Granted it all comes with a slight adjustment to get used to some of the holdovers of life in the USSR, but when I lived in Seattle, it used to be if I missed the bus I had to wait ~30+ minutes for the next one home, and I needed to plan whether I'd take a side trip to get groceries or not, adding an additional mile or two to my walk home. Here it's nice to just be able to walk a few hundred meters at most to the nearest store for groceries.
If only planners, politicians and citizens would realise what they have given up just to make it convenient to drive.
As a 45 year old, it's one my examples of how my elders aren't infallible, don't always have good advice, and have made very poor choices that cannot be unwound except through great expense of time and money. Mistakes have consequences and they can (and will) last generations.
No. Most European countries have been working hard to improve their economy.
Sure, Florence is beautiful and lovable, but I personally like the possibility to also drive to a commercial center, buy what I need for a few days, drive back home and park my car in a closed garage conveniently connected to my apartment via a lift, or my house via a door.
Why? That sounds like hell. If I had to drive everywhere for everything I'd go mad.
I don't own a car, but I can completely understand why having the option to take one for occasional larger shopping trips is nice. Friends and family with cars do that, but they still make 97% of their trips without the car.
Soon enough what used to be a 500 meter walk turns into walking 2 kilometers because of all the car-related infrastructure in the way, which then becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop as more people own cars, so they're willing to travel longer distances, reducing the business & zoning incentive to make things walkable.
E.g. in my hometown every building in the city core is accessible by car, but you have to take narrow, often single-lane side alleys to get there, the major paths all are pedestrian only. All that means taking a car there stays the exception for when it really is useful to do so. Tons of inner-city routes that are faster to walk than to drive. The further out you get, the more car-friendly things get, but public transport bridges most of it. Density is key to maintain that, it makes public transport and local businesses viable and puts pressure on cars.
Making large areas completely pedestrian-only isn't really politically viable, even here in Germany, but the compromises IMHO can work out fine, and people move to areas that have the characteristics they like.
As long as you are dressed appropriately then a 200m walk in the cold is nothing.
If it's snowing I almost never drive (if I don't have to) but I have absolutely no problem walking to the store, or to pick up food, or even just to get out of the house in the snow.
Remember, the proposed new state of the world is not just like the current one except that you personally don't have a car. It's one where nobody owns a car, and everyone shares the benefits of that.
The urban rich and powerful can afford to live within short walks of their offices, or right next to stations on the best parts of (small) existing transit corridors. They are most assuredly not sitting in rush-hour traffic.
>low density, partly to accommodate cars
Figure 1000 people work downtown, half of them park in 200sqft spaces, the other half live in 400sqft apartments.
Convert all the parking to apartments. Now downtown can support only 750 workers. Great for me if I'm one of the 250 who no longer has to drive, but what if I'm one of the 250 who can now neither drive nor live there?
Statistically, it was worth ~$9,000/year to me not to ride a bicycle or use public transit. Unless that was purely ignorant, starting to do so will be a bad time.
>bad zoning laws,
I'm with you there. We need to massively increase the height of buildings in the small walkable cores and along transit corridors so that more people can live in them. Over time, employers could also spread out, so that there is not a single downtown that everyone's trying to get to. And of course it is ridiculous that any one lives far from a grocery store by fiat, rather than by economics.
>It's one where nobody owns a car, and everyone shares the benefits of that.
But if we do that and, the contention for housing along the transit corridors will be so intense that only the wealthiest can remain, even with free-for-all zoning and a huge construction boom. I've no doubt that the proposed new state of the world will be awesome for the few people who can afford it, I merely doubt that I will be one of them, and I'm not looking forward to 3+ hour/day commutes, no matter how safe the streets.
Sprawl, the automobile, and the highway are fundamentally housing affordability devices. Land value isn't so important if you can traverse 10 miles in 10 minutes. When 10 minutes its half a mile, it suddenly matters a great deal.
I'm much more interested in blanketing the suburbs in fast, cheap transportation with low wait times and minimal to zero parking requirements on the urban side. Probably a combination of e-bikes, electric motorcycles and scooters, and UberPool. Then personal car ownership (and demand for urban parking) can fade because it is actually less compelling than the alternative, instead of by fiat.
I can't even imagine people closer to tropical climates trying to ride bikes anytime except winter.
Also gaining in popularity recently is the so-called "Duofiets", which is a two-person side-by-side tricycle, which lets people without a disability help out. Here's a video of a project that combines student housing with elderly care (also an interesting project in itself) that shows off the bike halfway. My grandma was taken on daytrips with such a bike in the last years of her life, and it really brightened her day.
Hase Bikes in Germany build a wonderful range of adapted bicycles and tricycles that can accommodate almost any disability. If you're capable of moving your arms or legs, there's a cycle that will work for you.
If you meant to ask "What about people that physically can't ever bike (but can drive)?"
What percentage of the population, honestly, do you think that is? Out of shape people can lose weight and eventually learn to bike. Very few people can-drive-but-not-bike, and surely exceptions can be made for them.
I remember being impressed by the fact that while this guy had so much trouble bending down, he was riding a (regular) bike.
I've also seen 'seriously' pregnant women bike around, men/women with a kid strapped to the front and back of the bike, with sometimes a third kid in a kart behind the bike. I also regularly see groups of elderly people on sports bikes (often with some electrical help though), as well as really young children.
There are plenty of people who really can't ride bikes, but probably far fewer than people from non-biking places assume.
Mind you, whether or not Groningen is the most bike-friendly city in the Netherlands is largely irrelevant, all of our cities are so even if it was it's not exceptional. It's kind of comparable to how we dominate in speed-skating - from the outsider's point of view it's irrelevant who is the best.
Before cars and before skyscrapers! The model of town you're talking about doesn't scale well.
when i travel to the cities in the developing countries in asia, and speak to the locals, there's always a sense that they look forward to building their city into something like sydney or singapore. the people elect mayors and governors that promise development towards that goal. most of time, it doesn't go anywhere. what i thought, but did not say, is that these smaller cities don't generate the same kind of revenue that pays for the kind of infrastructure, modern buildings, and diversity in imports that you see in the major cities. To try and pursue that without finding a way to increase the value and productivity of their economy is going to get you in the kind of trouble that you see a lot of these bankrupt towns in the US in.
I think you're discounting the affect that big box retailers have had on rural and small towns in the US. They're often given tax brakes and other incentives to build and then they park themselves right outside city/town limits to avoid any sales or property taxes. They then proceed to drive every small business in the town out of business. As shops close down, fewer people go into town which the impacts other shops and gradually the entire town shuts down. To add to it, the big box retailers will often have leased space in the front of their stores where small businesses that they don't directly compete with can take up space. These businesses were probably the remnants of what remained in town but moved to where the people are.
