No posts for a while.
Particularly with its Hotel Reservations.
I wasn't. I went down to the Bay Area several weekends ago for my cousin's birthday. I made a reservation in a motel via the Alaska Airline site. They charged my credit card. I thought I was set. Hello!
I arrive at the motel and the clerk looks at me and says "No room at the inn!"
"What about my reservation?"
"Huh? You don't have one."
I immediately called Alaska's reservation service from the lobby of the motel. Was Alaska Air any help? No way. (This is at 10PM Saturday night, mind you, and my immediate issue was simply to find a place to stay.) The supervisor there tells me that it was the motel's fault and then extends himself and tells me that he is prepared to refund my payment.
Duh! Goodbye Alaska Air hotel reservations!
Here's the letter I sent to Alaska Air. I am waiting patiently for an acknowledgment.
UPDATE 1/26/06 -- I ultimately received a bland and meangingless corporate brush-off.
Personal security from bad people is an essential part of the comfortable city. But freedom from an overbearing goverment is also an essential. The just-concluded trial of the man convicted of attempting to bomb the LA airport prompted remarks from a Reagan-appointee and a very conservative jurist.
Second, Coughenour said that Ressam's sentencing should demonstrate to the world that the U.S. legal system can try terrorists.
Coughenour devoted most of his remarks to this point, noting that Ressam received a vigorous defense, and that his guilt was determined "in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel."
Coughenour's comments amounted to a rebuke of President Bush's terrorism policies. After 9/11, the Bush administration initially proposed secret military trials for some foreign terrorists. And, it has sent hundreds of terrorism suspects captured in Afghanistan to indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay.
Here's Judge Coughenour's statement as a PDF.
...a designer somewhere breaks through with something completely unprecedented. Here's an example.
Without examining the question of whether outdoor advertising is good for the urban environment or not, I have to appreciate this for what it is. I'm wondering if the designer calculated the path of the sun in relationship to the position of this particuar sign, and if it is the only one?
Guest post by Tommer Peterson
The price of a home should reflect the future benefits of ownership, in the form of rental income for an investor or rent saved by an owner-occupier. When the price-to-rent ratio is high, property is overvalued.
The writer dismisses "ownership value" -- the somewhat real and somewhat imagined advantages -- which people receive when they have title. He seems to suggest that most people are fools for paying for non-economic benefits. Odd thing for an economist to say.
For years, people in L.A.'s Cheviot Hills, a quiet neighborhood where houses start at $1 million, complained about commuters using their streets as shortcuts to nearby Century City, the gigantic office and retail development. So L.A.'s traffic department pulled out every traffic-calming trick in its book to redirect the commuters. Good news: It worked. Traffic on the ironically named Motor Avenue, the neighborhood's main street, dropped by 20 percent after bump-outs were installed and turn restrictions imposed. Bad news: It has made driving a nightmare for some residents.
Take Chuck Shephard's recent afternoon drive from his law office in Century City to his son's baseball game at the Cheviot Hills recreation complex. It's less than a mile and a half from office to the ball field; Mapquest says it should take three minutes to drive. But it took Shephard 40 minutes because of all the restricted turns he had to navigate.
As you know, I am very big proponent of traffic calming. It's one of the most significant things in urban planning in the past fifty years. Does that mean that every "traffic calming" initiative is well-conceived and executed? Of course not. As with any new things, there is a learning curve. Perhaps the LA Transportation Department went overboard and simply did an inept job. I don't know and I doubt if the blogger who wrote the post above does either but he uses the anecdote to knock traffic calming which I don't think is sound/
We've had a minor contretemps here in Seattle. We have a new City Hall and apparently it "uses more electricity" than did the old one and now officials defend City Hall's high electric bill. But need they?
One defense is that the new building "uses more electricity" because it has more functions -- e.g. video studios etc etc which were absent in the old one. Fair enough. The issue could be resolved reasonably -- one way or the other -- by examining the numbers with some sort of common denominator such as watts per square foot or watts per employee or something like that. No? The calculation isn't hard. The facts are available. Once you determine the basic ratios then you can get into the politics and the accusations and the good stuff.
Why do so few people in the media ever supplement their stories by "doing the math?" It seems to be one of those cultural divide issues. I suspect that anyone who has an engineering, business, construction etc etc background would immediately start breaking the problem down --i.e. is this building more or less efficient/consumptive? -- by trying to get some numbers and doing the math. Odd.
