under President Obama trying to accomplish?  

The government now controls local land use and zoning decisions using the illegitimate reasoning of "disparate impact."  Renters are dependent on government and have no choice about where to live.  

If the Obama administration wanted low-income people who depend on subsidized housing to have a choice about where THEY want to live, the government would issue them Section 8 vouchers for housing.  But the government does NOT want its dependents to decide any such thing for themselves because a great many minority families would choose to live in neighborhoods where their minority was the majority.  That goes against the top-down government plan of bringing the city to the suburbs.  If low-income families wanted to live in these areas, Section 8 vouchers could handle that.

Why attack rental housing providers?  

Because they are businesses and easy to regulate and control where private homes are not.  It isn't about race, it's about control.  Control of health care, control of energy, transportation, land use, water, housing... what's next, food?  If suburbs are to be broken and integrated into the city, they need a path.  

HUD wants to recreate cities and suburbs in a new way. 

How?  Continue reading future posts on the planned, political undoing of the Suburbs.  Deny it if you must, but those rose-colored glasses are breaking.

Something tells me the rules Secretary Castro claims are necessary to prevent discrimination will never affect him.

Choice belongs to the political elite.  

Blanket bans on criminal convictions violate Fair Housing Act, HUD says  Oregonlive, April 4, 2016 By Luke Hammill  

Julian Castro now serves as the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which ruled Monday that blanket bans on criminal convictions violate the Fair Housing Act.

Landlords who institute blanket bans on tenants with prior arrests or criminal convictions are in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a document released Monday.

The 1968 law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics like race, religion, sex or national origin. Having a criminal record is not one of the protected characteristics, but blanket bans on arrests and convictions violate the act "because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system," wrote Helen R. Kanovsky, general counsel for the federal housing agency, in the document.

"Criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African Americans and Hispanics," Kanovsky wrote.

In addition to banning intentional housing discrimination, Kanovsky wrote, the Fair Housing Act also prohibits "practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect because of race, national origin or other protected characteristics."

The agency's decision comes amid a national re-shaping of the politics surrounding the criminal justice system. Portland and Oregon last year joined the growing number of cities and states to pass "ban the box" legislation prohibiting employers from asking about a prospective employee's criminal history on a job application. And prison reform won rare bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate last fall.

Links to other housing related articles in the Oregonian:  


Wednesday + You = Tree Code Revisions


Trees, Trees, Trees

No matter how you feel about trees - love 'em but hate raking the leaves; love the flowers in the spring, but not so many they block out the light; love the big ones but not inches away from your house  -  

Or you are concerned about your property rights, you need to attend

  the PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE for the
TREE CODE REVISIONS
Wednesday, April 27
6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
City Council Chambers

to learn about the work of the Ad-Hoc Tree Code Committee.   

The main questions are:  

  • Are you responsible enough to take care of your own property? 
  • Under what circumstances does the government have the right to take away your right to control what you do on your property? 

The Open House will give you a rare opportunity to interact with committee members and make suggestions before the final draft code is sent to the City Council for changes and adoption.  The last couple of code change projects did not have public input after draft codes were written and prior to the final draft.  Now you can see what the committee created and be able to tell them what you do or don't like about it; their final meeting will address your concerns.  You can also do this in writing, but please read the draft codes first!

The whole point of having the Ad-Hoc Committee was to address community dislike of over-regulation of trees on private property as Represented on the last citizen survey.  Unfortunately, the self-selected committee is not representative of the entire community.  The majority of committee members are more prone to believe that your trees on your lot are a community resource and need to be controlled by the community.  Oregon City does not control trees on private property at all unless they are in a designated riparian or slide zone.  Other cities vary, with Portland being one of the most regulated (no surprise there).

The value of homes in highly regulated cities have a lower value than those with less regulation.  This doesn't work in Portland's hot real estate climate, but it does show that people in general do not like to live with overbearing government control over their lives and property.  We must live with some regulations and codes, but how many and what for?  

There is a lot of politically correct pressure to go along with demands for ever more regulation of trees, and most people can't imagine what Lake Oswego was like before there were any tree codes at all.  There were plenty of trees, and the stock on private property was growing, all without any codes against cutting trees down!   True, increased lot divisions and tear-downs create larger houses where smaller houses once stood and require tree removals that  changes the character of neighborhoods.  This problem can be addressed through development codes requiring larger setbacks and smaller allowable lot coverage. This option is not on the table at this time but it, and other ideas, may be something you want to suggest for later.

