• What Smart Growth Exports

    Writing in New Geography, Wendell Cox has another great piece about the export business in California – it’s people and jobs

    “Between 2000 and 2009 (Note), a net 1.5 million Californians left for other states. Only New York lost more of its residents (1.6 million). California’s loss was greater than the population of its second largest municipality, San Diego. More Californians moved away than lived in 12 states at the beginning of the decade. Among the net 6.3 million interstate domestic migrants in the nation, nearly one-quarter fled California for somewhere else.”

    It’s not complete to say California is a progressive utopia.  When it comes to land use and transportation policy, California is a Smart Growth state and has pioneered many of the extreme regulations that other states (e.g., Maryland and Oregon) want to emulate.  Steven Greenhut observes that California’s problem is decline by design.  Many California leaders point to planning efforts as something that was supposed to have a positive effect on the state:

    “California’s elected officials have been doing as little planning as possible, unless one counts planning to spend tens of billions of dollars the state doesn’t have on a high-speed rail line that will partially replicate what the airlines already do now. Our leaders are battling new water-storage facilities and punishing farmers with absurd water restrictions. They impose roadblocks toward building new highway systems and land-use regulations make it nearly impossible to build the homes and businesses necessary to meet the needs of a growing population. One can hardly call that planning.”

    Californians chose mandates over markets, and they’re paying the price.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, President Obama seems to like the California model so we may end up getting a dose of what ails California in our own states.

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  • A Rentership Society?

    The Wall Street Journal is the latest in a new narrative developing that questions the value of homeownership.

    “But the new realities of our increasingly mobile economy make it more likely that this transition from an Ownership Society to what might be called a Rentership Society, far from being a drag, will unleash a wave of economic efficiency that could fuel the next boom.”

    It reads like the author was channeling by Richard Florida’s suspect views.

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  • New Heart Study Suggests . . .

    . . . city center pollution doubles risk of calcium build-up in arteries.

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  • A (Good) Planner’s Take on the Tea Party

    Sam Staley, who is the Director of Urban and Land Use Policy for the Reason Foundation and is the Associate Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University, tries to explain to the planning community what the Tea Party is all about.  It’s always amazing to me how urban planners and Smart Growthers act as if grassroots activists are from another planet.  The planning community would benefit greatly if more of them listened to Staley.

    Sam Staley on Understanding the Tea Party

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  • A Contrast of Visions

    A couple of good pieces are up that highlight the different approaches to growth among the states … and the devastating cost of getting it wrong.

    In City Journal, Wendell Cox notes Florida’s efforts to reverse its demographic decline.

    “What explains Florida’s turnaround? In part, housing prices and the cost of living, which have returned to historical norms (not counting the Miami metropolitan area). Last year, moreover, Florida’s legislature repealed the land-rationing Growth Management Act, a so-called smart-growth law that required local jurisdictions to seek approval for any development plans from the state’s now-defunct Department of Community Affairs. Repeal should help keep home prices low, which should keep the state appealing to newcomers.”

    Meanwhile, in the Daily Beast Joel Kotkin warns that as California collapses, President Obama appears to be following its lead.

    “For devoted Californians, accustomed to seeing their state as a national and global exemplar, these trends are deeply disturbing. Yet the key power groups in the state—greens, public employees, and rent-seeking developers—seem intent on imposing ever more draconian regulations on energy and land use, seeking for example, to ban construction of the single-family houses preferred by the vast majority of Californians.”

    We can see the train coming off the tracks.  What will leaders do about it?

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  • How They Want Us to Live

    San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art has put together a display to aims to “inspire” us on how to live better.  Yep, uber-high densities and transit orientation.  Go figure.

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  • Smart Growth and the Maryland Example

    New Geography published the second of my two pieces on the so-called preference for Smart Growth.  Here, I dig into Maryland’s growth management plans and how they are not consistent with what people want.

    Part I is here.

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  • Our Phony Preference for Smart Growth

    The good folks at New Geography published the first of my two-part commentary on Smart Growth.  The article is, “Smart Growth and The New Newspeak,” and in it I address the tendency of Smart Growthers to claim their preference of high density, compact develpment is what people really want.

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  • Busting the Bait-and-Switch

    In the university town of Gainesville (you can guess the politics of the place), the grown-up elected officials of the host county did something remarkable – they pushed back against the transit boosters of the city on a proposed sales tax initiative.

    This is not to say the tax will pass or even should pass.  Instead, this is about putting an end to the time-honored tradition of Smart Growthers, which is to promise to allocate public dollars to roads but then divert them to transit.  More than a year ago, Alachua County Commissioners began discussing a potential sales tax initiative that would dedicate money to fixing an approximately $380 million backlog in road repair.  The City of Gainesville, whose population amounts to over 50% of the county, decided to take it’s portion and use it as a down payment for a Bus Rapid Transit system with an approximately $350 million-plus build-out.

    It’s tough to pass a new tax in a weak economy, so County Commissioners wisely concluded that the boondoggle-in-waiting would simply crush any hope of passage.  So on a 3-2 vote, they split the initiative, giving voters one item just for roads and one just for transit.  The Smart Growthers howled.

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  • Two Downtowns

    Despite all the cheers that America’s downtowns (and central cities) are coming back, the data show otherwise.  The Baltimore Sun is reporting that downtown Baltimore lost 9.4 percent of its jobs in 2011.  That’s according to the annual report released by Claritas, a research firm that tracks downtowns in the nation’s top 25 metro areas.  The analysis was done for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and showed that “the area had 102,731 jobs last year, down from 113,437 in 2010.”

    Baltimore is in Maryland which, of course, is a Smart Growth state, so you can imagine community leaders were muttering: WWPD? – that is, “What Would Portland Do?”

    Funny they should ask, for Portland leaders have also had to grapple with a downtown that has lost jobs.  According to the Portland Business Alliance, employment declined 4 percent between 2001 and 2009.  When you control for the increase in government employment, the loss of private sector jobs in Portland’s Central Business District is actually over 6 percent.

    So Portland’s response is massive subsidies to artificially prop up downtown businesses.  Portland planners are considering a plan that would provide “$12 million to $20 million public subsidy” for its downtown.  In justifying this, they point to the The Nines, a 331-room luxury hotel, that received $16.9 million from the city.  This allowed the hotel to grossly undercut un-subsidized establishments, so their “success” came at the expense of others.

    This is a classic example of using governmental power to pick winners and losers all in the name of restoring our downtowns, and it’s the wrong lesson to learn.

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