Morning Ed: Cities {2017.10.19.Th}

[Ci1] Korea isn’t buying into the suburbs.
#BanMunicipalities

[Ci2] Gentrification, public money, lined pockets: Daniel Brook on the Ruse of the Creative Class. No one sets themselves up for success as well as the man who can provide the rationale for the big and powerful to do what they already wanted to do. (But seriously, good for those who admitted their error.)

[Ci3] Corporations have their own language that help move them along, so it makes sense that cities would to.

[Ci4] Skunthala says that cities are not the future.

[Ci5] As an experiment, switch the context of this article from gentrification to immigration and let’s see where it lands.

[Ci6] Las Vegas’ motto has always practically been “The devil may care”… and now what will it do if the devil does?

[Ci7] While not as cool as Truth or Consequences, naming a city Amazon is pretty okay as far as corporate names go.

[Ci8] Greg Clark writes about the urban revolution.

[Ci9] It should come as no surprise that I love this sort of thing. Use every inch of real estate!

[Ci0]


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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38 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Cities {2017.10.19.Th}

  1. [Ci5] As an experiment, switch the context of this article from gentrification to immigration and let’s see where it lands.

    I don’t want to be too hard on a piece written by a 14yo, but Will’s point is spot on. The far right and the far left are, to a certain extent, mirror images of each other. Of course, that’s always been the case, to a certain extent. And that’s not an attempt to make any kind of moral equivalency. It’s an observation that the two sides take the same arguments and apply them in different directions or the same complaints about similar behavior and just switch around who the bad guys are supposed to be and who is supposed to get your sympathy and understanding. Immigration and gentrification is one area where this can be seen; another is terrorism and gun violence.

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    • Yeah, that “invader” language isn’t a good look.

      Besides, there are very, very few gentrifying neighborhoods for which the under-threat ethnic makeup is more than 2-3 generations old.

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  2. Ci4 a is pure Saul bait. Personally, I agree with her, urban cores eventually peak, especially if geographically constrained. However, the only way to manage the commutes is through vastly expanded public transit, which means regional transit authority is a must.

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  3. Ci4: Life is more than commuting and jobs. Metro areas are not, in general, going to scatter their museums and concert halls and sports stadiums and zoos and convention centers uniformly across the region. I use “concert halls” broadly to include all sorts of live music venues. The very largest of the multi-center metro areas are sometimes exceptions. Just my opinion, but smart urban cores should always looking for ways to provide services to the whole metro area (excepting those that are so big they don’t have to; NYC is that big, Denver isn’t).

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    • Metro areas are not, in general, going to scatter their museums and concert halls and sports stadiums and zoos and convention centers uniformly across the region.

      Comes back to good transportation options. I would never live in Seattle, the urban core holds insufficient appeal for me such that I’d want to reside within the city itself. But I enjoy the cultural offerings, etc. However, getting into Seattle is a pain, because of Lake Washington (I live on the east side of the lake). I am actually excited that they are putting a light rail line down the I-90 bridge into Bellevue, because getting to Bellevue is easy for me, and if I can hop a train to downtown Seattle…

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    • Although, a criticism of urban cores is that they often limit themselves to the types of businesses that can be born within.

      Business that only needs office space or maybe food prep space is easy. Maybe some light fab or manufacturing is doable within city limits, but as real estate is consumed for living space, the space available for businesses that require larger footprints is reduced, and those jobs are pushed out of the urban core.

      There goes the high paying blue collar work.

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      • I would have phrased it as “Functions that don’t generate enough dollars per square foot to afford the real estate (and utility plus hazard mitigation) costs.” IIRC — always a suspect statement at my advancing age — what got pushed out of Manhattan worked its way up the value chain over time: slaughterhouses, tanneries, warehouses, heavy manufacturing, etc. By the 1970s or so they were pushing out back-office white-collar stuff as well, leading to the boom in suburban office parks in NJ.

        Mitigation is underappreciated. One of the reasons why Silicon Valley happened where it did instead of San Francisco or Oakland or Berkeley is that IC fabrication involves lots of toxic stuff that you put in an urban core only if there’s nowhere else. Singapore’s fabs are in town (with substantial, expensive buffers). Europe’s fabs, like those in the US, are way out on the periphery of the metro area.

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        • That’s a good way to put it. But it’s one of those things, as the cost of real estate in an urban core goes up, it isn’t just low income people who get pushed out, it’s also low income/value activity. Either the value of urban core real estate peaks early, or the urban core becomes a top tier SES enclave. Once it’s an enclave, the attractiveness of the urban core as a place to live will decline for those not in the top tier.

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  4. The other day I found actual numbers for a phenomenon I frequently cite regarding urbanized areas in the US and suburban density. From Demographia, using 2010 census numbers and the usual Census Bureau regions, for urbanized area portions of MSAs over a million people:

    Census Region Densities
    Urban Area Core Municipality Suburban
    Northeast 2609 10906 2032
    South 2490 4007 2149
    Midwest 2472 5133 2055
    West 4317 6032 3839

    The NE region has by far the densest core cities, the West by far the densest suburbs, and the western metro areas measured edge-to-edge are the densest. Based on 2015 CB estimates, my western suburban zip code comes in at 5,031 people per square mile.

    Added: To TPTB, neither <pre> nor <code> tags seem to keep white space from being collapsed.

