Instead most of these parks have fences around the grass, and you're not allowed to lie down there and hang out. Some are also "temples" and have guards that'll yell at you if you even sit down out of the way on some stairs for a second.
I live in Amsterdam, and in general I'd much prefer living in a smaller house with no yard of my own if there's a big park nearby, but in Japan I'm not so sure. If I can't use the park for anything worthwhile (lie in the sun, have a BBQ etc.) I'd rather just live in an American-style suburb with my own small yard.
I suspect what is a park and what isn't might not be easy to tell as a tourist. If you are trying to lounge in something that isn't technically a park, there's a good chance it won't be received well.
That being said, in Tokyo, most of the central public parks are packed during the weekends. Tokyo could definitely use a lot more, imho.
Edit: Here's one of those parks: https://www.hamamatsu-pippi.net/docs/2014030700074/
* Decide to run for office
* Raise an enormous amount of money, somehow without indebting yourself to private interests
* Convince a large amount of people to vote you into office
* Bring to bear an enormous amount of political capital to convince other people to enact these changes
That involves no small amount of luck and personal charisma. I probably have none of these things, so that leaves me out.
There are other methods that are potentially easier (the one that comes to mind is effectively paying off an incumbent politician), but I'd roughly guess that there's only a 40-60% chance to get the outcome you want. Even easier actions, like calling your representatives, I'd peg at 2-5% expected value. Voting is <0.1%.
Are these really our only options? Am I thinking about this problem wrong? Is this just the great struggle of human governance we've been trying to solve for millenia?
America has a perverse relationship with politics, politicians, and governance. Politicians do some of the most important work possible in our society, but by underpaying you only attract certain types of people. Either those just hungry for power, using office as a stepping stone to wealth. Or those already wealthy looking to maintain existing structures and protect their wealth.
I don't mean to sound flippant. Our system of government is an evolved process settled on over millennia. It's really close to some local maximum.
My gripes are mostly centered around complaining that we "all know" there are obvious problems with the system but there isn't some obvious "continuous" path of from here to a better system.
If I were benevolent dictator I'd like to see something like futarchy. And even while saying that I'm not sure if it just appeals to my hyper rationalism or if it's genuinely better. I assume current legislator suffer from this same bias on all kinds of issues.
The 11 supervisors are the equivalent of senior executives. How much do you think a senior executive of a company with $11B revenue gets paid?
As a result, we get supervisors like Aaron Peskin (who's a landlord on the side and pushes civic policy that obstructs the creation of new apartments) or Chris Daly (basically a clown).
If it's part time I expect most of them have a full time job on the side?
Similar to NH. A ton of reps that don't meet all that often. Everyone has a day job.
Zoning isn't really driven by politicians in most polities in the US as it is the public who firmly believe their NIMBY-ism is necessary to protect their children, property values, and way of life (although not necessarily in that order of priorities). The local planning boards and town councils are mostly responding to whatever signals they receive from their constituents.
If you want to change things, you need to change public opinion. The best case scenario of jumping to the top with some sort of majority cabal and changing things against public opinion is that you'll be voted out in the next cycle and all of your changes undone.
Instead of campaigning for public office, you should start a campaign to inform the public with concrete, incremental, individual proposals for changes to zoning and explain how those proposals will increase property values, protect children, and improve the quality of life in a way consistent with people's desires.
If you succeed, whoever is currently in office will happily put your proposals into practice as a feather in their own cap.
And if you can't convince a majority of the people in your community, well, should your desires and opinions have priority over theirs?
They also established a legal agency for doing exactly that: https://www.carlaef.org/
I wonder if this kind of thing will happen more often for other urban policy related things!
Look at the backlash over 'gentrification'. No, we like our squalor just the way it is!
What we really need to do is force every resident abroad for a year so that they can see the alternative to "life as I've always know it".
This is highly dismissive of all the actual and legitimate problems gentrification has.
My city, which is basically at the median for prices nationally has a 60% home ownership rate. The poorest wards have a home ownership rate between 10-20%.
This seems... reasonable.
I'd like to see more support for credentialed STEM professionals who are willing to take time out of a career to hold public office, but there are at least a couple of options out there already.
Edit: Actually, working with a think tank like Rocky Mountain Institute might be even more in line with your thinking. Let me know if you're curious and I'd be happy to make some introductions.
If a majority doesn't, then it's a feature of democracy rather than a bug that you probably won't be able to do it.
But lets assume you've identified a real winner of a platform. You don't have to start from zero to make it happen — there will be existing candidates and organizations looking to achieve the same goals as you, and you should just join those campaigns.
For example, many American cities have YIMBY clubs. Join yours and they'll have lots of great input on how you can put your finite volunteer time to effective political use.
I found chapters 6 and 7 of "The Captured Economy" by Lindsey and Teles to be the best exposition on this. They also detail a few ways one could change the system (eg. paying staffers more to attract better talent would make lobbyists jobs harder).
i'd love to see a shift toward pride in craftsmanship (a japanese cultural value), over the pride in ownership americans seem to principally exhibit. you see a rennaisance of this in certain parts of the culture, like fancy barbershops and coffee shops. if we give esteem to bus drivers and train conductors for being on time (a form of craftsmanship), maybe we'd get better service (a tall order, i know).