Private Property Rights and good stewardship of one's land are not mutually exclusive as some believe.  What ever happened to separate the two has damaged trust between neighbors.  We need property rights, mutual respect and trust back restored in our community.  Living under the watchful eye of neighbors and the thumb of government is no way to enjoy our homes and our city.  

There will be committee members with a variety of opinions at the Open House.  Attend, talk, listen, and then let the City Council know what you think.   



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Planners try to change human nature

What percentage of people really want to use public transportation, bike or walk to "work and to take care care of their daily needs"?  How far can bureaucrats go in their effort to Manhattanize the Portland area?  How many will keep driving their cars no matter what?

Planners make plans for us - based on what sounds or looks good to them, not on public needs and preferences.   Why do we follow them?  We are being fed only one meal and never get to see or invent the whole menu.

In the Portland Tribune article below (April 21, 2016), residents of NW Portland are being inundated with commuters who park their cars on area streets, making it difficult for locals to park their cars in their own neighborhoods.

A permit system is being expanded to give some relief for the beliguired residents, and city officials hope this encourages commuters to use public transportation instead of driving their cars to work.  Charging more for resident permits may also reduce the number of cars in the city.  Maybe this plan can be used everywhere as density creeps across the corridors and into neighborhoods as infill development.

What's wrong with these plans?

They ignore the fact that THE PUBLIC - COMMUTERS AND RESIDENTS ALIKE -  WANT AND NEED TO USE THEIR CARS.  NO ONE WANTS TO GIVE UP AUTOMOBILES!

And yet, PLANNERS AND BUREAUCRATS WANT TO DENSIFY THE CITY AND PUSH OUT AUTOMOBILES.  These are the two things a vast number of  people don't want.   A new Comp Plan, new bike lanes and MAX lines that gobble up street lanes, apartments without parking requirements, and now, plans to insert more density into single family neighborhoods.  The density and transportation preferences of METRO have accomplished several things - angry residents that cannot park on their own streets as density creeps in nearby (people in the no-parking apartments still own cars!), and congested roads as bike and MAX lanes push cars out.

Trying to manipulate human behavior has one predictable result: humans get pissed off!  

Parking permits work,
but shift the problem elsewhere
Portland Tribune, April 21, 2016. By Christopher Keizur

Alba Rouse has been in Northwest Portland for 30 years, and until recently she never thought she would have to create a parking petition.

But Rouse lives on Northwest Overton Street and is suddenly one block outside a permit zone that requires cars to have paid stickers on their windshields if owners want to avoid heavy fines for parking all day. This system was created to prevent long-term parking in the neighborhood as commuters were using the streets as places to stash their vehicles.

Zone M permits with two- and four-hour meters were installed in February in an effort to help the local residents and businesses find places to park. The plan was to push back against the growing tide of long-term parking, stemming from commuters who would leave their car on the streets and take public transport to work. 

Before the permit zone was created, it was easy for Rouse to park on her block. But when the drivers became displaced it became common for her to see cars park and the drivers walk away carrying suitcases — gone for days at at time. One neighbor finally had to have a vehicle towed after it sat in front of their house for six months.

“Its the type of place people can enjoy a lively, urban lifestyle without needing to have the expense of a car,” Rivera says. “In the long-term we want people to take public transportation, bike and even walk more to meet their daily needs living in Northwest.”

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Man's impact on the planet Earth

Like a lot of other things, Earth Day (yesterday) and the Green movement has gone too far in its militant message about man's negative impact on the Earth.  Some people, especially those who espouse the values of the "degrowth" movement, view almost any sign of the presence of man an abomination.  WE are the problem!  We should get rid of US! - or tightly control us and regulate our behavior in cities, if the former cannot be achieved.  In the United States of America.

This photo collection, "21 Satelite Photos of Earth Will Give You a Fresh Perspective," might change their minds, but probably not.  A guilt-free way to appreciate man's creativity and industry, and also ponder at his destructiveness.

