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Tile, skylights, fountains, big hair, mullets.
The sale of abandoned homes for just enough to pay the outstanding tax bill has created a perverse incentive for investors who buy these homes to walk away from them, abandoning them once again, and further blighting the neighborhood, according to a detailed investigative report.
"Frank Alexander, a professor at Emory Law School who has studied tax sales across the country, was not surprised to hear that investors like Mt. Helix were leaving houses empty.
"'Indiana has a broken system,' he said. 'It actually creates incentives for passive investors.'
"He said government tax sales don't function like normal markets. They're designed only to collect taxes, not necessarily to seek a fair market price for the property. As long as the taxes come in, the government doesn't mind giving up the homes for less than they are worth.
"People often can pay $2,000 to buy a property that's worth $10,000, said Alexander, co-founder of the Center for Community Progress, a blight advisory group. 'Well, all I have to do is sell it for $6,000,' he said. 'Then I get a 300 percent rate of return.'"
An attempt to collect all info about parcel ownership and value in the USA into one consistent, publicly accessible database.
Roberta Brandes Gratz shoots back at detractors of Jane Jacobs and citizen involvement in the planning process.
"My favorite assumption, put forth by several commentators, is that Jane's belief in the importance of public process and the need to involve the citizens who will experience the greatest impact of a proposed change has given birth to NIMBYISM. This argument comes from people who seem to want to advance whatever official plan is on the table and who resist acknowledging the wisdom often found in citizen critiques of official plans. Most citizen objectors to official plans care deeply about their place and are not against change per se nor, most absurdly, against 'any change whatsoever in the urban landscape,' as one commentator said. Mostly, the objectors resist the configuration of the change being offered, not change itself, and, in most cases, have offered alternative proposals the impact of which would be less overwhelming to the targeted area.
"As Jane said: 'If you take the time to listen to people at public hearings, you will understand their fears.' She did not argue that those fears should STOP change but should, instead, help SHAPE change. Instead, today, especially in New York, we have a pretend public process. Significant, large-scale, Moses-style projects run through a state approval process that overrides city review and throws communities crumbs, called Community Benefit Packages, while advancing the original, usually over-scaled, neighborhood replacement plan. Projects that get delayed by lawsuits do so because they are promulgated by developers with no public input and approved by the City Planning Commission with an occasional minor tweaking.
"Invariably, citizen fears about traffic congestion and parking - and why shouldn't they fear such problems? - usually come to pass, causing predicted problems for everyone."
Provocative comments from a professor of urban planning, but some of the best ideas are rebuttals in the comments: "...what does it say about our profession when a group of citizens -- most with no training in architecture, planning or design -- comes up with a very good idea that the planners should have had? When I asked about this, the response was: 'We're too busy planning to come up with big plans.' Too busy planning. Too busy slogging through the bureaucratic maze, issuing permits and enforcing zoning codes, hosting community get-togethers, making sure developers get their submittals in on time and pay their fees. This is what passes for planning today. We have become a caretaker profession -- reactive rather than proactive, corrective instead of preemptive, rule bound and hamstrung and anything but visionary. "
Graphic illustrates key principles of urban design in Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities": Population density, mixed uses, old buildings, short blocks, eyes on the street, cities as organized complexity.
"Trailer parks remain one of the last forms of housing in US cities provided by the market explicitly for low-income residents. Better still, they offer a working example of traditional urban design elements and private governance. Any discussion of trailer parks should start with the fact that most forms of low-income housing have been criminalized in nearly every major US city. "
"In an effort to begin to quantify this key aspect of neighborhood vitality, we've developed a new statistical indicator--the Storefront Index (click to see the full report)--that measures the number and concentration of customer-facing businesses in the nation's large metropolitan areas. We've computed the Storefront Index by mapping the locations of hundreds of thousands of everyday businesses: grocery and hardware stores, beauty salons, bookstores, bars and restaurants, movie theatres and entertainment venues, and then identifying significant clusters of these businesses--places where each storefront business is no more than 100 meters from the next storefront.
"The result is a series of maps, available for the nation's 51 largest metropolitan areas, that show the location, size, and intensity of neighborhood business clusters down to the street level."
Tulsa's not included, but metro Oklahoma City (including Edmond, Norman, etc.) is. The storefronts captured are not necessarily pedestrian-oriented. In fact, most in metro OKC are in post-war, auto-oriented shopping centers.
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.