This past weekend I listened to KCRW's Design and Architecture as podcasts. Pretty good show. Hostess Frances Anderton's is insightful and able to transcend the "wow" view of buildings -- her show on LA's Grand Avenue actually demonstrated some critical backbone, overcoming what I suspect is massive LA group-think about Disney Hall Grand Avenue and "cultural districts" -- Goering what have liked that last one as the very idea of "cultural districts" fits in so well with authoritarian decision-making -- and she is able to see buildings in social and physical context. In fact, it's too bad all Anderton's shows aren't available as podcasts.
Btw, I find that it's easiest to use Apple's ITunes site to set things up for automatic download on a subscription basis.
Our objective is to explore prehistoric and historic water projects worldwide...without taking ourselves too seriously. We are particularly interested in the effect that water has on the quality of life.
I am not sure if a grocery store meets my own definition of a "big box" but it's close.
Inspiring as well.
In most cases, a developer who has a "higher and better use" for your land should not have to employ the strong arm of government to persuade you to sell. He should be forced to get out his checkbook. If you resist, the price will rise, as it should. That's how negotiations work. If you hold out too long, you risk losing a lucrative deal when he goes elsewhere.
It should be your choice, your right.
Courtesy reader Matt Fox. (And btw. I am very, very glad to read that a liberal Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters, is one of the co-sponsors of Federal legislation to limit eminent domain abuse.)
One of the interesting things about the blogosphere is that it provides a marvelous forum in which kooks may express themselves. Whether that is good thing in that it lets them vent or a bad one in that they can create mischief by gaining contact with each other, I have no idea. But the term "pandemic of mindless idiocy" came trippingly to me when I glanced at Jim Kunstler's blog -- particularly his post Slip-sliding Away and even more so the comments which followed (and in which to my chagrin I took part.)
While I think Kunstler is way over-the-edge about peak oil's impacts, I am also sure that what he is doing -- creating hysteria and controversy -- is good for the sale of his books. As an author myself, I deeply admire the marketing skills which helps to create a widely-read book. My hat's off to Jim as a fabulous self-promoter and social cartoonist, if hardly a rigorous thinker.
Now I have no doubt that we indeed might be at peak oil. I don't disagree with Jim about the substance: it's plausible that we are at peak oil. (But then again neither of us are petroleum geologists -- so our opinions are pretty valueless when it comes to whether.) The issue is what are the implications.
And that "all depends" on the downhill curve. As I have said here repeatedly, and to Jim privately, the important issue is whether the downhill side of peak oil is a cliff or a slope. We are not, literally, as some people seem to fear, going to wake up one morning and find the gas stations closed. What will happen instead is that in the face of decreasing global supply and growing global demand, the price for oil will go up. And up. The big question is how fast it will go up and whether the rate of increase will give society ample chance to transform itself.
There will be challenges, most of which I believe will be handled most effectively by rising prices which will force substitutions. There is nothing like a change in price to change behavior. And since we are indeed such a fat country in so many ways, there is enormous room to change behavior without bringing on a crash.
The good news is that oil will go up in price thus giving us the signal that we should do something.
Public policy should be to interfere as little as possible with increasing prices. Opening up ANWR or the Naval Reserves in order to keep oil prices down for a trivial few years is a very bad idea. We should let the market act as freely as possible because that's the only way to change human behavior.
There is no reason to suspect that it is a cliff -- unless you take glee in the impending collapse of society -- which means that we probably have at least several generations to transition. It's my observation that Jim and the peak oil faithful -- and yes there is a lot of religious fervor about peak oil -- refuse to grapple with the central concept of cliff or slope. And since cliff or slope is the central issue of peak oil, it seems to me that they are actually avoiding dealing with the real problem in favor of, perhaps, creating grist for a screenplay about an impending feudal age.
Whether hysterical predictions of disaster are a useful tool to raise consciousness is a fair question. My own take is 'no' as it is too close to 'crying wolf.' What do you think? Is overstated bufoonery helpful? or harmful?
A brief post by Tyler Green tells us that institutions are now using the form of the blog. For example: Contemporary - Pulitzer. I hesitate to suggest that they will be blogging -- there seems to me to be a dissonance between the personal informality of a blog and the institutional voice. So the most one can say is that someone at the institution is using the blog as a means of public "outreach." Which is fine. Go for it.