You can see this in many towns if you drive across the Midwest. You'll see a "Welcome to <town>" sign, then drive through an abandoned town, then you'll see a "Thanks for visiting <town>" and then a massive super store with a filled parking lot.
The old-style downtown shop simply can't handle large products in a reasonable way. Since it can't, people get used to shopping at places that can handle everything.
Renting a van or getting the big box item delivered is so much more convenient. Commuting to work and running errands in a minivan is just so wasteful.
Larger vehicles like conversion vans and full size SUVs that don't seat anymore people than a minivan but get half the fuel efficiency and take up twice the space are on the other hand completely impractical.
Err... I think we have different definitions of what a big box retailer is. Big box is a reference to the shape of the building and not what it sells.
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big-box_store
You could sell refrigerators in a small building. The selection would be very limited, and there would be a high risk of stock running out. The refrigerators out on the floor at a Home Depot or Lowe's take up more space than an old-style downtown store has. That's just refrigerators, and just the ones put out on the floor for display. Many more refrigerators are stored in the back, away from customers, and refrigerators are just one of many products.
It has nothing to do with the size of the product being sold.
The exurban paradigm that is now standard even in very small towns is just incredibly costly, miles of pavement, huge parking lots that cause stormwater problems, for a very low density of tax base.
What's so surprising about it? You work (and produce) in the overcrowded center and then go back to a nice suburb for the evening.
Those subsidies can be quite significant, ranging from roads and poorly utilized transit routes to developing land and services that will be under utilized (e.g. parks and recreation centres).
People find different things pleasing, and some people enjoy commuting so they can live quite far from their job, friends, and basic services. Others prefer to live closer to these things, close enough to walk, cycle, or take transit. Based on prices, it's clear that in many metro areas, there's a great demand for urban-style living that is going unfulfilled, mostly do to zoning restrictions.
Most of Europe is pretty walkable and it doesn't have that 'planned' look either.
I don't know anything about Bend, but speaking generally ...
There are many ways that markets are inefficient and flawed; I wouldn't assume they would yield a good result. For example, the barbershops may be incentivized to push the parking costs onto others. It may be that every business has that incentive, nobody wants to pay for other people's parking, and thus nobody makes the first move. In situations like that, people succeed by coordinating their activities through democratic government and laws.
People living in cities, elbow-to-elbow and sharing large numbers of resources (such as parking), may need to coordinate more than people in rural areas.
Also, as they say, don't tear down a fence until you know the reason for which it was built. It's like that odd, useless-looking bit of code in that old application - maybe do some research before you delete it.
Realistically speaking, the barber shop could only really push people to park:
* On the street. And you know what? That's fine. If the street was built to have parking, and people are parking there, it's not a problem. It might be more of a PITA for the clients. If it's too much of a PITA, the business may suffer. But that's how markets work.
* In some other business' parking spots: that can easily be solved by other means, rather than having city-wide laws covering all barbers in the city, some of which may cater to hipsters riding fixies who do not need car parking, and others who have elderly patrons who will not tolerate being forced to walk more than they absolutely have to.
I'm not a "markets solve all the problems kind of guy" because externalities are real things. But I feel that our cities are way too regulated. Zoning didn't even exist in Bend until 1947. Some of the first zoning regulations didn't come about until the early 20th century in the rest of the US.
How would we react if there were a "planning commission" that dictated how much of each kind of restaurant (Vietnamese, Mexican, Burgers, etc..) at what kind of price point could exist in a city? Zoning should be to keep truly noxious things away from where people live, not to keep duplexes away from single family homes, or barber shops outside of residential areas.
Maybe there aren't enough street parking spots for all the businesses, and then the market fails: No business wants to spend on on-site parking in order to free up parking for everyone else. The way to move forward is to come together and pass a law.
> Zoning didn't even exist in Bend until 1947. Some of the first zoning regulations didn't come about until the early 20th century in the rest of the US.
I'm not sure that means anything either way. Baseball didn't become desegregated until 1947 either. Is there something suspect about advances or changes in society that are recent? Did humans live better before 1947?
> I feel that our cities are way too regulated.
With due respect, this is too easy to say without evidence, is too general to have much application, and it has become cliche to say it about everything. In what ways are they too regulated, and in what ways not regulated enough? Do you have anything to back it up? How much regulation is just right?
> How would we react if there were a "planning commission" that dictated how much of each kind of restaurant (Vietnamese, Mexican, Burgers, etc..) at what kind of price point could exist in a city?
Vote them out of office? Appear at the planning commission meeting? Organize restaurant owners and talk to elected representatives? Democracy is a proven, effective tool. Case in point: I haven't heard of your hypothetical extreme scenario happening.
When I was born, Bend was still a wood products industry town based around logging and the local mills. These days, it's trying to develop a high tech industry, and doing reasonably well at it for a small-ish town. Places need to adapt, and rigid zoning is probably detrimental to that adaptation. Markets take in everyone who lives, or wants to live in a place. Planning commissions, or even city councils, have just a few people with their own ideas of "how things should be".
In terms of how they're too regulated, sure:
And Exhibit A: the market for housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is completely batshit crazy because of the refusal to build housing.
In what ways are they too regulated, and in what ways not regulated enough? ... How much regulation is just right?
Without answers to those questions, we have nothing serious to act on.
> By enacting laws, you create a very rigid situation
A general statement, but laws can change. Laws often are written to create flexibility, delegating authority to regulatory commissions. Markets can be very rigid; look that the market power of Windows, whose dominance has lasted longer than most politicians' careers. When is the last time the market allowed in a new car manufacturer (Tesla hasn't yet survived infancy, and if it does it will be the only exception in (80?) years). How long does it take to change a web standard in the 'free' market? If they were government regulations, they could be changed like analog to digital TV or the reallocation of spectrum. I thought Europe's regulated, universal GSM was better than the U.S.'s 'market' solution of competing technologies.
Also, laws allocate power democratically to all citizens. The 'market' allocates it to those with the most money.
> Planning commissions, or even city councils, have just a few people with their own ideas of "how things should be".
I disagree; they are creations of and responsive to the democratic process. The market, on the other hand, is responsive to a few people with the most money; most citizens have no say. I don't want my community run by the wealthy, with 99% of citizens living like subjects under an aristocracy.
