Market Urbanism https://www.marketurbanism.com Liberalizing cities | From the bottom up Thu, 19 Mar 2020 14:31:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 https://i2.wp.com/www.marketurbanism.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cropped-Market-Urbanism-icon.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Market Urbanism https://www.marketurbanism.com 32 32 3505127 Do cities have too much public space? https://www.marketurbanism.com/2020/03/02/do-cities-have-too-much-public-space/ Mon, 02 Mar 2020 20:54:34 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=13882 My sense is that parks and similar forms of public space tend to be far less controversial than housing or industry. But an interesting paper by Israeli architecture professor Hillel Schocken suggests that a city can have too much public space. He begins by asking: why do cities exist? He writes that cities allow people […]

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My sense is that parks and similar forms of public space tend to be far less controversial than housing or industry. But an interesting paper by Israeli architecture professor Hillel Schocken suggests that a city can have too much public space.

He begins by asking: why do cities exist? He writes that cities allow people to “widen contact with as many people as possible… The more people one came in contact with the more he increased his chances of finding a suitable mate or potential “business partners” with whom he might exchange goods.” Thus, cities need places where one can come into contract with people that one does not already know.

He adds that “the more public space per person within a study area ­ the lower are the chances that people may enjoy mutual presence in public space. ” In other words, if most of the city is parkland or roads,your chances of actually meeting another person in the park is lower, since most of the parkland will be unoccupied at any given time.

Schocken suggests that his view is supported by data: he studies four cities and the most pedestrian-friendly ones (Nice and a Brazilian favela) have relatively low amounts of public space per person, while Ashdod, Israel (which is more auto-oriented) has more, perhaps because more land is used for roads than in the other towns studied. He also studies Poundbury, a British new urbanist development which he thinks has far too much public space and is thus not as lively as it could be.

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Are Dollar Stores Wiping Out Grocery Stores? https://www.marketurbanism.com/2020/01/29/are-dollar-stores-wiping-out-grocery-stores/ Wed, 29 Jan 2020 19:06:50 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=13408 I had always thought dollar stores were a nice thing to have in an urban neighborhood, but recently they have become controversial. Some cities have tried to limit their growth, based on the theory that “they impede opportunities for grocery stores and other businesses to take root and grow.” This is supposedly a terrible thing […]

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I had always thought dollar stores were a nice thing to have in an urban neighborhood, but recently they have become controversial. Some cities have tried to limit their growth, based on the theory that
“they impede opportunities for grocery stores and other businesses to take root and grow.” This is supposedly a terrible thing because real grocery stores sell fresh vegetables and dollar stores don’t. In other words, anti-dollar store groups believe that people won’t buy nutritious food without state coercion, and that government must therefore drive competing providers of food out of business.

Recently, I was at the train stop for Central Islip, Long Island, a low-income, heavily Hispanic community 40 miles from Manhattan. There is a Family Dollar almost across the street from the train stop, and guess what is right next to it, in the very same strip mall? You guessed it- a grocery store! *

It seems to me that dollar stores and traditional grocery stores might actually be complementary, rather than competing uses. You can get a lot of non-food items and a few quick snacks at a dollar store, and then get a more varied food selection at the grocery next door. So it seems to me that the widespread villification of dollar stores may not be completely fact-based.

Having said that, I’m not ready to say that my theory is right 100 percent of the time. Perhaps in a very small, isolated town (or its urban equivalent), there might be just enough buying power to support a grocery store or a dollar store, but not both. But I suspect that this is a pretty rare scenario in urban neighborhoods.

*If you want to see what I saw, go on Google Street View to 54 and 58 E. Suffolk Avenue in Central Islip.

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Even NIMBYs should be YIMBYs https://www.marketurbanism.com/2020/01/28/even-nimbys-should-be-yimbys/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:55:10 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=13391 Jeremiah Moss, a New York blogger, just wrote a long article complaining about the bad habits of his new neighbors in the East Village. I suspect many, if not most readers, of his article would think: maybe we need to zone out new housing to keep out the yuppies! But it seems to me that […]

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Jeremiah Moss, a New York blogger, just wrote a long article complaining about the bad habits of his new neighbors in the East Village. I suspect many, if not most readers, of his article would think: maybe we need to zone out new housing to keep out the yuppies!