At any rate, I was reminded that one of the institutions -- the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis -- has recently built a typically ("cultural" institutions are among the most oblivious to urban design) terrible anti-urban building of which, believe it or not, it is incredibly proud. It's as if the museum is walking around with a dunce cap on its head and thinks it's fashionable:
Btw, I have indeed visited The Contemporary. Now if you like cold, sterile, pretentious interiors -- the phrase "the poetics of space" tolled in my head when I was inside -- this is the place for you and I pass no judgment. The interior is private space and people should be able to create any sort of environment they like, or dislike. But the streetscape is a commons. And the Museum offers a blank and thus rude gaze to it. I would like to suggest that the Museum is totally negligent and mis-guided in the design of its frontage -- this in a neighborhood in St. Louis which is supposed to be, wants to be, undergoing redevelopment into an urban neighborhood pleasant to walk.
Yes. Let's all go down, hang-out and pitch pennies at that blank wall. No? Hel-lo!
How can it be that so many visually-aware people with genuine public-spirited intentions can build in a manner so adverse to their own true goals? I know these art people; they are my friends: they are my people. And yet they build the dumbest stuff.
In this story on Crisis plan in place if viaduct is closed I found this plaintive sentence which sums up the deer-in-the-headlights confusion typical of Seattle when it comes to transportation planning:
Replacing or repairing the aging structure is one of the region's primary transportation goals, though officials must still decide exactly what to do and where to get the billions of dollars a replacement could cost. (italics added)
As some have mentioned, maybe "rules" is not the perfect word, but the basic fact remains that there are some properties of urban developments, in whose absence the surrounding space will fail from a pedestrian perspective. This doesn't determine a particular design, except to say that if these properties are absent, you are pretty much guaranteed that the development will not integrate with the walking environment.
These properties are so elementary (analogous to the need for a shelter to keep the rain out), that you would think they don't even need to be said out loud. And for thousands of years, city designers took these simple rules for granted.
It is only in the modern era that we decided to deconstruct such old-fashioned notions and start from scratch. And guess what? We wound up with entire city centers that were unwalkable and unpleasant.
All we ask is that these basic "duh" principles be observed. On Disney Hall, three-fourths of the building are blank walls, so obviously somebody didn't get the message.
As put by Joel Covarrubias in a comment to this post.
I'd readily concede the point, btw, that the word "rule" might not be the best one. But I cannot think of another better. Words such as "principle" or "guideline" or "policy" or "rubric" seem insipidly advisory. "Law" or "edict" or "directive" are even grander than rule.
Here's my on-line thesaurus. Any word strike you as better?
aphorism, apothegm, assize, axiom, basis, brocard, canon, command, commandment, criterion, criterion, decorum, decree, decretion, dictum, direction, edict, etiquette, formula, fundamental, gnome, guide, guide, guideline, keynote, keystone, law, maxim, model, moral, no-no's, order, ordinance, precedent, precept, prescription, principle, propriety, regimen, regulation, ruling, statute, tenet, test, the book, the numbers, truism
Someone might have been reading: City Comforts Blog: Where's the Contingency Plan?".
And so now we have a Seattle Department of Transportation Alaskan Way Viaduct Emergency Traffic Management and Closure Plan. Better late than never.
The interesting thing to hear is what the tear-it-down folks have to say. A good contingency plan should provide the factual basis for the Environmental Statement which fairly assesses the impact of simply removing the viaduct on our own schedule. And not rebuilding it.
Suggestion box still open for additions to my list (left column) of
Mainstream Media Design Critics
I recognize that "MSM" is silly right-wing political cant and these days maybe even a bit vague. For example, is Slate (a corporate enterprise from the beginning) MSM -- even though it is on-line? Therefore I should add Witold's columns and I will, as soon as I can figure out where they are archived.
Any other critics? Please give me a link to their archive, as well. I'd add Robert Campbell of the Boston Globe but I can't find his archive. Same for Phil Langdon. There are others whose writings deserve an on-line archive and some not necessarily because they have much of great significance to say -- that guy at the NYT, for example -- but only because of their undue and unhealthy influence in the formation of popular opinion on the built environment.
And btw I have a fairly loose definition of "design" critic. Obviously he/she should focus on cities and (secondarily) individual buildings. (And how many do that?) But someone who looks at, say, product design might be grist for the list, as well.