> In terms of how they're too regulated, sure: ...
I don't see a few op-eds as evidence; I have no doubt there are enough people who believe it that op-eds could be supplied daily. If you are correct about SF Bay Area (I don't know), it is an example of something that is over-regulated in some way, not evidence that the everything is over-regulated (again, could you really be saying that?).
That said, I think housing and cities are overregulated in the US.
Those op-eds point out a lot of issues that you can study further and find that mostly, the cause is zoning and regulation of housing/land use. They also cite other sources.
Here's a book, talking just about parking:
http://amzn.to/2jvfxpJ - Donald Shoup's "The High Cost of Free Parking".
Here are some books about zoning and regulation:
Ryan Avent's "The Gated City": http://amzn.to/2jv3dpk
Bill Fischel's Zoning Rules!: http://amzn.to/2j62fTw - dry and very, very thorough.
Cities plan transport infrastructure years or decades in advance, and spend vast sums of money, with very different incentives to the market. Leaving parts of that plan (like parking) up to the whims of the market might seem a bit irresponsible.
For example; if a city makes design trade-offs favouring heavy long-term road use, but the market decides in the shorter term that office blocks are more profitable, then you end up with mismatched capacity (headaches for drivers and ineffective public spending) and inadequate investment in infrastructure for cycling, walking, and public transport. Now you could argue that the market will step in and fix the parking problem, but that could easily take longer than an election cycle, and cost the local economy vast sums in wasted investment and lost opportunity.
They are concerned about being elected, that's it. Hence why we have huge infrastructure bills coming to haunt us, pensions that are out of control (though dwarfed by infrastructure costs), and other passing the buck behavior.
That's not to say they're bad, do no good, etc. Just that their incentives are such that they can't enact good policy oftentimes or possibly even tell the truth to voters. Otherwise they lose power.
>Leaving parts of that plan (like parking) up to the whims of the market might seem a bit irresponsible.
In NYC, large portions of the subway system, Metro North, the PATH, Long Island Railroad, and New Jersey Transit and the Amtrak Northeast Corridor were built by private companies (or even multiple competing companies) to make a buck.
In the case of the subway, the city wanted control and fixed the price such that it wouldn't rise with inflation. A few decades of that and heavy car subsidies and suddenly the two companies go bankrupt and the city takes over.
Then the city demolished a whole bunch of useful elevated lines which even now are not fully replaced.
Then it continued to fix prices (even had an elected board to set prices, guess what voters wanted?) and now we have a huge backlog of deferred maintenance and outdated technology when we once were world leaders.
Most American cities have similar stories, it just is streetcars instead of subways. LA even used to have a bigger rail system than NYC, believe it or not.
Tokyo by the way continues to have multiple semi private companies run its rail and subway systems. Seems to work well. Same in Hong Kong IIRC and a few other Asian cities. Outside of Asia, many cities at least outsource running the systems to companies like Keolis (which is French), even if they fund expansion.
>For example; if a city makes design trade-offs favouring heavy long-term road use, but the market decides in the shorter term that office blocks are more profitable, then you end up with mismatched capacity
The best transportation policy is to not move at all or otherwise minimize trip distance and increase the density of connections.
Pre-zoning US cities were all mixed use, compact, and generally either gridded or (as in downtown Manhattan) grew organically with many connections (lots of narrow windy streets down there) as you see in many Old World cities.
Transportation costs were low; foot, bike, and transit were sufficient, even after the advent of the automobile.
If the city is ignoring this to promote cars it's a failure of city planning, not the market, when valuable land is used for valuable purposes. It's doubly a failure since it can use zoning to prevent these buildings from being built and / or eminent domain afterwards.
What that has to do with the market I don't understand.
>inadequate investment in infrastructure for cycling, walking, and public transport.
Businesses generally love walkers, hence why Fifth Avenue rents are so high. They'll pay for sidewalks for sure if they're not provided in front of their buildings if it's a place walking can be expected.
In Okinawa Japan where I lived it was a car centric place but they provided (possibly paid) parking with no legal mandates.
Historically most transit was built by private companies in the US, including the NYC subway (which was two companies originally, with the city owned IND later).
>Now you could argue that the market will step in and fix the parking problem, but that could easily take longer than an election cycle, and cost the local economy vast sums in wasted investment and lost opportunity.
The first subway line, using mostly pickaxes and other hand tools to excavate, took 4 years to build. We had a whole bunch of elevated rail lines and streetcars in NYC built by private funds. I'm sure with modern technology we could build faster than that.
So long as competition isn't heavily subsidized the market can work.
With transit cars were subsidized (even by transit itself; oftentimes they'd have to pay for some of all road maintenance on their routes) and most cities fixed transit prices driving them out of business.
Politicians are clearly incentivised by election, but saying its their only concern is generalising and reductionist.
The rest of your comment makes a lot of points, but broadly seems to assume that I'm claiming that private companies have no place in transport infrastructure, which is not the case. My point was that "the market" meaning an unmanaged build-it-and-they-will-come approach would not be optimal, in response to my parent commenter's "an easy thing for a market to fix".
Of course, public things like streets and roads and so on needs some planning. I'm no Ayn Rand "privatize all the things" guy.
But make that infrastructure flexible and less rigid and allow a city to adapt. The city where I live had 20K people 40 years ago, and was a logging/mill town. Now it's a tourist town with a budding high tech industry and closing in on 100K. Too much land use planning gets in the way of a city adapting.
Similarly... it's hard to impossible to predict the future, which is why economists predictions are so often wrong, as you point out. Gold rushes often ended in ghost towns. Who's to say in another 20 years your town won't be back doing logging and milling, and would be better off not bending to support an industry that may turn out to be ephemeral?
The item that worries me, and based on decades of observation, that the private companies will snap up all the profitable routes and leave the non-profitable routes to the city, thus deepening the budget gap.
The "market" will do that w/o some sort of regulation specifying that the private companies have to support the other routes.
Kind of points to the cable industry and local agreements w/ towns.
I must say, I'm happy with my local elected officials. The main problem I see on the national level are politicians with an ideology - government can't do anything, thus they obstruct everything. They are the problem, not government.
(I'm not saying government is at all perfect, but democracy is a great tool.)
It does seem like an easy, and popular, refrain to claim over-regulation. It's a great way to sound contrarian and wise without actually having to do any analysis, after all, the market do the work so no planning is needed. In that noisy environment, asking for specifics of precisely what is over-regulated and why seems both fair and necessary.
> I thought Europe's regulated, universal GSM was better than the U.S.'s 'market' solution of competing technologies.