But it seems to me that this conclusion would be wrong. Here’s why: new buildings in the East Village are generally more expensive than old buildings.* So I suspect that if yuppies are moving into old buildings like Moss’s, it is probably because they cannot afford newer buildings, or more affluent neighborhoods like Tribeca. It logically follows that if more new buildings were allowed in Moss’s neighborhood, he would have less affluent neighbors, which presumably would make him happier.

*I searched listings at streeteasy.com, and found that of about 170 pre-war one-bedrooms, 77 of them (or 45 percent) rented for less than $3000 per month. By contrast, of the 32 postwar one-bedrooms in the East Village, only 3 rent for under $3000.

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For once I agree with the NIMBYs: please don’t turn my neighborhood into Dubai- because Dubai isn’t dense enough! https://www.marketurbanism.com/2019/12/12/for-once-i-agree-with-the-nimbys-please-dont-turn-my-neighborhood-into-dubai-because-dubai-isnt-dense-enough/ Thu, 12 Dec 2019 21:27:33 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=12858 One common argument against new housing is that it will turn “[neighborhood at issue] into Dubai.” Evidently, some people think Dubai is a hellscape of super-dense skyscapers. In fact, Many Dubai neighborhoods aren’t very dense at all. There is one Dubai neighborhood that is more dense than most urban neighborhoods in North America: Ayal Nasir […]

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One common argument against new housing is that it will turn “[neighborhood at issue] into Dubai.” Evidently, some people think Dubai is a hellscape of super-dense skyscapers.

In fact, Many Dubai neighborhoods aren’t very dense at all.

There is one Dubai neighborhood that is more dense than most urban neighborhoods in North America: Ayal Nasir (which has about 200,000 people per square mile). But it looks far more like Paris than the popular stereotype of Dubai: streets are narrow, and most buildings are five or so stories high. The neighborhood next door, Al Murar, has 130,000 people per square mile and has a similarly human-scale urban fabric.

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More evidence that sunlight is no crisis https://www.marketurbanism.com/2019/10/24/more-evidence-that-sunlight-is-no-crisis/ Thu, 24 Oct 2019 16:17:15 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=12559 In my email box today, I received a message from an anti-housing group, touting a study from the localize.city website* on sunlight on New York neighborhoods. The purpose of the study is to show which neighborhoods have the least sunlight. The study found that 27 of the city’s allegedly darkest neighborhoods are in Manhattan. More […]

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In my email box today, I received a message from an anti-housing group, touting a study from the localize.city website* on sunlight on New York neighborhoods. The purpose of the study is to show which neighborhoods have the least sunlight.

The study found that 27 of the city’s allegedly darkest neighborhoods are in Manhattan. More interestingly, the list of most sunlight-deprived Manhattan neighborhoods includes some of the city’s richest areas: Midtown, the Financial District, Tribeca, Upper East Side, and the Upper West Side. By contrast, the list of Manhattan’s ten sunniest areas include not only a few well off areas (like Hudson Yards and Battery Park City) but less pricey areas like Marble Hill and Inwood.

Why does this matter? My interpretation of these facts is that people who can afford to live anywhere don’t really care very much about an extra hour or two of sunlight, which in turn suggests that sunlight is basically just an excuse to block new housing rather than something people actually care about in other contexts. To put the matter another way, New Yorkers may actually value shade over sunlight, if they care about the issue at all.

*I note that if you really do care about sunlight more than I am suggesting that most people do, you can search an individual address at the Localize website.