* 3 retired people who asked or were asked to be on the zoning board
* 3 vacant seats
Quorum is - you guessed it - 3.
If you live in my borough and you ask to be on the zoning board, you'll be appointed at the next council meeting. They almost never meet except when someone dies, someone new is appointed, or they need to reorganize (yearly).
Yeah there is a lot of paperwork and headache if you want to massively change the currently zoning of your area, but provided you're violating state or federal law in doing so it's not a remotely insurmountable task.
I'm part of a group working on this problem in NYC. If you (or anyone else reading this) are in New York and potentially interested in helping, shoot me an email! (my HN username at gmail dot com)
I don't think you'll have to raise a lot of money to do this. Typically you really only need to have the desire to do it. Hardest part is probably convincing people to vote for you.
Like how in many places you are not allowed to have a brown lawn, or one with taller weeds instead of grass.
> Grass or weeds taller than 8 inches is in violation of Minneapolis ordinance. If grass or weeds are taller than 8", an inspector may issue an order to the property owner giving them at least 3 days to cut it. If the violation is not corrected, inspectors may authorize a contractor to cut the grass and assess the costs and administrative fees to the owner.
A few things.
1. We are the Land of Liberty, and liberty is described by our founders as "Freedom from onerous government intrusion", not anarchy. People get hung-up on 'freedom' and don't understand that Liberty is the core American value, which is called "freedom" but which is really Liberty.
2. US Freedom is misinterpreted to mean individual freedom at all costs. US Freedom is not just individual freedom, it's local rule and local soverignity. People often don't realize that the US has a dual-sovereign system where States and the Federal government share soverignity. This is a critical factor in "freedom".
Going further, counties, towns and local governments have a lot more freedom to rule as they please than you might think. You'd think, it should all be top down federal law to ensure equity, but in reality, every county is it's own fiefdom, especially in more lax states, as it is states that reign in local governments, not the feds.
So, when you consider American liberty to mean respecting individual, local, state and federal authority, and not just individual total freedom, you can see a system designed to put lots of power in the hands of local governments, which actually creates localized zones of not-so-freedom!
After all, the US is free enough where counties and cities can enforce a lot of silly things!
Not even that local. With the few exceptions from the Constitution, U.S. states wield supreme power and can override any actual local attempt at governing.
Freedom is freedom for the States, not the people.
Disagree. A perfect example is the subject of the article you're commenting on - zoning laws.
Which is crazy btw. I hear a lot of people saying "I'm not a tenther". Like, oh really, I didn't know I could own slaves again just by being "not a thirteenther"
Humans are weird.
Every complaint about the Electoral College is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of this aspect of our system of government.
Living in NYC now after 30+ years in Missouri, I'm more convinced than ever that this is a critically important check on mob rule and that the implementation of a nationwide popular vote would be a disaster for our democracy.
Nobody here is actually making this case. You’re all assuming it.
Federalism is not.
Unequal representation is.
The former does not require the latter; the fact that the two are both present in through US system is the result of a deliberate choice to implement systematic selective disenfranchisement along with federalism, not inherent in the nature of federalism.
I think that's an assumption that needs argued for (and one that ignores powerful cultural, historical, geographical forces).
 I'm sure we could think of all kinds of situations under which people collectivize precisely because their numbers would be too small to otherwise matter. I wouldn't want to argue that such systems are in principle unfair (and I don't think you would, either).
The Electoral College isn't a perfect system, and I'm not opposed to defining a set of rules to take its place that explicitly codify its federalist intentions. It doesn't have to be the EC.
But the alternative is emphatically not a nationwide popular vote, which, again, would be an unmitigated disaster.
Imagine a subdivision with 10 houses. Nine of those houses have a single person living in them. One house has a family of 15. When we go to vote on new rules in the subdivision, the unit of voting is the house. We don't let the family of 15 control the entire block.
It doesn't matter that this means those 15 people get the same vote as all the single people, because that's not the voting unit. The logical unit is the house. They can vote within their house about policy within the house, but they vote as a group on neighborhood policy.
This is federalism.
The unit is the state. Missourians combine to form a vote, just as Californians combine to form a vote, and so on. Individuals within the state vote individually on issues within the state. But they don't vote as individuals on national policy. Their votes are aggregated by the state in which they reside.
If this seems odd, it's only because modern Americans have largely stopped thinking of the United States as, well, a set of united states. But that's exactly what they are.
- The direct proximity and very small population allows changes to be discussed in person and in detail. A citizen of a nation is not able to discuss changes with his/her fellow citizens and develop anything meaningful out of those discussions due to this inability.
- The types of policy changes a small block of houses would vote on is almost NIL, with maybe an exception for HOAs.
- Your're analogy doesn't consider that that house of 15 people generates 90% of the GPD of the subdivision. This isn't to say votes should be based on wealth generation, but rather to remind you that there's so much wealth generation there because of the larger population, and it's in the interest of everyone to create policies that facilitate the growth of the GPD (and policies that will attract and allow intelligent people of all nationalities and backgrounds)
- A family of 15 is still two parents, who count as two votes, not 15.
