Jake's blog

Let's talk about why most of America looks like endless suburbs and strip malls.

Let's talk about why most of America looks like endless suburbs and strip malls.

One of the shitty parts about most American cities is that it's all suburban subdivisions and strip malls. There's not much in the way of charming historical neighborhoods, and people wonder why things got that way. Well, here's why: because American zoning laws require it. And these same laws are what's preventing suburban sprawl from evolving into traditional Main Streets. I'll use Los Angeles as an example - but the same processes apply nearly everywhere. In the order of importance, these laws are: (1) the building use law; (2) the building size laws; (3) the minimum parking law; and (4)...

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Let's talk about how to use land more creatively.

Let's talk about how to use land more creatively.

In attacking the housing shortage, sometimes the fixes are pretty straightforward to conceive of. It ain't rocket science to speed up housing approvals, or to build apartment buildings near train stations. But there's also a lot of land which is available for new development if you start thinking creatively. And I'm not just talking about building apartments in parking lots. I'm talking about wasted land which literally does nothing for anybody. The last 70 years of American suburban development really really IS that inefficient. Follow me, if you will, to Davis, California. Davis is an affluent college town made up...

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Let's talk about homelessness.

Let's talk about homelessness.

Bottom line, up front: homelessness isn't about alcohol and drug treatment, or mental health, or better weather, or moral fiber. Ultimately, it's just about having enough housing. I'm going to illustrate this with an anecdote, then going to illustrate it with the data, and finally talk about how to attack the problem. First, the anecdote. My story is about the guy who lived across the street when I was growing up in San Francisco. He was a Russian painter, and his name was Bogdanoff. Bogdanoff wasn't a landscapes-and-portraits painter, mind you. He was a make-your-walls-a-different-color painter, a blue-collar guy. Bogdanoff...

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A primer on affordable housing in California.

A primer on affordable housing in California.

Most of the shitshow that we're in is because of the affordable housing shortage, as I've written at length. I'm going to use this part of this housing series to discuss just what affordable housing means, and to clarify just why it's so damned hard to build more of it. There's four kinds of affordable housing. Cheap market-rate housing. Privately-subsidized housing in for-profit developments. Publicly-funded housing. Public housing. 1: Market rate housing which happens to be cheap. When you, a normal Angeleno, talk about "affordable housing," you probably are talking about an apartment that you can afford to live in....

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Let's talk about how to build more cookie-cutter homes.

Let's talk about how to build more cookie-cutter homes.

Today, you think of new tract housing as an exclusively suburban phenomenon, something you see way the hell out at the urban fringe, in places like Rockland County, Irvine or Modesto. You don't see that anymore in expensive coastal cities, because New York and California's local governments have decided that it's more important to keep Greenwich Village, West LA and Palo Alto exactly as they were in 1970. But it wasn't always this way. And if you'll hop in the DeLorean with me, I'll show you some examples, and give some ideas for how to bring back mass-produced homes in...

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