Smart Growth News – November 20, 2012

Top stories:

As Fiscal Cliff Approaches, Mayors Warn of the Toll on Cities
Time – November 19, 2012
The so-called fiscal cliff looming on Jan. 1 will increase taxes on just about all Americans and hamper an array of federal programs. But its effect will be particularly crippling for American cities. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan group of 1,296 mayors who represent cities with populations above 30,000, recently called the sequestration process “perhaps the biggest threat to our metro economies.”

Feds approve funding for Oahu rail project
KHON2 TV (HI) – November 19, 2012
Honolulu is a step closer to receiving more than $1.55 billion in federal funding for rail, but it’s not a done deal yet. The Federal Transit Administration told Congress it intends to sign what is called a full-funding grant agreement — a pledge to pay about a third of the $5 billion project building cost.

As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why
New York Times – November 18, 2012
Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.

Fitch says fiscal cliff could trigger 2 pct decline in GDP
Reuters – November 19, 2012
The Fiscal Cliff could trigger a second recession, a 2% decline in GDP to flat 0.4% growth, and increased unemployment to upwards of 10%, all which would dramatically affect demand for U.S. transportation assets, according to a new report by Fitch Ratings.

Local news:

Metro Detroit cities get aggressive about enforcing codes to fight blight, protect property values
Detroit Free Press (MI) – November 19, 2012
Huntington Woods Mayor Pro Tem Jules Olsman said his city has a simple solution for dealing with blighted property: Pass ordinances that target the issue before it becomes a problem and enforce them.

Six projects adding hotels to downtown
The Buffalo News (NY) – November 18, 2012
Some prominent area developers plan to build six hotels in downtown Buffalo over the next several years. The new hotels would add more than 500 rooms to the local market, and business leaders say the developers’ commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars to the projects is only the latest sign that people want to visit and stay over in downtown.

Detroit firm aims to use shipping containers for Midtown residences
Detroit Free Press (MI) – November 16, 2012
House hunters will soon be able to check out what may be the most unusual condominium project in metro Detroit — a 20-unit complex near Wayne State University built from empty shipping containers.

McDonnell ‘evaluating’ proposal to raise Virginia gas tax
Washington Examiner – November 19, 2012
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell hinted Monday that raising taxes at the pump could become part of a broader transportation package that he plans to push through the General Assembly next year.

New York City Will Demolish Hundreds of Storm-Hit Homes
New York Times – November 17, 2012
The Buildings Department is still inspecting nearly 500 other damaged structures, some of which could also be razed, according to the commissioner, Robert L. LiMandri. Mr. LiMandri, in an interview late last week, said neither he nor his staff could recall the city ever undertaking this kind of broad reshaping of its neighborhoods.

Sacramento eases parking requirements for new projects
Sacramento Bee (CA) – November 20, 2012
In December, the city will cut the number of parking spaces new businesses, such as restaurants and stores, are required to build. The idea is to lure businesses that will create jobs downtown and in the city’s commercial areas. Another target: developers of urban housing whose residents may not even own cars at all.