 15/24 = 63% --> 63% * 50(states) = 31 states. The top 31 states generates 90% of the GPD
As a sort of meta-point: it’s never useful to point out the ways in which analogies fail in this way.  You know exactly what is meant by the analogy, as does everyone else. This isn’t responsive or helpful. All analogies are leaky.
In general, I’d encourage you to try to find the ways in which an analogy may elucidate. Anybody with an ounce of motivation can note the ways in which they don’t. If you start with that motivation, you’ll succeed every time, to no particular end.
 All this does is send us into a back-and-forth where I shore up the analogy by specifying that the 15 are all adults, and then specifying that, yes, in this neighborhood that's allowed, and so on, until eventually we've hashed out every pointless detail of the electoral system in this fictional town.
Yes, this is exactly my point. The EC comes from an earlier time when the US are instead of the US is. But that has clearly changed. Its a vestige of a different form of governance. The power of government derives from the people, not the past. How people currently view the US is how the government should operate.
So using the EC as some excuse for resistance against mob rule is not only against its original intended purpose but also against what people actually want currently. People want the US to be viewed as the identity of the country, not the individual separate countries. People want to elect the President, they don't want the States to.
Today, Californians are 12% of the US population. It's just an accident of history that all those people happen to count as one "state" – if it were to join the union today as a collection of states of the same relative size as 1850 California, that would be 30 states. If it were to split into individual states each with the population of today's Wyoming, that would be 67 states.
So yes, the unit of federalism is the state. But the way state lines are drawn are largely an accident of history, so state-based representation feels pretty arbitrary.
About two thirds of the population lives on the coast, and this grows every year. It doesn't make sense that each coastal person has only 2/3 (and decreasing) of a vote. Or, rather, it doesn't make sense that they don't have any vote because the votes are all in the swing states.
EDIT: Looks like someone replied with a similar argument while I was typing this up
And we should not forget that the balance of the EC (as it relates to the ratio of Senators and Congressmen to residents) has swung hugely in favor of rural states. As the number of residents per district has grown, with a capped number of Congressmen, states like CA and TX have effectively lost representation. If we adjusted the size of a Congressional district down to match the population of the smallest state, and increased the size of the house accordingly, the large states would pick up quite a few Congressmen, and therefore Electors.
2. I also take your point about proportionality, but, again, it doesn't invalidate the larger purpose (nor is it an argument for a nationwide popular vote). If the proportions are wrong, then the correction is to adjust the proportions.
You need the state level contests to moderate elections. Just because reactionaries control one party today doesn't change that. The country would have been a shambles if the northern political machines of the 20th century had unchecked power.
If EC votes in a state were allocated according to popular vote, then the existing system would be a lot fairer. Proportional EC essentially reduces the advantage of campaigning in swing states, since many more states become swing states due to the relative ease of swinging a single EV vs. a whole state. And it manages to do so without completely screwing over smaller states.
I did some napkin math a while ago for this, but if this was the case, Bush v Gore would've been decisively for Gore, Bush v Kerry would have been as close as OTL Bush v Gore, and Trump's margin of victory shrinks to about 20 electoral votes from 77.
I don't know that this is true.
1789, 1st Congress
Slave States (40 representatives)
New Jersey 4
New York 6
North Carolina 5
South Carolina 5
Free States (25 representatives)
New Hampshire 3
Rhode Island 1
Another factor is that there was a much larger disparity in numbers of voters than there was in number of people. Many of the southern states had very restrictive requirements (such as needing to own a large amount of property) to be allowed to vote while while northern states had less restrictive requirements. In the 1789 election Massachusetts had more than four times as many votes cast as Virginia while having fewer electoral votes and New Hampshire had more votes cast than Virginia while having less than half as many electoral vote. Massachusetts and New Hampshire alone had more than half of the votes cast in that election.
The biggest reason for the electoral college was to accommodate the aristocratic tendencies of some of the states. Contrary to what is often claimed, it wasn't intended to prevent the large states from dominating the small states; ironically it was the exact opposite. They wanted to prevent a tiny state like New Hampshire from being able to out vote, Virginia, the largest state.
The US started out as a federation more like how Switzerland is. But over time more and more authority was placed into the federal government and more and more cultural identity was placed there as well. So there are vestiges of government that persist from that earlier time.
This is stated as fact, but it's begging the question, of course, because the tension described is exactly what we're talking about. The United States still are a collection of states, to varying degrees, and the degrees are exactly what's under scrutiny here.
That's not a remnant from another time; it's the central conflict, still relevant today.
No, you can understand dual sovereignty, and support it and the separate powers of federal and state government, and still prefer both sovereignties be based on equal representation and democratic norms within their respective scopes.
More seriously, I agree with you. As I said below, I have no ideological opposition to adjusting the levers of the EC (or even replacing it with some other system that more explicitly defines its goals within a modern framework), so long as that system is not based on a simple popular vote (which I do oppose).