A similar example, the market has decided on competing standards for charging points for electric vehicles (in the UK at least, I expect most other places too). If a family of standards had been created to cover the various voltage/current requirements, rather than leaving it solely up to manufacturers then the time overhead for drivers of EVs could be dramatically improved, removing a significant obstacle to adoption.
Or it could be parking is a low value land use and little parking is truly optimum. Oftentimes when streets are closed to car traffic permanently there's a boost to business in dense cities.
Many cities don't have parking minimums and they have minimal parking but yet function well. Manhattan for instance is like that.
I lived in Japan and I don't think auto centric Okinawa where I lived had Parking minimums. It had less parking, but from what I recall more private paid lots and higher utilization (no seas of unused parking because a random bureaucrat decided malls needed exactly 2.5 spaces per 1000 square feet).
>Did humans live better before 1947?
In some ways, yes. There were obviously planning failures, but mostly zoning was put in place to exclude the poor and minorities without passing an explicit ban. Just build a place they can never afford and it'll be all great, or so they thought.
IIRC a majority of wealth inequality is due to housing costs. These zoning laws prop up the cost of housing and make it more and more difficult for the young to buy.
Used to be you'd have like a 5 or 10 year loan to buy a house, which might cost 3x the average salary. Not anymore.
>Do you have anything to back it up?
You can compare US zoning with that of other nations and compare cost of housing, transportation, and other metrics.
I think you'll find that on many metrics we do quite poorly.
Also: mobility is decreasing as the cost of housing has increased, which in turn has GDP growth ramifications as workers cannot seek out the highest paying jobs.
This is why some countries like Japan handle zoning at the national level.
>Vote them out of office
Good thing in many cities these planning guys are unelected. Voting out, say, the mayor or city councilman is also ineffective as a majority would be needed.
Incentive wise it's in each district's best interest to ban new housing as that gives land owners more and more money as the population rises and chases the same housing stock.
Add in rent control and rent stabilization and a slim majority are incentivized to keep things as they are.
>Democracy is a proven, effective tool.
Democracy is effective at not rounding up dissidents in secret police raids, but in cases like this it breaks down. Zoning acts as a ban on people, and those people can never become voters, thus perpetuating the system.
Choosing the voters is almost as good as not having a vote at all.
> In some ways, yes.
Humans in the U.S. are far better off now in almost every way. Of course there are exceptions.
> Democracy is effective at not rounding up dissidents in secret police raids, but in cases like this it breaks down.
I disagree strongly; democracies perform exceptionally well economically. All the wealthiest economies are democracies, and they are far wealthier than any other economies in the history of the world. Saying democracies do well for political rights but not economics is like saying Microsoft did well with operating systems but not office suites.
And one could argue that human welfare is better in democracies with more planned economies, such as the Nordic countries.
Are democracies still very flawed? Absolutely, but I haven't seen a better option. As someone said, democracy is the worst possible choice, except for all the others.
I like to remind budding conservatives and libertarians that the free market is an ideal, not a mandate. The situation you describe is one that it perfect to be handled by the market. It's a cliche but it's also true that what matters is "Location, Location, Location". If you locate a business in an area where the people who would normally patronize it do not often travel or where they can't obtain adequate parking, that business will suffer.
That's a bizarre thing to say.
Construction in the suburbs is far more tightly regulated in the suburbs than in the city.
You could easily get the same thing out of a HOA in a city with fewer city-wide rules and regulations.
I don't know where you live, but I bet if you read a copy of your local zoning code, and have a look at the zoning map, you will probably find that yes, your suburb is very, very heavily regulated, including parking minimums, minimum floor/area ratios, setbacks, uses, and so on and so forth.
Probably less than some HOA's demand, but still a lot of details. I too am not the kind of person who relishes that level of control, but I suppose some people like it.
In my experience, in a smaller town, these things are primarily used as a weapon to punish otherwise bad businesses.
For example, we had a bar whose patrons became a neighborhood nuisance. They began to enforce the letter of the law for every violation until the bar closed.
But that doesn't resolve the question of the supply of parking spaces - i.e., how many there should be. That only allocates the existing ones.
Also, it allocates them to those who can pay more; that's not always desirable. For example, should citizens' access to the grocery store be limited by their ability to pay for parking? To city hall?
I don't own a car because it doesn't make financial sense for me to do so. That's the kind of longer term market impact you'd want to see.
Edit: The choices are not between allowing people to go to the grocery store and courthouse or not, it's between taking the bus and driving. I do just fine on public transport without a car.
Realtime bidding would be a UX nightmare, though I guess it's Econ 101 (i.e., ignoring lots of real factors, including transaction costs) optimal.
Rather, I think a municipality setting prices by fiat to be something that mostly gives the an approximate solution most of the time.
You mean others who post "Parking for McDonald's only" on their spots and have a towing service visible?
There are problems that are not pragmatic for markets to solve without a bit of legal rigidity, but the whole "who will build the roads?" seems to stem from a lack of creativity and just overall contrarianism. "Who will build the interstate highway system" is a much more fair question, but I think cities would enjoy a nice efficiency boost from the decentralized, organic growth of a less bureaucratically-planned city (plus fewer budget problems).
Surely you mean the taxpayer? Isn't that what the whole article is about? They're going bankrupt by preventing businesses from doing "annoying crap" like buying/constructing parking places and reserving them for their OWN customers. But perhaps bankruptcy is not such a terrible price to pay for aesthetics and bureaucratically instituted uniformity.
Consider the infrastructure costs in the article: Less centralized, less planned cities would, I expect, create higher infrastructure costs as efficiencies of scale, standardization, reduced redundancy, and planning would be lost. Also, different parts of the city would try to dump costs on each other.
As I asked in another comment:
In what ways are they too regulated, and in what ways not regulated enough? ... How much regulation is just right? And: To which cities are you referring? What kinds of cities?
It's too easy to say, 'there's too much regulation'; it's cliche and doesn't really mean anything.
Sounds like pure speculation. Economies of scale is a real phenomenon, but you should be aware that diseconomies of scale is also a real phenomenon that tends to manifest most clearly in government bureaucracies (and in fact, does, per the example in the article).
There is no logical reason to be a naysayer without introducing solutions of your own when the current system is clearly not working (either in terms of results OR financial sustainability). Many companies adopt informal policies like "if you complain, you need to provide a solution of your own." I'm complaining, and I propose decentralizing road building and providing incentives to make it practical for companies to develop them freely (no property taxes on roads open to the public, for example), and a reduction in zoning by city governments in the first place. Prove me wrong and provide a better solution, and I'll be thrilled. I am certainly not an expert on this subject. But I hope you don't think what we have is working -- almost every city in the US is on a practically irreversible path to bankruptcy.
