Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Susie Cagle's Posts


Will twentysomethings head for the suburbs?

The millennial generation stands to shape our cities for decades to come, largely because it's so big: 86 million, compared to 77 million baby boomers. Millennials are just starting to turn 30, and middle-aged demographers are wondering how many of them will run to the suburbs like their parents and grandparents before them.


From USA Today:

Now, cities face a new demographic reality: The young and single are aging and having children. If the pattern of the past 50 years holds, they might soon set their sights on suburbia.

"We know young people move the most," says Richard Florida, whose book The Rise of the Creative Class published 10 years ago helped spark the wooing of young professionals to revive declining urban centers. "So capturing people early on in their lives in a metro really matters. It's important to compete with suburbs for people once they get a little older and have children."

The older they get, the less likely people are to live in cities, according to recent Census data. The peak age for urban living is 25 to 27, when 20% of that age group are nestled in urban centers. By the age of 41, about a quarter have moved to the suburbs.

Experts say getting cities baby-ready would entail improving schools, building housing near public transit, and expanding and improving parks. That all sounds well and good to me, but here's the hitch: Demographers say millennials want to bring the suburbs to the city with more low-rise townhouses and single-family homes instead of apartments. So much for that density thing?

Read more: Cities, Living


Bumps on the road to EV infrastructure in California

About a third of the electric cars in the U.S. are spinning on California roads, but the state still has much work to do to build the charging infrastructure to support them.


There are about 1,000 public chargers in the state right now, and New Jersey-based NRG is poised to install 200 fast chargers and the wiring for 10,000 more regular chargers throughout the state by 2016. A fast charger can juice up a vehicle in as little as 15 minutes, while the regular kind can take hours. But building up the infrastructure isn't simple, as KQED reports:

Still, a multitude of challenges face NRG and other charging companies, like Bay Area-based ChargePoint andEcotality. Fast chargers produce very high voltage. They require complicated permitting. And they cost upward of $40,000 each.

Right now, the financials don’t add up says NRG’s Terry O’Day.


Justice Department ditches Monsanto investigation

While we were celebrating Thanksgiving, Monsanto had much to be thankful for, too. Last month, the Department of Justice quietly scrapped an investigation begun in January 2010 into anticompetitive practices in the American seed market that Monsanto dominates like an extra-mean, extra-genetically-modified Hulk. Today, Hulk "pleased."


Tom Philpott at Mother Jones reports:

The DOJ didn't even see fit to mark the investigation's end with a press release. News of it emerged from a brief item Monsanto itself issued the Friday before Thanksgiving, declaring it had "received written notification" from the DOJ antitrust division that it had ended its investigation "without taking any enforcement action."


Traffic signals for cyclists pop up nationwide

It's not all about the painted lanes, folks. In an effort to make streets more bike-friendly, more than 16 U.S. cities have embraced traffic signals just for bike-riders.


The lights are standard in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, and over the last couple years have started gaining traction in America, according to a study commissioned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

USA Today reports:

Bicyclists can be at risk when entering an intersection on a yellow light that allows enough time for cars to clear the intersection, but not for bikes, the study found. Even traditional green lights may not allow enough time for a bicyclist starting from a stopped position to make it across. Bicycle signals can also help prevent collisions when a motorist is turning right and a cyclist is going straight, by allowing the cyclist a few seconds head start.

Read more: Cities, Living


Supreme Court takes on dirty water

Nobody wants to take responsibility for nasty, polluted storm-water runoff. But the Supreme Court might soon force a few somebodies to do just that.


Today the court is hearing two cases on runoff from logging roads in the Pacific Northwest, which environmentalists say can threaten fish.

And tomorrow the court will hear a case on Los Angeles' filthy storm water, which contains "high levels of aluminum, copper, cyanide, fecal coliform bacteria and zinc," the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said last year. That water flows into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers and ultimately pollutes the area's beaches.

The fight over L.A.’s dirty water began back in 2008, when the Natural Resources Defense Council brought suit against the county flood control district, hoping to force stricter measures to prevent water pollution. But the county doesn’t acknowledge that the water is its responsibility. From the Los Angeles Times:

Read more: Cities


Are trendy homesteaders clueless about class differences?

Organic gardens! Canning! Sewing clothes! All the chickens! The modern rise of homesteading (of the hipster variety) has gripped the nation's urban centers. It's been kind of like this:

Self-sufficiency can't be bad, though, right? At least when we're aware of our motivations. Today at Bitch (based in Portland! hm!), Marianne Kirby takes a long look at modern homesteading through the lens of class. She pulls together the history of the 1862 Homestead Act, slave and victory gardens, and '70s recession efforts at surviving tough times, providing context for how the lifestyle has been newly embraced by the petit bourgeoisie.

"For large portions of the poor and immigrant classes, homesteading skills are still survival skills," she writes. "Can you really have a rebirth of something that never actually died out in the first place?"

Kirby calls out "capitalistic homesteading" and product branding. But this isn't just about shopping and culture.

[I]t’s also about policy. My central Florida town recently implemented an urban-chicken pilot program due to a clamor of interest from young, middle-class community members. The program allows people to keep hens, but no roosters. Participants are allowed to raise chickens for eggs, but not for meat. This means urban homesteaders who want to raise eggs in fancy coops have won out — but anyone who needs to raise chickens for subsistence reasons suffers, and is subject to fines and seizure if they get caught.

Governmental limitation of the “wrong” kind of homesteading can be seen elsewhere. In 2011, Denise Morrison’s garden was chopped down by Tulsa, Oklahoma, officials who claimed it violated city ordinances. Morrison grew more than 100 edible and medicinal plants in her yard. Subsistence gardens are more about function than design; they aren’t always pretty, and Morrison wasn’t raising organic fruit and vegetables in neat rows of raised beds. Despite a stay issued by local courts, officials removed every last one of her plants. Unemployed and without health insurance, Morrison had relied on her garden for food and medicine. “They basically took away my livelihood,” she told Tulsa’s KOTV.

Read more: Food, Living


AAA, EPA, GM trade barbs over ethanol

Maybe it's holiday stress, maybe it's seasonal affective disorder, or maybe it's just that the American Automobile Association is still really bitter that it lost on this issue in court in August.

AAA released a statement today calling for federal regulators to stop the sale of fuel that contains more than 10 percent ethanol. EPA-approved E15 -- a mix of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol -- is supposed to only be used in vehicles made after 2000, but AAA says that it might still cause damage that warranties won't cover, and that 95 percent of people don't even know what E15 is.

The EPA was all, We're trying! We're making stickers!


General Motors called the EPA "irresponsible" (hee) and AAA "eloquent" (haa).

Then the Renewable Fuels Association was all:


Hundreds of cyclists demand safer Austin streets

On Thursday night, Austin, Texas, was like a microcosm of modern urban American cycling. Downtown, people gathered at benefit concerts to raise money for the mounting medical bills of a local man struck and critically injured by a drunk driver in October.


Meanwhile, nearly 1,200 cyclists biked to the state capitol in a really, really sad kind of Critical Mass, with one cargo bike toting a large banner that read: "No More Deaths." The event was sponsored by the group Please Be Kind to Cyclists, which is about as passive as you can get when it comes to life-or-death street safety issues.

Read more: Cities, Living


Controversial California oyster farm returned to wilderness

How sustainable are California oysters? Trick question: not sustainable enough, apparently.


A years-long battle over an oyster farm at Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco ended this week in the farm's definite closure. The 70-plus-year-old Drakes Bay Oyster Company will be forced to vacate the area before year's end, turning it over in full to a colony of seals, who are adorable but kind of indifferent to all the people losing their jobs before the holidays.

The seashore area was added to the national parks system in 1962. Ten years later, a 40-year lease was granted to the oyster farm, with the understanding that it would then be returned from “potential wilderness” to the actual kind. The farm had been seeking a 10-year extension of its lease, but the feds decided to stick to the original plan.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the decision yesterday. The Marin Independent Journal reports on reactions:

"This is going to be devastating to our families, our community and our county," [oyster farm owner Kevin] Lunny said. "This is wrong beyond words in our opinion." ...

The oyster farm has outspoken supporters, Sen. Dianne Feinstein among them.

"I am extremely disappointed that Secretary Salazar chose not to renew the operating permit for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.," Feinstein said. ...

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune lauded the decision.

"We're thrilled that after three decades this amazing piece of Point Reyes National Seashore will finally receive the protections it deserves," he said. "Once the oyster factory operations are removed, as originally promised ... this estuary will quickly regain its wilderness characteristics and become a safe haven for marine mammals, birds and other sea life."

Read more: Food


Your couch is poisoning you

Have you been sleeping on the couch to avoid your toxic mattress? Well, stop that. Because your couch is probably poisoning you right now. Unless you're at work, in which case right when you get home.

That's the takeaway from a new study in which scientists found flame-retardant chemicals linked to cancer in 85 percent of the couches they tested. New couches were actually worse, with 93 percent testing toxic. Almost a quarter of sofas tested positive for a chemical banned from kids' clothes in the 1970s, but still allowed in mattresses and car seats. Mother Jones reports:

Read more: Living