Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ventura embraces "New Weather Urbanism"

Today, the Ventura city council officially announced a novel program to
embrace “New Weather Urbanism” as a model for Ventura. “For too long, we’ve
allowed uncontrolled sprawling -casual- weather to dictate how we live. No
more. From now on, we will be actively encouraging a more compact range of
temperatures for our city – ideally between 65 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit,”
he said. “And the morning overcast? We’re definitely going to reign that

Ventura’s current weather pattern of overcast, onshore flows, and
inconvenient rainy seasons was described as “car-centric," automobile inducing and
“anti-pedestrian”. “Our current weather has made the car’s combination of
air conditioning, roof, and wipers far too compelling. It’s time to stop
adapting to the weather, and make the weather adapt to what we want,”
said the mayor, touting Ventura's unique approach of taking weathermen to
task rather than developers. And that something is a bold as it is pervasive.

“Have you ever tried to walk a half-mile in a business suit to a light rail
station when it’s 82 degrees and 60% humidity? You’d stay drier riding one
of those water rides at Magic Mountain,” said one local commuter,
who believes the new approach to weather should substantially improve
walkability and street life in local neighborhoods.

One reason given for the program was a perceived need for more open space.
As people run from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to
air-conditioned office building, the feeling of constant enclosure is
pervasive. “The Ventura region actually has plenty of open space, but now
we’ll get to actually experinece it year-round,” said the mayor.

Heat-induced sweating was also identified as a major problem for the
temporary tattoos of the hipster “creative class” that cities like Ventura
so desperately wish to attract and retain. “It’s, like, totally uncool
dude,” said twenty-something Dirk Duany as he wiped the sweat from his brow
once again while baking in the heat of a quaint sidewalk café ( Ventura has
tried to achieve the same ambience with “tunnel cafés” in the downtown high
rise building sector, but they’ve never had quite the same panache as a
Paris street café.)

In general, the new program is looking to increase the overall density ratio of
good weather days vs. bad weather days. In establishing the new guidelines
New York’s “bitter cold” urbanism
was compared to Portland’s “constant drizzle” model and San Diego’s “always
perfect” approach. After much heated debate, San Diego’s “always perfect”
approach won out. The new weather will definitely take some getting used to.
“Venturans have a very ingrained habit of keeping an eye on weather reports
before committing to a pedestrian urban mode. San Diego’s unconcerned blasé
attitude will take some time to develop,” said Deputy Mayor Carl E.

Ventura is the largest city in America trying to eliminate zoning, and they
don’t plan to use traditional zoning in this program either. Instead, “form-based weather design
guidelines” will be set, allowing for some flexibility. “Sunny, partly
cloudy, overcast, even a gentle rain shower from time to time – all will be
acceptable within the city limits – but extremes of heat, cold, and rain
will not be tolerated,” said Anne Diagle, Mayor Brian Brennan's special
assistant for urban design.

Oxnard, Camarillo, Moorpark, and Thousand Oaks are all watching the
innovative program very closely, hoping to adapt it to their cities if it
succeeds in Ventura although Oxnard staffers off the record expressed concern that their city might become a "dumping ground" for substandard meterological events. "It raises the question of ethnic preference when suddenly one city like ours is expected to handle an increase in weather." This raises the spectre of a renewal of the Mall Wars of the 1990s when ech community tried to capture the best of a retail explosion while pawning off the traffic on the other.

"I don't know why they didn't do this earlier. It seems so obvious in
retrospect," said one citizen at the event, "You always hear people complain
about the weather, but someone is finally actually doing something about

Saturday, January 07, 2006

True Affordable Housing

Libertarianism in truth and practice (as opposed to theory) demands
organizations and collective actions. In the modern American context their
views are perceived as as alien and outmoded by the would be ruling classes
because they resurrect the principal of enumerated powers.

While the critics are entirely off-base I still have problems with the
entire premise of affordable housing. RPPI for instance says in #320;

"The real problem is government restrictions on supply.
Supply has not kept up with demand due to these artificial
restrictions. One recent study found that 90 percent of
the difference between physical construction costs and the
market price of new homes can be attributed to land use

The solution is to allow more construction."