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  5. Ci4 contains some rather confused terminology. Oakland and Berkeley are technically suburbs of San Francisco but there are also dense, urban cities in their own right. A municipality consisting of single family homes around an actual downtown is also a city even if it’s part of a metropolitan area.

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    • Particularly when the author tagged Oakland as a city earlier in the piece when complaining about cities force people to live in dangerous warehouses like in Oakland.

      The link is a personal mantra through, its completely true if these are your preferences.

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      • The line between city and suburb in the United States is very blurry. Suburban Nassau County is more densely populated than many of America’s biggest cities. Many of America’s biggest cities are sprawling suburbs with maybe a under utilized downtown under one city government. In the suburbs of the big North Eastern cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia have many city like attributes like being more walkable or having a downtown shopping area rather than strip malls than many cities outside the North East.

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      • People commute from Berkeley and Oakland to work in San Francisco. The Bay Area is pretty defuse in terms of businesses but a lot of the core companies and employment is still in downtown San Francisco.

        Though I disagree with Lee on both because they are also independent cities.

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        • Nearly every suburb in the Bay Area has its own municipal government and is legally classified as a city under California law. That doesn’t make them non-suburbs. Walnut Creek is a city and its also a suburb.

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              • To Lee’s point, I’d bet that SFs tax revenues are much less reliant on Palo Alto’s economy than PA’s revenues are reliant on SF. But there are unique cases. Boulder, which used to be something of a bedroom community to Denver when subtracting the University (and trust fund!) economy, is now plagued by AM traffic inflows from the Denver area.

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                • Well, as the bay area is increasingly reliant on “tech” for its revenue, and the peninsula is the center of tech, it seems to me that pointing it out is important when talking about bay area commuting patterns and what is a suburb of what. SF might not be reliant on Palo’s tax revenues, but the fate of the city is reliant on the product that is marketed, developed and fostered in that region. Thus, the people making that commute are quite important to the conversation. At least in my eyes.

                  But Boulder taking commuters from Denver is also quite interesting and possibly germane to the conversation.

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                  • The direction of commuters and strength of local economies is germane to local economics, but not to the strength of the region. The region, and subregions, are either attracting capital and people or they aren’t. If people commuting to PA continue to live and spend their consumer dollars (ie., spend taxable monies) in SF, then SF benefits from Palo Alto’s economic boom. If not, then not. Either way the city core is the center of gravity for the region, and if that doesn’t thrive presumably the suburbs won’t thrive either. That’s why the Boulder economy is actually, in my view, interesting. It surely benefits from proximity to Denver, but the economy has radically shifted over the last couple decades to one that’s much less so. Boulder is, in some real sense that I cannot comprehend, it’s own city-center at this point. (Personally, I think it’s a massive increase in trust fund holdings but I can’t confirm that.) It’s possible that PA is rising to that level in relation to SF.

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                    • Well, it is also germane to what is/is not a suburb, which is this whole conversation in a nutshell. If we simply call the entirety of a city an economic zone without differentiating the separate communities therein, we lose a lot of data. Data that could be quite helpful in solving (for certain values of solving) many problems that urban areas face.

                      And along those lines, finding what truly is the urban core of a region is helped by looking at issues from this lens. In other words, is SF the urban core? Or Disneyland for tech workers, while SJ is the urban core of the area.

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                      • Well, it is also germane to what is/is not a suburb,

                        Yes, that’s true. If the dependency relation doesn’t obtain between a large city and its nearby satellites then it’s difficult to view them as suburbs.

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                        • But, to speak to your point (I think) does that in any true way matter? The bay area is the bay area, and trying to explain Berkeley vs. SF vs. San Jose vs. any other town in the region makes less and less difference the further away you get.

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          • People do commute to Palo Alto/Menlo Park but that is more of an exception and generational changes. I’d also say Palo Alto is a small city. Menlo Park is a suburb.

            Plus a lot more tech companies are building big office towers or leasing in SF like LinkedIn and Sales Force. Not to mention companies with a few hundred employees.

            Plus what percentage of San Franciscans do the reverse commute?

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      • As Lee says, the lines are blurry.

        Consider the Denver metro area, where I know more details. You have Denver, currently around 660K with a downtown with 30-story buildings, a developer asking permission to build a 90-story tower, and high-rise apartment towers going up all around downtown. Outside that you have inner-ring suburbs like Aurora approaching 400K, and Arvada, Centennial, Lakewood, Thornton, and Westminister, all over 100K (for comparison, Berkeley is a bit under 100K). Of those last six, the only one with anything like a high-rise downtown is Centennial, and that’s overflow from the Denver Tech Center.

        Across the Rust Belt from New England to Iowa, you have cities in the 50-75K range that are all considered stand-alone, not suburbs. You can decide which is which, it’s beyond me. My zip code area in Arvada has a population density a bit over 5,000 people per square mile. That’s higher than almost any of those Rust Belt cities. OTOH we are, by any sane test, suburban. Given light rail as an anchor, though, in 20 years we will very likely have a real urban center — but it won’t be 30 stories high.

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      • Both are part of a metropolitan area that centers on San Francisco. More people commute from Berkeley and Oakland into San Francisco for work than the reverse. At the same time both Oakland and Berkeley are dense, substantially populated cities in their own right and have plenty of residents who work in them. They are both city and suburb.

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        • There it is. That makes sense on a functional level. I guess I still think of suburbs as being primarily bedroom communities rather than independent economic centers which exist in proximity to a larger city-center but aren’t incorporated into it.

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