Isn't this just local city government with another name? Well, no. There are significant differences between a city government and an organization of private citizens. For one, it's illegal for Walmart to bribe voters; but a corporation would love to have Walmart 'bribe' its shareholders.
Since I assume the land value of neatly organized sections is higher than that of poorly organized sections, there would be an entire section of the economy that buys up individual plots of land, forms corporations out of them, and redevelops and resells the area.
Also, a common and essential part of the free market is failure and bankruptcy. What happens when parts of the city go bankrupt? What happens to the citizens there? What happens to the debt?
I'm not suggesting to remove the city; just a way of re-implementing land-use and building codes if a city doesn't handle it. Probably you'd want fire codes and limited zoning for polluting heavy manufacturing to be handled by the city no matter what; though lawsuits and insurance could cover in a pinch.
Paradoxically, during my brief time living in San Diego, the nicest (and most expensive) neighborhoods were generally the ones built before parking minimums, because they were actually pleasant to live in. Newer areas had plenty of parking but nothing to do that didn't involve driving.
After we ditched the planning and switched to market economy, suddenly developers (the ones that make buildings, not code) started building a lot of buildings without leaving a space for either green or parking spots. As a result in the newer parts of the cities we have a very crowded leaving space, cars are parking everywhere, there are few shops, schools are far away etc.
A parking spot is about 30 square meters. 300 square feet. My house is on a footprint of 900 square feet. When you add driveway length, you can see that my driveway takes up almost as much land as my house, and for homes with more than one parking spot in my area, it can take up more than the house.
For businesses, it's even worse. Look at a satellite image of any American suburban area, and start coloring in the parking spots, and you'll be appalled at how much space is taken up by these things.
Look, I know about the problems with car-centric development (I've been a researcher on (urban) land use for over 15 years now). What I'm saying is that the argument the GP tried to make, how Europe is an example of better solutions with less regulations, is wrong. (A) because we don't have better solutions (just different outcomes, the jury's out on whether it's 'better') and (B) because we have just as much regulation.
Those are generally driveways in the US, and are private property: you park your car there, it'll get towed in short order.
Parking minimums are not a thing in large areas of Italy, where I lived. I once lived in an apartment downtown and there was no parking spot included: we walked 20 minutes to a place where we could park. If we had wanted to pay something, we probably could have found a spot that was closer. This is the market at work: we were not forced to pay for parking we didn't really need (we used the car rarely at that point in our lives).
I mean, you'll have to agree with me that if you're holding up Italy of all places as an example where few regulations (and/or lax enforcement) lead to good outcomes, you're really stretching the criteria of what can be considered 'good outcomes'...
The pattern that I've observed in my area (East Germany) is that towns have grown by merging with the hamlets and villages around them. So you can have a rapid succession of relatively loose areas with small houses and businesses (the former village centers) interspersed with large prefab apartment blocks (like those that were built in large numbers in GDR times) in the gaps between the villages.
The only major pattern change after the reunification was the emergence of a lot of small shopping malls that bundle a portion of the shops in each district into one place (usually at an intersection of large streets and tram lines).
In contrast, American cities look more like one big blob that grew out into the vast, empty space surrounding it. Since there wasn't any structure to hold onto, everything turned out much more uniform.
But that city also has massive sprawl, so it's kind of tough to point at as an example for more coastal folks. Certain areas may showcase how things could be, but it's still a very car-centric city.
Those businesses don't pay for the parking themselves. The tax payer pays for those parking spots. That's the entire point of street parking, city run parking lots, and the like. Public parking isn't market controlled it's state subsidized. That's why it's called 'public' parking.
Public spots (street parking) might get used by customers of a barber, or by local residents, or by another business. This might prove frustrating to customers of the barber who demand easy parking, and they'll go to another barber who does provide more reserved, non-public parking. Or maybe not! Maybe different barbers have different clientele.
This is something the barber shop ought to be able to decide.
I don't think that's actually true; certain types of developments are required to include parking as part of the development (e.g., strip malls), but the individual businesses, either in those developments or not, are rarely required to have their own parking.
In the US, things get separated out into giant apartment complexes where everyone rents, and single family home districts, where people lose their shit at the mere whiff of a duplex being built.
There are plenty of condo buildings that are owner owned and also rented out! It's just that the USA has plenty of buildings designed for rentals, which is more about the American market than zoning (residential is residential).
> It's just that the USA has plenty of buildings designed for rentals, which is more about the American market than zoning (residential is residential).
How things are done in the US tends to favor larger developers who can come along and make a bunch of apartments in an area where that has been approved (which tends to be a fairly small portion of the city), rather than a more incremental development style where things slowly transition building by building. This is in large part because of zoning laws that make it difficult to get apartments in many places, so having the means to face the legal challenges is only something those with deeper pockets can handle, rather than a smaller developer who may only wish to develop a few buildings.
The US is not alone in large developers doing large projects. There is nothing else in china, though almost all (if not all) projects are unit for sale (that can and are rented out by the buyer).
Individual units aren't really that common in Europe either, especially in cities (I lived in Lausanne for 2 years also). At best you might have (what the USA calls) duplexes in all but the ritziest of areas. Most of the buildings were fairly large multi unit housing that must have been done by a largish developer at some point; then it is only a matter to deal with the gerrance to do the rental.....
The US is weird in its fixation on detached housing, for sure.
Is it really so weird not to want to hear your neighbors' every amorous evening? Or worry that your kids are bothering them when they run around, or that your work schedule will interfere with the sleep schedule of your neighbors (or vice versa)?
Economics is about the infinite wants of people colliding with limited resources. Given the option, some people would live in a cruddy apartment to be 'close to the action' in a place like San Francisco or New York.
The US is "more planned" in the sense that zoning laws are more strict. More lenient policies in many countries in Europe have more thought put into them, but end up being less strict because that's the way to build nicer cities the way people want them.
It's like drugs, and prostitution, and all of the many things that seem so trendy to want to 'free' from government these days. On paper, the ideas look fantastic and efficient. That is, until a 24-hour strip club / pot dispensary opens across from your kid's elementary school.
Government sucks because it is by nature design by committee. It's inefficient and ugly. Yet, what's the alternative? Maybe AI at some point, but until then we have either collaborative government or authoritative.