The Twisted Sifter website also has what appears to be dozens? hundreds? of  other showstopper photo galleries in different themed sections.  

Enjoy! 



Kudos to LOPREP!!

LOPREP is a community treasure.

Review of Thursday's Disaster Preparedness Fair 

The parking lot at the old Paliades School, now being used by the Parks and Rec Department, was overflowing, and cars lined neighborhood side streets.  Upon entering the building shortly after the 4 pm start time, the gym was already buzzing.  You could feel the energy from within the moment you opened the building's front door.

Being a prepper in Lake O is cool!

The community has the people of LOPrep to thank for this event - for thinking of it, for sharing their knowledge, tips and finds, to work with the city and community resource people and vendors to come out to the event, and for caring enough to put in the time and energy to put on this Disaster Preparedness Fair in the first place!

Thanks to Jan Castle, Rick Eilers, Bing DeBurr, Cheryl Uchida, Ray Brown, and a host of other people whose names I do not know, and thanks to the City for hosting the event it with representative from our Firast Responders - the Police and Fire Departments and Public Works, Parks and Rec, the and Buildilng Department.  And thanks to other community vendors and volunteers for showing up and sharing their knowledge and services.  After last evening, there are no excuses for each family not to have a Go-Bag for every family member, and more general supplies for the home.

My one complaint would be that some booths were more about SWAG than spreading information specifically geared toward what to do in emergencies. Very few children were present, and the stuff was a distraction from any real learning.


Most popular give-away:  The 3-gallon water jugfrom the Public Works Department - one per city household or water ratepayer.  

Most enthusiastic presenter:  Volunteer Bing DeBhur showing his ham radio set-up.







Best gizmo of the day:  The DIY solar battery that you can use for appliances, lights and charging electronics.  Same person had a camp stove that charged a battery when the stove was hot.

Most essential item in a destructive emergency:  Water purification systems. 
Most underrated tip/emergency item:  Portable 5-gallon bucket toilets and instructions on how to use them so they don't stink!   See phlush.org/oregon. National organization at phlush.org.  Pre-built parts avail. at beprepared.com and elsewhere.

Best food item: The city provided obligatory Costco cookies, and some vendors had candy (a sucker with 911 stamped on it), but it was hot in the gym so clearly the Sno-Cone booth hosted by the people who do locates was popular with me.


 

The thing to now:  Start or add to your Go-Bag (also called a Buf-Out Bag) and/or emergency supplies for your home. A great example of a prepared backpack with list of items was on display.

Easiest thing to do today:  A vendor from Costco showed items they sell that can be used in an emergency.  There is a sale currently boxes of Mt. House, variety pack, freeze-dried meal pouches.  

Most useless SWAG item:  This one is tied.  The silver and blue rubber bracelet with the Parks Department "Living Well" message on it.  (Decal was useless too.). And tying for #1 was a plastic band-aid holder.  It's bulky and the plastic box will quickly become trash (along with those bracelets).  Are either recyclable?  

Most generous grifters:  Public agencies and departments, excluding the Public Works Department with the very useful water jug!  

Family favorite: Temperature sensitive pencils. 
(Easily amused!)

Did I learn anything?  You bet!  But mostly at the tables where there were no little treats or gifts - just valuable knowledge to share: Go-bags, food and water storage, water purification, human waste containment, solar electricity, locally available food and supplies, and how to organize your neighborhood for emergencies. 

Government agency and Red Cross hand-outs are extremely useful as a place to start, but the fair was about what to do next.  I didn't see the fire extinguisher practice set-up, and the hands-free CPR lessons were busy - I left before the County expert gave his lecture on earthquakes and other disasters, but I would include those events in the extremely helpful category.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It's mosquito season again

NEED BLOOD !
It's that time of year - when mosquitos begin laying eggs in puddles, ponds and old tin cans.  By July, mosquito numbers will reach their peak.

There's a new house near me, and a new rain garden depression in front.  Yay.  What other collection points are lurking in local yards, parks and green streets?

Clackamas County Vector Control and the Centers for Disease Control have tips to prevent the spread of disease by eliminating places for mosquitos to breed.