There already exists a market mechanism to address affordable housing. When
housing becomes unaffordable, prices fall and time on market increases.
What RPPI proposes -instead- is that government not only get out of the
business of manipulating the market but that government also get out of
their actions regulating for an orderly market abandoning supply and demand
in exchange for demand only markets. This, in my opinion, ignores the
reality that zoning and land use regulation needs to exist for the
protection of -existing- land uses and land owners. Turning this on its'
head to become a tool of potential owners or uses is antithetical to the
usual positions of RPPI.

Housing is more affordable than ever since ownership is at all time highs
and demand is the highest in two generations. Were housing unaffordable
prices would be falling and vacancies high and ownership low.

There is a unique and transitory demographic effect that distorts the
picture. Robert explains it all and then some: People living longer means
taking longer to roll over -used- housing. I say -used- not -older- because
the two are recently divorced. Trust me, there are 20 houses in
Massachusetts, stretching from Pittsfield to P-town owned by friends and
mostly family that have an average owners' age of 65 plus. In the past
these would be on their way to the first time buyer market. Sorry, mom
still plans on "commuting" twice a year between golf and tomatoes in
Longmeadow, MA Memorial Day to Labor Day and golf with sailing the rest of
the year in Venice, FL. Aunt Debby is tri-locating, Framingham, Maine, FL.
Uncle Jimmy, Framingham, Newport, RI, extensive travel. Aunt Kathy,
Worcester, Waterville Valley (NH), Falmouth, whim (I think). Uncle Dick,
West Springfield and Venice FL.

Affordable housing initiatives have only one outcome; less, more expensive

Planners will NEVER understand that people don't want to live and work in
the same place.

"The quest for a strong regional authority has been the Holy Grail for
planners." Says it all.

" As traffic gets worse, I would venture to say that closer in locations get
better [more attractive]." Crap.

"The mortgage deduction certainly discourages renting." More crap.

Sometimes it seems to me that people don't want to understand these issues.

The American Dream is a constantly evolving ideal that in practice nearly
always requires compromise. The premise of PTAD is that there be no
structural impediments to those goals. A pure "free market" does not and
should not exist in the public realm of community land use delineation.

"Affordable Housing" has become the bogeyman of the NUTSo and SmUGLers (New
Urbanist/Transit Supporters, Smart Urban Growth Lovers) because sprawl has
been effectively negated as a threatening term. Sprawl has been defanged in
no small part by several members of this list.

"Affordable Housing" is going to be especially difficult to unmask as
nothing more than the latest anti-suburban, high density, Pyonyang Transit
scheme. There's a subtle tinge of racism that makes it the third rail of
planning. Housing is seen as more of a right than transportation.
"Affordable" is not as easily ridiculed as "Smart Growth" for instance. The
secret worldwide urban cabal is also getting more sophisticated in their
presentations. Every time we beat them back with logic and facts and
democracy they try another tactic. They only need to slip one measure past
us. Eternal vigilance is the burden of freedom.

There is a NUTSo -theory- that affordable housing reduces the need for
poorer people to commute long distances to their jobs. Bull. If that's all
that was necessary then mixed income housing would be able to have narrower
streets and less parking and less transit service, etc. Lowering the price
only causes people to buy as much as they can afford fueling the rise in
larger homes. You will notice also that mixed income is never mentioned by
the NUTSos. This is because Neo Trad/New Urb is very expensive and even at
very expensive the municipal costs are not covered by the higher taxable
basis. "Affordable Housing" for the SmUGler crowd means subsidized housing.
Urban Planners want to do for housing what they did to transit. Transit was
profitable and private until the affordable transit crowd tried to impose
unrealistic pricing schemes borne on the back of the private industry and
public purse. See the similarity? That's a real way to scare the crowd.

People deserve -a- place to live BUT people do not have a right to live
-any- place.

