Skip to content
Grist home
All donations TRIPLED

Articles by Andy Brett

All Articles

  • Conservation easements and taxes

    The Los Angeles Times reports today on the Bonnheim ranch, a recently minted conservation easement. There is some controversy over the ranch because its owners are permitting logging on the premises, which doesn't sound like conservation to many people in the area.

    My high school English teacher had an expression: show, don't tell. The article is a powerful anecdote that reveals many of the issues surrounding land trusts and conservation easements, by giving just one example.

    Whenever trusts or easements come up, my first thought is this: the agreement is forever, or at least it can be (if this is incorrect, someone please let me know). The up-front price of the land is the bargain of the century when you look at it that way. It surprises me that more land isn't bought and donated to easements or trusts, especially given the other financial incentives to do so, like tax deductions.

  • Same paper, same day, two claims

    Saturday's LA Times features two articles about the effect of high gas prices on the choices that commuters make. One asserts that the recent run-up in gas prices is prompting more people to use public transportation. Another article, however, claims that changes to driving habits come in the form of choosing more efficient vehicles or just driving less.

    In the interest of full disclosure, the first article is filed under the opinion section. And the claims of the two articles are not entirely opposed to one another. Both articles acknowledge that ridership is up; however, the second article notes that only half of the transit riders who considered trains a way to cut costs were still riding six months later. The convenience factor of cars, it seems, is just too great.

    Also in the court of differing opinions: the second Times article's statement that "riding a Metrolink train also is more of a 'lifestyle choice' made by professional workers who have more flexibility with their schedules" v. Lisa Simpson, describing buses as "the ride of choice for the poor and very poor alike."

  • LA builds big for residents

    The Washington Post article that Ana and I both pointed to yesterday crowned Los Angeles as the most densely populated metropolitan area in the country.

    The heart of that metropolitan area, downtown LA, is feeling the effects, according to the LA Times. The last high rise built in the downtown area was completed in 1992, but a wave of skyscrapers is slated for the city. Five have been approved, and a total of 20 buildings over 20 stories tall are proposed.

    Marking a departure from historical usage of the buildings, most of the new towers are primarily for residential use, not office space. This leaves some, like historian and author D.J. Waldie, wondering: "They're putting in even taller high-rises ... but down on the ground, where are the resources to make that into a place to live?"

    The article also mentions the proposed 2000-foot Fordham Spire in Chicago. Pictures.

  • Density and walkability

    Just below the fold on the front page of today's Washington Post lies a very interesting article on sprawl in the West, particularly in Los Angeles. Turns out it's much more dense than typically pictured in the public's mind.

    Citing the US Census Bureau, the article notes that the metropolitan Los Angeles area has density 25 percent higher than New York's. Despite the "unforgiving restraints" the area is subject to (like, for instance, the fact that the whole place is a desert), residents just keep pouring in. It was necessity that led to the density.

    The article is another lesson that "there's more to density than meets the eye."

    There is also mention of a place made infamous by teens and their problems: the Newport Coast. Built at the high density of seven units per acre, the development leaves about 80 percent of its land as open space.

    Some of the more traditional conceptions of suburbia return though.

    A six-lane road feeds cars in and out of the development so efficiently, DeSantis said, that in the past nine years she has never seen it clogged with traffic....Distances here are measured by time in a car.
    However, one gets the sense that even if gas were $15 a gallon, these suburbs would still have developed in more or less the same way. The median priced home in Orange County is $702,000.