Clackamas County Vector Control

Mosquito Control Around Your Home
Many of the mosquitoes found around your home have bred on or around your or your neighbor’s property. Mosquitoes require standing water for their production. Eliminating standing water early in the spring will reduce the production of those summer mosquitoes.
Elimination of standing water must be done no later than early April to reduce later mosquito problems. Continue to monitor potential breeding grounds throughout the summer.

If you live in a state or area with the mosquito that spreads
the Zika virus and you are concerned about Zika, learn how to build your own Zika Prevention Kit.

Your kit should include items that will reduce your risk of getting Zika. Reducing the risk for Zika is particularly important for pregnant women.

Your kit should include
  • A bed net
  • Insect repellent
  • Permethrin spray
  • Standing water treatment tabs
  • A thermometer
  • Condoms

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wartime conservation

My parents survived the Great Depression and served in the Army during World War II.  My father is now 98 years old and lives locally.  Following the War, he was a cartoonist and collected a number of books by humorists, and books on jokes and cartooning.  Feeling the need for a laugh, I borrowed a couple of books from Dad's collection the other day.

Below is the publisher's note on the fly leaf of the book - World's Book of Best Jokes, Edited by Eddie Cantor, The World Publishing Co., 1943, when patriotism was at its peak.


                                  Books in Wartime

"Books are weapons in the war of ideas."
   -- PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT 

                                       This book is manufactured in compliance with the 
                                       War Production Board's ruling for conserving paper.

                                         It is printed on lighter weight paper, which re-
                                       duces bulk substantially, and has smaller margins 
                                       With more words to each page.  The text is complete 
                                       and unabridged.

                                         Thinner and smaller books will not only save
                                       paper, plate metal and man power, but will make 
                                       more books available to the reading public. 

                                          The reader's understanding of this wartime prob-
                                       lem will enable the publisher to cooperate more
                                       fully with our Government. 

COPYRIGHT  1943  BY  THE  WORLD  PUBLISHING  COMPANY

MANUFACTURED  IN  THE UNITED  STATES  OF  AMERICA


Eddie Cantor
Some humor of the day: 

   Sweet young thing:  "It must be wonderful to be a parachute jumper.  I suppose you've had some terrible experiences."
   Parachutist:  "Yes, miss,terrible.  Why, once I came down where there was a sign, 'Keep off the grass,' "

   Son:  "Dad, what was your great ambition when you were a kid?"
   Father:  "To wear long pants.  And I've got my wish.  If there's anybody that wears his pants longer than I do, I'd like to see him."

   Mr.:  "The iceman just told me that every woman in this block is in love with him except one."
   Mrs.:  "Humph!  It must be that woman that moved in next door, the stuck-up thing!"

   Sam:  "I sat through that picture show three times last night."
   Fred:  "Why, I heard it was terrible!"
   Sam:  "That's just it!  It was so lousy I had to sit through it three times to get my money's worth."

Just think... There are over a thousand jokes like this in the book!  

Hamlets host hopefuls

Clackamas County Hamlets of Beavercreek, Mulino and Stafford will host a Candidate Forum with candidates for the Board of Clackamas County Commissioners.  This is a prime opportunity to see and hear the candidates prior to the primary election - it's close by, it's early in the day - it's important!

Key issues for Clackamas County:
Housing
Annexation
Funding for roadways
Development of Stafford area
Metro and urbanization of cities and county land
Funding for infrastructure for increased urbanization
Transportation improvements along the I-205 Freeway


Candidate Forum
Board of Clackamas County Commissioners

Saturday, April 28
9 am to Noon
Athey Creek Middle School
2900 SW Borland Rd., Tualatin

All Clackamas County residents are welcome!  

Behind LO elections


How the city has changed.
The baby (our livability) is being tossed out 
with the bathwater (real estate development).
How far will we let this go?
 Who's city is it?  

Amid rumors of this person or that who might make a run for mayor or city council, only Kent Studebaker has declared himself as a candidate for a second term as mayor. It will be interesting to see just which of those other rumors come true since many people will no doubt wait until the deadline to file for office.

Preparing for a potential challenger, Kent Studebaker has either hired or is receiving friendly assistance with his campaign from political strategist, Elaine Franklin.  Studebaker and Franklin worked together on his first campaign for mayor also.

