tiny home… research…projects… amidst… social commentary…. in a socially “changeDaah” world…press. the clicker… that one..

These houses are ergonomically well-designed, energy-efficient
and resource conserving, grid-interactive with smart systems, costing about $50-75,000 (exclusive of land
and labor, built with “sweat equity”). A typical land parcel (50 ft. x 100 ft.) can accommodate up to six of
these structures, which would be sited relative to one another so as to share utilities and energy through a
common renewable microgrid. Each unit would include two upstairs bedrooms, a downstairs living room
(also usable as a bedroom), kitchen and 1-1/2 bathrooms. The units will be designed to ADA specifications
and to fit with surrounding architecture and design. The goal is to use the prototype designs initially
developed in the Tiny House partnership (see below) to create high performance, low cost, efficient and
standardized modules that can function as small individual units, or be stacked and combined into
townhouses sharing core utilities. TRHs will allow people of modest means to own an affordable house and
to avoid temporary or long-term homelessness.

For many Americans, a major fraction of their income is dedicated to ensuring there is a roof over their heads. Because of this, 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. As housing prices rise, especially in urban areas, more people find themselves without shelter. Homelessness is on the rise amongst those who do not earn enough to cover the cost of housing, and those pushed out of their homes often must relocate to places far from where they work. Urban areas are widely-acknowledged to be more sustainable than suburbs, yet the very people who most need energy- and resource efficient homes are ending up in areas where conservation is almost impossible. Housing people in cities is one of the most effective means of protecting and conserving rural and sensitive lands.

One potential way to address this growing problem is through downsizing of houses and sharing the costs of real estate (even though the average size of American houses is on the rise). The Ecotopia House project is directed toward design and development of structures in the 400-800 square foot range, that could offer infill housing opportunities to those who are unable to afford full-size structures.

Ecotopia House is a “Tiny House,” a small living structure that offers a low-environmental impact model that is easily replicated. The structure will include zero-net energy construction and recycled materials, where possible, reducing carbon emissions from daily operation and from life-cycle energy expenditures. Among its other features, Ecotopia House will minimize embedded energy and carbon footprint as much as possible; include an integrated solar PV & thermal system for power, hot water, and heating, with a battery storage system, to achieve Zero Net Energy; reduce sewage waste with a composting toilet & graywater system; maximize daytime lighting with strategically-located windows & light pipes, and nighttime lighting with LEDs; and designed to be modular, capable of being easily assembled and disassembled, and storable in sections.

The planned followup to Ecotopia House is a “Tiny Row House,” a two-story structure of 600-800 square feet, built from “modules” tied together to create a single house. Several can be placed on a typical urban parcel, allowing homeowners to share land costs, renewable microgrids and garden space. Each unit will include two upstairs bedrooms, a downstairs living room (also usable as a bedroom), a kitchen and 1-1/2 bathrooms. The units will be designed to ADA specifications and will fit in with surrounding architecture and design.

The Tiny Row House project is oriented, in particular, to the opportunities and issues associated with designing and building high-performance, sustainable, low-cost infill housing that can be readily integrated into multiple neighborhoods across the region, sited in existing urban and suburban spaces that might otherwise remain vacant or unused. Moreover, no matter how good physical building designs and implementations may look on paper, they must include a critical component that ensures they will meet the needs of their target constituency and ensure stable, supportive, and vibrant mixed neighborhoods wherever these sites are located.



According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness website, although the research has shown successes in smaller local and state studies, there is yet to be a major national study that supports rapid rehousing as a solution.

“The state cannot fund, over the long-term, transitional housing,” de Leon said. “It’s a local government responsibility. But the state can be a catalyst for these programs.”

No Place Like Home Initiative Puts Housing First for Homeless Californians

Diverting Children from a Life of Crime: Measuring Costs and Benefits


Since the year 1950, the size of the average American house has increased by two and one half times, from 1,000 Square Feet to 2,400 Square Feet. The drastic growth in housing size has led to increased spending and usage of utilities (natural gas, electricity, etc.), resulting in surges in the American carbon footprint. This research explores the potential for tiny homes to serve as a solution to the elusive idea of sustainable housing that is available to the average American homeowner, aiding in the size reduction of the American carbon footprint. Utilizing existing literature on the topic of tiny homes, this analysis explores the benefits and challenges of downsizing ones living space. Benefits include: reduced spending on household utilities, increased awareness in consumer purchases due to space limitations, greatly reduced or nonexistent payments, a greater social connection among families and a reduction in household carbon footprint. Although there are many benefits, issues with zoning law, families with children and expense of construction and development still need to be solved. Assuming that the homeowner can solve these problems, tiny homes appear to be an excellent answer to affordable, sustainable homes available to the average American family.