Here's Phil's column from the Hartford Courant. I was particularly interested with this remark: "City Hall has asked the hospital to consider placing stores, cafes, and services in the ground floor of new buildings, bringing life to the sidewalks. The hospital has taken that request seriously." Institutional real estate development is often rather grim and anti-urban even though it has great potential to energize neighborhoods because of its long-term stabillity. It would be nice to see that potential realized.
But read the whole thing:
For half a century, urban hospitals have expanded mostly by jamming new buildings up against old ones, creating architectural agglomerations that serve their basic purposes but usually are graceless and confusing. In the 22 years I've lived in New Haven, I have never heard anyone call the Yale-New Haven Hospital area ³attractive,² ³easy to understand² or ³a pleasure to walk in,² let alone ³beautiful.²
Now, however, there's a golden opportunity to begin remedying the deficiencies. Yale-New Haven wants to build a Cancer Center and a medical office building on Park Street near the Rt. 34 Connector, and also wants to have a private developer construct a 1,343-car parking garage a block and a half away, at Howe Street and Legion Avenue.
It's impossible for me to tell for sure from Metropolis Magazine's flackery whether this new insta-city in Korea will be a place one would want to live, much less visit, because the press release (that's how the article reads) doesn't discuss, much less show, the design at street level.
Via urban cartography.
...the New York Times splashed Frank Gehry's latest designs for Atlantic Yards across the front page. Ratner has long been criticized for the cheap, fortress-like architecture of his other Brooklyn projects. Gehry, the celebrity architect renowned for designing buildings that look like crumpled balls of tinfoil, was brought aboard to neutralize that critique and provide the developer with aesthetic cover. Yet, Gehry's designs did what months of petitioning, protesting and public meetings couldn't. They got "sensible, well-heeled, politically connected Brooklynites pissed off, paying attention and preparing to fight. For neighborhood advocates who have been working diligently to get an apathetic public to pay attention to the travesty underway at Atlantic Yards, Gehry's architectural models were a gift. (italics added)
Listen up developers! Want to get people upset? Hire Gehry to do neighborhood design.
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995
From: John Young Architect
Subject: City Comforts -- A Review
To: Multiple recipients of DESIGN-L
For those of us addicted to city ambulation, to mind- jogging and chevy-cruising and dog-sniffing and catwalking in diurnal treasure hunt for novelties and arcana of simple pleasures, David Sucher has written a cartographic jewel in his new City Comforts: How to Build An Urban Village.
Mr. Sucher, once a member of the Seattle Planning Commission, writes, "This book is an attempt to refocus our public policy discussion from abstract generalities, colored maps and grandiose projects to the details that create our daily experience. It is about looking at and speaking about our immediate enivronment. ... the book shows examples of small things -- city comforts -- that makes urban life pleasant: places where people can meet, methods to tame cars and to make buildings good neighbors, art that infuses personality into locations and makes them into places."
Mr. Sucher has compiled for us, in a handheld-ROM, a bounteous lode of tips and nods for looking at the built environment and fostering our own good sense and sensibility about what is good and bad -- along with, should that be our bent, gentle suggestions on how improvements may bloom under our loving care.
There follows hundreds of poignant examples in photographic and textual form of precisely what we might look for in our cities -- neighborhoods and parks and streets and back alleys and shopping strips, what to make of our observations, and what we could offer if we don't like what we see and touch and smell and, yes, fall asleep upon. Smart man, to remind us at the bookend of the feral pleasure in a safe nap in a park (reading his book) and a corporeal renaissance wakeup to bright sky and leafy trees overhead.
There is an astonishing range of urban experiences sketched:
• Commercial allures for customer come-in and buy;
• Neighborhood safety and security measures, well blended;
• Urbane luminescences and auralities, built and god-given;
• Land-costuming, by construction and vegetation;
• The creation of great and small passions and delights;
• Non-destructive (to self and others) activities for kids;
• Deft tools of information by signage and architecture;
• Unoffensive public accommodations for base relief;
• Balm for property owners feeling abused by demagogues;
• Enlightened rejuvenation or camouflage of ugly illegitimacies and porkbarrel nefaria too useful to demolish (like parking garages, sanitary dumps, vain architectural monstrosities).
Professionals on a card-punching trajectory of ambition will see nothing here to frighten them -- that they may be on the wrong arc.
For this is a book for those who are disappointed with top- down design and planning, with career-mongering and evasive political machinations. But it is disguised so artfully that the self-deafened and -blinded and -desensitized egos will never perceive its quake rumbling to undermine their launch pads -- its advocacy of ground shifting of environmental responsibility from the over-trained, over- controlling, over-burdened designers and planners to the citizens who have too long suffered their conceits.