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The Paper of Record Gets Yorkville Wrong https://www.marketurbanism.com/2019/08/27/the-paper-of-record-gets-yorkville-wrong/ Tue, 27 Aug 2019 15:38:28 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=11972 Even the most supposedly reputable mainstream media is often less than careful in its coverage of housing issues. For example, a few weeks ago the New York Times ran an article on the Upper East Side’s Yorkville neighborhood, implying that high-rises are “erasing their community’s character.” The article implies that Yorkville is a quaint little […]

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Even the most supposedly reputable mainstream media is often less than careful in its coverage of housing issues. For example, a few weeks ago the New York Times ran an article on the Upper East Side’s Yorkville neighborhood, implying that high-rises are “erasing their community’s character.”

The article implies that Yorkville is a quaint little brownstone neighborhood. But in fact, even the most casual perusal of real estate websites would show that Yorkville has been a high-rise area for many years. I ran a search on Streeteasy.com showing 259 for sale apartments with doormen (a feature generally found only in high- and mid-rise buildings). Only 27 of these housing units were built after 2010, which means that hundreds of high-rise units were built long ago.* So the entire story is based on falsehood.

Moreover, even if Yorkville’s towers were new, I am not sure that its pre-high-rise character is particularly unique. To me Yorkville’s tenements look just like similar tenements elsewhere in Manhattan.

If you can’t trust what the Times says about the Upper East Side, how can you trust what it says about climate change or Washington politics?

*I did not search for-rent apartments because Streeteasy’s software does not allow users to separate for-rent units by age.

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Why “Move to Boise” Is No Answer https://www.marketurbanism.com/2019/08/13/why-move-to-boise-is-no-answer/ Tue, 13 Aug 2019 15:26:09 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=11883 One common argument raised by NIMBYs is that zoning is not harmful to humans, because people priced out of expensive cities can always move to a cheaper one. But a recent story illustrates why this argument is misguided: the story discusses increased housing prices in small cities like Boise and Grand Rapids. When people are […]

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One common argument raised by NIMBYs is that zoning is not harmful to humans, because people priced out of expensive cities can always move to a cheaper one.

But a recent story illustrates why this argument is misguided: the story discusses increased housing prices in small cities like Boise and Grand Rapids. When people are priced out of expensive, they move to cheaper ones, thus increasing demand for housing in the cheaper cities. In turn, this causes housing prices to increase in the cheaper cities. In a nation with lots of restrictive zoning, you can’t escape high rents because the high rents will follow you wherever you go.

To take the argument further: some people justify local control over zoning by saying that what city X does is its own business. But when city X does things that harm city Y, its policies become the business of the state and federal governments. If city X has restrictive zoning, its policies raise housing costs in whatever city takes in X’s rent refugees- so at that point, a higher level of government should step in.

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Learning from Astor Street https://www.marketurbanism.com/2019/07/22/learning-from-astor-street/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 23:56:11 +0000 http://marketurbanism.com/?p=11796 One common argument against mixing housing types and densities is that if housing type A (for example, townhouses or single-family homes) is mixed with housing type B (for example, condos), the neighborhood will somehow be “ruined” for residents of the less dense housing types. Last week, my new wife and I visited Chicago for our […]

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One common argument against mixing housing types and densities is that if housing type A (for example, townhouses or single-family homes) is mixed with housing type B (for example, condos), the neighborhood will somehow be “ruined” for residents of the less dense housing types.

Last week, my new wife and I visited Chicago for our honeymoon. The most interesting street we visited, on Chicago’s wealthy Gold Coast, was Astor Street, just a block from high-rise dominated Lake Shore Drive. What is unusual about Astor Street is its mix of housing types. Although this street is dominated by large attached houses, it also has a few tall-ish buildings next to the townhouses, such as the 25-floor condo building at 1300 North Astor, the 20-story Astor Villas at 1430 North Astor, and the 27-story Park Astor condos at 1515 North Astor.

Despite the tall buildings, this street felt like a quiet, beautiful, tree-shaded urban street. And the real estate market seems to agree: recent Zillow ads show a single-family house on Astor Street selling for over $2 million, and another one selling for over $3 million. By contrast, the average house in Astor Street’s zip code (60610) is valued at less than half a million dollars, and only 14.6 percent are worth over $1 million.

Clearly, multifamily housing has not “ruined” Astor Street.

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