open community dialog about issues facing renters in our community and possible steps forward.

should it include… home ownership/ and property rights of home/land ownership…

renting is only an option if… no “credit is available to applicant”…

meaning… if the “applicant has credit(even if it is from “government money”.. shouldn’t it.. be.. that they should be “able” to own land as well as the home.. to… be “a citizen with full property and human/citizen rights”… and responsibility….. yet under fair.. “laws and regulations that do not.. infringe upon the “stability and status.. ” of that position to be a “full or whole citizen” to fully participate in “civil political discourse on “the policies… etc…

47,000 homeless people living on the streets or in shelters in Los Angeles County.

To move forward, they’re going to have to work together more than they have in the past — at the city, county, state and federal levels — and not lose their focus or their nerve even when constituents get angry about proposed housing projects or when new problems and social ills demand their time and resources.


i am not “mentally ill” or “emotionally ill”.

however… some initiatives.. might favor thsoe that are.. “mentally ill” or emotionally ill’…

in the end i see it as a trap… meaning.. “if someone legally can call you mentally ill.. or emotionally ill.. they can also.. declare you are unfit to own or be responsible to own.. ” anything…

though.. having access… for those.. that “believe in those.. “frameworks” … to a substantiated… long term housing… “option” is decent…

SACRAMENTO — The California Legislature today gave final approval to the “No Place Like Home” initiative, a first-of-its kind plan to assist local communities in preventing and addressing homelessness. This proposal provides $2 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals with mental illness.  The “No Place Like Home” initiative takes a “housing first” approach, which has been used successfully in other states and is considered best practice by many homeless advocates and social service experts. The measure, AB 1618, now awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

“Homelessness is not a partisan issue and it has been an honor to work with my Republican colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to tackle this issue head on,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). “Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that finding permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless suffering from mental illness will improve the quality of life in our communities and give hope to thousands of Californians currently living in despair across our state.”

“This is a tipping-point moment for mental health, homelessness, and Proposition 63 in California,” said former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, co-author of Proposition 63 (2004) – The Mental Health Services Act – and founder The Steinberg Institute. “Thanks to the leadership of this Senate, we have a historic opportunity to help local communities forge systemic long-term solutions, making a real difference in the lives of thousands of forgotten Californians.”

The legislation package re-purposes bond money from Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, and creatively leverages billions of additional dollars from other local, state, and federal agencies to achieve the following goals:


  • $2 billion bond to construct permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless persons with mental illness.
  • $45 million included in the 2016-17 budget to provide supportive housing in the shorter-term, rent subsidies, while the permanent housing is constructed or rehabilitated.
  • $22 million included in the 2016-17 budget to support two special housing programs that will assist families:


  • The “Bringing Families Home” pilot project, a county matching grant program to reduce homelessness among families that are part of the child welfare system.


  • The CalWORKs Housing Support Program, which provides housing and support services for CalWORKs families in danger of homelessness.  


Income support and outreach:

  • An increase in Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) program grants which provide income support for the aged, blind, and disabled poor who cannot work.

Rates of homelessness are higher for persons with disabilities who cannot work; SSI/SSP is intended to help them make ends meet, and a large portion of grants usually goes toward rent.
These increases will assist about 1.3 million low-income Californians (72% with disabilities and 28% who are elderly).


  • A one-time investment of $45 million in the 2016-17 enacted budget to incentivize local governments to boost outreach efforts and advocacy to get more eligible poor people enrolled in the SSI/SSP program.

The federal government covers 72% of the total costs of the SSI/SSP program, so state and local benefits are multiplied significantly for each newly eligible recipient.
California has more than one third of the nation’s chronically homeless – those with mental illness or other significant problems, and an even higher percentage among homeless women. Of the 28,200 chronically homeless in California, nearly 85 percent are unsheltered with this group absorbing the greatest amount of taxpayers’ resources, often toping $100,000 annually per person in public costs for emergency room visits, hospital stays, law enforcement, and other social services.

