Re: Things I Believe Generally About High-Density, Lowrise Or Midrise Neighborhoods, Without Reference To Specific Conditions In The Bay Area About Which I Only Know What I Read In The Papers, And Very Little Of That.

1

What most people really, really want, though, is a single family home with a yard two blocks from public transportation and the sort of walkable retail that needs really dense development.

What about little, highly walkable hamlets that are a train-ride away from the Big City? I do think there's a sense in which people crave a small-town feel, as well as big-city feel. Isn't this a common structure that developers theorize about?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:50 AM
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As opposed to unplanned sprawl, I mean. Idealized, controlled sprawl, where you could still function just fine without owning a car.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:51 AM
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3 is sort of surprisingly possible in old streetcar suburbs. The town I grew up in managed to square the... triangle? (weird metaphor, LB) by fundamentally not caring if it was affordable. But yeah that town has lots of (big) single family homes, easy public transit access, walkable retail, and no overnight street parking (!!). It also has a fair bit of mostly pre-war mid-rise development immediately adjacent to the streetcar lines, of course (I grew up in that kind of apartment).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:51 AM
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This sounds like a job for somebody with a strong conception of property rights and a not enough to do with their time because they lack all ability to connect with others as humans. You know, libertarians. Because zoning is preventing the little widow who owns this lot from selling her house a premium to some developer who wants to put in six yuppie couples and a trustafarian on that same land.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:53 AM
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There are efforts at squaring the circle in your (2). Think of Stapleton in Denver: single-family homes with small lots/yards, tons of small parks, a few larger parks, retail bunched at either end of the neighborhood, so you can walk to it, but not live next to it. It's actually a pretty nice place. The Glen, in Glenview, IL is built on similar principles, and there must be others around the country.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:53 AM
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3: That's sort of like my neighborhood, except you can park overnight on the street. They pulled up the street car rails years ago, but the bus is still there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:54 AM
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that town has lots of (big) single family homes, easy public transit access, walkable retail, and no overnight street parking (!!). It also has a fair bit of mostly pre-war mid-rise development immediately adjacent to the streetcar lines, of course (I grew up in that kind of apartment).

I know you didn't grow up where I grew up, but this exactly, in every detail, the place I grew up. These are the old, expensive suburbs, and people who aren't committed to city living love them. (It's also no surprise that our high schools are basically twins.)


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:56 AM
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Forest Hills Gardens is sort of idyllic in that way too. You can walk to the subway quite easily, but right next to the subway, the apartment buildings are higher.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:57 AM
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I think actually still having the train matters a lot as far as desirability for both housing and retail, but maybe it's not like that everywhere.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:57 AM
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And my neighborhood isn't a suburb.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:57 AM
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7: My current town has no overnight street parking. In your old town you get ticketed if you park on the street for more than 2 hours during the day.

(I sort of lived in that town myself and went to that town's public schools. We did not pay much to that town despite living in a big house. Our front lawn was in that town. The house and back yard were in another.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:59 AM
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7: what's weird is that in a lot of cities those inner belt streetcar suburbs have really sort of fallen apart -- LA, for instance, has some neighborhoods that were clearly lovely, middle class streetcar suburbs at one point and then became retail-less dead zones. (They're coming back now just because so much of LA is gentrifying, but the walkable retail seems largely lost.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:01 AM
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I find nothing in the post I can argue with. I suspect that pushing workable public transportation through local government is the best way to situate oneself for the fight in (5) -- some incumbent owners are going to try to block it, but they're less well situated to do so than they are in blocking any specific dense development.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:02 AM
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Our front lawn was in that town. The house and back yard were in another.

They are cracking down on this now. Apparently developments have been built with like fifteen units just over the line and one parking space in [ town ], with the idea that all the residents will be able to attend [town] schools.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:03 AM
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3 is broadly possible, just not where piles of money are coming into the community from outside (and extra people coming from outside to chase all that money).

I disagree a bit with 1 and will note that everywhere that prices are high for dense development, they are yet higher for nearby less-dense development. What's driving the prices isn't the proximity to ground floor retail, but proximity to the piles of money that have arrived from taking a cut of every transaction in the world.

I don't think it's local opposition that drives developers to luxury rather than affordable buildings, but a simple roi calculation. I suppose if you're monetizing hassle, maybe it's a part: if you have to go through all the headaches of building something, you might as well earn enough money for it to be worth it. I think, though, that it's still about profit dollars per square foot, and as long as there's piles of money coming in, and tons of people coming to get that money, there's going to be more money in serving those people than in serving others.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:04 AM
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Classic tenement flats [or US style brownstones] are great. The nicest place I think I've ever lived, was the west end of Glasgow, which is largely tenement flats, and manages to have all the walkability, and restaurants and bars and shops you'd want, and yet is surprisingly open and green looking.

Our current place is a new build that has some of those features, in the sense that it has about 50 flats on a relatively small plot of land, while keeping the flats relatively spacious inside. Unfortunately it's not located among amenities in the way that tenements or brownstones are.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:06 AM
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Man, having kids: I forgot that I'm pretty sure I lived in Sifuville.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:06 AM
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I can argue with 4 though. The dense cities we know and love all have zoning. I could be wrong on this, but I heard somewhere that the cities without strict zoning ordinances all wind up looking like Houston.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:06 AM
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18: I'm not suggesting zoning is bad. I'm suggesting what types of arguments are likely to prevail at getting more density in the current political climate.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:07 AM
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I agree with 1-3. 4 is not generally true, though. Saint Louis and huge swaths of Chicago are counterexamples, seemed like maybe Pittsburgh and Philly as well when I've visited. Baltimore as well.

There was a big walkeable midrise development in ABQ-- kind of synthetic and outdoor-mallish to my taste, but definitely different than tract housing on big lots by a strip mall. How's Cleveland? Seattle?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:09 AM
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Rosedale in Toronto also seemed nice but not the sort of thing which can be widespread.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:10 AM
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I do think there's a sense in which people crave a small-town feel, as well as big-city feel. Isn't this a common structure that developers theorize about?

Yglesias has written on this a fair amount -- the new urbanism. And this is actually the structure that many cities which developed a large population before 1920 or so seem to have at their outskirts. Its disappearance may have something to do with freeways.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:12 AM
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20.1: The areas in Pittsburgh that are street-car suburb dense were mostly built like that on what was previously not residential land.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:13 AM
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Arcology. I'm pretty sure lots of people want to live in big forested ziggurats.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:14 AM
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19: If that's what you're saying, then I would respond that those arguments are not likely to prevail. I would focus on building the infrastructure for dense development first. Cities built the infrastructure for sprawl before sprawl occurred.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:15 AM
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I'm on the same page as LB. With regards to San Francisco, my experience is that the dense parts of it are awesome, even if they're not particularly high. Nob Hill down to Market is mostly 4 to 6 story buildings with the occasional 10 story standout and it has a density of 20k/km^2 (52k/mi^2). That's livable and didn't feel too oppressive from the street. That's about four times the density of the Sunset District in its entirety. Expanding at that density even slightly is going to have a huge change on the number of people you can support without having high-rises.

6/10: And that's (part of) why our neighborhood is pretty great. If only the direct bus to downtown ran more often.

16: My platonic and unobtainable ideal for that sort of living is Edinburgh's New Town (which admittedly could be a bit taller in places).


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:15 AM
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16: I visited Edinburgh for a workshop once and was surprised by the apartment the professor who was hosting it was living in. He was young and presumably not wealthy, but by the standards of most US urban areas the place was enormous, and the ceilings were about 50% higher than I've ever seen in another apartment. Plus it was near a street with frequent bus service and some shops and restaurants.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:16 AM
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14: Our house was pre-war. Maybe it was built before WWI. It had stables for two horses in the carriage house (which totally could have ben converted into an apartment) but we just used as a garage. I believe that the guy who built it did not like the automobile and self consciously chose to have a carriage house built instead.

The other town was probably richer. We paid plenty of taxes but more of them went to the school district whose schools I didn't attend. I could have gone to its schools too. They might have been a better fit for my sister whose learning disabilities were not served well by the school she went to.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:18 AM
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What most people really, really want, though, is a single family home with a yard two blocks from public transportation and the sort of walkable retail that needs really dense development. BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE THAT

This is where I grew up. Fairly dense (terraced) housing, but small gardens, bus stop at the end of the street, shops and schools (and indeed the city centre) within walking distance.
But that was Heroinopolis, which is a fairly small city.

