Smart Growth News — August 1, 2014

Pushing the Community Reinvestment Act into Unchartered Territory
Governing — August 1, 2014
A health clinic in the San Francisco Bay Area. A transit-oriented development in Denver. A mixed-use plan in a run-down neighborhood in Dallas. When it comes to how these places and a handful of others view and leverage the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), they are breaking through old barriers.
Let’s Not Pronounce Sprawl Dead Just Yet
The Huffington Post — August 1, 2014
There’s still reason to feel optimistic about cities over the long run, but a range of new housing data suggest that what’s really going on in the marketplace may be more complex and mixed than some of us had come to believe.
How Your City’s Public Transit Stacks Up
FiveThirtyEight — July 31, 2014
After decades of planning, the Washington Metro’s Silver Line finally opened last week. The line aims to make inroads in a car-centric swath of Northern Virginia, but D.C. itself is already known for its robust public transit. How robust?
Senate sends highway bill to Obama
The Hill — July 31, 2014
After the House rejected Senate changes, senators held their noses Thursday and voted 81-13 for a $10.9 billion bill to fund highway projects through May 2015. Earlier in the week, the Senate voted to amend the House-passed Highway Trust Fund bill, changing the length of the extension to December to pressure lawmakers to come up with a long-term solution after the midterm elections.

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Inside Foot Traffic Ahead: sub-urban places and the future of walkability  

Belmar-festivalFestival Italiano in walkable sub-urban Belmar, Denver, CO. Photo via Flickr.

Walkable real estate is in high demand in America’s large metros, and tomorrow’s most successful cities will be the ones that capture that market—but the walkable places they build may not look like today’s downtowns.

In Foot Traffic Ahead, our June report co-released by our LOCUS coalition and the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business, we ranked America’s largest metropolitan areas based on their projected future growth in development of walkable places. That list of nascent future walkable real estate hot spots included surprise contenders like Atlanta, Denver, and Los Angeles—far from the usual suspects for such rankings. Meanwhile, some famously walkable cities like Portland, Pittsburg, and Baltimore were projected to fall behind.

The difference owes to walkable sub-urban places, an unconventional category that includes both historic town-center type suburbs and modern transit-oriented developments. In our highest-projected metro areas—from Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA—a large percent of new growth is expected to take the walkable sub-urban form.

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Smart Growth News — July 31, 2014

The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America
TIME — July 31, 2014
The suburbs aren’t the middle-class haven many imagine them to be, with a new report revealing 16.5 million suburban Americans are living beneath the poverty line.

De Blasio Hails $350 Million in Housing Loans Led by Citigroup
Bloomberg — July 30, 2014
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced $350 million in loans for affordable housing provided by banks led by Citigroup Inc. as he forges closer ties to Wall Street, once one of his loudest critics.

The 5 Cities That Have Recovered Most—and Least—From the Recession
TIME Money — July 30, 2014
On Wednesday, the Department of Commerce announced the U.S. economy grew a healthy 4% in the second quarter of 2014. The good news aligns with other positive economic signals, like an increase in hiring, and suggests the nation as a whole might be on the road to recovery.

Entrepreneurs Tackle Earthquake Safety, Urban Planning Tech In SF’s EIR Program
Tech Crunch — July 31, 2014
While heavily funded companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Uber capture the spotlight as companies that controversially shape city life around transportation and space, cities and their governments have a whole bunch of behind-the-scenes needs too. That’s the premise behind San Francisco’s entrepreneur-in-residence program, which pairs tech founders with city government workers in everything from the planning department to the transit agency.

House, Senate Scramble to End Impasse Over Highway Bill
The Wall Street Journal — July 30, 2014
House Republican leaders pushed ahead with their preferred plan on federal highway spending, setting up a Thursday vote designed to force the Senate to accept a $10.8 billion measure funding highway projects through May 2015. The House and Senate have been at odds on how to address federal Highway Trust Fund spending on roads and mass transit.

