Giving Main Street a Kickstart

Barrington, Ill.—What can California learn from a sleepy exurb on the edge of nowhere? Not much, I don’t think. California has scarcely ever pretended to care much for small town America. But something that is at once very modern and very old-fashioned is afoot here on Main Street. 

I mean Main Street literally. Barrington has a primary commercial street, and it’s called Main. And in the middle of that street, watching over it calmly and without imposition, stands the Catlow Theater, its neon casting a red glow over the prairie. 

How SB 375 Is Going Down in Dublin

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Mike McKeever and I traveled 5,000 miles east from California this week to debate SB 375 in front of a Trans-Atlantic audience of planning and policy wonks at University College Dublin. Characteristic of how we each look at things, when we sit down to answer questions, my water glass was mostly empty and his was mostly full.

The Multari Curve

Last week I published a short op-ed in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that low-density development patterns are one of the reasons California cities are experiencing fiscal problems. But I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for the type of pushback I got from readers, most of whom seemed to view me as an apologist for public employee unions or as a radical wishing to overturn Proposition 13.

Brown Adds Insult to Injury with Redevelopment Vetoes

Even the most irate objectors to Gov. Jerry Brown's dismantling of redevelopment held out hope that in agreeing to killing redevelopment, the legislature would invent a new, better system for stoking local economic growth. Yesterday, the governor dashed those hopes. 

'Amazon Tax' Puts Positive Spin on Fiscalization of Land Use

On Saturday, California tax law finally catches up with the 21st century: some online retailers -- most notably, juggernaut -- will start charging sales tax for items sold in California if they have warehouse space in the state. Though we always knew there was something fishy about the tax exemption, as a consumer this development does not thrill me. As a citizen of the state, I suppose it's fine. The more money we can raise, the better. 

As an urbanist, however, I say bring on the tax. 

It's No Chongqing, But California Remains a Global Player

At least someone thinks California is going to emerge from its mess. 

Lawmakers Reject Major CEQA Reform (Updated)

Update: Sen. Michael Rubio and Senate Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg have announced that Senate Bill 317, which would have made major changes to the enforcement of the California Environmental Quality Act, has been killed and will not be heard by the Senate.

Learning from Robert Venturi

Robert Venturi has, as of last week, retired from architecture. If that seems like unremarkable news, because you didn’t know Robert Venturi was still practicing, you’re probably not alone.

Blessed Are the Hipsters, for They Shall Inherit the Earth

How much is a hipster worth to a city? Is she worth more when she's building an app, or when she's writing a blog? Is a hipster with a walrus mustache and a mean whiffle ball pitch worth more than one who wears a sarong and practices aerial yoga? How many of them can dance on the pull tab of a PBR? 

Design Glitches Add Precious Minutes to Expo Trip

LOS ANGELES -- Many of the young urban planners in Los Angeles live exactly where you'd expect them to live: the dense, colorful, decidedly urban neighborhoods in and around downtown Los Angeles. They ride bikes and take trains and, in many ways, live the life that they are trying to design. 

Redevelopment Penalty Prompts Lawsuits (Updated)

As if on cue, several cities have already filed suit to block the penalty provisions in Assembly Bill 1484, the budget trailer bill passed two weeks ago.

Real Estate, Redevelopment Woes Caused Stockton, San Bernardino Bankruptcies

Despite the tumult caused by that the demise of redevelopment, the recent perils of the cities of San Bernardino and Stockton did not stem from redevelopment-related costs. If soaring pensions costs and operational expenses were the immediate cause of the bankruptcies, the underlying cause did not stem from overly ambitious redevelopment schemes but rather from the prolonged housing bust that has choked off revenue to the cities (and, not to mention, financially crippled many of their residents).

Unexpected Opposition Dooms Parking Reform Measure

Following an intense battle among some of the leading institutions in California planning, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) has rescinded Assembly Bill 904. AB 904 would have reduced parking minimums in high-transit areas statewide, taking a step towards what many planners and developers consider a crucial reconsideration of parking regulations.

Redevelopment Budget Trailer Bill Passes

Amid criticism from representatives of cities and successor agencies, the legislature approved Assembly Bill 1484, the redevelopment budget trailer bill, yesterday. The bill includes provisions that streamline the wind-down of redevelopment while, critics say, granting new, and possibly unconstitutional, powers to the Department of Finance. 

Redevelopment Legislation: Cleanup Bills Washed Up; Others Persist

Call them the spawn of Assembly Bill 1X 26. In the wake of the dissolution of redevelopment, lawmakers in Sacramento have been working on a host of bills intended to, at least partially, compensate for the loss of redevelopment and to make the dissolution process go more smoothly. As the legislative season heads into its home stretch, some bills have died while others are gamely moving towards Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.