Also, don't know what mob you're referring to... that NYC and LA would rule the country without the EC is another trope that's easily debunked.
It's a very real fear that one of your neighbors will drive people away from your neighborhood, tank property values, and suddenly you have 20 families underwater on their mortgage. These rules are kinda dumb and often go way far because HoA members get a little drunk with power but they're essential for mobility in suburbia.
Isn't specific standards of property care, basically a more formal codification of nuisance law? Subjective laws being a pain to apply consistently, I was under the impression we frequently did this- some objective rule is established under the rule of an existing subjective rule, to improve enforcement & fairness.
I never tried to stop other plants from growing. The grass kept itself a monoculture through sheer density. I have never seen its like since I moved away.
So, by this understanding, the author isn't completely correct and that if the factory is not a nuisance it can be built in a residential neighborhood and it has to be proven that the factory causes harm?
I recently had to a file a code complaint because a landlord neighbor refuses to maintain his backyard, and out of control vegetation has damaged the fence, created a flood problem and is causing other nuisances.
If we want affordable housing, housing costs must necessarily fall behind inflation, which is the thing brown lawn regulations are trying to prevent.
I'm not saying brown lawns are the way to lower housing prices, but the whole point rests on the value judgement that expensive housing is better.
There is no “we”. Non home owners want affordable housing. Home owners want appreciation and have the power to make brown lawn regulations a reality.
4. Fads and marketing
They are not born of malice; they are born of fear.
The rules of the nearest HOA explicitly ban vehicles on blocks in the front yard. As though anybody around here would actually do that.
They go to the neighborhood with the worst property values, and they note, cargo-cult style, all of its salient features. Then they write up their rules, banning all of those features in their neighborhood. In this manner, they reason, their neighborhood will never have the worst property values in town. In reality, their neighborhood will never have the lowest property values in town because the commute to the major employers is twenty minutes, there are four grocery stores and two pharmacies within a ten minute drive, and all the houses are single-family with at least 2 bedrooms and 1500 ft^2 of finished floor area.
HOAs would mandate granite countertops and stainless steel appliances if they could come up with a decent rationale for it.
plus much of zoning still serves to discriminate against "undesirables" but now is masked behind feel good terms related to environment, pollution, quality of life, and historical. politicians and groups simply got the same results but learned how to dodge the courts and sway public opinion
I'm sure that's often true. And I know that I mostly give nature relatively free rein on my country property. That said, I can at least appreciate the point of view of why suburban neighbors on fairly small land plots who keep meticulously neat lawns, gardens, and homes are going to have an issue with the person whose house has peeling paint, an unmaintained lawn, and generally looks abandoned.
Why shouldn’t a city be able set a specific image based on what their voters want? Same things happens in Europe, I doubt Rome would allow some massive modern looking building right next to the Colosseum.
If you have a problem move to the country (rural area). Shoot guns, grow your lawn, live in a trailer or don’t, no one cares.
I was think more like people living near farm land than rural areas where folks live in town.
The emphasis on freedom in the US, like many things around the world (like religion), is mostly a result of the conditions then the other way around. What would you do if you find yourself in a disorganized country of inequality and insecurity? You build the most available home construction of the most available material on the most available land. So if the economy crashes, you get sick with poor coverage or the government goes haywire you can still, in theory, live a decent life. It doesn't have that much to do with "everyone do whatever they want".
Also, it hasn't rained for weeks in our part of the UK. Our lawn is very brown, as are most of our neighbours'.
"... farmers have sent me images of verdant monocultures of perennial ryegrass, with the message: “Look at this and try telling me we don’t look after nature.” It’s green, but it’s about as ecologically rich as an airport runway..."
US-style freedom isn't only the individual freedom of action that people commonly believe. US freedom is also about allowing people to organize communities however they want. The US is the land where people can form neighborhoods of like-minded people and enforce their own local rules. Strata boards, neighborhood zoning, water control boards, "home rule"... it is all about little collectives organizing themselves in different ways. The individual's freedom is the right to move amongst these collectives. Don't like the neighborhood? Move.
Living in a place where there is no control, I'd say the US is right on this. If these laws are not enforced, the place will look like a 3rd world dump in a few years.
That's a fire protection rule. Both tall and dry grass/weeds are fire hazards and dangers to surrounding properties.
1. Large, sparsely populated suburbs, away from everything.
2. Cars to drive long-distances from their suburbs to "the things we want to actually go to when not sleeping".
3. No heavy traffic, please!
Good luck achieving all 3!
And yeah, public transport sucks here. For obvious reasons - nobody can design effective public transport when the average commute from someone's house to their work is fifteen miles one-way and there's no population density to speak of to make it cost-effective.
I consider myself lucky that I can just walk to a nice grocery store and don't have to get in a car to go buy some milk.
1. I have a small kid with a lot of running energy who plays in the yard every day. Having to walk to the nearest park (if one exists) is inconvenient especially if it’s miles away.
2. I’m done with loud neighbors. Constant parties, loud bass music rattling the shared walls, loud sex at all hours, loud conversations right outside my door. It was a constant attribute of dense urban living.