The legislation package supports a “housing first” strategy which many homeless advocates and social service experts  across the state prefer because it provides safe, secure housing creates an environment that allows for wrap-around services, such as mental health treatment, to take hold. Studies show homelessness aggravates mental illness, making it more difficult to reach and house those with the greatest need of shelter and treatment.


This paper looks at a broad array of evidence concerning the recent boom in home prices, and considers what this means for future home prices and the economy. It does not appear possible to explain the boom in terms of fundamentals such as rents or construction costs. A psychological theory, that represents the boom as taking place because of a feedback mechanism or social epidemic that encourages a view of housing as an important investment opportunity, fits the evidence better.


Micro-housing refers to residential units that are smaller than traditionally-sized units. These can be complete units that include bathrooms and kitchens, or units that share communal space and amenities. This research looks at two forms of micro-housing: individual tiny homes and micro-villages. It contributes to a growing body of resources that help people live in tiny houses by consolidating a list of challenges and identifying strategies that allow people to overcome these barriers. The tiny house movement advocates for downsizing from traditionally-sized homes to smaller houses. Advocates speak of the potential to simplify one’s life, decrease one’s environmental impact, save money, and live independently. To some, the tiny house movement is seen as extending from the Back-to-the-Earth movement of the 1970s, and others trace it back to Thoreau and his emphasis on living simply and deliberately. Although some cities are working to accommodate these nonconventional housing options, significant barriers still prohibit people from living in a tiny house.Micro-villages are intentional tiny home communities that represent the merging of the tiny house movement with the tent city movement. These communities are emerging as one solution to providing permanent and transitional housing to people experiencing homelessness. Micro-villages often feature up to 30 tiny homes and shared communal space. They can range in legality from sanctioned, publicly-funded communities to unsanctioned, informal gatherings of shelter. Micro-villages featured in this research include Quixote Village (Olympia, WA), Second Wind Cottages (Ithaca, NY), Dignity Village (Portland, OR), Occupy Madison (Madison, WI) and Opportunity Village Eugene (Eugene, OR). The main barriers to micro-villages are often social opposition, NIMBYism and a lack of political will from local government. Many micro-villages are also challenged by a lack of funding, difficulty finding a location and zoning. Much of this can be related to a pervasive stigma associated with homelessness and affordable housing. Keys to the success of micro-villages have been collaboration with local governments, coalition building, diversifying funding, early community outreach and strong community agreements within the villages. What can communities do? To best support micro-villages, communities can combat the stigma of homelessness by changing the local dialogue around homelessness. We can do this by educating ourselves and each other about the complexity and true causes of homelessness. Sharing stories of success also makes it clear that the positive outcomes of micro-villages outweigh the negative. Overall, the two biggest barriers to tiny homes are building codes and zoning ordinances that treat them as illegal or illegitimate types of housing. This illegality complicates accessing insurance and financing, finding a place to park, and getting a home repaired. One factor that contributes to the ease of living in a tiny house is the policy framework in a particular community. Many tiny house residents had more success in areas where governments were willing to accommodate smaller dwelling units in their codes and ordinances. What can governments do? The rapid increase in the number of proposed microvillages indicates growing community support that needs to be matched by the political will of local governments. Local governments can accommodate tiny homes and micro-villages by: Decrease minimum area requirements for dwelling units (can be as low as 70 sf); Add flexibility to zoning requirements to encourage innovative housing solutions; Allow tiny houses on foundations outright; Permit micro-villages as multi-family developments; Help groups starting a micro-village find land, access funding and overcome opposition; and Treat tiny houses and micro-villages as a part of the solution to the affordable housing and homelessness crises. Implementation of Madison Park, a proposed micro-village in Walla Walla, WA, is stagnated only by community opposition. http://www.wwallianceforthehomeless.com/


Shelter as Workplace: A Review of Home-Based Enterprise in Developing Countries
Tipple, A. Graham