We do this a lot. We select based on economics, safety, concern for the
environment, and undue burden on other people. We are an empty nation and
most of the nation is emptying out even more. The problem we face is that
we cannot (yes, cannot) accommodate everyone who want to live in places like
SoCal because the people who want to move here will not (yes, will not) pay
their share of the costs of their accommodation. There is no affordable
housing crisis for instance, there is a surplus of people who are unwilling
to pay for the housing they think they deserve. There are similar parallels
in transit and roads funding. I think we need to increase gas excise taxes
to prepare for the upcomming round of urban highways that we've already
filled up with demand before adding capacity.

Some on this list can tell stories about what I think of planning as a
"profession." Planners are not familiar with the scientific
process or if they are they reject it as too inconvienient. The word
science is tacked on to lots of things like boxing and planning. In
Boxing, where the word is appropriate, one can set up a hypothesis and
perform experiments and enumerably compare results with known
constants and variables and margins of error. Planning cannot do any
of these things in a putatively free society so they revert to chicken
guts and portents as interpreted by shamans. They have shown themselves
to be resistant to introducing science into the processes so important
to us all.

Real science starts with hypotheses and collects data and produces
conclusions. Planning is the Church, professionalism is Gallileo.

Planning is to science what astrology is to astronomy.

Limiting housing can be neither onerous nor coercive. Zoning density
restrictions enjoy a long acceptance in this country. Economic hurdles to
more residences in a neighborhood than the existing owners are willing to
accept are even more respected for both their legitimacy and efficacy.

We are not talking about buying an empty lot in a residential area and
building a house. We are talking about public funds buying an empty lot in
a residential area and allowing a zoning change and building an apartment

We are not talking about buying an empty lot in a residential area and
building a house. We are talking about buying an empty lot in a residential
area and being allowed a zoning change and building a an affordable house
with public subsidies.

I fail to see why residence location should be any different from any other
"investment." I use "investment" in quotes to highlight that this means far
more than money. When one buys into any system there is a reasonable
expectation that the rules that restrict will also protect. In the last 40
years that has changed so that now they only restrict.

I've mentioned before that my neighborhood is massively protected by money
and many layers of interlocking laws. The population is most certainly
limited and affordable housing is not going to happen here. The difference
is that those constraints are neither onerous nor coercive nor arbitrary.

This is a case of swamping the lifeboat. What in the heck is wrong with
saying "use the next boat." The answer is obvious and odious. "We don't
want that -same- as what you've got, we want what you have. If we cannot
have it at the price -we- like then -we- will drag you down." Of course I'm
talking about Sec 8 and affordable housing and "fair share", upzoning, etc.

The largest threats to the US historically high homeownership rates are in
the following order:

Government intervention.
Bias towards urban solutions.
Using housing to address social justice or social equity issues.
The false assumption that sprawl is an anti-affordable factor.

Govt intervention, with all good intentions doesn't permit affordable and
profitable housing anymore than it permits adequate but unencumbered roads
or transit sited for apolitical technical reasons. We don't let safe,
decent shelters be built. We insist on massive public dedications of land,
very high construction standards, etc. There may be good reasons for these
things, strict fire codes for instance, make a home cost more but saves the
municipality fire dept expenses. Same thing when the front yard is "taken"
for wide tertiary streets, greenstrips, sidewalk and now the new taking,
underground utility rows that don't lay in the "public" row.

Affordable housing is easy. Lay down some streets and stand back. But like
I said affordable housing is only the wedge issue urban agendaists are using
to force social changes to their liking.

Public Health Crisis

Every LASIK should be running 24x7 until every corrective procedure that should be done has been done. The marginal cost for the "other" 22 hours per day of operation are less than the billing costs. The billions in eyeglass and optometrist and contact lense and such saved make this a public health priority orders of magnitude more serious than fast food workers washing thier hands but. But what? We'd destroy several "vital" industries that depend on extending human misery? Bausch & Loam will miss their earnings? We MANDATE measles and subsidize the vaccination process. That makes sense so clear that it is barely questioned anymore. Where is the moral or economic distinction here?