Most people = most Americans and Brits, though. Most Parisians don't lust after single-family homes; they're happy with a flat, and if they're rich somewhere in the countryside. I'm of the same opinion: I'd much rather give up a garden than give up walkability.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:18 AM
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I guess 20.1 reminds me that I've seen some pretty huge and affordable apartments in Chicago, but mostly in a state of some disrepair and not as transit-convenient as one would like.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:18 AM
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re: 27

Yes, high ceilings are common even in smaller tenement flats. Bay windows, too. And original Victorian tiled entrance halls and stairways, also.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:18 AM
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Pwned by ttaM and essear.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:19 AM
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Well, Edinburgh is such a warm place with so much sunlight and so little wind, it barely costs anything to heat a place with needlessly giant ceilings.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:19 AM
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the country is full

New Yorker! There are Manhattan-sized chunks of nothing adjacent to some of the larger cities and towns out West.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:20 AM
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giant s/b high


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:20 AM
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re: 29.last

Me too. Except that modern buildings often have poor noise insulation/separation between flats, which drives me a bit crazy. Most of the Victorian or early 20th. c. places have been quite a bit better for that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:20 AM
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33 is what I was wondering about. But I suppose there was plenty of coal around.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:21 AM
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A friend has taught me that nice houses and shitty weather are correlated. At this point, I feel like I can tell a place's climate by looking on Zillow.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:22 AM
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34: But they're still owned by someone. As are the adjacent nothing-chunks.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:22 AM
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Well, Edinburgh is such a warm place with so much sunlight and so little wind, it barely costs anything to heat a place with needlessly giant ceilings.

Put a sweater on.

Seriously, the only way to manage in a traditional house in Edinburgh without spending vast amounts on heating is to accept that your house in winter is basically a sheltered bit of the outside, rather than being the inside in any meaningful sense, and dress accordingly.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:22 AM
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24: Yes it's not as though people take trips to different continents and rave about their time spent living in ziggurats.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:22 AM
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Also what 37 said.

So, it's agreed then, everyone's moving to Edinburgh? I shall inform my relatives.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:23 AM
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But they're still owned by someone

Sure, but the incentives are different. If you own 100 acres on the edge of Albuquerque, you're probably looking to sell to a developer, not have a bigger yard and some peace and quiet.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:23 AM
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The ziggurats aren't as good as the ones with the domes on top. I think they're both screwed if you have an alien or Godzilla attack, though.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:24 AM
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If cities run short of space for new housing, why can't they just take their abandoned steel mill sites and redevelop them?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:24 AM
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42: I liked Edinburgh. Warmish (compared to Nebraska), scenic, readily available fried food, castle. Nothing missing, really.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:25 AM
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FWIW, I didn't find tenement places in Glasgow that expensive to heat. That said, I was younger, and probably accepted a naturally colder environment as natural. I'm pathetically used to 19 - 20 degrees.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:26 AM
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45: Aren't the cities with abandoned steel mills mostly the ones that aren't having housing shortage issues? The only counter-example I can think of is the one in Bethlehem, which they turned into a casino.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:26 AM
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Actually, Minneapolis is full of single-family homes two blocks from public transportation. They're not all within walking distance of the grocery store, but they're generally within a short bike-ride. We have very few tower blocks, some ugly modern sub-Dwell-magazine condos and a reasonable number of average small (20s-30s) brick apartment buildings with six or eight apartments each plus a lot of duplexes.

We don't have, you know, New York style density, or London-style (thank god, London sounds like an absolute nightmare these past ten years), but I live in a single-family home with a choice of three different bus lines less than half a mile away, two convenience stores right nearby, a pretty good Mexican grocery store with deli/take-out two blocks away and a choice of two (typical city, but not that bad) grocery stores just under a mile away. I also live about five blocks from the hospital and have actually biked to the ER when I hurt myself (in such a way that did not prevent me from biking, obviously).

It seems to work relatively well, actually - there's a shortage of affordable rentals, but that has more to do with the fact that expensive condos are actually what gets built (and sits empty) and the intentional destruction by a previous mayor of the low-level, less-dense, greenspace rich affordable housing projects we used to have. (ti was classic - they promised to replace the units but basically just lied.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:26 AM
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In Minneapolis we really like italics.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:27 AM
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I read the paper. Minneapolis isn't warm enough to support human life.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:28 AM
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<i> is the markup for Minnesota nice.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:28 AM
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re: 49

The problem isn't that London is dense. The problem is that it's insanely expensive, to the point where most people on non-stratospheric salaries are either suffering huge commutes or spending a borderline unsustainable percentage of their income on rent or mortgage. And people like myself [not a university lecturer but on the same pay scale] certainly couldn't afford to buy anywhere at all for the foreseeable future.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:29 AM
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Semi OT-- I lived a few blocks away from the really fancy part of the fancy neighborhood in my town. There was a yellow apartment building near us amid all the houses known as the Yellow Peril. At the time I just thought that this was because it was not the most well-maintained building, but, looking back on it...wow.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:30 AM
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Actually, Minneapolis is full of single-family homes two blocks from public transportation.

But how much service is there? I'm near stops that probably get 20 to 30 buses on hour during morning and evening rush hour. There's probably still ten buses an hour from 11 to midnight. You can actually live without a car, but most areas here on bus lines don't get anything like that level of service. It's pretty much just the areas that used to have street cars.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:33 AM
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IK_faIzYGi8

Fits the other thread better, but ought to be an earworm for this thing anyway. You just gotta poke around


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:39 AM
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Not that I live without a car. We have two, but just for decoration.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:40 AM
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Minneapolis isn't warm enough to support human life.
Not true. A few writers still live there, searching picked over fields for whatever frost-wilted letters they can find, mostly "q"s and "z"s, eking out a hardscrabble life.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:41 AM
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What most people really, really want, though, is a single family home with a yard two blocks from public transportation and the sort of walkable retail that needs really dense development. I get it -- I want that too. There's one street in my neighborhood of these absurd little stone phony-Tudor (I think that's what you'd call them?) houses, and I covet one: all the neighborhood amenities, but a rosebush out front and no worries about annoying the downstairs neighbors. BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE THAT (unless you're either rich or lucky)

I'm living LB's dream, a block and a half from Devon in Chicago. Chicago Bungalow, built 1924, purchased 1990.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:41 AM
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What most people really, really want, though, is a single family home with a yard two blocks from public transportation and the sort of walkable retail

Is this a claim about enlightened people or people generally? Because a lot of Americans would be perfectly happy in a mythical world with both sprawl and less traffic.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:46 AM
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"Incumbent owners and local governments generally hate dense development, and are pretty successful in blocking it."
Got I hate the goddamn NIMBYs in my neighborhood. There's a neighborhood email list and every time there's a zoning board hearing to propose a relatively dense development (1-3BR apartments in multiunit buildings) people send out emails telling everyone how awwwwful the traaaaafic will be. Seriously, how much more traffic can a 20 unit building really bring in a neighborhood of hundreds of houses? If all units leave home in a 10 minute window in the morning it's an extra car every 30 seconds- oh noes! They complain about the fact that a 20 unit building is only going to have 20 parking spaces and all these people will take up the street parking too. That it will be an eyesore because it's across the parkway from a large park and will be 3 stories tall (despite the fact that many other buildings are already that tall and the park is also the home of the city water treatment plant.) The real kicker is that the most recent developments proposed (20 unit and 93 unit) are replacing, respectively, an abandoned Asian restaurant that closed 8 years ago and an unused warehouse on an industrial street behind a shopping center. Save the historic abandoned Asian restaurant!!


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:47 AM
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61: I have heard indirectly about some of the arguments against affordable developments in [ town I grew up in ]. My favorites were the argument that a smallish elderly development shouldn't be built across from a 1 acre hilltop park because deer had been spotted there, and they might be endangered, and the argument that a largeish (maybe 100 units? Possibly less) elderly development shouldn't be built on a side street adjacent to a major street because drivers occasionally used it as a cut through, which would lead to the deaths of many dozens of elderly pedestrians every year.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:54 AM
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and all these people will take up the street parking too

People from the suburbs drive into my neighborhood to park on the street and take the bus the rest of way in. On the one hand, assholes. on the other hand, last free parking before campus.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:54 AM
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63: I've always wondered about that. Why don't we have parking permits like other East End neighborhoods?


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:56 AM
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Parts of the neighborhood do. You have to ask for them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:58 AM
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It is weird to be able to drive places without having to weigh the likelihood of finding a spot near my house when I return. It's nice, I guess, especially when it has snowed and I don't have to get mad at other people trying to claim public property with a chair because they spent fifteen minutes shoveling, but it still doesn't generally make driving worth it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:59 AM
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Since I live on one side of the city and work on the other and have a permit that is valid city wide I am occasionally (like once a month) guilty of parking in the affordable housing residential area closest to my office. Based on the availability of spots at certain hours I'm pretty sure this is somewhat common.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:00 AM
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I fully intend to guiltily use our city-wide resident permit for our former city until it expires or we get ticketed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:03 AM
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Incumbent owners and local governments generally hate dense development

This is worth pointing at again. Local governments are resisting pressure from developers, who stand to make real money from development, and are foregoing higher tax revenue. In our system, it's a pretty big deal any time politicians line up against money, and I think one could fairly take this as a pretty strong revealed preference on the part of constituents.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:03 AM
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Although I haven't yet so maybe I'm not actually that committed to the prospect.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:03 AM
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Where I grew up was also almost the ideal - one street away from the bus line (as good as buses are in Canada where they are crap), short walk from a ferry to the big city (whose hours only worked for getting to drinking and not coming back), near a grocery store and the liquour commission. Plus we had a yard, a garage and a drive-way. Also near-by: bowling alley, strip clubs, dive bars, stationary store, hardware store, drug stores, banks, curling club, tennis club, one Tim Horton's.