If there is one lesson for planners in the massive literature on slums and
				 squatter community life, it is the finding that housing in these areas is not for
				 home life alone. A house is a production place, market place, entertainment
				 centre, financial institution and also a retreat. A low income community is the
				 same, only more so. Both the home and the community derive their vitality from
				 this multiplicity of uses. The imposition of artificial restrictions on both would
				 only hinder their growth and development (Laquian, 1983).
				 D espite regulations to the contrary in many countries, the home is
				 commonly used as a workplace. In pre-industrial societies this was the
				 norm - indeed the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Britain were
				 marked by the move from home-based to factory-based manufacture - and
				 at world level, small shops and cottage industries continued until recently to
				 be the dominant mode, often as part of sophisticated and complex
				 production and distribution systems.
				 This interrelationship between housing and income-generating activities
				 continues to be a prominent feature of the informal sector in developing
				 countries, and The global strategy for shelter to the year 2000 (UNCHS, 1990),
				 recognizes that shelter has important effects on the wider economy, which
				 must be taken into account when formulating housing sector strategies. That
				 approach also underlies inter alia a report to the 14th Session of the United
				 Nations Commission on Human Settlements jointly prepared by the Centre
				 for Human Settlements (UNCHS (Habitat)), and the ILO, which discusses
				 the relationship between underemployment and unemployment and shelter
				 provision and suggests that the success of shelter programmes should be
judged partly by how much employment results and what proportion of it
				 accrues to poorer members of the community (UNCHS, 1993).
				 There are obvious direct benefits from housing provision - increased
				 productivity, better health, education, etc. - but they are difficult to
				 demonstrate or to quantify (Bums and Grebler, 1976). In addition there are
				 major income multipliers arising from construction work and considerable
				 backward linkages into other sectors of the economy connected with the
				 construction process.'


Agritourism: Motivations behind Farm/Ranch Business Diversification

Increasing financial strains on family farms/ranches have put pressure on these businesses to look outside agriculture as a means to sustain the operation. One option has been to offer farm/ranch recreation to visitors (i.e., agritourism). Eleven reasons for diversifying were tested while controlling for various demographic variables. Principal components analysis resulted in three factors: social reasons, economic reasons, and external influences. A cluster analysis identified 61% of the respondents who diversified for economic reasons, 23% who diversified due to reasons external to the operation, and 16% who diversified for social, economic, and external reasons.


Self and Community in the New Floating Worlds
Kenneth J. Gergen
Swarthmore College
New technologies arrive in elegant wrappings of promise. The new software
promises greater processing speed, the latest television a sharper picture, the new car
less engine noise, and so on. We are drawn to the pleasures of such promises.
However, the cost/benefit analysis from which we proceed at this point of possible
ownership severely limited. The absent voices largely go unheard. If we take “the
latest” into our lives, how will they be changed – personally and collectively? Of
prominant importance, we seldom ask about the repercussions of our choices for the
quality of life. Only within recent decades have scholars turned concerted attention to
the societal transformations facilitated by the ever increasing appetite for
technological “progress.” The critical and cultural analysis of television opened the
door to significant scholarship. More recent analysis has turned to the impact of the
Mobile communication is now on the horizon of critical scrutiny. In part the relative
inattention to date may derive from the fact that mobile phones may seem but a minor
technological improvement. They simply sustain the traditional telephonic process,
but without the bother of line-locked instruments. Yet, we can scarcely afford a
dismissive attitude in this matter. Mobile phones are now used by over a billion
people world wide, and the growth curve is steadily increasing.1 As the Katz and
Aakhus (2002) compendium makes clear, the mobile phone is subtly insinuating
itself into the capillaries of daily life, altering our forms of life, and bringing about
new possibilities in its wake.


Floating ports: Design and construction practices

This book is a guide to designing and constructing floating piers, wharves, docks, mooring systems, and small craft marinas. It presents engineering fundamentals and techniques. After a general introduction to floating marine terminals, the book discusses design loads and forces, and examines floating pier design requirements and considerations. Buoyancy and stability of various floating designs are discussed in detail, along with mooring systems and approach bridges. The concluding chapter contains case histories.



tiny homes over/near highway/train/transportation… “areas”

possibility of “reclaimed” public transportation land.. meaning turning a old road..into a tiny home community… it self… etc…

The pattern of urban development strongly affects sustainability—energy and water use, food production, waste generation and disposal, biodiversity and equal opportunity. So regional planning must be a tool in achieving sustainability. The traditional urban pattern was a cluster of activities that people do together (city downtowns and neighborhood centers) surrounded by residences in a density gradient. That remains the most sustainable pattern. After World War II, the automobile promoted a pattern of scattered activities and spread out residences. Most other countries resisted the spread and scattered pattern, though without complete success; the US has only begun to recentralize. Three strategies are proposed to recentralize: pricing goods and services to reflect sustainable needs, improving the magnetism of cities and legislating enforceable regional plans.


Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways, and Houses in America

By Keller Easterling


the real estate boom in California had driven up the price of that tiny home to $64,000 wanted
easy credit and lower inter- est rates to pay for their homes and consumer The clash between
Small Property and Big Government involved political forces and ideologies


Takings, Private Property and Public Rights

Sax, Joseph L. “Takings, Private Property and Public Rights.” The Yale Law Journal 81.2 (1971): 149-86. Web.



The pattern of urban development strongly affects sustainability—energy and water use, food production, waste generation and disposal, biodiversity and equal opportunity. So regional planning must be a tool in achieving sustainability. The traditional urban pattern was a cluster of activities that people do together (city downtowns and neighborhood centers) surrounded by residences in a density gradient. That remains the most sustainable pattern. After World War II, the automobile promoted a pattern of scattered activities and spread out residences. Most other countries resisted the spread and scattered pattern, though without complete success; the US has only begun to recentralize. Three strategies are proposed to recentralize: pricing goods and services to reflect sustainable needs, improving the magnetism of cities and legislating enforceable regional plans.


  • Regional planning;
  • Environmental conservation;
  • Sustainable cities;
  • Pricing environmental assets;
  • Smart growth

1. Traditional urban areas and current urban areas

When humans begin to build in natural areas, where they build and how they build affect sustainability:

How much energy is used

How much water is taken from the long-term supply

Available food supply

Air and water quality


Humane and equitable conditions for all.

Now, the pattern of development in the US is the greatest threat to sustainability.

Until about the end of World War II (1945), all human settlements followed the same pattern: activities people did together were in the center and homes circled around them. Picture a steel magnet as the activity center and iron filings as homes. Close to the magnet, the iron filings cluster densely; they taper off to lower and lower density as distance from the magnet increases—to a scattered few homes and, finally, no homes at all where the magnetism ends. That was the historic human settlement pattern—centers with communities forming around the centers. Some people chose to give up space in and around their home to be near the jobs and services in the center—living in high apartments and close-packed lower buildings. Some were willing to travel long distances to those activities in exchange for more space. Many chose a compromise between space and access, e.g. small homes close enough together to support convenient bus service.

The larger the center of activities (the magnet), the higher the density around it and the farther the homes extended out.

This pattern was created when walking was the only way to travel. It remained when animals were introduced to carry goods and people and when steam and electric propulsion moved people on trains. The automobile shattered the pattern.

When people could travel by car, individually and fast over great distances, many simply moved farther from the center and away from bus and train routes, though they continued to work downtown. But city centers were not made to handle two tons of machinery for every worker and every store customer. Cars freed people from having to use public transit, bicycles or their feet, but not from gathering all in the traditional place. City centers became increasingly clogged with cars—distressing the far greater number of pedestrians. Trucks moving to and from factory districts within the city center were stuck behind the lines of cars, raising manufacturing costs.

But since cars allow people to travel individually, they do not all have to work in the same place, the city center. Similarly, manufacturers could use trucks instead of trains and were freed from central railroad yards for goods and from the city center for employees. Goods could come and go by truck, employees by car. Right after World War II, factories began moving from the city center to highways outside the city.

As people moved their homes farther from the city center, stores also moved out of downtown. The first large shopping center in the suburbs outside New York City put a sign along the highway “We’re here because you’re here.”

When it was clear that factories could draw the employees outside the city center, offices began to move out, too. Employers expected workers to reach them wherever they located.

As the Interstate Highway system emerged, offices, factories and shopping clustered around its exits, hotels followed. Even when these resources were located around the same exit, large parking fields separated them. A car was needed to go from one to the other.

People became so accustomed to the comfort and convenience of the car that they avoided the city center despite its greater choice of jobs and services—until many city centers in the US lost their primacy to scattered suburban shopping centers and office parks. No longer were the three rules of real estate ‘location, location, location’. The car made location all but irrelevant. But the car itself demanded space. So the post-World War II pattern of urbanization was ‘spread city’—scattered destinations and spread out residences. People moved farther and farther from the city center and from each other, not always for country living but because the farther from the city center, the lower the cost of the home.

Centers of world cities—London, Tokyo, Paris, New York—have remained dynamic, but in smaller cities, especially those that specialized in manufacturing, the centers became partially empty, unable to compete with outlying shopping centers and industrial/office parks. Without magnetism at the center, residents who could move out usually did.