3. Hobbies that require lots of private space and machinery, like sheet metal working and carpentry. Not going to be possible in a townhome without being yourself the annoying loud neighbor.
4. Freedom to customize. If I want to mount a huge antenna on my roof or build a backyard shed, only a detached home allows this.
5. Related to 4: Authority to fix things when they break. If my roof is leaking I can choose if and when to fix it. I can shop around for contractors to make sure I’m not overpaying. I can inspect and approve the work. In an apartment or condo these important tasks are out of my hands and done (always poorly) by an incompetent committee or landlord.
6. (For car owners) Indoor car parking and protection from the elements measurably reduces the maintenance cost of those cars. And fixing cars is tons easier in a garage. Nothing worse than replacing your power steering system in a 2 by 4 meter parking space surrounded by your neighbors’ cars. Ask me how I know.
I think more people around me is a net positive overall, though there are definitely exceptions.
So now we're thinking about moving into an urban area to give them more opportunity to engage with others. The problem is that I've lived like that before as well and it makes me nearly homicidal after a very short while. It's clearly a personal flaw, but I don't know how to fix it. I could be surrounded by 99% awesome people, but it just takes that special mongrel to spoil it all. Maybe I've matured enough in the past few years to handle it better, but it sure would be nice to have the option to bail if we choose poorly.
There is a huge swath of possibilities in between, including dense, detached housing, smaller condo developments, and villages that provide many of the benefits you attribute only to detached low density housing, including self maintenance, private parking, etc.
With higher density, these places also provide easy access to greenspace for children, with the qualification that it is usually public greenspace.
You are not as likely to find this setup in big city centers like Manhattan or Chicago, nor in the vast low density suburban sprawl, but rather in older pre-car towns that have retained their human scale development pattern.
Because it was opposite side of the house from his bedroom and because it was semi-soundproof my sister and I could have slumber parties with 4-8 friends over and be as loud as we wanted.
Why wouldn't I want that again?
I loved being able to be loud. To watch an action movie at 2am . My dad's stereo had 8 sets of speakers floor to ceiling. Him and my mom would host an 80 person New Years Eve party every other year.
Ever since I moved out 30 yrs ago I've lived in nothing but apartments where I mostly have to tiptoe to not annoy the neighbors. Can't have a dog. Can't have a workbench with tools. Can't have more than 2-4 guests over at once. Have to watch TV with headphones on if I want any volume.
I get the desire to live downtown near other things but I also get the desire to own a single family detached house. They're awesome!
If people truly wanted this, we wouldn't need a large zoning law apparatus to legally enforce it, now would we?
Historically these laws came about due to White Flight and wanting to keep the "other" people out.
My hypothesis is these laws persist due to effectively creating legally enforced housing cartel, pushing up house prices. Throw in some rent control to turn some poor folks against new housing, and you've got a recipe for ever increasing house prices, falling fertility rates, and the squeezing of the middle class.
My suspicion is that car based planning is the cause.
Here's the problem:
- Start with a nice, quiet, picturesque suburban neighborhood.
- Naturally people want to move into this neighborhood because it's so nice and want it to be affordable so, absent zoning, developers build apartments and condos to fill the need.
- Then all the people move in and the neighborhood slowly learns that the reason it was actually nice and picturesque was the low density and high buy-in.
- Property values start going down, along with tax revenue, the schools decline, $/student plummets, and all the people with the means move somewhere else.
Without at least some laws it's incredibly difficult to break this cycle.
They also cost less per unit, which is a thing people (i.e. new homeowners) like even more.
> - Property values start going down, along with tax revenue, the schools decline, $/student plummets, and all the people with the means move somewhere else.
This can be solved by adjusting the mil rate to generate the original amount of property tax revenue per unit against the lower housing prices.
I also don't see how the cycle is not self-defeating. If there are a hundred low density units and someone builds a hundred high density units near them so the original inhabitants leave and build a hundred new low density units somewhere else, now there are three hundred housing units available. The higher supply reduces the profit in building new condos anywhere in the region. If the cycle repeats then even more housing is constructed. At some point the profit in building new condos falls below the construction cost, because people don't want to live in a condo in the otherwise low density area more than they want to have a much smaller mortgage payment.
This is obviously an argument in favor of high density zoning. Even if you want to live in a detached single family home, you want as many other people as possible to be able to live in high density housing to minimize the amount of land you have to drive through between your home and the city.
> Property values start going down
So you're saying that because it's so desirable, property values go down?
* Yes, the existence of less expensive high-density housing in a neighborhood puts downward pressure on the price of single-family homes.
* Yes, because the value of an affluent, quiet, low-density neighborhood is just that -- exclusivity.
> Yes, the existence of less expensive high-density housing in a neighborhood puts downward pressure on the price of single-family homes.
That's false. If land can be redeveloped into high density housing, developers will pay top dollar for it. An 80-story tower going up next to your bungalow may seem annoying to you, but some developer is going to pay you a mountain of money for that bungalow - way more than you could get for it from a regular purchaser - knock it down, and build their own 90-story tower.