This admirable work, expanding the ground-shifting of Jane Jacobs, will give comfort to those who wish to get on with making the cities they want while the ensconced bright talents evanesce in stupor.
Read it while enjoying the pleasure of long perambulations -- and naps under greenleaves sweetdreaming of beautiful environments. Crafting self-confabulated virtual reality.
The rumor runs that
The assertion is that
...it doesn't take a genius to see that the Disney Concert Hall works well in its urban context. Insofar as it is an art form, the whole objective of architectural design is to produce works that succeed in unexpected, original ways. The real merit of the L. A. Concert Hall is not just that it succeeds as a part of L. A.'s downtown (a claim which few would dispute); it's that it succeeds without conforming submissively to a set of rules.
It does take genius and imagination to conjur up what isn't there. Disney Hall has little to do with its urban context. It is a striking object -- maybe "art," maybe not: only time will trell -- but one which does not have much to do with the sidewalks around it. How Joe Clarke can suggest otherwise is a bit astonishing. Asserting does not make it so.
As well, Joes sneers at The Three Rules. Let's be clear: those are not my rules. They are a reflection of reality, of every pedestrian-oriented neighborhood and street in existence. Put another way, a walkable city built on anything but the default of The Three Rules does not exist. Don't like it? Don't like rules? Don't rail at me as I am merely reporting what is. And if anyone can offer an example of a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood (much less a whole city) built according to anything but the Three Rules, I would be curious to know of it.
UPDATE: My impressions of Disney Hall after visiting it just before opening is here: Disney Hall: The Good, The Bad and...the Beautiful?
The District's quest to bring sit-down restaurants and big-box stores to the shopping-starved neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River has entered a new phase -- eminent domain.
The National Capital Revitalization Corp., a publicly chartered economic development firm, is seeking permission in D.C. Superior Court to buy the 1940s-era Skyland Shopping Center and several additional acres of land, even though the owners do not want to sell.
The NCRC wants to replace the rundown strip of shops with a larger, more modern complex that would be anchored by a Target store and include other nationally known retailers and sit-down restaurants, commodities that are almost impossible to find in the District east of Capitol Hill.
Btw, if someone thinks I am joking when I use such lines as "Mommy and daddy know best," then guess again. I actually heard a Seattle City Council woman (thankfully defeated) say exactly that in the context of some little conflict between public and private interests. There are indeed government people who think that way. This particular woman probably thinks of herself as a well-intended liberal. Heaven save us from the well-intended.
Via Urban Oasis.
One of my favorite candidates for Seattle City Council -- Casey Corr -- has switched opponents to run against the monorail. Questionable move. Such a quick turn suggests opportunism and disloyalty, kicking someone when they are down. Moreover, his new opponent -- Jan Drago -- is not popularly identified with the monorail's now-dead financing plan, which plan even I, as a firm monorail supporter, do agree was a bad one.
Drago can easily back-off from that plan (as she should and probably has) and yet keep the faith with the basic monorail program, showing flexibility, commonsense and most of all, steadfastness...admirable personal qualities not found in great quantity in political circles. (The Council's most visibly pro-monorail councilmenber -- Nick Licata -- correctly and astutely innoculated himself against the mono-phobes with some hard "tough-love" statements to the independent Monorail Board a few weeks ago. Drago can still easily do the same.)
Casey would have been smarter to "out-monorail" Jan...attack her from the monorail-supporter side --suggesting that while she may have favored the monorail, she didn't have the skills to make it happen and that his leadership was needed to make the monorail a reality etc etc. Casey may have access to polls which suggest a massive move against the monorail (wishful thinking, guys!) and buckets of campaign contributions. But if there is one thing which the election of GW Bush shows, people overlook policy positions in favor of "character," sticking with your core values etc etc.
I wonder which "campaign consultant" thought up this brilliant stroke for Casey. Too bad, because I was for sure looking forward to seeing him on the City Council. I ran into him at a political dinner a few weeks ago and I like the guy -- he just has some bad advisors.
The mono-phobes are back out baying at the moon. Odd that they would think this image so convincing. Yes, there is a big object in the middle of the street. So? Cities are by definition filled with large objects. So what if we have another one? In itself, that's to be expected. Would I rather the monorail be invisible? Sure. I'd also rather have anti-gravity shoes. Every means of transport has impacts. An above-ground monorail has them. So do diesel buses at grade. I guess you could argue that trains-in-tunnels don't have any impacts but that's not an option in Seattle as we are simply not going to spend the money -- and I don't think the underground riding experience is a particularly attractive one compared to being able to see.