Many cities have lost half their pre-World War II population even as their metropolitan areas have increased in population.

2. Urban form and sustainability

It would seem that a scatter of homes through the countryside would be closer to a goal of living with nature than dense cities are, but compare the sustainability of spread city with the traditional centers and community, the steel magnet surrounded by iron filings.

2.1. Energy

Dense cities use less energy than suburbs and rural areas mainly because residents drive less but also because people inhabit less indoor space than is typical in individual homes, and less heat is lost per stacked-up housing unit. There is greater opportunity for co-generation, using the waste heat from electrical generation. Several studies have found that the higher the density, the lower the per capita energy use.

2.2. Water

Scattered development depends on ground water, which is only slowly replaced—and Americans are drawing down that resource seriously. City water typically comes from surface reservoirs, replaced with normal rainfall. In times of drought, use of water is readily monitored and controls can be established. By contrast, when suburbanites depend on ground water, each user is competing with neighbors during a drought, further mining the system.

Water would sink into the ground for re-use in the suburbs and exurbs (the more scattered outer development), but most homes are surrounded by grass, not by native plants; typically, much rain water runs off suburban grass into streams and rivers and into the sea.

2.3. Food

Most cities grew from farm centers, surrounded by fertile land. As suburbs and exurbs grow, food and fiber crops are replaced by ornamental crops, and farmers retreat farther and farther from the cities. All metropolitan areas in America have increased their urbanized area far faster than they have increased their population and households since World War II. There are two effects on sustainability: food for urban residents must be shipped longer distances (energy cost) and some of the best farmland is taken out of food production. To make up for the reduction of fertile land, farmers use more water and more fertilizer, gradually poisoning both the land and the water and drawing down the land’s long-term capacity to produce.

2.4. Air and water quality

Motor vehicles are the major source of air pollution, and vehicle miles of travel (VMT) increase sharply with the spread and scatter of metropolitan areas. Vehicles also pollute streams and rivers, leaving gasoline and oil and bits of rubber on roads, which wash into the nearby water.

Because a great deal of electric energy is lost in transmission, extended power lines mean more generation is required, with consequent air and often water pollution.

And those green lawns require heavy doses of fertilizer and pesticides; much runs off into streams.

2.5. Biodiversity

Human life depends on the whole array of plants, animals and insects that are part of the ecosystem. But humans are destroying the habitat needed by a wide range of those species, and the world is losing species rapidly. We do not know how many species can disappear without severe loss to human living conditions but we know that the ecosystem is in intricate balance, and that balance is disturbed by the pattern of metropolitan growth.

Habitat destruction is happening rapidly in suburbs and exurbs. Wildlife continues to abound but only those species that can ‘suburbanize’: deer, Canadian geese, raccoons, groundhogs, rats, mice. Suburban wildlife is out of control because natural enemies are unable to survive in the suburbs, driven away by the habitat changes. They require a large area where all of the plants, animals and insects they need for survival can thrive. Many city parks have healthier ecosystems than the partially rural exurbs that surround cities. Though there is still land enough for humans to cohabit with a wide range of other species, developers have ignored nature’s needs by scattering buildings and extending roads, cutting the open land into pieces that do not conform with the needed habitat.

2.6. Humane and equitable communities

In metropolitan areas in which most of the jobs have left the city center and scattered around the edges, city residents without cars are left with reduced economic opportunity. The US government established a fund to provide transportation from city residences to suburban jobs, but this assists a small number of unemployed. Furthermore, even those assisted do not have the freedom to look for a better job that has scattered somewhere else in the metropolitan area because their transportation is to and from their job, not likely to be walking distance to any other jobs they might want to seek. Higher education close to jobs offers a way to up, but they are not together in spread city.

When there are fewer jobs and services in the center, city living has no attraction. So those who can afford the suburbs have little reason to subject themselves to city crowdedness—there’s little payoff of easy and inexpensive access to jobs and services. That leaves mostly poor people and new immigrants isolated in many cities; the isolation further reduces their opportunity to get into the economic mainstream of America. Those left in the cities are stuck with inferior services and high local taxes, without much government or business help. Cities with large percentages of low-income households have little political clout, and there are few businesses to help. What most old cities miss is illustrated by what some remaining businesses provide. For example, Prudential kept its headquarters in Newark through the City’s darkest days. It paid $8.5 million in taxes in 1971, employed nearly 1500 Newark residents, about 45% black and/or Hispanic, headed the United Community Fund and United Hospital Fund drives, built and managed low-income apartments and built middle-income cooperative apartments.

