Perhaps you loyal readers didn’t notice all the changes around here over the last 24 hours, but it’s a new day for All The City Lights! Being strictly a music blog is so streets behind. In order to stay streets ahead, I am going to be writing about literal streets. Dovetailing with my current studies in urban planning, this blog will now include posts about the issues facing cities, and their challenges and successes.
I’m going to start out simply, with a roundup of links to recent articles touching on planning topics. In fact, depending on how intensive my classes are this semester, simple link roundups might be the only type of post made to this blog for the foreseeable future. That’s OK, because there is so much going on in the world of planning right now that there is no shortage of fascinating stories. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the field, once you get acquainted and start looking, you start noticing planning everywhere. Like, literally, 10 percent of the stories on NPR are planning-related.
So here are 10 articles that caught my eye in recent days. Due to my geographic history and the influence of my Facebook feed, a majority of the stories here (and surely in coming roundups, too) are focused on Detroit or the Bay Area—which also just happen to be, I think, the two most interesting cities in the United States right now from a planning perspective, representing opposite sides of the urban spectrum.
1. Well, that’s one way to make transit more exciting
“‘No Pants Subway Ride’ around the world” [sfgate.com]
The Chronicle presents: People riding BART (and other subway systems) in their underwear.
2. Neighborhood revitalization as branding
“Welcome to ‘Springwells Village’ — a Southwest Detroit neighborhood most of its own residents have never heard of” [metrotimes.com]
For the first time in years—perhaps in my lifetime—certain sections of Detroit are having to grapple with the pressures of growth. But who exactly gets to determine what these revived neighborhoods are called? Detroit’s grand old alt-weekly examines the question in a characteristically critical tone. (Thanks to Aaron Wilson, an acquaintance from my newspaper days who is now studying urban planning in Detroit, for bringing this story to my attention.)
3. While we’re on the subject of neighborhood branding…
“Twitterloin: not a San Francisco neighborhood (we hope)” [sfgate.org]
The New York Times made everybody in SF gag a little bit with the grossest portmanteau since “jeggings.”
4. Further evidence of growth pressure in Detroit
“Retailers in downtown site face eviction after 30 years” [detroitnews.com]
The folks who stuck it out in downtown are getting booted now that rents are rising.
5. Good news for zombie movie location scouts
“The Economics (and Nostalgia) of Dead Malls” [nytimes.com]
Not all shopping malls are struggling—this New York Times feature points out that high-end locations are thriving—but a growing number of complexes have been abandoned or are teetering on the edge. Suburbs are going to have to figure out what to do with these huge eyesores and all their ironic symbolism. The article doesn’t really get into what this all means for the future of retail as an aspect of the urban landscape.
6. Know your street grids
“Quiz: Can you name a city just by looking at its streets?” [washingtonpost.com]
Nine out of ten, folks. Beat that!
7. Bay Area’s worst commutes
“It’s official: Bay Area gridlock is worse” [insidebayarea.com]
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission released a report on traffic congestion, its first in five years. In addition to noting the stretches of highway with the worst traffic and how the rankings have shifted as the economy has improved, the article notes that overall congestion rose 65 percent between 2009 and 2013. Of course, according to my Regional Transportation class, the MTC previously predicted that congestion is going to increase 135 percent (!) by 2035, so you can still expect gridlock to get at least 42 percent worse. Hooray!
8. Bay Area’s industrial real estate market is red hot, too
“Union City: $61 million property sales top hot commercial real estate market” [insidebayarea.com]
Union City: It’s more than just a bunch of big-box parking lots for when you have to meet someone halfway between Oakland and San Jose. It’s a prime location for industrial tenants, who are clamoring for warehouse and manufacturing space along the I-880 corridor.
9. Silicon Valley’s boom transforms a downtown
“Big Tech Changing Character of Downtown Redwood City” [kqed.org]
(Relatively) cheap land and a Caltrain commuter rail station is causing a spate of new construction in Redwood City’s previously sleepy downtown. The tall buildings, increased traffic and other big changes are starting to freak out some residents. This is part of the SF public radio station’s Boomtown series exploring the effects of the region’s current tech boom.
10. Q) When is $100 million in tax breaks not considered public investment?
“Analysis: Kroenke’s LA stadium development isn’t tax-free after all” [foxsports.com]
A) When it’s the best shot at an L.A. NFL franchise to come along in years.