However, there are multiple cycles going on. If you build a development you end up with a lot of people of similar means all buying homes. But, over time things change as people get fired / retire / inherent homes etc you revert to the mean over time. On top of that as homes age and become less desirable you get massive downward pressure on property values over time.
In the other direction you have artificial scarcity and sometimes increasing population propping up home values.
In the Bay Area it's expensive near job centers but it's still expensive 40 miles away. The sprawling mess is too low density to sensibly cover with trains so poor people end up with insane highway commutes.
It's possible to find a listing for an old studio apartment in Jackson Heights, possibly with an existing tenant you'll have to evict, and possibly with a long walk to the train. Throw in the condo fee ($300+ per month maybe?) and you've got yourself a deal.
At ~$400 / square foot that's relatively pricey. I think typical construction costs are like $125 - $150 / square foot, so this could be a $80k or less free standing house in a truly cheap region.
Try getting anything like that near public transportation that gets you to work in Silicon Valley.
But my point isn't that it's cheap, it's that it's relatively cheap compared to Manhattan while still being close to the city.
Anacostia DC has apartments for 90k despite people paying 4+x as much to commute into DC from the suburbs. However, those prices are very much on the rise.
SV prices are limited largely by geography and local parks. Having less land area available for development relative to commute distances drives up prices on top of other issues.
It sounds like you are saying that Anacostia is cheap, dense, and close to jobs and that there's also a demand for luxury housing farther away. That all sounds reasonable to me.
In SV we don't have cheap housing close to jobs. I argue this is because we don't have dense housing.
Anacostia is an example of less expensive, but also not cheap. You can get a 'cheap' condo in much of the US for 35k. However, Anacostia is not staying that way prices are very much on the rise, became larger forces are at work.
SV does not have cheap housing close to jobs largely due to geographic issues. It has a tiny strip of land that can be developed so all of it is going to be expensive. On a block by block basis low density is driving prices down, while on a regional basis lack of housing anywhere drives prices up.
Now, in Manhattan the city center is expensive. However, very near the city center, housing can be affordable while still having a reasonable commute. This is because of density.
> SV does not have cheap housing close to jobs largely due to geographic issues. It has a tiny strip of land that can be developed so all of it is going to be expensive.
You are totally wrong here. The housing is expensive due to undersupply which is brought about by restrictions on zoning. There is a huge amount of land to build on but zoning laws require that most of the land here be used for detached single family homes.
I agree that it's a massive factor, but it's just one factor among many. Look at a satellite map of the area, in the middle you have the bay which not only takes up space but also chokes traffic. West you have the ocean, and north is again limited by the bay. South and east you have mountains and parks which limit where you could build transit or housing.
For comparison look at D.C. it's zoned to be low to mid density, and has terrible roads. But becase people can commute from a huge area to the hart of the city it's prices are not insane. Further, many office buildings clump up in various areas around the city. That can't really happen to SV which props up land value.
You're essentially arguing that housing is a Giffin Good and exists outside the normal laws of supply and demand. Don't get me wrong, after a point there is a tipping point where more people start pushing prices up in general because they exhaust the supply of things you can't just produce more of. But building more housing still decreases the price of housing.
Take an island city of say 1 million people living in single family homes. Now, over 50 years replace 1/2 of those with 5 million high density apartments. Assuming steady growth the apartments are going to fill with workers, but the number of single family homes dropped. Further, the total number of highly paid professionals like Doctors and Middle Management increases which increases demand for those single family homes.
Now, block growth for 30 years and you reduce the number of people that can actually make enough money to drive up prices. Net result people move elsewhere and even if the market is tight and people pay a higher percentage of their income they simply make less money on average.
PS: And to be pedantic while more housing is being build to total supply drops because nobody is living in the demolished buildings.
To me it has always seemed that presented a big empty plot of land, large detached houses are more profitable for the builder- I figure single houses are probably easier to slap together. Then, as an area grows and land is suddenly constrained in supply, then the developer wants to build dense.
Multi-family houses are more profitable for the owner. You pay some maintenance costs but you also collect a profit on recurring condo fees, services you provide, and deals you might make with other companies (like internet providers).
But likely they attract a different kind of people than those who want quiet and picturesque low-density suburbia.
So long as you don't try to use zoning laws to make that the only game in town, I think we'll get along quite well.
Zoning laws exist because people don't just live in houses, they also live in neighborhoods. And when they buy into a neighborhood, they want the neighborhood to generally maintain it's character (since that's part of what attracted them to the neighborhood in the first place). In fact, neighborhood character is so valuable to many people that they will opt into restrictions (CC&Rs) above and beyond what is required by law in order to achieve an even more uniform character in their neighborhood.
I tend to have a more libertarian bent, personally, when it comes to people building what they want on their land, but zoning laws are not about oppression of private property owners. You see them as a bug, but many people see them as a feature.
No. You are confusing residents with all people. Left to their own economic devices, a company will get what it wants before a person in most cases. How many companies want large, detached houses? If they truly did then yes, we wouldn't need zoning laws.