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New York tours offer look at urban manufacturing’s revival

Urban small-scale manufacturers at work. Photo by Nicolas Lemery Nantel for OHNY.

In today’s American economy, where so much is imported from other countries, American cities are rediscovering their manufacturing roots. Industry shakeups and the economic downturn demonstrate the vulnerability of cities that rely on single-industry manufacturing sectors like steel and automobiles. But while large-scale industries suffer from lack of resilience, small-scale manufacturing is creeping back into our cities and strengthening our local economies.

Today, though the manufacturing sector makes up just 12% of US GDP, the sector has grown at roughly twice the pace of the country’s overall economic growth since the end of the recession. Manufacturing provides high-wage, low-barrier to entry jobs with the average manufacturing salary roughly $10,000 more than the average U.S. job. Between 2010 and 2012, manufacturing jobs grew by over 400,000—many of them in small businesses. The opportunity for local job growth is great.

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Senate, House tangle over highway funding cliff

In the past week, with just days left before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed short-term measures that would keep the fund solvent through the end of this year.

While both plans are essentially short-term patches for a long-term problem—meeting America’s growing infrastructure needs with funding from a gas tax that hasn’t risen since 1993—the Senate version, passed Tuesday, is a big step in the right direction.

Gone are the pension-smoothing and accounting gimmicks, included in the House’s earlier version of the bill, that Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) called “generational theft.” Furthermore, rather than delay the Trust Fund’s insolvency to May of 2015, the new proposal only runs through the end of this year, forcing Congress to confront a long-term solution sooner.

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Smart Growth News — July 30, 2014

Transit Agencies Get Creative
The Wall Street Journal — July 29, 2014
Transit agencies in the U.S. looking to expand rail lines are getting into the real-estate-development business to raise revenue. In Atlanta, the regional transit agency is considering three possible expansion plans for its rail line, which opened in 1979 and services more than 100 miles of track. But the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority has struggled because revenue from a county sales tax that provides a large portion of the system’s funding dropped during the recession and has increased slowly since then.
Scientists Predict Massive Urban Growth, Creation of ’Megalopolis’ in Southeast in Next 45 Years
US Geological Survey — July 28, 2014
Urban areas in the Southeastern United States will double in size by 2060 unless there are significant changes to land development, according to a new study by the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center and North Carolina State University. The predicted growth would come at the expense of agricultural and forest lands, creating an urban “megalopolis” stretching from Raleigh to Atlanta, which also raises a number of ecological concerns.
What City Dwellers Want, and Why It Matters
The Huffington Post — July 29, 2014
American city dwellers place a high value on their cities’ food offerings, from restaurants to farmers’ markets.  We also love historic buildings and good public spaces.  Traffic, not so much.  These findings are from a new study released last week by Sasaki Associates, a Massachusetts-based design and planning firm.
Senate moves to patch transportation funding
The Washington Post — July 29, 2014
The U.S. Senate Tuesday gutted a House bill to temporarily extend transportation funding, plopped in its own revenue-raising plan and added a political twist to the traditionally bipartisan issue. Fearful they may lose the Senate in November, Democrats want to force Congress to come up with a long-term method to pay for transportation funding in the lame duck session. Republicans, hopeful they will be in control next year, want to set a May 31 deadline for the task.

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Smart Growth News — July 29, 2014

The Suburbs Will Die: One Man’s Fight to Fix the American Dream
TIME — July 28, 2014
Engineer Charles Marohn worked his whole life trying to make his community better—until the day he realized he was ruining it. It was the mid-1990s, the area was booming, and Marohn was laying down the systems that helped the area grow. “I built sprawl,” he now says.
The American Conservative to explore rebuilding America’s communities
The American Conservative — July 24, 2014
While the breakdown of community and the family is a consistent theme in conservative circles, the conversation very rarely gets beyond some mix of exhortation towards traditional values and demands for rollback or reform of the welfare state. That’s where a school of urban design called “New Urbanism” comes into play.
Are the ‘Star’ Architects Good for Cities?
The New York Times — July 28, 2014
Witold Rybczynski, the architect and emeritus professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, complained recently about “starchitects” who often work in cities they are unfamiliar with, creating buildings that are out of sync with their surroundings. In an interview, he argued in favor of local architectural talent, or “locatecture.”
U.S. Senate to vote Tuesday on highway transportation legislation three days before deadlineWJLA — July 29, 2014
The Senate is set to take up legislation to keep federal highway money flowing to states, with just three days left before the government plans to start slowing down payments. The House passed a $10.8 billion bill last week that would pay for highway and transit aid through the end of May 2015 if transportation spending is maintained at current levels. Under a schedule outlined by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate would take up that bill Tuesday.