Except now they've closed everything mentioned above, most importantly the grocery store and the liquour commission (although added two more Tim's and a hipster coffee shop). Both of which are now huge big box stores a 15-30 minute drive away, and built more housing. I appreciate the housing density but it's way less livable as a walkable community than it used to be, and for more people. My parents are pissed about the residential development but I'm more annoyed I can't walk anywhere any more.

Most weirdly, the new housing hasn't even replaced the stores or other businesses. Well, the bowling alley was built over. But the other houses are where a historic building was (burnt down suspiciously) and on land built up in the harbour (I have made my home town completely recognizable). Those old business are just empty store fronts for the most part. Or still dive bars (sketchy ones).

I think the answer is that there is a issue with the space-time continuum and I go back in time 30 years every time I go home.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:20 AM
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In Canada, you can tell the year by the number of Tim Horton's.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:23 AM
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Everyone's jumped (reasonably) on the bit where I said you couldn't have a single family house, like so:

Oh, I'm overstating this a bit -- on small enough lots, you can have a perceptible percentage of single-family housing in a functionally dense neighborhood. But not everyone can live like that. And if you're trying to come up with a plan for a neighborhood with urban amenities but all or mostly singlefamily housing with yards, you're aiming at something like a four-sided triangle: it really, really isn't going to work, and shouldn't be a goal of public policy -- I can sympathize with your desires, but in the 'gently trying to talk you out of it' sense of sympathizing.

And you're all correct, and I was overstating it -- that perceptible percentage can be pretty high, if the lots are small enough. But single family houses, even on smallish lots, are right at the limit of where a functionally dense neighborhood breaks down, and if you push it even a little on lot size, and you don't allow multiple-family housing at all, it starts not working.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:23 AM
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Parts of Omaha also fit LB's description, although they're hampered by the fact that white people don't want to live there very much. There was, when I was there, a whole big neighborhood of decent-sized pre-war bungalows in very good repair that was basically all student rentals because they were so cheap. A fair amount of amenities near by too. It wasn't quite walking distance from downtown, but it was an easy bike ride or very short drive. Buses in Omaha do suck, of course, but whaddya expect, it's Nebraska.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:24 AM
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The problem isn't that London is dense. The problem is that it's insanely expensive, to the point where most people on non-stratospheric salaries are either suffering huge commutes or spending a borderline unsustainable percentage of their income on rent or mortgage. And people like myself [not a university lecturer but on the same pay scale] certainly couldn't afford to buy anywhere at all for the foreseeable future.

I think what is getting overlooked here is that London is a place to park money by investing in real estate because it's dense, because it's a finance capital, because it's a tourist site. The things that make it the good kind of super-dense also make it alluring to finance capital, driving up the rents and attracting the super-rich and so on. Minneapolis is nice partly because although you can have a lot of fun here in a quiet way, there's not enough fun/high-powered jobs/tourism that billionaires all want to own real estate here. I'm not sure that under finance capitalism you can have both the kind of super-shiny ultra-dense "global" city that supports, like, all-night record stores and super-fancy food delivery and so on and a place that is safe from the depredations of finance capital. I mean, if we're talking about going full communism and creating density that way, I guess I'd be okay with it as long as Kotsko or someone was in charge.

On Minneapolis bus service: we don't actually need twenty buses an hour because we're not San Francisco. I think we could use some more bus service, but at least around here, there's enough buses at enough times. If you want to get around town between 2am and about 4:30, it's true that there isn't too much running, but again, we're not a city that parties all night.

It's been so cold lately that I haven't been biking that much, and I've been pleasantly surprised by how easy it's been to bus around. (And our single light rail line is quite good and heavily used; the second line is opening this spring. Both have, IMO, really simplified transit in key parts of the city.)

When I lived in Chicago - which is much more similar to New York than Minneapolis is in that it's large and stony and it's quite a job to bike from one end to the other - I didn't really feel like the public transit was dramatically better. There was more of it - and I love the el - but there's also a hell of a lot more city to cover, and the bus service seemed both bleh and expensive.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:25 AM
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I guess everyone's already said this, but the kind of neighborhood LB is talking about as impossible is more the norm than not for any US city largely developed along streetcar lines, which is basically any US city or part of the city that developed mostly between 1880 and 1930, which is a lot of them. Most of the city of LA, for example, outside of the valley or some west side infill. I mean, my own neighborhood is basically like that, and there's a fair amount of walkable retail, though because its the ghetto the retail kind of sucks. The neighborhood I grew up in is basically exactly like a fancy eastern streetcar suburb with walkable retail (the main difference is that since they took out the actual streetcar you have to drive, not walk, to your office job, but the neighborhood layout is almost the same, except with somewhat smaller and narrower lots). Similar structures are pretty common.

There's also an undervaluing (as always on this blog) of the real and genuine advantages of the car. Having good things close but driveable is extraordinarily useful and is consistent with a realtively high degree of density. Lots of Americans live in fairly dense places where a car is necessary for some aspects of life, but not in pristine isolation. Any creation of something more like streetcar suburbs -- which I do think is what a lot of people want -- needs to keep in mind that there's going to be some combination of walking/biking, public transit, and driving, not exclusively the first two. And that's possible and fine.

I do think that the particular perspective of New York City, where the city itself is ultra-dense and (many of the richer) suburbs have very wide lots and are completely non dense, is distorting, at least compared to much of the US.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:26 AM
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74: We should just take it as a given that everybody would really rather live in Omaha, but couldn't talk their spouses into it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:27 AM
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Not only do I like italics, but I guess I really like the phrase "finance capital". Sort of a utility term suitable for all parts of the sentence, apparently, not unlike the word "fuck".


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:27 AM
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little, highly walkable hamlets that are a train-ride away from the Big City?

Doesn't the blog have some connections to Deca/tu/r, GA?


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:28 AM
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My block is mostly single-family, but my neighborhood and all like it have alternate blocks which run to multi-unit housing, at least on one side of the street. The amenities in the OP wouldn't be there without them, a fact some of my neighbors don't realize. My neighborhood is gradually becoming denser, with most teardowns being replaced with multi-units.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:32 AM
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71: My BF's parents grew up in Winnipeg. Their parents weren't super prosperous. I think they got around on buses for much of their lives. His grandfather got a car when his mother was a child, but his grandmother never learned to job. Were the buses in Canada better then?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:32 AM
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So are people familiar with this "Target Express" concept? I guess they're opening Target stores that are about 15% the size of a standard Target, specifically for infill in densely populated urban areas -- one is going in here in Dinkytown, the U of Mn student shopping district. Seems like a way for finance capital to actually encourage positive urban experiences, but I'm sure it is evil in some way.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:39 AM
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We got a full-sized Target for our infill. Because depopulation can work for you. The parking is underneath the store.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:41 AM
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79: highly likely, things being so widespread.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:42 AM
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Holy shit, Atlanta!

http://www.businessinsider.com/atlanta-traffic-jam-pictures-2014-1

Bad urbanizm!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:42 AM
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I heard that Birmingham was nearly as bad.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:43 AM
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There's also an undervaluing (as always on this blog) of the real and genuine advantages of the car. Having good things close but driveable is extraordinarily useful and is consistent with a realtively high degree of density. Lots of Americans live in fairly dense places where a car is necessary for some aspects of life, but not in pristine isolation

This is our current state of affairs, and I do wish things were a little more walkable -- if our nearby commercial square were more fully developed with things I wanted (replace shitty coffee shop with good one! replace shitty grocery store with good one! replace mysterious shitty clothing store with good one! add several more restaurants I'd like to go to! add a hardware store! make the library be on my end of town instead of the other one!) it would be pretty ideal.

A ten minute walk from my house I can catch a bus to campus, and there's a movie theater and a place we like to go for brunch or for drinks after a movie; there's a CVS and a toy store; there's a farmer's market in the warm seasons. But we still also do various ten-minute drives to other similar nearby neighborhood commercial centers to do our grocery shopping, to take Jane to preschool, and to get variety in our experience.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:45 AM
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76: I like the idea of living in a streetcar suburb and owning one car for a family. The problem is that most of the suburbs around here built after everyone had a car are not really walkable at all.