The historical ratio of house price to income that was considered affordable was about 2.6. If you earn $100k, you should spend $260k at most on your house under this rule.
Nowadays very few metros have median house prices at a level where the median household income would qualify, using that 2.6 ratio. Almost all of the cities with cost levels at that ratio or better are Rust Belt cities, and even many of them are right at the threshold.
Check out the full list: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/05/where-the-house-price...
Obviously interest rates, tax policy, etc. can change the monthly expense equation, so what may have been too expensive in the past might be more affordable now with lower interest rates.
However, even with a reduced cost to finance, there are still hefty down payments that need to be saved up for which are cost prohibitive. And higher property values need to pay higher property taxes. Maybe even "mansion" taxes in a few places.
No, because if everyone else had them too that'd mean living in a very low-density area, likely without anything in walking distance or decent public transport.
Yes you have to be ultra rich for this to be possible, but what if you actually were that rich? Would you still live as you do?
There are advantages and disadvantages to everything.
That doesn't sound like a very realistic scenario, though; I think I'll stick with my small terraced house that's walking distance from the city centre.
We have large detached houses in Ireland; they're probably the primary type of rural housing. I get that some people like them, but they definitely wouldn't be for me.
Living in a detached house is annoying. I grew up in detached houses. I now live in a nice Manhattan building. Having to worry about maintenance, heating, lawns and all that junk seems parochial. For a vacation home? Sure, you can get a management company. For a primary residence? How do people have time for that!?
If you have some data to correlate low density housing to obesity that would be really interesting though.
It doesn't look like you can correlate directly on city density though: https://wallethub.com/edu/fattest-cities-in-america/10532/
Feels like obesity rates are a large part culturally driven - the foods and lifestyle you and your relatives/those around you encourage. That's sorta why the South is "winning" the game.
Even in the DC area where I currently live, it's downright shocking just how different people (esp. 20-50yo women) look between, say, downtown DC and areas merely an hour's drive away. Urban DC is full of very attractive, slim women. An hour+ away? They're almost non-existent, but there's tons of overweight ones.
There's really a giant cultural divide going on in this country, and it's disturbing if you think about it; it doesn't seem sustainable. It kinda reminds me of the Eloi vs. the Morlocks, except in our reality, the Morlocks aren't really that productive economically and things really don't look good for them.
As an aside, another interesting difference I've noticed with body sizes is that people are noticeably taller in the west-coast urban areas than in the east-coast ones. I'm a little over 6' and I feel very tall on the east coast. When I've traveled to the west, I feel more average.
Not in the sense that that is somehow the only way to define 'success' in living arrangements.
Personally I value community and amenities to a vastly higher degree than I do the house itself.
Totting it up so far I think I've lived in 9 different houses in 3 different countries. Some house were large and detached, some were semi-detached, one was end terrace. If the house was large enough to live in and put my things in it became essentially a utility that performed a function.
The most important thing was who lived next to or near me, what services and amenities were around and how easy access was to them and what were schools like for kids.
Perhaps that's because I didn't own them but rented them, but I do own a house that I haven't lived in yet and I feel no more attachment to it than the rest. Instead choosing the area and community over the bricks and mortar themselves.
I don't want one. They also say that people want SUVs but I don't want that either. I think there is a lot of cultural conditioning in what people want.
(Note that I'm playing devils advocate here)
Me, I'd love to have a large, centrally located, detached house at an affordable price. It's not a realistic desire though, and that lack of realism means that any policy based on it will be equally unrealistic.
The smiley implies a lot of people want that. That's true, but the flip side of that question is "Do you no want to drive for everything you need?" which, especially in Europe, is going to get a lot of people answering "Hell no".
You can also choose a smaller, non-detached house for the same prices inside a denser neighborhood. You then don't need a car and can bike or take publish transport to everything.
Most people prefer the latter.
edit: responses below are moving the goalposts. I didn't ask what major metros are missing culturally vibrant dense communities with a great mix of walkable amenities, I asked what metros didn't have townhouse-style developments (small house, no yard).
The answer is obvious if you spend ten minutes in redfin - every major metro has plenty
No. In most central and southern Europe there are laws to ensure that density stays above a threshold, cities stays walkable and apartments are built with proper walls and corridors to prevent any noise from the neighbors.
This led to much cheaper housing and less need for driving.
You have to understand that in the US houses are not just houses. They are the primary vehicle by which the middle class is able to build wealth. There are scores of tax regulation and perks to home owning that don't exist for any other asset class.
That's only really true for the suburbs and rural areas. Most Americans live in cities, where rowhomes and apartment complexes are more popular.
It's complicated to determine what's urban and suburban--much less exurban (which is what ESRI calls where I live).  But the census uses a measure where the areas it counts as "rural" are mostly very rural.
Who would've thought that mindset would lead to unaffordable housing!
Or parents telling their children that they won't be able to live near their parents because... well... investment! Like this guy: https://twitter.com/nextdoorsv/status/999364778907914245
The problem is that residential real estate values fluctuate unpredictably, and sometimes wildly, and the investment is almost always made using considerable leverage. Housing is unusual among the commonly made investments in that a person can seemingly do all the sensible things and lose all the money they've invested.