But back to the article. One thing overlooked is the pressure on city officials from developers to get rezoning rules waived. And, there's often a lot of corruption in that process, also. For instance, most cities know that residential units cost more in services than other units. And, usually the taxes are structured (too low) such that the residential tax is insufficient to pay for the supplied services. The city planners know this and they account for it in their zoning plans. But, the developers later pressure cities to allow rapid expansion of residential. And, ultimately the plans become broken by too many new units.
Some people don't want free markets to be a force in their lives - pushing up against their personal preferences. And, those people have as valid of a position as those that do, particularly when in a community of like minded people. It's ironic that libertarian minded people try to wash away this fact - some communities want central planning and zoning, and others don't.
I'm not a libertarian by the way - I'll happily argue for regulations and government solutions to other problems where I feel they make sense. But in this case, I think we have gone way too far in regulating and dictating things in the US.
People fail to see the basic premise that you cant really have both, plenty of parking and lower rents. They go hand in hand.
Proof: Palm Bay, FL (got parking and low rent, and even has tech jobs -- but no subway or major-league sports)
Personally, I find the 5-8 story setups of cities like Paris, Barcelona or Rome much more appealing - enough density to make all the good things like walkability and local cafes happen, but no blocked out sun (Like in NYC) or need to climb to 20th floor when the elevator gives out for the nth time.
I like the idea of 5-6 story buildings and know we need higher density housing, but past experiences make we want to live in a 2-story (semi-)detached house with enough garden to keep the neighbours at a distance.
But apartments made since 2000 have had excellent sound-proofing. Absolutely silent from neighbors. Only reason not to live in a new flat with walking distance from services is if you really like gardening.
Early modern housing schemes (of which Berlin has quite a few really interesting examples, e.g. the Siemensstadt developments to the north of Siemensdamm subway stop) were a great response to how those traditional patterns sufferered from overcrowding back when they supported much higher density than today. Unfortunately, that style developed into something very ugly when it was ruthlessly scaled vertically a few decades later.
That's not at all in the league of the 1-3 millions inhabitants cities you quoted. Paris is a nightmare to live in and people want to flea from it. There used to be close to 3 millions inhabitants and it is now down to slightly over 2 millions.
The population density is basically identical between these areas, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to live in a low-rise area.
(Incidentally, the reason we have low-rise areas is because the city has an absurdly long list of "sight cones" to protect views of the local mountains.)
As you scale from town to city, it is too easy for this discipline to break down. Whereas in my town, the town manager has to put up a pretty strong argument to justify hiring another employee or buying a piece of expensive equipment, in a medium to large city I, as a taxpayer, don't have any visibility let alone say, in any such expenditure.
Fiscal discipline comes mainly from individuals not wanting to spend their hard-earned money - unless going so is necessary to keep things in their current working order. Once these spending decisions are made by nameless bureaucrats, that personal discipline is lost.
The article is saying that mostly-suburb cities are not sustainable. They cost more to build and maintain over the long term than the majority of cities can recoup in taxes. That has little to do with employees, they are mostly talking about straight-line capital costs to dig up the streets and install new sewer lines. Even worse is that many cities grew in a relatively small post-war boom so a lot of that infrastructure will need replacing at the same time.
Towns don't typically provide all of water, sewer, storm sewer, and other such services... they might provide water. They can also just dig up everyone's yard to replace what infrastructure they do have because things are more spread out (lost of "wasted" land between the house and road) and far fewer people are disrupted (that also means projects can be done at a slower pace). They also have a much sparser police and fire department, far fewer parks, etc.
So how can we make cities have the same fiscal discipline of towns? We'd have to reverse the land-grab of the cities. Have them split into fiscal units the same size as my town (20K people). Have the managers have to come ask those residence to approve their budget.
Same issue with schools. Why does the Pittsburgh city school district spend the same per pupil as the suburbs, but the such worse results? Lack of fiscal discipline.
The white flight to the suburbs in the 60s is largely responsible for that, creating a negative feedback loop that we haven't been able to break even now. Anyways, it isn't always about fiscal discipline, often the answer is much more obvious than that. Suburbs basically outsourced poverty to the cities.
I'm not saying it's all bad, but it could be much better.
Yeah this. I never liked the "one huge park for everyone in the city" approach. I think the Chicago-style "many parks" approach is superior. In my neighborhood I have four parks within walking distance, seven or eight if you include school playlots.
>So they don't feel incentives to care for that space, and they don't.
Trash gets picked up quickly in the parks. I do feel a sense of ownership with the closest parks and get pissed when I see trash and promptly pick it up. I think smaller localized spaces do a good job of fighting the 'tragedy of the commons' we see with larger spaces. When something belongs to 'everyone' it really belongs to no one. Sorry but that's just human nature and one of the many reasons communism failed.
Not to mention, a lot of those Soviet towns are little more than endless ugly apartment blocks. The idea of a home with a unique design or a single family home with its own yard didn't fit in with the engineer led design of 'everyone lives in efficient boxes.' I find towns like that to be depressing and ugly. I'd rather trade some efficiency for beauty and livability. Top-down approaches get praised by geeks, but ultimately are simply worse than bottom-up approaches many American cities developed from. I'd much rather live in chaotic NYC, LA, or Chicago than 'ultraplanned' cities in Russia or China. Considering how many people we have dying to immigrate here, I suspect wanting those types of lifestyles reflects something in human nature.
Didn't work. You need a car for everything. The roads are flooded with cars. The city expanded and a great part of the habitants live very far from the place they work, so it takes a long time to go home.
Once this happens the crime rate goes up, the area feels unsafe to 'normal' people, and anyone who can do so gets the hell out of there. The area turns into a slum and is basically impossible to 'fix' without redeveloping it.
I'd guess that in Russia, one of two things happens. Either Russia's wealth distribution is even enough under communism that the rot never sets in, or in practice they're just as much of a slum as the American ones and we're just seeing a romanticized view.
those apartments we not bought, but privatized after Soviet Union collapse, where people get apartments for "free" after approx. 10 years working on a factory or so...
so in new projects, which are sold for money with mortgage rates at 12% annually there's no people that have "nothing to lose", people that have "nothing to lose" are widespread, living in apartments their parents got in Soviet Union
As a counterpoint, consider India and most of Asia. Poor areas are dirty and have little infrastructure, but they don't feel unsafe. I occasionally shop in Dharavi and don't feel unsafe at all.
 I believe that lots of strung out drug addicts make an area feel unsafe even if they don't harm anyone.