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Creating revitalization in slow markets

Small town main street

In communities where the market is slow, attracting developers and investors can be a tough challenge. A slow market can have many causes such as an economic downturn, a geographic disadvantage or a weak competitive edge within the region. Local leaders of small towns from states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Iowa, Maryland and California discussed the issues that impact attracting growth and development in a weak market during a session titled “Creating revitalization in slow growth markets” at the June 2014 Local Leaders Policy Forum in Washington, DC.

“Slow growth is relative to the market,” remarked Mayor Andrew Fellows of College Park, MD, and other leaders agreed. Mayor Ruth Randleman of Carlisle, IA pointed to other communities in the immediate Des Moines metropolitan region as their major competition. Former Mayor John Robert Smith of Meridian, MS suggested that sister cities in the greater geographic region and neighboring states were their biggest competition. “Our problem was that we were trying to be Gulfport of Biloxi, when we didn’t realize that we had strengths of our own,” said Smith.

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Smart Growth News — July 28, 2014

How big cities that restrict new housing harm the economy
The Washington Post — July 25, 2014
For the last couple of years, San Francisco has been erupting with periodic protests aimed, rather imprecisely, at a nexus of grievances related to gentrification, affordable housing, transportation, the tech industry, newcomers to the city, its changing skyline and Silicon Valley to the south. The city is screaming, although at what its protestors seem a little confused.
White House to Begin $10 Billion Rural Investment Fund
The New York Times — July 24, 2014
The White House Rural Council announced plans on Thursday to start a $10 billion investment fund that will give pension funds and large investors the opportunity to invest in agricultural projects. Those include wastewater systems, energy projects and infrastructure development in rural America.
Gulf widens between downtown and the suburbs for office building prices
The Washington Post — July 27, 2014
As Washington’s economy and office occupancy rate have sputtered, and the market fundamentals in other metropolitan areas have strengthened, many investors have shifted their attention to other markets. Despite this shift in investment activity, this region remains one of the most highly sought after in the country.
Week’s Transportation Highlight Will Be Senate Passage of Highway Funding Bill
Roll Call — July 28, 2014
Months of hand-wringing, anguished warnings, and legislative maneuvering culminate in the next five days, as the Senate prepares to pass a bill to refill the Highway Trust Fund and avert what Democratic leaders were calling “the transportation equivalent of a government shutdown.”

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Smart Growth News — July 25, 2014

Suburban sprawl and bad transit can crush opportunity for the poor
Vox — July 23, 2014
There’s an array of economic literature out there connecting the two, showing that places with plenty of opportunities for geographic mobility have more economic mobility as well. But for a city to boost opportunity by boosting transit, the answer is a complicated mix that also includes zoning and picking the right type of transit — perhaps at the risk of displeasing its wealthier residents.
Hard-knocks cities are working on a comeback
USA Today — July 24, 2014
Places like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Oakland and Detroit are drawing on their histories of race-related activism or factory shutdowns and using those details to attract business, tourists and new residents. They say the ups and downs of the past helped make them what they are today.
Joe Biden and his awesome white board are here to teach you about infrastructure!
The Washington Post — July 23, 2014
Class is in session, America! Buckle up, because Professor Biden is here. And great news! He brought his white board. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday became the latest guest lecturer on the White House White Board series. Biden’s video focuses on the nation’s transportation infrastructure. There were some pretty solid visual aids.

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