Smart growth news – December 14

Report: Housing shift seen as suburban spreads lose appeal
The Sacramento Bee, December 13, 2011
Is Sacramento’s long-standing love of suburban living winding down? A blunt new analysis says yes, but some local builders say no way. The report released this week by the Urban Land Institute contends that Sacramento and other California metropolitan areas are about to discover they have an “oversupply” of classic subdivision housing, thanks to a sea change in what buyers want and can afford.

Is the Housing Bust About to Slam City Budgets?
Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2011
City budget crises could be getting worse in the coming years as the housing bust shakes out by shrinking property tax revenues, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Lawmaker’s high-speed rail plan: Will it fly?
CNN, December 13, 2011
How fast can high-speed trains come to the Northeast corridor? Not fast enough for Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida. The chairman of the House Transportation Committee recently came out with a proposal to create a high-speed rail line – trains that can travel more than 200 mph – between Boston and D.C. in 10 to 15 years. Can it be done in half the time Amtrak said it would take?

Why Land Use Planning Matters More Than Ever
Atlantic Cities, December 14, 2011
Earlier this fall, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) released a report that examines demographic, economic and environmental factors that are changing what will be built, where it will be built, and how it will be financed. What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy outlines how every aspect of living, working and connecting will reflect the values, preferences and work ethic of Generation Y and their baby boomer parents, both of whom represent the most influential age groups to ever affect the land use industry.


Detroit light-rail line plan scrapped for city, suburban buses
Detroit Free Press, December 13, 2011
The ambitious plan for a light-rail line on Woodward Avenue between downtown Detroit and 8 Mile has been scrapped in favor of a system of city and suburban buses, several officials briefed on the decision told the Free Press today.

Transit plan eyes a smooth ride
Indianapolis Star, December 14, 2011
The Central Indiana Transit Task Force’s 10-year, $1.3 billion transit overhaul has drawn both praise and concerns. Unveiled Tuesday, the plan to double the size of IndyGo and add train service from Noblesville to Downtown Indianapolis drew applause from a who’s who of neighborhood leaders, nonprofit managers and local politicians packing the Grand Hall at the State Fairgrounds.

FHFA Sues City of Chicago Over Vacant Buildings Ordinance
International Business Times, December 12, 2011
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, on Monday sued the city of Chicago over its new vacant buildings ordinance. The local law, passed in July, requires owners and holders of mortgages of vacant properties to pay a $500 registration fee and have monthly inspections. Fines of up to $1,000 per day could be enforced against owners that are noncompliant.

Martinez joins forces with residents to save a swath of the Alhambra Hills from development
Contra Costa Times (Calif.), December 13, 2011
Efforts are under way to preserve a pristine ridge in the Alhambra hills, but supporters have a long way to go before they can buy the property. To avoid a costly lawsuit, the City Council in July approved the Alhambra Highlands project of 112 custom homes to be built on 72 acres of a 297-acre parcel near Wildcroft Drive and Alhambra Avenue.

New Downtown Plan, some controversial projects force talk on how city should grow
The Cap Times (Wis.), December 14, 2011
But nobody said growing up was easy. And for the most part, retorts Ald. Mike Verveer, Madison has done a pretty good job over the past 20 years of reviving its downtown through what he calls a “tremendous renaissance” of both private and public investment. The new Downtown Plan, he argues, promises to strike a balance between encouraging new growth and preserving favorite old haunts.

Landrieu brings stakeholders in Vernon Parish together for community development discussion
Leesville Daily Leader (La.), December 13, 2011
Mayors, organization leaders and Army personnel came together Tuesday at the American Legion, Post 145, in Leesville for a roundtable discussion hosted by Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office to discuss updates on planning efforts and resource use for Fort Polk and the surrounding communities.


New report details growing income inequality in Boston area
Boston Globe, December 12, 2011
The report by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council released today says, “Over the past 30 years, wealth in the region has become increasingly concentrated, creating a smaller group of wealthy families than ever before, while more Greater Bostonians than ever struggle to make ends meet.”

Wisconsin Road Trip: Who Really Pays for Roads?
Buffalo Rising (N.Y.), December 13, 2011
A recent report by a group called 1000 Friends of Wisconsin shows that roads in that state are not fully paid by fuel taxes and other road user fees.  The report blows a giant whole in the claim by pro sprawl lobbyists (at least in Wisconsin) that roads are fully funded with road taxes paid by road users through tolls, gas taxes and other road use fees.  In truth it seems that the life line of sprawl, more and more roads,  is one of our biggest government subsidies.


Cities, Suburbs and Changing Attitudes
New York Times, December 4, 2011
On the Nov. 26 Op-Ed page, Christopher B. Leinberger and Louise A. Mozingo serve up what has become a predictable set of jeremiads about the outer suburbs and exurbs. In this view of the world, S.U.V.’s will rust beside the road in front of abandoned McMansions as Americans finally come to their senses, renounce low-density settlements and rush back to the city. Or, if they don’t, we should change our policies to push them back.