That's not generally true. Look at the house price to rent scores. In many cities it's cheaper to rent than to own.
Instead, compare California to Japan. From this article, run the thought experiment of a California-wide zoning board.
In 1917 Buchanan v Warley mades directly racist zoning illegal... which affected a single city in Kentucky and otherwise had very little effect. In addition, the very first zoning laws didn't get passed until 1910 in the US and zoning didn't exist much until the 1920s  so that seems to undermine that claim as an emotional, not a factual one.
Everyone seems to suggest that the fix for high housing prices is to simply build more densely (more supply, same demand, therefore prices should go down right?). Yet that appears to not be the case either - as buildings get taller and more dense, costs seem to increase outside the direct supply/demand system  and those units which are built are typically more expensive then low density options.
 - https://www.dartmouth.edu/~wfischel/Papers/02-03.pdf
 - https://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2017/08/31/high-rise...
 - http://marketurbanism.com/2017/11/01/does-density-raise-hous...
Federal policies were also motivated by racism
and the federal housing project program created ghettos under the guise of providing adorable housing for the poor. They just wanted to concentrate the poor (read "black people") in certain areas.
For instance, that Reason article calls "Barry Mahool" (actually J. Barry Mahool), a progressive and doesn't really elaborate beyond that, letting the reader assume that his progressivness extending to racial thought at the time. Looking into it, he seems to be thought of a progressive because of his out spoken support for women's suffrage, but as for black people he created the zoning laws as "Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in
order to reduce the incidents of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority".
That's like calling Dick Cheney a progressive because of his out spoken support for gay marriage.
Modern progressives support most of the same policies, but for supposedly different reasons. They still see older progressives as heroes for implementing those policies, despite their bigoted intentions at the time.
The issue is that density attracts people when it's scarce, because people like it. You can walk to shops etc. So if you build a little bit of density, people want to live there and the price goes up.
What you need is to build a lot of density, so that the supply satisfies the whole demand and it actually gets the price down.
This is a correlation/causation error. Prices rise beyond marginal cost of constructing an additional unit in the presence of supply restrictions and increasing demand. Those conditions are often true in areas with high rise buildings (and the second is rarely true in areas without).
Separately, the marginal cost of construction is higher for a unit in a high rise than a unit in a single-story building.
I think the Japanese system is better, I just fear that part of the benefit they have is cultural (harder to implement than laws).
It doesn't provide a direct route to move to Japanese-style zoning, but it would allow densities to increase organically based on demand in areas, which is a major component of Japanese zoning that is missing from American zoning.
If you are interested in these topics, I recommend the entire Urban kchoze archive.
It's not like dense, mixed-use areas don't exist in the US -- NYC being the most obvious example. They're just uncommon because regulations force them to be uncommon. Where they do exist they work fine.
The problem being that there is more demand for that kind of high density living than there is existing supply. Hence the desire to create more.
By contrast, if you want to live in a detached single family home, there are plenty on offer around Houston or Portland or dozens of other cities that already have a lower population density and thus less pressure for new high density housing.
The result of local dominant zoning is rampant NIMBYism, with unsustainable and anti-environmental suburban sprawl, people unable to afford rent in the areas with the most good jobs, and widespread economic segregation.
The system is working for some definition of working, but not terribly well.
There's a reason we have governments at a higher level than neighborhoods and cities. Not every decision makes sense there.
We've tried city level zoning, the result is that economically booming areas fight new residents, drastically raising rents while preventing others from joining in in the economic success. It's a disaster, just look at the bay area.
Or look at the cost of sprawl in how much nature we've cut down and our per capita energy usage. What part of that looks good to you?
If you zoom in too far, people get selfish and you hit externalities. Zoning isn't unique, sometimes you need more coordination for things to work.
Free for all zoning would be letting the people who actually own particular properties have the final say.
/s/actually live there/are upper-middle-class, white, and born at the right time/
Like, this is very explicit in the article for this thread even, and somehow it still comes up.
Anyway if you look in the article it talks about how you still exclude things from residential areas based on level of nuisance. Presumably a compressor station could qualify.
It's understandable that people want their neighborhood to stay similar to when they bought in. It's understandable that people who drive everywhere don't want more traffic or competition for parking. It's understandable that rich people don't want poorer, less academically accomplished families at their schools.
But just because the reasons are understandable, doesn't mean they're good, or that they outweigh the bad. Zoning in the US has a number of hugely negative effects, and it desperately needs reformation.
Well yes, of course that's true. But more people also means more taxes to fund those services.
It's a smallish rural town. There is police, fire, library, water, DPW, etc. but we don't even have services like trash collection which are private. Schools are significant.
Do you really want rural conservatives who hate cities dictating urban land use as you would today?
Do you really want democrats with tight ties to big real estate interests (key members of the California delegation, for example) dictating land use policy?
Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley because everyone fled cities in the 50s and 60s to buy the then-american dream in the old orange groves. Whatever the next phase is, it isn't going to happen there.