Manhattan's density makes it weirdly convenient not to have a car, because you can get things delivered. When I lived just a block away from a Shaws with a lot of BU students, it was still hard to carry bulkier items home.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:50 AM
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There are quite beautiful old multi-unit buildings next to said square on our side of it, and less beautiful, newer and more affordable ones on the other. The effect is all very nice! but a bit sleepy. It feels less sleepy and more walkable when it's not winter, but I also think it just happens to be a touch too suburban, with the retail a little too constrained geographically -- and then also, of course, a depressed economy doesn't support the most lively retail ever. I could imagine a slight shift that would make everything just the right bit hipper and more filled in and boy would I be happy. Maybe someday! (But I'd still get in the car to go to the good library.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:50 AM
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69: Sure, there's a very strong revealed preference there among current homeowners. If you think current property owners are the only people whose interests should be considered, then the system works.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:50 AM
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The problem with the real and genuine advantages of the car is that unless you deny those advantages to some residents, you will never get development patterns such that other residents have the full suite of transportation options. So, sure, it's nice to be close to public transportation and walkable retail and to be able to drive wherever. But you can't have that everywhere; either the retail moves to cheaper, more remote locations where it can serve a larger set of population or the income in the community is such that high-margin rich people retail can survive. Small-scale, moderate-margin retail requires more density than can generally be supported in a neighborhood where everybody drives to work. One of the reasons Boston still has so many walkable neighorhoods is that, although it is nothing like manhattan in terms of density or public transit availability, it's freakin' annoying to drive here. If driving is not more annoying than walking or taking transit -- which is to say, if it has real and genuine advantages on a daily basis -- the system breaks.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:51 AM
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85: I get that this is a very serious situation right now, but the "photos of the insane gridlock" don't look any different than any other photos of normal Atlanta traffic. Except there's a dusting of snow on the ground.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:51 AM
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73 to 76.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:52 AM
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92: Yeah, I had the same thought, but it becomes clear from reading about it that those cars are probably all within 100 ft of where they were last night.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:53 AM
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To know for certain, we'd have to have figures on how many people in Atlanta sleep on the floor of a CVS on other nights.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:54 AM
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91: Being a tourist destination can help with this! Not a likely solution for my current location, however. Universities are good for this too.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:54 AM
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91: Right. There are lots of cars even in dense cities. But if you develop in the way you need to make cars feel happy and loved and comfortable -- lots of parking! big wide streets/limited access roads with high speed limits and few traffic lights! -- then you're going to have density problems. I don't think sufficiently dense development for my purposes is compatible with making car ownership not kind of a drag.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:55 AM
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But yeah, if there was a handy streetcar that zipped between the neighborhoods we currently drive to, I'd certainly prefer that, and there isn't.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:55 AM
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81: The bus was fine for getting to school (me) and to work (my dad, the opposite direction). I'm sure it still is. The problem, IME, is when you want to do anything after ~5 or if you wanted to grab something quick at the grocery store.

I also lived in a prairie city (not Winnipeg) without a car for grad school. There too the small grocery store downtown closed so that you (me) were forced to take three buses to the other side of town to get groceries. It wasn't the bus system that was the problem, it was the actual grocery store companies (rather have few large stores than more small ones) and/or zoning issues with the city. And again, that closed grocery store sat empty the rest of my time there. Of course, the whole downtown of that city was dying. It's probably different there now since the oil boom, but that side was always the 'rough' side and probably has been ignored for sprawl elsewhere.

I'm enjoying sounding like an old grizzled old timer - 'I remember when they used to have a grocery store here...Any time (between 10 and 6), we could walk right in and buy a bag of milk...eeehup.'


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:57 AM
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Really, lots of urban places in this country are the worst of bth worlds; places developed on the assumption that driving would be the nicest option for everybody (or redeveloped that way; all the streetcarless streetcar suburbs) where that is no longer the case, but where the other options don't exist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 9:59 AM
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91 gets at an important dimension: driving friction must exist but not be insurmountable. We've comfortably downsized to one car for the first time in our 35 years together in the last few years, but use the car every day.

At home, neither of my grown kids uses the car for much besides picking up friends at O'Hare or the Megabus. But at Wh*t* B**r college, where he's a junior, my son is deep into car culture--not as an owner, but as a borrower/user and mechanic.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:04 AM
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Is this the place to extol car-sharing or rental-by-the-hour programs?

Teresa and I probably drive about every two weeks, maybe a little more. We live in a walkable neighborhood, but if we're out of a lot of things a trip to the grocery store might be too much to carry, and sometimes we want to go somewhere not easily reachable by public transportation, and these days it's 15 degrees and windy and waiting for a bus is miserable. Fortunately, there are at least three Zipcar parking spaces within three blocks of our house, and Car2gos around town. The former would be so expensive for longer trips that you might as well get a daylong rental from Avis or something, and the latter isn't the kind of thing you can plan on if you're on a tight schedule, but I think we haven't needed anything more in the past four months.

If I have to have a point, I don't know, I guess it's that some places have even more options than just owning a car or relying on public transportation 100 percent of the time.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:09 AM
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I agree generally with most of the standard duty urbanism beliefs about restrictions on parking, etc. But the truth is that most people will continue to use cars and transit and walking for different things -- including different kinds of retail. Any realistic desirable urbanism can and should (and probably will) accommodate both, which means both creating areas where it's hard to drive (in certain kinds of development) and areas designed for cars. The idea that the goal should just generally be everywhere to make it hard for people to drive is seriously misguided, even if there are areas (like old downtowns, or other areas deliberately planned for it) where certainly there's a lot of room for change with ridiculous parking requirements, etc. Planning is hard and while I guess dogmatic anti-car absolutism is better than the exact opposite, the reality is that you're going to need to plan and account for a lot of different kinds of transportation modes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:11 AM
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Funny, we end up pretty much never using Zipcar. We signed up for when our car died on the theory that even if we drove just as much, it'd still be cheaper. But in practice it never seems worth it. What we really need a car for, on rare occasions, are the sorts of multiday trips where traditional car rental is cheaper than Zipcar.

But that's not a general condemnation of Zipcar, just how things happen to work out. (And it's heavily contingent on my living in one of the few places where taxis are a real easy option -- they're price-competitive with Zipcar for unless things work out in a very specific way.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:14 AM
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all the streetcarless streetcar suburbs

We even have trains that go most of the places the streetcars used to go; too bad those aren't the trips I want to take, because the interesting stuff isn't where it used to be.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:14 AM
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103: Oh, sure. My initial premise was that there's a lot of unmet demand for dense development, but that's doesn't mean it's the only sort of development people want. Lots of people really do want a lawn and a driveway and no sidewalks.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:15 AM
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Lots of people really do want a lawn and a driveway and no sidewalks.

That's not what 103 is about! It's about the fact that people don't want to carry lumber onto a bus.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:19 AM
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But the development pendulum is swung far enough over in favor of lawn-and-driveway development that I'm not worrying about the supply there. If things changed a lot, I might think that more non-dense development should be permitted.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:20 AM
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If you have wood in the bus, people think you're a pervert.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:21 AM
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(3) pretty much describes my street.

Actually, I'll push back a little: the modal residential unit everywhere around me is either a single family detached or a converted SFD. Purpose-built, mid-rise apartment buildings are not exactly rare, but I could probably list every one within 2 miles of my house without having to think much. And where I live is pretty much the most walkable place in my city*, and largely affordable (although growing less so; this is having the salutary effect of making viable the rehab of quite a few formerly abandoned properties within a mile of here).

Point being, all the good things urbanists want are completely attainable in the context of a place where land use is something like 50% low-rise detached and semi-detached, 15% mid-rise, 25% commercial, and 10% surface parking. Probably the main thing you need more mid-rise for is to accommodate more lower income people: part of the reason gentrification happens is that neighborhoods like mine get filled up by people like me, and it's hard to keep rents low enough to keep low income people in place (our neighbor and piano teacher is being driven out of his apartment by a landlord who's increasing his rent by 50%). Also, more mid-rise provides more foot traffic to support more ground level retail: we have lots of thriving businesses, but also more empty storefronts than you'd like (we also have some longtime mom and pop stores being driven out of business by, I assume, rent hikes [frowny emoticon]).

BTW, as a car use data point, if my job didn't require site visits, and if we didn't have this restaurant gig, we might not even need the one car we have. It frequently sits for days. That was the case even when both of us worked outside the house and we have a baby.

*there are a couple of competing neighborhoods, but they have worse supermarkets, plus we now have a Target we can walk to, which means we can buy more or less anything on earth by foot


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:24 AM
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We've thought about getting rid of our car entirely, or at least renting it out through a carshare for privately owned cars.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:24 AM
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107: I don't understand this. In a dense area, you (a) get stuff delivered, or (b) borrow/rent/whatever a vehicle or (c) have a car because you have that kind of issue often enough that the benefits override the downsides of having a car in an area where it's kind of a drag. Living in a place where driving is inconvenient doesn't mean that you have to lug your lumber on the bus.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:25 AM
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We've walked to the Home Depot, but it is true that we use the car for lumber.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:25 AM
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Anyway, I really do have a deadline (I'm driving out to the boonies tomorrow for a site visit. Along the way, I'm picking up my structural engineer who takes the train into town and so can't drive himself to meetings), so I mustn't get dragged into this.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:27 AM
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112 gets it right. Nobody's talking about making it impossible to have and use a car. Just annoying.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:28 AM
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110: My mother lives near you, I think, and she has no car -- works great for her!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:28 AM
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Home Depot will rent you a truck for very cheap. But you have to own a car to rent their cheap truck because you need vehicle insurance.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:29 AM
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115: But no one is talking about how the alternative is "no sidewalks" either, dude.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:29 AM
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115: Driving behind me works for most people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:29 AM
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I used to walk to the hardware store all the time at our old place. Even for lumber. Now I drive to home depot; walking to the hardware store is nicer, and it turns out the set of things I couldn't carry home but that will still fit in my car is pretty darned small; if I wanted bigger stuff I'd get the zipvan down the street anyhow. I preferred the walking.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:30 AM
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118: There are plenty of streets around here with no functional sidewalks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:30 AM
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Especially this week. And I am looking you, neighbor on the steepest part of my walk who did nothing to shovel and now has a luge run.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:31 AM
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I know, and it sucks. Stupid no sidewalks!

