Ask the grumpies: Books on how cities can deal with growth (with some bonus climate change!)

Debbie M asks:

On the topic of how cities can deal with growth, do you recommend a book or other resource that discusses studies of various approaches and the benefits and bad side affects involved? Like I know that rent control in NYC inspired people to never move and landlords to never fix anything.

Sadly, my city keeps growing, but we still think of ourselves as a town and everyone wants their own yard. City Council is trying to develop a new city plan, but residents fear that increasing urban density will just make parking and traffic worse. Also when people are looking to build new high-density stuff, they want to start with the cheapest plots they can find–and there goes all our affordable housing. We definitely have a long history of segregating residences from stuff to do, and that leads to a reliance on cars. Anyway, I’m sure some ideas are better than others, right?

I have actually seen talks by TWO people who have written books on this very topic.  Though I haven’t read said books (*cough*).  Kent Portney and Matthew Kahn are leaders in this field.  My colleagues in political science say that each of these books was ground-breaking in the field of Poli Sci.  They definitely each give a great seminar, so I suspect their writing is also excellent.

#2 recently read The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti.  It’s slightly off to the side of this question, but it’s the only contribution I have.  It was a fast read and kind of interesting.  Obama read it!  (Oh hey, #1 saw a presentation on this one too!)



13 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Books on how cities can deal with growth (with some bonus climate change!)”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    What can you do this weekend to get out the vote (specifically the non-Bigot vote) on Tuesday?

    I’m going canvassing and knocking on doors even though this is one of the last things in the world that I want to do. How? The senate candidate in my state has a good ground game, so I will be volunteering with them. (I could do this by joining a block-walk in my town, but I will actually be going with my sister since I’m flying into her city tonight after a business trip.)

    Other options: Sign up to make phone calls or to text on behalf of your candidate of choice.

    What am I missing?

    • FF Says:

      I’ll also be canvassing. I was really dreading it initially, but felt very energized by the positive feedback–some people even thanked us for doing this. Living in a reddish part of a purple district, it’s been good for me to see that there are others in my area who think as I do and are very enthusiastic about voting for Democrats (and voting out Republicans). I was told that GOTV canvassing is the most fun you’ll have canvassing. At this point, it’s more about getting supporters to actually vote, and less about convincing people. So I hope that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  2. hypatia cade Says:

    This podcast/blog is very very interesting in terms of how city planning can reduce environmental impact/build community

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    Housing and rent control are very hot topics in California, particularly in Santa Cruz, where we have TWO initiatives to vote on—one repeals the Costa-Hawkins Act and replaces it with a law that allows cities and counties to pass any rent control rules they feel like (unconstrained by the legislature). The other puts in place one of the most draconian rent-control laws anywhere in the country—the combination will probably prevent the construction of any new rental housing in the city for the next decade or two and result in the conversion of most rental houses to owner-occupied, making an already very tight rental housing market impossible.

    It isn’t enough to do urban design locally—your neighboring communities need to also. Santa Cruz has tried for four decades to limit growth and sprawl. It has had some success limiting sprawl, but population growth and job growth without sufficient housing in the neighboring Bay Area has resulted in enormous pressure on the housing market in Santa Cruz.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Santa Cruz needs to get over itself.

      • M Says:

        The Costa-Hawkins repeal isn’t Santa Cruz specific.

        Every city in the Bay Area is a hot mess when it comes to growth. I’m finally understanding both sides of this. I’d say the core issue is that we really need to be able to time travel and have regional coordination to build out public transit/develop high-density affordable housing in transit corridors. Failing that, it’s a set of genuinely bad options. Do your part for housing, and people get screwed in terms of traffic/work commutes and overcrowded schools. Oppose developments and you’re part of the housing crisis.

        It’s all really frustrating because as far as I can see, the problems are solvable but the energy is all in the wrong place. Tech gets scapegoated when tech has very little to do with any of our problems, other than being the current industry that is growing and creating jobs. (it’s another subject, but I have a whole rant about the way the tech industry gets continuously, blatantly misrepresented in media) It doesn’t help that city boards are just people who ran successfully, who don’t necessarily have any real qualifications to be managing all this.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Interesting time travel observation. But many European cities have decent mass transportation, and of course that wasn’t even possible in the Middle Ages, so they had to deal with wishing they had time travel, too, and yet they were able to convert. I wonder how terrible the conversion process was while the worst of it was happening.

  4. Lisa Says:

    On a somewhat unrelated note – how does your university advertise talks such as the ones you mention here? Although those topics are quite outside my field, I’m sure my university hosts speakers such as that and I would be interested in attending if only I knew what was happening across campus. We are a large university and have a terrible time with communications.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      These were all at different universities… ranging from informal only the people at the lunch group saw it to a big deal advertised across departments with emails and posters. One was a job talk (he didn’t take the job).

    • Debbie M Says:

      My university has an event page on their website that lists all kinds of events each day. You might also search for an event calendar page. The student paper often lists lots of interesting activities. And, if you’re on a campus with most of the departments on one site, as is common in the US, you could just go for walks to random different places during lunch (or whenever) and pay attention to bulletin boards.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    Thanks so much for all these ideas. I will check them out!

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