This concentration of people required more services both because of the sheer higher concentration of people and because of the lack of private money to backstop gaps. At the same time, those areas received less services/investment precisely because the people who lived there were not powerful. This gap of services lead to increased crime due to factors such as lack of opportunity, increased drug abuse due to hopelessness, worse education options, etc.
The gap widened and got worse until it became untenable to maintain (and in some cases the land became too valuable) and political power was used to disperse the public housing population.
Suppose inequality were lower and those rich people simply didn't exist. They would still be unable to provide resources, and the low level of services you describe would still exist. Wouldn't the crime/drug use/etc still happen?
That is not what I said. What I said was that the powerful moved the poor, into higher density, more resource intensive areas and then neglected to provide adequate services.
If the inequality were lower and those rich people (and really I prefer powerful in this case, but they are largely the same group so I suppose it is fine) did not exist, the concentrated population would be diffused across more areas, making it less tenable to actively neglect them and making the problem less severe in the first place.
That said, I believe crime/drug use/etc are not avoidable, so its not a question of whether those things would occur but a question of the rate.
At least here in India, with significantly less inequality than the US, we still have lots of concentrated poverty. It's almost as if residential separation is the result of market forces and individual choices (c.f. the Schelling model).
Your comparison of Dharavi to the situation in American public housing projects is fallacious because it draws the equivalency based on Dharavi's dirtiness while ignoring how incredibly dissimilar the places are.
This can be the situation in places with centrally managed economies like North Korea today. Obviously, they are also very safe (from the regular criminal behaviour point of view).
But when a country is universally poor but has a working and stable government, you may have surprisingly low crime rates. But then, such a country often doesn't stay poor. (Look at China...)
Malaysia is oddly anti-semitic for a country with about 0 Jews. I'd expect that if the Jews were causing all the problems, then Jews would actually need to exist in-country. But now you are making me re-think; is it plausible that simply by existing somewhere else, the Jews cause Muslims to engage in bad actions that harm themselves?
I don't understand your general principle. When is it reasonable for one group to blame their actions on the existence of some far away out-group?
Jews are of course a global scape-goat for Muslim extremists.
Also strung out drug addicts are likely to be driven to theft.
Early efforts were mixed income, small and in desirable locations. They were also by many measures very successful. That model was moved away from because it eroded the power base of the political leaders of the day and for straight up racist reasons.
Its also largely a myth that the large block, low income model was ever seen as likely to succeed. Public housing experts and advocates at the time anticipated the disastrous results that came about.
Guess what, US lacks those for what would mostly be called political lobbying reasons. Including light rail and underground rail.
Rail is comparatively cheap to maintain compared to roads due to much higher passenger density and construction details. Even a tunnel is cheaper to maintain (not build) than a properly drained, pothole free and soft road.
The buildings here aren't that big (I went to Kiev a couple of years ago and was surprised how much taller they are) so there is usually just about enough space between the buildings to fit all the cars in. New buildings almost exclusively have underground parking, which is nice to recover the green space.
My point being, you make it sound like every town in the USSR was like that whereas in reality what you're describing sounds like a "unicorn" situation that was rarely encountered in reality. Walkability was about the only thing Soviet urban planning had going for it. Ironically, these days I live in US suburbia within walking distance of a pool, elementary/middle/high school, and a convenience store. And woods too: we pretty regularly see deer in our back yard.
http://pora-valit.livejournal.com/4740340.html it mostly looks like this
It was fine up until the 50-s and then worse and worse with each year (even now)
However, most of Russian cities have half of year of virtually winter, with temperature near or below zero celsius.
This pretty much makes such apartment blocks torturous/unlivable due to chilling winds if you don't have a car. And if you do, keep in mind that they're not built for that, so lack of parking and congestion are your new friends.
The thing that fascinates me is that it feels like a forgone conclusion that infrastructure costs cannot be made cheaper. Have we really hit the most cost effective, cheapest, most sustainable method of laying/replacing sewer/gas/water lines and roads?
There's no innovation left at all when it comes to making pipes that are more easily replaceable without digging the entire road up? There's no brilliant ideas left at all on how to 'pave' roads so they're smooth enough in a way that costs less money, or lasts way longer? Heck, while we're talking improvements maybe we should have a way to pave a road such that we don't have such massive runoff and its more resilient to minor settling underneath without opening large potholes.
I do wonder whether the shit really hitting the fan, and massive chunks of the population having their roads smashed back to gravel might shake a few new ideas out.
The puzzle they have is trying to fix a corrupt system. Merely replacing "evil car streets" with "progressive bicycle paths" will not fix anything, they'll just be a followup article about how horrible it is that the replacement cost of the bicycle path infrastructure curiously remains the same $32B because that's what the politically active re-election campaign donor contractors require.
The predicament, as a whole, is that we cannot afford them.
Infrastructure quality is, like so many things, directly proportionate to investment. You can trade off future maintenance by spending more initially, or vice versa, but you can't magically reduce both at the same time while providing the same level of service.
This is precisely the same problem as Terry Pratchett talked about in the boots theory of economics: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/72745-the-reason-that-the-ri...
The problem is that the level of economic productivity supported by (for example) a strip mall is so low that it cannot support the ongoing maintenance of the infrastructure that is required to allow it to exist. This is also true for many suburban homes and office buildings.
You must either extract more productive value from the same land area and population, reduce service quality, or invest massive quantities of capital in maintenance cost reduction, which has virtually the same effect as either of the previous.
Umm is that really true ? Maybe it is I just don't see why this would be - if anything I would guess spending more would lead to more expensive maintenance as well
> but you can't magically reduce both at the same time while providing the same level of service.
Not magic - innovation.
Of course, asphalt is cheaper and easier to put down, so there is always the temptation to go ahead and build the asphalt road now and take credit for it in front of voters while leaving the problem of maintaining those roads for the next person in office.
if anything I would guess spending more would lead to
more expensive maintenance as well
Of course, not all more expensive products last longer, so careful attention to value for money is a must.
Or you can upgrade to asphalt - lasts much longer, much lower maintenance in terms of required manpower and visits to remain functional, etc.
Or, if you want to go the whole way, you can use reinforced concrete or a slab paver setup, they will last ~30-50 years depending largely on traffic (asphalt tends to degrade even with little traffic).
That's what I mean. It's about a 3x initial cost difference between each of the tiers, but your long term maintenance costs go down the more you spend. It's not a strict one-to-one, but still.
> Umm is that really true ?
Maybe not universally, but often, yes. E.g., you can build using more expensive materials that will last longer/are more resistant to environmental decay.