If you recall, Franklin lent her support to the campains of Joe Buck, Jackie Manz and Jeff Gudman during the 2014 election for Coty council seats.  Franklin was also part of a team of strategists hired by Patrick Kessi, developer of the Wizer Block, to win hearts and minds when the controversy about the development's design became a city mud wrestling match.

In many ways, Lake Oswego city elections have become more about who is supporting and funding which candidate and why.  Well-connected candidates have always had an easier time getting elected than the unconnected but brilliant and capable guy or gal off the street.  As local, regional and other development and real estate interests now have Lake Oswego in their sights for development, more money and interest is being paid to who governs the city.  Welcome to big-city politics!  

Lake Oswego is no longer about citizens controlling their own little town, it's about who can make the most money on land, development and real estate deals - that's where the big money is - that's the major industry for this city.  There is still urban renewal money to be handed out, land to be rezoned and partitioned, and no matter how streamlined (development-friendly)the code language becomes, there will be citizenry resistance to overbuilding, and a city staff that has proven to be more favorable to developers than citizen wishes. This is not the Lake Oswego most of us have enjoyed.  The cohesive, small town feel and mutual respect is vanishing as big money moves in and land speculation heats up.

We CAN regain local control of our town and destiny, but it will take specia people to do it.  Who will be paving the financial road to the City Council this year?  You and me, or others with a more avaristic intent?

You can follow the money trail by checking the financial activity for each candidate at the ORESTAR website operated by the Secretary of State's Election Office.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The "experts" get a wake-up call

Perhaps the suburb-haters are growing up.  Or the elitists are tired of swimming against the tide.  It appears that the anti-suburb types are realizing that not everybody is buying their urban utopia - that not only do the suburbs have staying power in America, but that the suburban form is highly desirable globally.   A detached house, a garden, a piece of land one can call their own...  Living the dream!

The descriptions of suburbs below have to be some of the most vivid and negative I have read.  While the automobile defined the shape of neighborhoods in the post-war era, the sheer number of people needing housing contributed to the quick expansion into the suburban areas around existing cities.  This was not just an American phenomenon, and despite the popular habit of dissing the suburbs, more people choose to live there than in cities.

Warning:  When you read that suburbs contribute to obesity or social isolation, or marginalize them with terms like dull and monotonous, you know the writer is repeating propaganda.  When choosing where and how to live, personal choice should prevail - the "experts" need to learn to respect those choices.


Did Suburbia Fail?
Failed Architecture,  10/05/2015

The contemporary conception of suburbia could be said to have started before World War II as an American ‘way-of-living’ and has since become a global phenomenon. Initially it was a government-directed, car-based project, catering for white middle-class families. It has been argued that ‘from the beginning, suburbia was more a state of mind than geographical location’ offering ‘a place of refuge for the problems of race, crime and poverty.’ It provided advantages over the existing city: space, convenience, closeness to nature, (architectural) freedom, and a sense of belonging with like-minded people. It became the ideal home for many and a popular setting for movies and tv series.
  
However, slowly the dream of suburban life started to crumble. From a Never-Never Land for grown-ups, it became a zone of ‘noir ruination’, criticised and ridiculed by experts (sociologists, financial analysts, designers, environmentalists, planners, etc.) and popular media. The monotonous, dull, almost sadomasochistic environments have become a twilight zone or even more perversely, as J.G. Ballard wrote, the nightmares that wake [their inhabitants] into a more passionate world.’ The lion’s share of suburbia is detached from urban life, enforcing isolation, segregation and obesity. Suburbia is increasingly regarded as an environmental disaster and the physical expression of rotten financial products.

Perhaps the suburbs are the only thing left that we can despise’ in terms of architectural taste and lifestyle. But ‘those who argue that suburbia is dying are wrong on the facts.’ Despite a growing critique of suburban culture and a renewed interest in the traditional city at the same time, the suburb is still by far the most desired typology across Europe and the US. And beyond these parts of the world, it is a novelty that is mushrooming and economically thriving everywhere. From China and India to Kenya and Brazil, to live in an American-style detached home with a garden is an appealing – and increasingly attainable – goal for the upwardly mobile. At the same time, there is a remarkable (re)appreciation of existing/older suburbs and suburban new towns. After Brownstones and Brutalism, suburbia is being rediscovered, from Palm Springs to Milton Keynes.