Take a look at the whole slideshow and judge for yourself.
As you may not know, the Seattle Monorail is having troubles meeting its budget. It's twenty percent above where it should be. Now that's not good, but the anti-monorail people (a substantial minority of the population but still a minority albeit a well-connected one) are seizing upon a mere twenty percent over-budget to call -- and this from people who have hardly ever done anything which might verify their own ability to be productive, such as reporters -- to bring in the adults. It's an odd refrain. As if the adults (like GW Bush) who are in charge in virtually any level of government or major institution can command such blanket respect. It's such a strange way to disagree with people, more fitting of a five-year old for whom the biggest insult would be to say "You are a baby!"
Let's just hope that the monorail opposition continues to be as ineffectual and bereft of perception in politics as it obviously is in choice of imagery.
Btw, what really unfortunate is that the monorail opposition -- by its singularly dense and flatulent stance, lacking any real substance -- has left no one to offer solid criticism of the monorail plan. There are no opponents with -- to my ears and I have heard them all whine on -- any credibility. That's unfortunate. The monorail -- like any project large or small -- will be improved by criticism. The problem is that the mono-phobes -- many of whom are actually talented people in their own narrow area -- have no ability politically or psychologically to credibly criticize the specific proposal at hand because there is no monorail project which could possibly satisfy them. They lost the public votes (all four of them!) but like the energizer bunny they just keep doing the same old thing.
The context of the link is Iraq but it also applies to urban planning. The substantive argument against using eminent domain in so-called economic development programs is that government has insufficient ability to do it successfuly.
Many years ago I sat in an Allied Arts (that's a local Seattle do-good organization) meeting and argued that The Seattle Commons might in some theoretical way be a good idea but that the City of Seattle didn't have the ability to pull it off and so we should dis-favor it. People laughed. The scoffingly asked, "You mean you're saying that we shouldn't do it because we lack the ability?!"
Yes. Good intentions cannot replace competent manifestation.
To the Editor:
In "Making the Brutal F.D.R. Unsentimentally Humane" (Critic's Notebook, June 28), and "Seeking First to Reinvent the Arena, and Then the Borough" (An Appraisal, July 5), Nicolai Ouroussoff is engaged in a misguided war with Jane Jacobs: there is no "quaintness" in the "Jane Jacobs-inspired vision of New York." She examines what makes cities attractive, livable, desirable, humane and productive.
Mr. Ouroussoff is revealing a taste for the huge and grotesque, and for projects that will certainly add to the unlivability quotient, even in New York City. A crowd of 37- to-47-story residential towers is proposed to replace an area of 3- to-6-story buildings built up over the years.
The towers are not improved by the architect Frank Gehry's outlandish notion of slanting them so they look as if they are ready to tip over, which I assume is what attracts Mr. Ouroussoff. Ms. Jacobs was attacking "catastrophic" development, the erasing of history and complexity by master conceptions, the obliteration of the multifarious city at one blow by a massive single use.
The situation is only made worse by the necessity to take private property by eminent domain, while getting state and city subsidies, too.
Nathan Glazer Cambridge, Mass., July 5, 2005
The writer is professor emeritus of sociology at Harvard University.
Well said indeed, Professor Glazer.
It's funny how people sometimes confuse a planning vision with which they may disagree -- larger buldings and more people in a neighborhood -- with "tilting toward developers."
On a day like today, with bombs in London, I am reassured about "the kids" and the future of our country & world when I read level-headed posts like The Best Defense Is A Calm Head. Yeah, GW Bush is annoying, at least, but that doesn't mean that he never ever gets anything right. And the best response to terrorism is the FY of going about one's business.
(Btw, at a few weeks short of 58 I think I've earned the right to talk about "the kids." After all, I was there when a college roomate returned from trip to Europe with the first Who album, My Generation -- yes, mine, and I'm proud of it - with lead song The Kids are Alright, and presciently said "These guys will be big. Big.")
Suppose a large company whose headquarters are located in an urban area needs more space--say, a whole city block. Lacking powers of eminent domain, it has only two choices. It can negotiate with each landowner on the block and try to buy all of the individual parcels. This, however, is often difficult or impossible; once it becomes known that the company is buying land for its corporate headquarters, any individual landowner can block the project by refusing to sell....If petitioners had won their case, the value of those investment properties would have skyrocketed.)