I can't say that asphalt roads in disrepair are much better, but potholes tend to be more quickly fixed than slightly mis-aligned sections of concrete roads.
> Not magic - innovation.
Innovation is great, but in most cases requires new upfront expenses that have already been covered for existing solutions. We already have a fairly good amount of infrastructure for producing infrastructure, so usually innovation is one of the ways you can spend more upfront to reduce long term maintenance.
Sort of. I'm not convinced their infrastructure pricing is accurate at all. I fully believe infrastructure has a higher cost in the suburbs, and that we aren't fully saving for/planning for those costs. But the numbers this article uses are insanely too high, to the point that it feels like an outright lie.
Strongtowns claims it costs more money to maintain the infrastructure for a single-family home (on average), than the average house would cost to build from scratch using retail pricing today (including land + construction of the house, and all of the related road/water/power/sewer infrastructure).
The StrongTown estimate seems to claim it's replacing infrastructure "once a generation" (30 years?), but is charging enough money to rip-and-replace every piece of all infrastructure 6 times per generation. Which is really high -- no one does that, there wouldn't usually be any need to do so.
Or to put it another way, StrongTowns is claiming that infrastructure maintenance alone costs the same as leveling the entire neighborhood and rebuilding it all from scratch at retail pricing every 30 years. Which is just outlandish -- if infrastructure actually was that expensive, 90% of these suburban houses never could have been built in the first place, even if financed using subsidy or debt.
This doesn't seem that surprising to me. Replacing existing utilities in place is far more expensive than laying them in the first place because you have to do it without cutting off everyone's access to water/electricity/whatever while you do it. Plus you have to work around other infrastructure and houses and dig up roads etc. And it's difficult to coordinate utility replacements so you do this stuff once for gas and later for water and again for the sewer.
On top of all that, infrastructure is just terribly expensive. Price out laying a driveway. Now imagine scaling it up by maybe 10x just for the section of road in front of your house.
Sure, but it's not 6X more expensive in the suburbs. Water / Gas lines, for instance, are often under sidewalks or yards now so you don't have to dig up the road to replace them.
> because you have to do it without cutting off everyone's access to water/electricity/whatever while you do it
You don't have to. When utility work gets done in the suburbs, people often just lose water / electricity / gas / whatever for the 24-48 hours while they do it, and just have to deal with it.
(We're talking about sprawl -- stuff done cheap, by definition. This is not the complex operation that replacing water lines in Manhattan would be).
> On top of all that, infrastructure is just terribly expensive. Price out laying a driveway.
Here are some actual average costs for street construction from the State of Michigan - https://www.michigan.gov/documents/Vol2-40UIP16SubDevCosts-Y...
Even after adjusting for inflation, it's only about 2X the cost of a driveway, not 10x.
And that's my problem with the article. It seems they took the actual cost of infrastructure, "imagined scaling it up maybe 10x", and then claimed a crisis using their imaginary costs. Real infrastructure costs, while high, are simply not anywhere near as high as they are claiming.
Sometimes. Digging up sidewalks and yards is also expensive, regardless.
> You don't have to. When utility work gets done in the suburbs, people often just lose water / electricity / gas / whatever for the 24-48 hours while they do it, and just have to deal with it.
I've never been anywhere that 48 hours without electricity or water was considered acceptable for maintenance. In my experience, most maintenance is done during business hours with the expectation that people have utilities when they get ready in the morning and when they get home.
24 hours without a major utility is generally considered an emergency and crews are driving in from other states to help.
> Even after adjusting for inflation, it's only about 2X the cost of a driveway, not 10x.
You're probably right that the 10x number isn't accurate, since I completely made it up. It's still a lot of money and the cost to replace is always higher than the cost to build in the first place (with perhaps the exception of cost for grading).
> And that's my problem with the article. It seems they took the actual cost of infrastructure, "imagined scaling it up maybe 10x", and then claimed a crisis using their imaginary costs. Real infrastructure costs, while high, are simply not anywhere near as high as they are claiming.
I feel like you're nitpicking their claims without providing any alternative data or a compelling reason why their numbers don't make sense. You're asserting that they arbitrarily scaled up costs but you've not shown that they did so. The author is a civil engineer and a PE and a city planner so there's some weight behind his claims. You're asserting that his numbers are lies because you don't like them.
I'm not sure where your "6 times per generation" replacement claim is coming from, either.
> In my area, as in others I've read of, they're smashing paved roads into gravel roads as the paved are too expensive.
How much traffic do these roads get? How dense is the population in the area?
Cities generally act not only as trading hubs providing services to the region surrounding them, they also act as tax revenue sweeteners due to higher concentration of high income residents. Ie. they have positive externalities for the region, province or nation.
While I'm certain there would be a level of corruption in city administration, it seems to be incredibly short sighted to force cities to fund infrastructure through only property taxes and such without funding from income tax the province/nation collects as what happens in other parts of the world.
In America, many cities get some revenues like that as well.
Many cities levy their own income or sales taxes, in addition to the state income/sales taxes. (NYC has a 2.9-3.6% income tax itself, Seattle has a 2.7% sales tax itself, many small cities in the Midwest have their own income taxes, etc)
Cities typically also get some amount of revenue back from state taxes -- although it has unfortunately become common for some state governments to take city/road/school funding to cover spending in other places.
It's great to be able to spend (or at least commit) tomorrow's dollars today and then be long gone by the time the bill comes due.
With regards to CalPERS specifically, it was covered here two weeks ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13287078 and from that article:
"For every $100 the city paid a police officer in 2016, it had to pay an additional $71 to CalPERS to fund payments to current and future retirees."
That approach brings in another set of problems, but it's worth mentioning.
It's managed by the city, so I'm not sure if it hits the general fund, but it is a tax specifically for those things.
If they had infrastructure issues to discuss, they would never get to the car brand point on the agenda.
This is at least partly intentional, I suspect, because it allows the city to make certain assumptions about newer neighborhoods which have these boilerplate HOAs that are essentially the same across a whole region. This type of thing may or may not be better in some situations than no HOA at all, but it undermines what I would consider true property ownership while also preventing any kind of effective adaptation to new information or circumstances over time. For example, I know of a neighborhood where they are required to put a certain color of asphalt shingles on their roofs when they need a new one (about every 10-15 years). Roof mounted solar panels or tiles will never be allowed in this neighborhood, which I find utterly insane.
If I was in a position to buy property, I would strongly favor a location unburdened by this kind of albatross.
In most places a town council member who dislikes you is very limited in how they can make your life difficult... This is far less true for HOAs.