Welcome back to this week’s Sunday Reading. Here’s one of those patterns that is difficult to imagine if you think that the future will just be an extension of the past. The rise of single households, delay in conventional romantic household formation, and economic challenges of younger people will have a big impact on the shape of cities.
Richard Fry, “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds“, Pew Research Center.
This turn of events is fueled primarily by the dramatic drop in the share of young Americans who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35. Dating back to 1880, the most common living arrangement among young adults has been living with a romantic partner, whether a spouse or a significant other. This type of arrangement peaked around 1960, when 62% of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds were living with a spouse or partner in their own household, and only one-in-five were living with their parents.
Not surprisingly, there is a growing difference in how the generations view new housing. Roland Li, “Younger Bay Area residents are more supportive of new housing, signaling generational divide“, San Francisco Business Times.
Millennials, or those between 18 and 33, voiced the highest support for new housing in their neighborhood, with 64 percent saying they wanted new growth in the study. Support dropped off as the age of the respondent rose, with 60 percent of Gen X residents (ages 34 to 49) supporting new housing, 49 percent of baby boomers (50 to 64), and 44 percent of seniors (over 65) supporting new development.
Here is a interesting take on the diversity of ‘urbanist” circles from Seattle. Stu will be writing on this topic specifically as it relates to Auckland and the Blog. Laura Bernstein, “Intersectionality and Urbanism“, The Urbanist.
The lack of room for nuance and for a variety of flavors of urbanism is excluding people from the conversation. It isn’t just about a space that feels safe for people, a space for them to not be attacked but a space that allows people to speak without everyone trying to get the last word.
I want pro-density, forward-thinking spaces that accommodate people’s feelings and emotions to be respected. Some people think that those online spaces are less authentic and call it “tone policing”.
We want people to get involved on- and off-line and ask ourselves: Why aren’t there more women here at this event? Why are there rarely people from communities of color? And then when I’ve tried to explain why I’m told—well, we aren’t going to make everyone happy with our message—without any sense that this is the attitude that makes people feel unwelcome.
Why don’t more women cycle? It’s not simply concerns about their appearance. Here is a response to the “helmet hair” explanation offered up by an MP in the UK. Mark Treasure, “Cycling Embassy Open Letter To Cycling Minister Over Comments On Barriers To Women Cycling“, Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.
Although, concerns about their appearance do act as a barrier to cycling for women, which shouldn’t be dismissed, this is generally a minor factor compared with the main barriers to cycling among women:
Women consistently express greater concerns than men about safety while cycling, particularly cycling in traffic but also personal safety (for example in unlit areas at night.
Women who do cycle are more likely than men to take quieter routes which are separated from traffic, and avoid multi-lane roads, which may lead to longer journeys.
Women are more likely than men to make multi-functional trips (such as stopping off at the shops on the way home from work), meaning that it’s not just about tackling key commuting corridors but creating a dense network of cycle-friendly routes.
In particular, women are more likely to need to transport children which makes the need for safe, direct and barrier-free cycling infrastructure paramount.
The effect of vehicle speed on road safety is re-visited here to include the consideration of age. Lena Groeger, “Unsafe at Many Speeds“, ProPublica.
While it might be common sense that faster cars are deadlier, what’s particularly striking to me is how much more deadly they are for older folks. A 70-year-old hit by a car going 35 mph is about as likely to be killed as a 30-year-old hit by a car going 45 mph (in both cases it’s about a 50/50 chance).
The second main point is that once cars reach a certain speed (just above 20 mph), they rapidly become more deadly. According to Tefft’s data, a person is about 70 percent more likely to be killed if they’re struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph versus 25 mph.
This is what a well designed public space looks like from above. Look at that multi-modality! All catered for! pic.twitter.com/xNDDIPT6u6
— Lennart Nout (@lennartnout) May 23, 2016
Vancouver may now have the highest cycle to work mode share in North America. Their rapidly expanding network of high quality facilities is no doubt the primary pull factor. It’s interesting that the mode share for transit is dropping at the same time. Charlie Smith, “Vancouver records spectacular increases in cycling trips“, The Georgia Straight.
By 2013, the city reported that 83,000 trips were taken on a bike. The following year, this rose to 99,000, and by 2015 the number shot up to 131,000. That’s a 32-percent hike in cycling in a single year.
We look to the West Coast of the States as it tends to have the same freakshow housing qualities, in particular in the Bay Area. I think it was Bernard Hickey that snarked, ‘Auckland is just like San Francisco but without the start-up/tech economy’. Zoning and process increasingly is pointed to as the culprit for low rates of building, rising inequality, and rising rents. Mark Hogan looks a the history of zoning (exclusionary, racist) and comes the conclusion, “addressing the twenty-first century challenges before us will not be possible with tools that are a century or more old.”
Mark Hogan, “Re-Coding Planning“, Boom a Journal of California.
Building and planning codes have their roots in the Progressive-era reform movement that sought to promote health and safety through higher-quality housing than the tenements that had been built in fast-growing industrial cities. Light and air were seen as cures to the ills that plagued dirty and heavily polluted late-nineteenth-century American cities, and many early reformers were legitimately concerned about the living conditions of lower income residents. But reformers’ intentions were not always benign. Nativist sentiment, racism, and classism also figured heavily in the reform movement, and upper-class reformers “saw new ethnic, religious, and political subcultures as threatening to hard-won changes in polite family life.”
Even where layers of code aren’t in conflict with one another, they can be in conflict with neighborhood groups. In California, which allows for a great deal of citizen participation in the planning process, it is not uncommon for neighbors to object to projects that will introduce rental apartments or taller buildings even where they are allowed in the existing code. For instance, the state enacted legislation decades ago to specifically allow for secondary units (also known as in-law units or granny flats) statewide, yet few local jurisdictions have followed through and allowed the new housing because of resistance from homeowners. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed local legislation in the 1980s explaining why the city’s single-family housing was a scarce resource that needed to be preserved, despite it making up the majority of the residentially zoned parcels in the city. To this day, San Francisco does not allow in-law units in single-family districts.
California Governor Brown is pushing a housing proposal that will not such much change city’s zoning codes, but will help to make building what’s allowed “as-of-right” easier. Ronald Li, “So long, NIMBYs? Gov. Brown’s housing proposal could mean sweeping Bay Area changes“, San Francisco Business Times and Dan Walters, “California housing shortage sets up battle over land-use control“, The Sacramento Bee.
This month, Brown proposed that “in-fill” housing projects meeting certain criteria, including density, closeness to transit and serving low- and moderate-income families, be exempted from local control.
The Legislature’s budget analyst says the need is highest in coastal areas, and the exemption should be widened to include more kinds of housing and be tightened to prevent cities from circumventing the exemption.
The same market dynamics are happening in Los Angeles which was largely downzoned in the 1970’s. Brent Gaisford, “How Los Angeles’ Rent Got So Damn High, Market Urbanism.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We know what the problem is, and we have the power to solve it. Congress doesn’t need to unfuck itself, Obama doesn’t need to pull off a lame duck miracle. Zoning rules are made at the local level, city by city. So let’s solve this thing. Let’s upzone L.A., build more houses, and stop rent from eating the world.
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