My objection to 108 is that it is acting like 103 is a vote for shitty no-sidewalk development.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:32 AM
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122: Tsk! Usually people in Mobyburgh are better about that.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:32 AM
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I've carried lumber and other heavy stuff home from our local hardware store -- which is only 2.5 blox away, admittedly. I did carry a 10' length of 1.5" PVC pipe from the further hardware store (which is open Sundays) a few weeks ago. I was thinking about taking it on the bus, but that seemed like more trouble than it was worth. In retrospect, I should have had them cut it in half and shrink wrap it for me.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:33 AM
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118: I think of "no sidewalks" as more a property of developers trying to save money than anything anybody actually finds desirable, but I certainly have lived in neighborhoods (old, nominally walkable neighborhoods in LA) where pedestrian right-of-way was so thoroughly arrogated by traffic infrastructure as to make the sidewalks useless in a practical sense. Pedestrian friendliness means giving pedestrians right of way much more often (or always) which makes driving way more annoying, almost by definition, unless you don't have any pedestrians.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:35 AM
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I just want to be clear that I am also in favor of all kinds of stuff that makes driving more annoying!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:36 AM
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I was home puttying windows this fall and almost daily brought a large pane home from the hardware store braced against my bike while I walked it, Vietcong style. No straw hat.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:36 AM
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Did Kissinger try to bomb you?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:37 AM
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if you push it even a little on lot size, and you don't allow multiple-family housing at all, it starts not working.

This is LB's key - and correct! - modification to her (3). Single family neighborhoods, unless you're talking rowhouses, are pretty much definitionally unwalkable. I mean, it works in pockets, and you can get cute fairylands like Seaside, but if you want a place where everyone can walk to get and do pretty much everything, then you can't have a density of less than 10 households per acre (which is roughly what my neighb would have been when built, but it was hemmed in by much denser areas along major streets).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:38 AM
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123: My caveated claim in the original post that everyone jumped on -- that you can't have your single-family house and the benefits of dense urban development -- was wrongish, as everyone pointed out. The point at which things break down allows for lots of small-lot single family housing. But I think it does start breaking down if you're going to make car ownership convenient instead of annoying but tolerable -- you need lots of space for parking, and big wide roads, and few lights, and and and. And if you've got all that, while you might install sidewalks for the nostalgia factor, you're going to be spread out enough that the sidewalks aren't going to get much use.

At some point, convenience for car owners/drivers really does kill walkability. And lots of people do want to live in those places! But it's a tradeoff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:38 AM
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If I want to walk to the beer distributor safely, I have to cross the street three times even though I'm on the same side of the street as the beer distributor. The sidewalk doesn't run on the right side of the street. Because of waiting for very long lights, this doubles a five minute walk. So I always drive. Also, I always drive because beer is heavy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:38 AM
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131 crossed with 127. Comity!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:39 AM
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They added sidewalks to our neighborhood - hooray. But then they turned out to be super shitty sidewalks! How do you make sidewalks shitty? Well, all of the mailboxes were at the corners of the driveways. They dug them up and moved them to the center of people's lawns. Then they made the sidewalk semi-circle around all the mailboxes. The semicircles are tight enough that it's annoying to push a stroller, carry an inner tube (which is happening constantly), or for a child to navigate on their bike.

PLUS! Since you can't park in front of a mailbox, they inadvertently eliminated all street parking from the street. Which yes is sometimes desirable, but very much not in this case.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:41 AM
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I was thinking today about an area of commercial development near my office where the commercial strip is a throughway. There's no street parking, and not because it's small or pedestrian-friendly but in order to have as much car throughput as possible, and there's something super off about the proportions that make it seem just wrong and makes it super pedestrian-icky too. I think changing the proportions of the street with curbside parking would have helped. Some small scale things that on the one hand make it convenient to arrive by car can also serve walkability.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:43 AM
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Maybe it wasn't inadvertent?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:43 AM
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A lot of the nicer, more-walkable neighborhoods around here are pretty much half-and-half SFHs and duplexes, with the very occasional triplex or 8-plex thrown in. On a ~5 acre city block, that would be, say, 50 households per acre. So that gets you to the magic number pretty easily. As originally built, a lot of these neighborhoods would have had much higher walkability scores, since there were many more corner stores and little intersection shopping districts of 5-10 businesses back then (ca. 1905-1925 building dates for the parts of south Mpls. I'm thinking about). Also more 1-screen neighborhood movie theaters, easier access to both light- and heavy-industry jobs, etc.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:45 AM
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think changing the proportions of the street with curbside parking would have helped

David Sucher, who I mentioned above, likes curbside parking, for exactly the reason you give -- that it puts a physical barrier between pedestrians and unpleasantly/dangerously fast-moving cars.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:46 AM
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136: It seems to be a miscommunication between the city and the post office. The post office puts angry flyers in your mailbox if someone is parked there - but it doesn't seem to be technically illegal.

Also: Hey post office! PUT THE NOTICE ON THE OFFENDING CAR, NOT IN THE MAILBOX. There is a lot of people parking for the river. That is not our car.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:46 AM
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50 households per block/10 households per acre, that is.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:46 AM
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But anyway, what I'd really prefer is to live somewhere else altogether, so I shouldn't focus so much on the small but highly constrained positive adjustments I can realistically imagine happening here in the midst of this more broadly theoretical conversation.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:46 AM
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Right. Omaha.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:47 AM
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David Sucher, who I mentioned above, likes curbside parking, for exactly the reason you give -- that it puts a physical barrier between pedestrians and unpleasantly/dangerously fast-moving cars.

Interesting!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:48 AM
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Street parking is actually really conducive to pedestrianism - it moderates between the speed of the moving cars and the speed of the walkers, plus it slows the drivers. It's not street parking that ruins commercial districts, it's the surface lots.

Walnut Street in Pgh - which was a micro-Haight in the '60s but is now an open air, upscale mall - has 2-way traffic with parking on one side, but is quite narrow, so everyone drives slowly (also, it ends in a T at one end, so no one is racing through regardless). It's a very pleasant walking experience.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:48 AM
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I was thinking about these tradeoffs just this morning; I was trying to decide whether or not to drive Zardoz to day care. On the positive side of the ledger was the fact that it's annoyingly cold and she got mad at me for walking her in the cold yesterday. Also the previously mentioned semi-illicit residential permit means it would actually be pretty easy to park. On the negative side of the ledger I was taking her to do an experiment at a lab near her day care before taking her to day care, so I would have to load the stroller in the car, decide which location I was going to park at (and/or move the car), then load the stroller back in the car at the end of the day, and also possibly hit traffic in one direction or the other. And it's only a mile. So I walked. But if either day care or the lab I was going to offered easy parking -- or if the streets along the way had dedicated turn lanes at lights so they didn't get backed up at the slightest provocation -- I probably would have driven, because it is pretty annoyingly cold out, and I'm lazy. But the fact that it was (probably preventably) annoying for me to drive is closely related to why my neighborhood is nice to live in, and why nearby neighborhoods are expensive and desirable.

I realize this comment is not actually in response to or contradicting anybody. But there I went and typed the whole thing already, so.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:49 AM
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I'm really enjoying the "having one car and mostly walking" lifestyle. It's definitely more convenient and livable than no car in New York was (though biking in Berkeley beat both). There are real environmental and justice advantages to genuine carless density, but in terms of what people like I think one car is probably the sweet spot.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:49 AM
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Sucher-pwned.

I had lunch with him once when he was, for some reason, in town. Nice guy.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:50 AM
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139: oh, that's fascinating. I hadn't figured out why it would be illegal (or, I guess, dispreferred) to park in front of a mailbox until just now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:51 AM
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I feel like earlier versions of SimCity definitely reward you, early in the game, for having multi-density neighborhoods for R/C/I developments. I'd like to see more of that in real life -- like the blocks I mention above, which are often in the more expensive parts of the city -- with a mixture of SFH, duplex/triplex, 8-15 unit apartments and the very occasional highrise, interspersed with small shops and such.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:51 AM
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145: A baby in a carrier is actually a very pleasant walking companion this time of year -- having 15lbs of body heat plastered against your torso is lovely, if you've got your outerwear arranged properly for it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:53 AM
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144.2: I once saw a delivery driver park a truck blocking one of those lanes to make a delivery. The driver wouldn't move until the cop got back-up. It was the most asshole-parking job I've seen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:54 AM
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150: yeah, I thought about using the carrier. I haven't tried it on the big hill yet, and it's a little bit annoying to arrange the thing solo when wearing bulky clothes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:57 AM
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I hadn't figured out why it would be illegal (or, I guess, dispreferred) to park in front of a mailbox until just now.

City boy.



Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:57 AM
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I'd much rather give up a garden than give up walkability.

