Recently in Cities Category
Four-part series of articles by a San Francisco taxi driver, chronicling his journey from being a cabbie to becoming a driver for ridesharing service Lyft. Fascinating details about the practicalities of driving a cab, and why ridesharing is a better deal for drivers and riders alike.
As originally conceived in 1956, the system would have served all the counties bordering the bay, reaching from Los Gatos to Santa Rosa and all the way to Fairfield, Brentwood, and Livermore in the outer eastern reaches of the metro area, serving nine counties instead of the three that BART actually serves. Lines would have crossed the bays along each of the bridges. Having dealt with traffic along many of these routes, I can appreciate the convenience of taking a train instead.
The 1956 plan was unearthed was uncovered by Jake Coolidge for his master's thesis at San Jose State University. Here's his presentation putting the original BART plan in its national and local historical context. Although the images are small and hard to read, I'm struck by the similarities in graphic design with the Tulsa comprehensive planning documents from the same period.
While the contagion of "global architecture" today dilutes the individual character of our cities, turning them into bland collections of interchangeable buildings, we now have voices offering a fresh choice: classical architecture based on local traditions and ideals. In Alabama, judges want to hear cases in buildings that embody the virtues of justice; in California and Illinois, colleges want buildings that reflect their founding principles; and in New York City, luxurious new classical apartment buildings offer residents "modern-traditional" living. Classical architecture is not just about history; it's also about light, color, and human proportions, all of which help us understand it and relate to it so naturally. "People will not look forward to prosperity," Edmund Burke once said, "who never look backwards to their ancestors." In politics, as in architecture, tastes evolve. But lasting institutions can be built only on strong foundations.
"Michael Monaghan has wanted to develop his property on Main Street in Hackensack, New Jersey, just a few miles away from Manhattan. Yet the city twice denied two applications for banks to build on his land.
"Instead, Hackensack's Planning Board designated Michael's and another owner's land as an 'area in need of redevelopment,' authorizing the use of eminent domain to condemn and seize the properties. 'I've stood up and tried to protect my property for the last eight years,' he said in an interview with a local paper....
"But fortunately for property owners, Hackensack's entire city council was booted out of office. The grassroots group Citizens for Change won every single seat on the city council, despite being outraised 2:1. Their slate of candidates successfully ran on a platform against costly litigation, nepotism, and corruption. "
Tulsa's Kendall-Whittier Neighborhood Plans
Tulsa Development Authority: Kendall-Whittier Neighborhood Urban Renewal Plan, as amended February 16, 2006, to expire on June 2, 2014.
You don't need high-rise apartment complexes to see the environmental benefits of increased density. The 20 to 60 homes-per-acre of historic urban neighborhoods is plenty dense (marginal improvement in environmental parameters declines starting at 20 and disappears above 60 per acre) and is more comfortable for pedestrians and appealing to residents and visitors.
"After extensive study of how humans behave in different kinds of environments, [architect Jan] Gehl has concluded that the most comfortable building height for urban pedestrians is between 12.5 and 25 meters, or about three to six stories. (See the excellent discussion in Li Teng, Human Scale Development....) Could that be part of why people love these historic city districts so much?"
The author provides photos of new transit-oriented developments like Fruitvale in Oakland, California, and Bethesda Row in Bethesda, Maryland, that meet these criteria with low-rise buildings.
In the early 1960s, a 9.3 acre, 71-family Irish and Italian neighborhood on the northeast corner of N. Harvard St. and Western Ave. was declared blighted by the City of Boston to make room for a more expensive development. The residents lost, the neighborhood was demolished, the luxury complex was never built -- a vintage 1969 townhouse complex was built instead -- but the neighborhood's protests had an impact.
I used to pass this corner on the way from home to Harvard Yard. Harvard's business school and stadium are nearby, and there are plans for future campus expansion, including the redevelopment of the now abandoned Charlesview Apartments that replaced Barry's Corner neighborhood.
"The BRA's plan called for the demolition of the existing 52 structures, and the construction on the cleared acreage (by well-connected developers), of a $4.5 million ten-story, 372 unit luxury apartment building, to be paid for largely with federal money. The BRA contended that the Barry's Corner structures were blighted, a charge the residents hotly disputed. The authority also noted that the existing neighborhood was yielding the city relatively little tax revenue. The proposed luxury complex would pay $150,000 as compared to the $15,000 the Barry's Corner properties were contributing. The BRA assured the public that 'every effort is being made to assure that the residents now living in the area are provided with suitable new homes.'
"Barry's Corner residents were understandably outraged. The BRA was proposing to obliterate an entire neighborhood, to seize and demolish private homes, so that luxury housing could be constructed, and to pay for this questionable project with public revenues."
MORE about the history of Barry's Corner in the Harvard Crimson.
Of 67 American cities with a population of more than a quarter-million people, Tulsa and Oklahoma are two of the 13 ranked right-of-center. In order:
Oklahoma City, OK
Virginia Beach, VA
Colorado Springs, CO
Fort Worth, TX
The ten most liberal: San Francisco, Washington DC, Seattle, Oakland, Boston, Minneapolis, Detroit, New York, Buffalo, Baltimore.
The graphic is an extract from a March 2014 study of studies called Representation in Municipal Government by Chris Tausanovitch of UCLA and Christopher Warshaw of MIT, examining "whether city policies are actually responsive to the views of their citizens" by moving in the direction of the views of their citizens. The analysis is of cities, not metropolitan areas; thus Arlington, Texas, Mesa, Arizona, and Anaheim, California, are considered separately from DFW, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.
"However, unlike at the state and national level, we find scant evidence that differences in municipal political institutions affect representation. Neither the choice of mayor versus city council government, partisan or non-partisan elections, the availability of ballot measures, whether or not elected officials face term limits, or whether there are at-large or districted elections seem to affect the strength of the relationship between public policy preferences and city policies."
1937 street map of San Francisco (which also shows streetcar and trolley bus lines at the time) was color coded by the Federal Government's Home Owners' Loan Corporation to indicate various levels of perceived risk to property value. These maps, drawn up for cities across the country, are associated with the practice of redlining -- denying home loans to certain neighborhoods, particularly those dominated by disfavored ethnic groups.
Home Owners' Loan Corporation: A brochure explaining the purpose and scope of the HOLC. The brochure estimates the total home mortgage debt as $20 billion. HOLC was given $200 million in cash to finance $2 billion in bonds to assist owners of homes worth less than $20,000. Oklahoma had HOLC offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
High-res scans of HOLC Residential Security Maps from the late '30s: Also a good source for pre-urban renewal street locations.