According to Patricia Cober, the 1950s view of suburbs as faceless, homogenous bedroom communities has been replaced with an image of highly differentiated suburban places. ‘They are no longer merely “sub” urbs,’ she argues.

We are all suburbanites’ says Yannis Tzaninis. Suburbia is all around us, there is no escape from it. It has become the norm, with an increasing number of people around the world living sub-urban. Despising the suburb was easy, but now it’s time to take it for what it is: the place many of us call home.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Why light rail?


Why not buses?
Or cars?
Why not toll highways?

For years, Metro has been trying to make driving a car as unpleasant as possible.  No new freeway expansions or improvements for decades, reduced parking requirements for infill development, "road diets" that take auto lanes and transform them into bicycle lanes, and road maintenance and bus service funding given a back seat to light rail operations and expansion.

Metro hates cars.  Or more correctly, Metro loves trains and sees cars (and buses) as the enemy of light rail.  Automobile drivers don't agree.

Why doesn't Portland embrace the idea of an expanded highway system that includes toll roads?  I went to a conference on transportation and housing in Austin,Texas last November where there are toll roads that take a large percentage of automobile (and bus) traffic off of the freeways which lessens the congestion for all.  Dallas has them too, as do other large cities.  With a growing population, Portland plods along with no highway improvements, making it one of the worst cities in the nation for time spent on congested roads. Toll roads would be great for BRT systems - but competition for LRT.  Smart Growth indeed!

The data is clear: Rail transit is not viable outside of a handful of "legacy" cities that developed prior to automobile use.  With the new Southwest Corridor Plan, Metro will exceed practical, responsible urban planning in order to promote another hugely expensive rail transit / pre-development project.  We do not need light rail to shoehorn people into the city core or town centers; If developers want to build apartments or mixed use, they can do so within walking distance of bus lines just as well.

But we're just going to let them do it, aren't we?.  The Smart Growth, "stack-em and pack-em" planners, not the road users - the majority of us, will have the last say.

MASS TRANSIT EXPANSION GOES OFF THE RAILS IN MANY U.S. CITIES

Newgeography.com, 3/17/2016  By Joel Kotkin

Journalists in older cities like New York, Boston or San Francisco may see the role of rail transit as critical to a functioning modern city. In reality, rail transit has been a financial and policy failure outside of a handful of cities.

In 23 metropolitan areas that have built new rail systems since 1970, transit’s share of commuting — including all forms, such as buses and ferries — has actually slipped a bitfrom an average of 5.0 percent before the rail systems opened to 4.6 percent in 2013. The ranks of those driving alone continue to grow, having increased 14.4 million daily one-way trips since 2000, nearly double transit’s overall daily total of 7.6 million, according to Census Bureau data.

For transit to work effectively, employment needs to be concentrated. This explains why between 2013 and 2014, New York accounted for a remarkable 88 percent of the total increase in train commuting. But what works for Brooklynites headed to Union Square does  not generally work so well for people living in our increasingly dispersed metropolitan areas. Indeed in most cities — Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Diego, and even the new urbanist mecca of Portland, according to 2015 American Community Survey data, where new transit lines have been put in, it has failed to increase the share of commuters who take public transportation, and in some cases the actual ridership has dropped.

One reason for the poor performance is that much of the train ridership turns out to have been former bus travelers in the first place, which limits actual gains there. Taxpayers, however, should be screaming about this switchero; the subsidy for new L.A. new bus riders, who tend to be the poorest of the poor, cost taxpayers $1.40 while the cost for a new rail rider was $25.82 over the period of 1994 to 2007. If you believe in transit as public good, clearly building more trains makes less sense than expanding bus operations.

Given what we know about the share of commuters using transit in most cities, pumping money into this form of transportation seems doubly wrong while other needs such as roads, schools, sewers and parks are neglected. Rather than try to fit all cities, and all parts of metropolitan areas, into a 19thcentury technology, maybe we should look to encourage 21st century innovation.

All this suggests we need to revamp our ideas of transit, particularly in the newer, fast-growing cities. Trains may elicit a nostalgic smile about the good old days, but most Americans, and the vast majority of our cities, need to live not in the past but in an increasingly dispersed, and choice-filled reality. Time to embrace that future.