That would be a terrible choice for me, but in the end I think I'd garden (but I've been a dedicated gardener my whole adult life, so I can be pretty confident that my true preferences are revealed). When I visit my cousin in Paris, I marvel in her lovely neighborhood and six times a day I think, but where would I grow stuff?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:58 AM
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151: Newbury St. in Boston is two one-way lanes (and street parking on both sides), both of which lanes have people double-parking constantly. It's a fascinatingly useless road for actually driving down.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:58 AM
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William Whyte types have been trying to square this circle--er, triangle--for decades, without success that I know of. Fortunately, there is a huge building stock from before WWII in much of the Northeastern part of the country, including the Midwest. Even the smallest towns often have a small core built at urban density, a few blocks deep off the main drag, before giving way to suburban-style development. In Illinois and Wisconsin and Iowa many people live in a similar style to mine in towns of fewer than a thousand people. They drive to the grocery store for their big shop, not for all things, but so do I.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:58 AM
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Maybe you could grow stuff in hanging boxes from that tall, steel thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:58 AM
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132: If you mean the distributor on Browns Hill, that's also an insanely dangerous sidewalk. It's very narrow, steep, the sidewalk itself is angled towards its center (because it's also a gutter?), and you have 45+ mph traffic next to you going around curves. It's also one of our exceptions to a mostly car-free city life. Pittsburgh's topography makes a lot of inter-neighborhood walking hard.


Posted by: dalrata | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:59 AM
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157 to 154.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 10:59 AM
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because it's also a gutter?

I think it is primarily a gutter. But a relatively flat gutter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:00 AM
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158: at least there aren't any hills.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:00 AM
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and it's a little bit annoying to arrange the thing solo when wearing bulky clothes.

Maybe this wouldn't work mid-vortex, but in Montana and Wisconsin, I just put her on first, and then put my coat and such around both of us (not zipped very far).


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:01 AM
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153: Funny, I had the same puzzlement that Sifu did, because where I grew up you got your mail by going to your PO box at the post office/general store. The intermediate point where you have delivery, but not by foot, is weird.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:01 AM
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I think I'm too fat to zip my coat around both of us at the moment. I guess I could wear a different coat.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:02 AM
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90 -- In preference to people who live in NYC, LA, or Houston, absolutely. But, actually, I'd say voters. If this means standing to challenge zoning designations and changes would have to be broadened to include affected renters, I'm perfectly fine with that. I'd be fine with organizational standing, provided some members would have individual standing.

I'd like people to choose sensible development, and I don't have a problem if the state or the feds want to try different ways to incentivize that. Direct control? No thanks. People have to be able to decide what kind of life they want to have.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:03 AM
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Did I previously mention a neat thing I found going through old correspondence of my grandfather's last year? It was a little card outlining delivered prices for various staples (sugar, flour, oil, etc.) that the RFD contractor would grab for you in town and deliver to your house. Seemed like a pretty neat thing all around -- he's coming by anyway, you know you're going to need this stuff occasionally, but it's a hassle to hitch up the wagon and drive 5 miles into town for a pound of sugar, and the postman makes a little extra money on the side. Maybe the post office should figure out someway to partner with Amazon for this kind of thing again.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:06 AM
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It's like Nathan and Sifu have never seen the mail trucks with the steering wheel on the passenger side.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:06 AM
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I grew up in a 3-story semi-detached, and now my parents live in a 3-story rowhouse. I wish there were more places like where I grew up: small dense rowhouse cities. Of course, when I was growing up there it kind of sucked, but now it's great because the downtown has revitalized and has brewpups and ethnic restaurants. I'd kill for a neighborhood of rowhouses off the square here. Everything is either on bigger lots or is modern ugly 8-story student aparentment complexes.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:06 AM
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Spuds MacKenzie! Alex, from Stroh's!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:07 AM
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The intermediate point where you have delivery, but not by foot, is weird.

Where I grew up, the people in town had to get their mail at the post office, but out in the country there was delivery, so it was more like the furthest end of the spectrum than an intermediate point.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:08 AM
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I only just now realized that you meant mailboxes for delivery instead of the kind for outgoing mail. I'm a dope!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:09 AM
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the downtown has revitalized and has brewpups

"Check it out, honey! Li'l tiny dogs, makin' beer!"
"This was worth fifteen dollars for parking?"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:09 AM
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You can put your outgoing mail in them too! You just have to put the flag up.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:10 AM
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Yes, but I was thinking the big blue kind. We have a mail slot in our door, BUT we are also lucky duckies because there is a mailbox of the kind I was thinking of right across the street from our house.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:11 AM
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The main problem with our walking lifestyle here is homeless people. Given that RWM lived in the mission you'd think that wouldn't be a problem. But it turns out that in the midwest homeless people are often on meth, and so are a serious harassment and assualt problem in a way that they just weren't in NYC or SF or Berkeley. It makes me feel like an awful conservative, but it really is the biggest problem with our town. I wouldn't have figured that moving from Harlem to a small college town would have meant going from my wife being happy to walk home alone at night to not being happy to.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:14 AM
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The other day my dad was visiting and, as he left, he handed some outgoing mail to the mail carrier walking down the street. I didn't know you could do that!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:14 AM
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175: (A) That's terrible but (B) hahahahaha. Not at you, but at everyone who's ever sympathized with me about the dangers of NYC. And that's a underappreciated virtue of very very dense development -- all apartment buildings, no single family: it's not foolproof, but having streets that stay busily occupied until late is a real safety boon.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:20 AM
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176: so sheltered.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:21 AM
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I think you officially can, but I always feel weird about it when it's a walking mail carrier, and when it isn't that onerous to find the big blue kind of mailbox. Though I guess if they have one of those pushcarts it wouldn't be so bad.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:22 AM
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I was amazed the first time my wife put outgoing mail in the mailbox; I'd had no idea that worked. Maybe in Canada it doesn't--the postal union is fearsome--but I'd been here for half my life then without knowing you could do that.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:22 AM
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Not at you, but at everyone who's ever sympathized with me about the dangers of NYC.

When my sister and I were visiting our parents a couple of years ago we went to a party for my dad's work, and several people there expressed amazement that my sister was brave enough to live in NYC, all in an astoundingly over-the-top country bumpkin manner.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:25 AM
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all in an astoundingly over-the-top country bumpkin manner

That party was, uh, pretty country, this east coaster would aver.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:27 AM
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When I drive by all of the office parks in the suburbs, I wish, at the very least, that somebody would make them put in garages and keep greenspace instead of plastering the landscape with asphalt.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:30 AM
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Partly, I should add, that's because once you drive to the place, it's not all that easy to get into the building.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:31 AM
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Especially if you keep forgetting your swipe card.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:32 AM
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all in an astoundingly over-the-top country bumpkin manner

Everybody of old-settler stock has relatives like that. The cities are another country to them.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:34 AM
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I keep trying to convince her to just walk down the other streets that don't have the methheads, but the other streets aren't lit and don't have people on them. She doesn't like my "buy a taser like Veronica Mars" suggestion.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:42 AM
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Did Veronica Mars pay too much for her taser?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:43 AM
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146: I'm really enjoying the "having one car and mostly walking" lifestyle. It's definitely more convenient and livable than no car in New York was (though biking in Berkeley beat both). There are real environmental and justice advantages to genuine carless density, but in terms of what people like I think one car is probably the sweet spot.

This isn't disagreeing with you, more riffing off this thought.

I think you're dead right that single-family housing in a walkable area with one car that you don't really need but that you like having is an awfully appealing lifestyle. But it's, not parasitic off of, but at least symbiotic with, nearby or mingled genuine carless density -- if you've got a neighborhood that's part small-lot SFH and partially midrise multifamily, that works. But part small-lot SFH and part big lot SFH doesn't work, the density gets too low.

I have the impression that one failure mode of new urbanism is zoning that decides that small-lot SFH is just barely tolerable, but nothing any denser than that is allowable, and believes that you can get walkable density that way because they know small-lot SFH exists in older walkable areas. And then they don't get enough density to support retail, and the whole thing doesn't work as it was intended to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:47 AM
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104
Funny, we end up pretty much never using Zipcar. We signed up for when our car died on the theory that even if we drove just as much, it'd still be cheaper. But in practice it never seems worth it.

True, we use Car2Go a lot more than Zipcar. The biggest problem with Zipcar is that you have to pick it up and drop it off at the same place, so if you're to dinner and a movie, you have to have the car rented for the full four hours. Car2Go, though, just find one near you and leave it when you're done. Zipcar is for when we want to go somewhere outside DC or need something with more carrying capacity than a Smart car.

117
But you have to own a car to rent their cheap truck because you need vehicle insurance.

Some credit cards provide vehicle insurance more or less for free. Barebones insurance, I'm glad I paid more for the car we drove to Vermont for Thanksgiving when we found ourselves driving through snow, but enough for rental companies not to charge us extra for insurance unless we ask for it.

154
That would be a terrible choice for me, but in the end I think I'd garden

It depends on how big a garden you need. I think our house has effectively 200 square feet of front yard, which I'm pretty sure is very small, but we still manage to grow a few flowers, herbs, and vegetables. We might even be able to supply our kitchen with all our herb needs if we had a place inside the house prepared for them in the winter.

Really, the secret to happiness is keeping your expectations low. This is the kind of thing bob would opine about at length.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:48 AM
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187: She's right, you're wrong. The methheads might make the lit/populated street intolerable, but a dark, empty street one block away from a known source of violently harassing people sounds really dangerous. If the lit street is too bad to walk on, then I'd think it would be definitely too bad to walk home by an alternate route.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:49 AM
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My new job (assuming that HR ever gets in touch with me) is going to be at an old-school state hospital which was originally built as an asylum for paupers. It has the creepiest gate at the entrance and two cemeteries. I think that the architecture of it is so fascinating, because it was set up to be an entirely self-sufficient place in the cottage style. There are buses which get there from Lowell, but it would take me 3 hours to do that if I time everything right, so I will be getting a car.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:54 AM
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Here the way things work is that there's a restaurant/bar dense downtown with retail, but not a lot of housing. This is walkable from a few neighborhoods, and more importantly, also easily walkable from the university. It's not really a workable setup without a university, but it does manage to sustain a dense walkable downtown.

