Friday, July 29, 2011

Noodling Around July

Nood-ling (nōōd’lĭng) n. 1. Fishing for catfish using only bare hands, practiced primarily by crazy people who cannot afford proper fishing gear. 2. The intentional annoyance by bloggers who are skeptical of the news as it’s reported, as in “Noodling bureaucrats is more fun than fishing bare hand for catfish and a lot more surprising.” This is now an end of the month feature.

Apartments are Back
Even the Los Angeles Times has become aware that apartments are replacing for sale housing. They reported that multiple rental complexes, with a total of 1,000 units, were issued building permits in May. Considering the housing market in Los Angeles, the all but disappeared new home construction industry, and the growth of the region by 300,000 residents since 2000 (a 3.1% growth) it is not surprising. People have to live somewhere.

Bus Stop?
If you have been a reader of this blog for the past year, I don't have to repeat my skepticism about high-speed rail. For many reasons the whole idea should be shelved, in fact dumped would be a better solution. Yet San Francisco keeps pressing forward with its Grand Central Station of the west, the Transbay Transit Center. Putting aside its absolutely terrible signature sculpture and the billions to be spent before it’s done; there is also a very good chance they can't afford to run the trains to the building. Construction has been started, adjacent properties condemned and seized, traffic is a mess, and now there is no money to tunnel the one mile under the city to get the high-speed rail and the regional CalTrain to the station. Only buses to Marin, San Francisco (locals), and the East Bay will use the station when it's completed. It will be a very long time before the phrase “The train has left the station!” will be used.

And the Chinese high-speed rail system has its hands full dealing with the fallout from the bizarre official responses to the rail crash earlier in the week, the NY Times reports (see here). Seems that the Chinese version of Twitter called Sina Weibo is doing a better job of reporting the reality of the crash than the government. Now I know you’re shocked to learn that, but remember, there are only a small number of high-speed train manufacturers on this planet and some of them are Chinese.

City versus Suburbs
Joel Kotkin loves a fight and in his latest blog (see here), he adamantly believes that the growth in the suburbs will continue and even accelerate. This is contrary to academia, urban development programs, and the true believers in Sacramento who are fighting to protect the urban core. He says, to support his point:
This “strategy” seeks to all but reduce growth in the region’s lower-density outer fringe – eastern Contra Costa County as well as the Napa, Vallejo and Santa Rosa metropolitan areas — which grew more than twice as fast as the core and inner suburbs. Instead the ABAG-MTC projects a soaring increase in demand for high-density housing and its latest “vision” report calls for 97% of all the region’s future housing be built in urban areas, virtually all of it multi-family apartments, to accommodate an estimated 2 million residents.
I wonder what laws will be passed to make this happen? As always the pols and crats know better than the marketplace. Short of physically restricting the citizen through odious fees, permits, and legislation, the resident will do what is always in his own self-interest. This really ticks off the “official planners.”

Grayfields to Sub-divisions
This is not a new concept, but inter-urban areas as well as older edge industrial areas are more affordable now. It’s predicted by the Metropolitan Research center at the University of Utah that as many as 2.8 million acres of grayfields will be available for redevelopment by 2015. I’ll bet that none of them will have high speed rail but I can assure you that federal funds will be used to clean some of them up.

An Interesting Trend in Suburban Retail
The outdoor mall probably started sometime in early 8,500 BC when a couple of guys wanted to trade some rocks for a new-fangled shiny rock thing to another guy. That guy said it’s called copper and was named after his wife. The other guys said cool and rocks were exchanged. Then four sheepherders needed some rocks to teach another guy up the road a thing or two, so a sheep back then was worth three large, throwable sized rocks. The outdoor mall, the gun show, and the marketplace evolved from there. Later, maybe around 7500 BC, another guy figured he could rent out a chunk of land to these rock, shiny metal, and sheep guys and the shopping center was invented. Flash forward to the heady days of the post-World War II period and the open air shopping mall, then to the late sixties through to the early 1990s and the enclosed mall. Then to the New Urbanist’s dream of a town center in every master planned community, and then to what seems like a more permanent trend: the planned and gridded retail center modeled on the traditional Midwestern village grid pattern. I visited a newer version of this style in Jacksonville, Florida a few weeks back, the newish St. Johns Town Center (at least Simons didn’t spell Center with the affected Centre as seems the norm). On the West Coast we have Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga with a similar configuration. The pattern of these centers is a gridded street system, about 400 feet by 400 feet, parking in front of the stores, and service to the rear. Unlike the enclosed mall where substantive changes are very difficult, changes to these layouts can be block by block when needed. As the landscape and trees mature these modern agoras will develop into very comfortable places to shop and eat. It’s my guess you may see a lot of the old enclosed malls being scraped and this new look developed. This style also allows for other uses such as offices and residential either as stand alones or vertical mixed use.

Stayed tuned . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment