Cities

Unnatural Habitat

What do coyotes want in Manhattan? Real estate

Early Sunday morning, a campus security officer at Columbia University saw three unusual animals hanging out in front of Lewisohn Hall, one of the school’s classroom buildings. The officer called NYPD, and according to a memo from the school’s public safety chief, the responding officers spotted one of the animals before it slinked away. They recognized it as a coyote. A second sighting was also reported by school employees on Sunday, the memo said, although police couldn’t confirm that one. I’m a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school (just two buildings south of Lewisohn Hall) and an adjunct professor there, so …

Picking up the PACE

San Francisco commits $150 million to green homes

Monday night I was having drinks in downtown San Francisco with some seriously smart people — top-level IBM scientists and strategists involved in Big Blue’s Smarter Planet initiative.  Given the room’s collective interest in creating smart electrical grids, smart water systems, advanced electric car batteries and other green technologies, the talk naturally turned to how to create sustainable cities. Solar panel installation in San Francisco.Photo courtesy bkusler via FlickrThe technology largely exists, the IBMers agreed, but what’s really needed is a great leap forward in financial engineering to allow cities to finance all the cool stuff being developed in labs …

what it looks like

Smart Growth even makes snowstorms better

Mixed land use is a tenet of Smart Growth development that has a lot of virtues. But the name is boring and not very descriptive. Here’s Matt Yglesias describing what it’s like to live in a mixed-use D.C. neighborhood: The building where I live turns out to be a really good place to pass a prolonged snow emergency. The complex includes a supermarket, a gym, a delicious sandwich place, and a coffee shop so you can easily meet all your key needs without leaving for days at a time. The downside is that I’m now realizing it’s been almost 48 …

One Less Car; One More Terrified Biker

Car free in Boston, for all the wrong reasons

I’m currently in transportation transition. By the end of the month, I will have transferred my aging VW into my partner’s name, and canceled my own insurance. I will have tuned up my bike, spent a good chunk of money on a metro pass, and signed up with the local car-sharing business. But I’m not here to moralize (unlike in most of my posts). I tanked the car for all the wrong reasons. It was an easy decision to make, after I took my soon-to-be-ex car into the mechanic for a tune-up and came out minus $2,500; and after the …

NEXT STEPS

Walking: A simple focus for the Smart Growth movement

I expected to hear a lot more about sexy green urban design projects at the New Partners in Smart Growth conference in Seattle last week. I expected more sleek design and big new developments akin to Dockside Green in Victoria, British Columbia, or Vancouver’s Olympic Village. Maybe American urban planners are better at keeping it real, or maybe the real estate market isn’t allowing many such ambitious projects, but shiny New Urbanist developments didn’t get a lot of attention. Instead, discussions kept returning to a recurring problem: Americans live too damn far from where they work. Decades of bad development …

Distribute This

The little solar that could

I spotted a rare critter on the streets of San Francisco this week — a smiling, optimistic businessperson. Then again, Ron Kenedi is in the solar panel business.  “The big news as I see it is the demand — demand keeps growing everywhere,” says Kenedi, vice president of Sharp Solar, the renewable energy arm of the Japanese conglomerate. “What really amazes me every day is how much demand has grown throughout the world.” Kenedi is not one for Pollyannaish optimism — he started in the business around the time Ronald Reagan took down Jimmy Carter’s solar panels from the White …

(IS IT REALLY SO) SMART GROWTH?

My whiz-bang light rail is your pain in the asphalt

Seattle light rail. Photo courtesy LeeLeFever via Flickr One train, two views: Getting to the airport from Seattle’s north side — its wealthier, whiter half — on public transit first involves a bus ride downtown. From there, as of two months ago, you can take a new light-rail line, instead of another bus, to Sea-Tac Airport. This north-side resident found the light rail underwhelming — the train chugs along at street level at a modest speed, stopping 10 times, even stopping at times for traffic lights. It’s still faster to take the express bus from downtown. So it was interesting …

Freeway in LA…for bikes?

Advocates in famously car-centric Los Angeles are advocating for a new freeway system.  For bikes. The weather is great, the streets are gridlocked, and the city is flat-ish.  No brainer.

grow job

The jobs are in the trees

With Congress and the White House considering spending scarce dollars to jump-start employment, they’ll need to get the biggest jobs bang for the buck to give Americans confidence that they’re spending our money wisely. Probably the biggest jobs generator of all, and one of the least recognized, is investing in forest and land restoration and sustainable management, with conservation, watershed projects, and park investment coming close behind. Heidi Garrett-Peltier and Robert Pollin at The Political Economy and Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts report the following numbers for jobs created per dollar of investment. To summarize, reforestation and restoration …

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