What is really infuriating though is that the area just south of this downtown is a wasteland of parking lots, tire stores, etc. It's really exactly where non-students looking for walkability would want to live, and there's just nothing there. Hopefully at some point that'll get fixed though. But maybe not, since new buildings suck.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:55 AM
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192: If you google that place, the second or third autofill is "[state hospital name] haunted" !


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:07 PM
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Well, our 9'x17' community garden plot is overstuffed and still I'm eye-ing the starts at the nursery with longing. I would use more space effectively if I had it. But I see a lot of dilettante gardeners come and go and be overwhelmed with much smaller plots. I think I'm an unusually dedicated urban gardener, and policy shouldn't be made around my garden use.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:22 PM
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183-184: Ha. Ha. Ha. If designers hate their end-users, no requirements about green space or garages could hold them back. I often tell people that the building I work in looks like it was designed by a benevolent dictator, but it was actually designed by Congress, who left out all the features that would make it actually user-friendly.

We have a huge garage taunting our car commuters with tons of spaces they aren't allowed to use. Three-quarters of the garage is empty at 11 a.m. even though some people have to walk half a mile to a parking lot off-campus. I'm not sure if that's because the space is reserved for demand that was anticipated when the place was designed but won't materialize for years, or because of requirements about encouraging more sustainable commuting, but either way, drivers are pissed.

The inside of the office is a maze. I think this is partly because it was built into the side of a hill, so there are seven elevators and none of them go all the way from the highest floor to the bottom. In addition, the highest floor is the one numbered 1 and it goes down from there. So, for example, I'm on the fourth floor, and to get to a conference room on the other side of a courtyard from me, the quickest way is to go down to the seventh floor and then up to the sixth.

There is only one cafeteria within this office complex that serves hot food, and it's a good hike up that hill. Like the garage, it was planned that way in anticipation of future development that hasn't materialized yet. I think they also wanted to stimulate the local economy. At the moment, that consists of three greasy spoon diners, and I guess a few delivery places might meet you at the security gate, maybe.

The gym is only a little bit closer than that cafeteria. A gym sounds like a bit of a luxury, you might think, but if driving is out, how do you think I get to work? Sometimes I take the bus, but sometimes I bike. This time of year biking is fine if it's not too cold, but from April to September I have to park my bike in the garage, go to my desk, grab my stuff, go to the gym to shower and change, and then back to my desk. It's a hassle. I have been perversely amused to walk by a room on my floor with a sign on the window saying "commuter changing room." On the window.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:23 PM
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even though some people have to walk half a mile to a parking lot off-campus

The closest parking spaces to my office are more than 1/2 mile away. That's part of the reason I stopped driving.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:30 PM
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Upetgi, there's a local non-profit that has those white oval black letter car stickers* -- like the D for Germany or the CH for Switzerland -- with its initials: RWM.** I'll admit to the occasional doubletake: internet people in real life!?

I'd get you one, but I don't think it'll help with her safety concerns.


* Is there a noun for these stickers?

** Run Wild Missoula.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:33 PM
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Is there a noun for these stickers?

"Stickers that confused me for years until finally somebody told me that 'OBX' meant 'Outer Banks.'"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:35 PM
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Overheard in Palo Alto just now: "That's what you get for buying an Eichler! That roof is flat ." No further context could be overheard.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:52 PM
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I think this is partly because it was built into the side of a hill, so there are seven elevators and none of them go all the way from the highest floor to the bottom.

What this building needs is a slide.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 1:20 PM
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St. Louis has the best building with slides.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 1:25 PM
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Cyrus, this is the new building at the new campus?

Over in VA, DoD's post-BRAC Mark Center has similarly low-use parking garages. Also, there are empty offices. By agreement with the localities, DoD won't move in more people until the complex has better connections to the HOV lanes. I do wonder where the people are working who had to move out of Crystal City but can't move into Mark Center. (They're down at Belvoir in temp buildings.)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 2:03 PM
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The things that make it the good kind of super-dense also make it alluring to finance capital, driving up the rents and attracting the super-rich and so on.

London really isn't super dense. It doesn't even make the global top 50, according to Wikipedia. It's way, way, less dense than Manhattan or Manila or anything actually for real dense. There are small pockets of high-rise residential in, say, Tower Hamlets or Acton or Ladbroke Grove. But most of it is just lots of terraced housing, with maybe three or four flats across four floors, and the occasional mid-rise council or private sector block of flats. I'm in one of the densest boroughs of London and there isn't a building taller than six storeys or so within a mile.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 3:30 PM
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When I visit my cousin in Paris, I marvel in her lovely neighborhood and six times a day I think, but where would I grow stuff?

I don't know if Paris has much in the way of community gardens, but allotments are certainly a possibility, and something that I think should be built into more cities/towns.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 4:01 PM
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COB HOUSE UPDATE

I've usually responded to this question in that the code is not intended to prohibit alternative building systems. But it is up to the applicant to show that the proposed system will perform to the same or greater standard as the code requirements - for structural integrity, fire ratings, energy code, etc.

Typically this means that registered architects/engineers provide sufficient data for review.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 4:19 PM
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202: Milwaukee disagrees.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 4:20 PM
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200: A moment's review shows that Eichler is merely a Moderncentric real estate agency, which makes that comment really odd*, since most flat roofs don't leak. That is, Eichler presumably shows more homes with flat roofs than most realtors, but it's not as if Eichler is a builder or architect who refuses to properly slope flat roofs.

*OK, no it's not. It's completely in line with Americans'** strong tendency to smear every exemplar of anything out of the mainstream with the failings of any one of its component units. That is, "I knew this one guy who bought his house from Eichler and its flat roof leaked, ergo every Eichler has a leaky flat roof."

**probably most humans, but adoption of a number of progressive things makes me point the finger at Americans


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 4:26 PM
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206: Usually? There are others?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 4:27 PM
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adoption of a number of progressive things makes me point the finger at Americans

Resist the temptation; we've got a good claim to many if not most progressive things. Our history is always being falsified and obscured, but it's rich with daring progressivism on any subject I've explored.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 4:32 PM
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A moment's review shows that Eichler is merely a Moderncentric real estate agency

? Eichler was a dude.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 4:32 PM
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London's actually pretty sprawl-y, to be honest. Stockbroker belt and all that.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 5:41 PM
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How can JRoth not know what an Eichler home is? What do they teach in architecture school?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 5:47 PM
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I mean, presumably how to build houses, but still.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 5:49 PM
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Piling on is awesome: what did JRoth google? The first result for "eichler" is the man's wikipedia entry.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:01 PM
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Isn't Eichler the guy who designed houses with wooden pegs holding them together, ostensibly because that's good for the masses? Only his houses -- or maybe it's just houses built in homage to him -- are enormous, set on huge lots, and cost millions of dollars? Or am I thinking of someone else?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:05 PM
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"Bought an eichler"
"Buying an eichler"

Both just go to the realty


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:15 PM
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Who on earth refers to their house by the name of the realtor?! "I know siding sucks but what do you want you're living in a Remax."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:17 PM
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Dunno


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:27 PM
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Maybe a distracted architect?


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:30 PM
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It's not a realtor you morons.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:33 PM
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Don't know about the pegs, but flat roofs, poured concrete floors, atriums etc all typical Eichler features.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:33 PM
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Or at least not primarily.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:33 PM
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The pegs ref reminds me - years ago lived briefly in a house in the Berkeley hills that was built without nails or screws, just tongue and groove and pegs I guess. There was a fairly hefty earthquake whilst I was living there and that was a very sweet building to be in, it just swayed and shimmied beautifully.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:37 PM
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It's just like a realtor to cut corners on architecture. I would almost never hire a realtor to design a house.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:39 PM
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As far as construction obviously you want a realtor for that, but by then the design decisions have been made.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 6:42 PM
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221: Actually know that, you moron.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:29 PM
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Morons!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 7:37 PM
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If I actually knew someone with a developmental disability I might hesitate in calling Robert Halford a moron, because that's an unkind term, and I'm sure there are wonderful people with disabilities. But after hesitating I would go ahead and call him a moron.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 8:49 PM
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If only I had posted this archives link with the "overheard" comment -- now I guess it can get ignored twice. "Joe Eichler was the only builder at the time who would sell to black families." I still need to close my last remaining Wells Fargo account, the tiniest IRA in the world.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 11:18 PM
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Interesting thread. I'm not sad, exactly, that I missed most of it, but it's nice to see people discussing these issues, and it's especially nice to see leftist types like LB promoting the ideas in the OP.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 3:03 AM
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Speaking of unusual housing (I was, at least), does anybody know anything about Lustron (i.e. prefabricated steel) houses? I think it has been discussed here before. There's one near me that's for sale and the asking price is low enough to suggest that 1,000 square foot house is nearly worthless compared to the lot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 9:19 AM
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203
this is the new building at the new campus?