Faced with the difficulty of assembling an adequate real estate package at a reasonable cost, our hypothetical company has one obvious alternative: buy a cornfield remote from any city, and erect a "campus" rather than a high-rise building. Rather than accept the loss of a major employer and taxpayer under these circumstances, it is not surprising that some cities have chosen to cooperate in development projects that put the city's eminent domain power at the disposal of a private company.
And this fellow calls himself a conservative? Heaven help us.
Just to make sure there is no confusion, what I am trying to say is that the fellow who wrote the quote above is conjuring up some outlandish conditions so of course he can justify eminent domain.
One of Seattle's premier white-shoe law firms, Preston Gates Ellis, has an interesting newsletter on Kelo.
At present, Washington constitutional and decisional law appear to present significant barriers to the use of eminent domain to acquire property for economic redevelopment, even carefully-crafted redevelopment plans.
If there is a slight tinge of regret in that summary, it shouldn't be surprising. This law firm has a great many public sector clients and everyone, whether they are using their own money or not, loves to build and sometimes those private owners can be so pesky. Otherwise and not surprisngly, it is a well-written and interesting account of Kelo & Washinton State. My own conclusion is admiration for some smart legislators and judges way back when.
A reader suggests (in comments) that "...a lot of us on the progressive side are pointing out that we don't much like the bedfellows on the anti-Kelo side, and I think it's important that you consider just why it is that, for once, you suddenly agree with Tierney."
My intital, flip and accurate remark was that I had considered the strange bedfellows matter and the answer is simply that the bad guys are the good guys on this issue. On the substance. And I am not looking ahead to "game" my response to Kelo so as to be able to say "gotcha" on some future case. (Actually, I am aware of the dynamic of precedent and I see no problem with limiting governmental power to supposedly economic development by using eminent domain on that basis either.)
But let me add to my remark about strange bedfellows.
First, I think that Kelo is and reveals a fusion issue. One should not be concerned about joining with the opposition on particular issues -- unless one has the idea that all truth and goodness are on one side and that there is nothing, but nothing, which the opposition can say which is good. I don't feel that way about true conservatives and have learned much from them. I'd like to think that maybe a few of them can be cajoled on occasion to join with liberals on the side of truth and beauty. So I have no problem agreeing -- frankly it's kind of fun -- with Thomas, Rehnquist and of course the notorious Scalia.
Second, the caution I do get very strongly, regrettably strongly, is that my good guys (Breyer, Souter etc) are so dumb on this matter. Their lack of commonsense yet their ability to buy into corporate-state cant concerns me far more than joining with Republicans.
John Tierney nails it with an "urban planning & design" critique of eminent domain based on his experience in Pittsburgh: Your Land Is My Land. I am enough of a "legal realist" to suggest that the substantive argument which will ultimately sway well-meaning but ill-informed (about development) liberals is that eminent domain does not work, is not essential so why go to the wall about something you don't need.
(Note, I rarely agree with Tierney on anything -- Kelo is a very interesting fusion issue.)
Take Back the Streets - New York Needs a Congestion Zone.
Interesting perspective from John Massengale, NY'er.
I've never really taken the idea seriously before, but now...
But then I ran across a reference to him (in relation to Kelo):
Supreme Court Rules Against Property Rights Absolutists.
Very disappointing to read any (even so few) liberals seem to totally misunderstand the situation etc etc.
My name is Barbara Dunn. My husband and I are home owners in the Cedargrove Heights neighborhood of Cheektowaga. We currently live in Alameda, California. We have been actively planning our retirement move over the last year to our home in Cheektowaga. which we will be doing at the end of this month.
In a suburb of Buffalo, a developer wants to knock down more than 300 homes to make way for a traditional-style town that he says he believes will alleviate blight.
Dominic Piestrak, the developer, wants to build apartments, brownstone town houses, malls and offices. Starting from scratch, he said, would help eliminate crime and abandoned homes. "If you're going to stop urban blight you have to start somewhere and draw a line in the sand," said Mr. Piestrak, who has enlisted the support of the town government.
"...you have to start somewhere and draw a line in the sand."
I am always astonished at human capacity for self-deception. And I wouldn't doubt that Mr. Piestrak might sincerely believe what he says.