Yes. Since I've already given enough detail to get me in trouble if anyone here notices this and cares, I might as well correct one error: nine elevators, of which one covers all the floors.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 10:47 AM
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"Atomic Ranch" has had several pieces about Lustron houses. They're steel. Apparently they hold up pretty well, and are not as hot/cold as you might think.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:00 AM
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I grew up in the UK equivalent. A Weir steel prefab.

It was cold, but the rooms were a really good size.

http://www.theglasgowstory.com/image.php?inum=TGSA00799



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:08 AM
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I do worry about the cold, because it's been below zero (Fahrenheit) fairly frequently this winter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:13 AM
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ttaM:

Is there much celebration of Patrick Geddes in the Glascow intelligentsia? I have the feeling he is something like Jane Addams is to us in Chicago: a local celebrity, whose name and general work is widely-known, but whose depth and breadth is not widely known.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:15 AM
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The one with the pictures of the babies?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:18 AM
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I didn't have time to comment yesterday and am glad this is not totally dead an even gladder that Moby is open to any sufficiently ridiculous housing material! Which model is it?

I really love the streetcar suburb where we live, and there's a lot of hope in our neighborhood that once the big city builds its streetcar, eventually the path will extend to us. There's plenty of good-enough food within walking distance and two distinct thriving coffee houses have opened this year (one that's a wine bar by night and has 50 different bourbons on the menu and another run by Christian hipsters that's fair-trade everything and also houses an artisanal popsicle business) and there are bars and a butcher and Latino grocery store for vegetables and fruit as well as a farmer's market.

The downside for me, though, is that I work in a boring-business-park suburb and there's no way to get there without driving. (I mean, there is, but two hours each way on a bus if I can manage to make it at a convenient time when I can drive in under 15 minutes is just not practical.) But many neighbors who work downtown walk or take the bus, and if we're going downtown (to the big city or around our town, though not to the Kroger/Target shopping center because I buy too much to hold hands for crossing big streets) in warm weather I make the girls walk with me.

Being able to walk the baby to daycare and walk the girls home at the end of the day is the best thing in the world. I really hate car seats. But I'm still clearly a car person and do drive daily except on weekends.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:47 AM
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239.1: That is helpful. Thanks.

It must be the Westchester 2 bedroom. It has the recessed entryway. I can't tell for sure, but I think maybe the deluxe. And it must be significantly remodeled because it has central air and a newer kitchen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:57 AM
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Had a nagging thought, since confirmed that Geddes is more associated with Edinburgh, albeit with slums than with Glascow. A Universal spirit though. So there might not be any local reputation to comment on, unless Scotland in the 20th C. is sufficiently local.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 11:59 AM
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Also, somebody put vinyl siding on it. Because Pittsburgh, I think.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 12:00 PM
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Glascow

+s


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 12:03 PM
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242: I hate to think what would be involved in attaching vinyl siding to enamelled steel.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 12:04 PM
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These Lustron people seem not entirely sane in their feeling about Lustron. Do you think that they would move the house of there (at their own expense and quickly) if I gave it to them? Then I could put up a regular cob house. Because I don't think you can buy a lot on that street for that price.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 12:05 PM
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There's a Lustron a couple miles from my place that is BLACK. So awesome. There's a lot of folx around here who are into that stuff though, so I'm sure whenever it comes on the market it will sell at a significant premium. Also, it is in the super-loud airport noise area of the city, and I wonder just how good the steel is at keeping that out.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 12:15 PM
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We had a cleanroom built that was all enamel over steel. Was pretty damn neat. I believe it would have withstood the elements very well.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 12:16 PM
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246: http://img.groundspeak.com/waymarking/display/a862ba9f-3ec6-4d88-9d8d-cf1617dd81ab.jpg


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-30-14 12:17 PM
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I'm also going to throw this into an active thread, but I'll put it here for the record:

I was basically right about the 6 floor inflection point, except it's more complicated than that:

- International Building Code prohibits wood construction above 5 stories, even if sprinklered. So that's a big threshold to cross (although not always, since not every building of 5 stories or less is wood frame).

- Pittsburgh defines "high-rise" as 70' above grade, which is driven by ladder access from fire trucks. In high-rise construction, you need all sorts of additional life safety measures (e.g. pressurized elevator shafts, ventilated stair towers; I don't really know, because I've never been involved in new high-rise construction). That limit will vary with municipality, but it's always going to be there somewhere.

So, bottom line: once you're above 5 stories, you're almost certainly not going to be building anything that's affordable to, say, the 80%, excepting the childless (I assume it's reasonably economical to build/lease studio apts even in true high-rises). Think in terms of all-in construction costs going from $150 or $200/sq. ft. at 5 stories to $300+ at 6 or above.

This info, btw, just fell into my lap at a Thursday evening meeting I happened to be at; it's not related to any work I'm doing nor to any research on my part.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 12:58 PM
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249: You could do 5 large apartments in 5 stories which families could live in. The landlord can live in one.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 1:01 PM
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249: I figure there has to be a crossover point where high-rise construction becomes cheaper, even though the building itself is more expensive, because the cost of the land dominates building costs and putting more units on the same land spreads the cost of the land more thinly. Is that only going to be in literal Manhattan and equivalents, or do most cities hit that point?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 1:34 PM
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If I understand JRoth's argument, the claim is that even if there is such a crossover point the cost of apartments will still be too expensive for most people.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 2:10 PM
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JRoth's comments in this thread have clarified a lot of what has confused me about his previous comments on these issues. He's looking at the issue of density from the perspective of an architect or a developer (quite understandably), whereas most other people involved in these discussions have been looking at it from the perspective of a planner or a policymaker. That is, allowing higher-density development somewhere is a very different thing from actually building denser buildings there.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 2:14 PM
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252: That makes sense -- that a highrise might be the cheapest possible housing you could build if the land was expensive enough, but if that were the case, then "cheapest possible" would still mean "really not affordable for most people."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 2:23 PM
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And of course, five story buildings are still very much what we're talking about as dense development.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 2:23 PM
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There's some regulatory fuzziness around the exact boundary too. In NYC I think you can have 7 floors of housing before hitting that price jump (6 floors above grade plus a garden apartment), though obviously I'm not an expert.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 2:30 PM
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If new construction is $150 a square foot, I'm probably really spoiled having all of these houses to look at that are going for less than that and that include the lot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 2:43 PM
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I see cities, big ones like Detroit, medium sized like Rockford, Cedar Rapids or Toledo. These cities in my region are filled with excellent older housing stock at urban densities, with many fine old public spaces nearby, at very low prices.

What they need is jobs so people can afford to live there. Revival of manufacturing is the quickest and most broad-based way to get them, and would bring a revival of all other kinds of economic activity in its wake.

And the fastest way to do that would be to improve the exchange rate.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 3:04 PM
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You had me going until you said Toledo.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 3:14 PM
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1.) People who move to Detroit proper should not have to pay Federal income tax for like 10-15 years. And exempt business which locate in and employ people living in Detroit from paying FICA taxes for some period but count them towards their credits.

2.) Or pay only 1/2 of the tax and take all of that money and give it to the city government.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 5:13 PM
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People who move to Detroit proper should not have to pay Federal income tax for like 10-15 years.

Now if we just let them out of their compulsory army service, Detroit would become as cool as Berlin in the 80s!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 6:48 PM
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261: That's what I was thinking of, actually.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:09 PM
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For the record, I'm pretty sure I googled "Eichler Palo Alto".

And the dude was a developer, not an architect. The list of housing developers who are nationally famous is as follows:

Levitt.

Eichler Realty claims to specialize in the things.

Interestingly, based on Image Search, the houses he put up appear to look a lot like their Pittsburgh contemporaries; that is, they're less regionally specific than one might have guessed. Back before Mid-Century Modern became a current thing, it was hard to describe that kind of house to laypersons. There are a fair number scattered around, but I don't think anybody had a name for them, and AFAIK there wasn't a single architect behind them.

Anyway.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:50 PM
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Huh. I see now that I failed to post this thing that I cross-posted to a more current thread. Anyway, for the record:

I was basically right about the 6 floor inflection point, except it's more complicated than that:

- International Building Code prohibits wood construction above 5 stories, even if sprinklered. So that's a big threshold to cross (although not always, since not every building of 5 stories or less is wood frame).
- Pittsburgh defines "high-rise" as 70' above grade, which is driven by ladder access from fire trucks. In high-rise construction, you need all sorts of additional life safety measures (e.g. pressurized elevator shafts, ventilated stair towers; I don't really know, because I've never been involved in new high-rise construction). That limit will vary with municipality, but it's always going to be there somewhere.

So, bottom line: once you're above 5 stories, you're almost certainly not going to be building anything that's affordable to, say, the 80%, excepting the childless (I assume it's reasonably economical to build/lease studio apts even in true high-rises). Think in terms of all-in construction costs going from $150 or $200/sq. ft. at 5 stories to $300+ at 6 or above.
This info, btw, just fell into my lap at a Thursday evening meeting I happened to be at; it's not related to any work I'm doing nor to any research on my part.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:52 PM
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Actually you did post that in 249.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02- 2-14 7:58 PM
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