3. Accommodating growth in a centers-and-communities pattern

Small metropolitan areas can efficiently grow around a single business center that offers metropolitan-wide activities, with neighborhood centers offering day-to-day services like groceries and hardware. But very large metropolitan areas need a variation.

Tokyo and Paris have grown subcenters, clusters of related businesses or services that can be linked to the principal metropolitan center by fast rail but can operate separately much of the time. Subcenters also attract housing as a magnet attracts iron filings. Subcenters are smaller magnets than the metropolitan center, so the density of housing in and around the subcenters is not likely to be as great.

Cergy-Pontoise, a subcenter of Paris, is an example. Just 30 min from the center of Paris, 20 min from the in-city subcenter of La Defense by fast suburban rail and national rail or motorway, near Charles de Gaulle airport, it has 3500 companies, 50,000 dwelling units, a university with 10,000 students yet has a quarter of its area in parks and open space and is a distinct community.

With such subcenters, the metropolitan pattern becomes like the night sky—stars and planets: the large metropolitan center surrounded by dense housing, the subcenters orbiting around it, linked to the metropolitan center by fast transit, and themselves attracting housing but less dense than the primary center’s. Both the metropolitan center and the subcenters have neighborhood centers orbiting around them with their own magnetic fields of housing. Some subcenters around Paris and Tokyo are surrounded by open countryside but still have fast access to the center. By siphoning off growth to subcenters around the regional center, with subcenter development tapering off into open country, natural areas and farmland can be kept near all metropolitan residents.

After World War II, the United Kingdom tried to decentralize London by greatly limiting development in a green belt around the developed City and suburbs. They planted new towns around the outside of the green belt. The new towns were to be self-contained, not part of the metropolitan London economy. But the towns were small, with little choice of jobs or workforce or services. So, many residents ended up traveling through the greenbelt every day to benefit from the metropolitan economy in or close to the center. The new towns were planned communities but unplanned subcenters of London.

A large metropolitan area that grows by subcenters provides a safety factor in case the central city suffers a disaster. Large firms in the regional downtown can maintain an office and records in an outlying but rail-linked downtown. After September 11, some Lower Manhattan firms did find subordinate office space outside Manhattan, but few, if any, chose an outlying downtown. The center-subcenter arrangement might well be as secure as any possible pattern. A large isolated office campus in the countryside would be hard to secure, as would offices clustered around an expressway interchange or in a spread out office park in a sea of asphalt covered with cars.

In 1983, Regional Plan Association surveyed 12 corporate headquarters in the New York Metropolitan area, four on large suburban campuses, four in subcenters and four in the regional center, Manhattan. Employees in the Manhattan headquarters used by far the least fossil fuel getting to work though they spent the longest time traveling; those traveling to campuses spent the least time but the most fuel; subcenter executives spent a little more time getting to work than those going to campuses, clerical workers spent the same amount of time and together they used 3/4ths as much fossil fuel getting there as those going to campuses. Visitors to the offices traveled much less distance to Manhattan and subcenter headquarters than to campus offices.

4. Reshaping American metropolitan areas

New York has some subcenters in a pattern pursued by Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning group that proposed a galaxy of subcenters in the 1960s and has pursued that goal ever since. Stamford, CT, White Plains, NY, and New Brunswick, NJ, have followed the Regional Plan proposal. On Long Island, just east of New York City—flat land that absorbed rapidly built suburbs after World War II until it is now ‘built out’—the County Executive has belatedly decided that its 1.4 million residents need a downtown in the center. Regional Plan had designed a downtown for the County 40 years ago when the land was vacant. Since then, all the elements of a downtown have migrated toward the center of the County, but these elements were built separately, so they are each surrounded by huge parking fields and must now be connected by transit as well as pedestrianways. Elsewhere in the US, some suburban shopping centers have added office towers, hotels and entertainment but the combined downtown elements do not magnetize a community because they are still along highways and surrounded by asphalt, not by a density gradient of housing.

There also is a movement toward traditional walking-scale neighborhoods, called New Urbanism, and a movement toward ‘Transit-Oriented-Development’—clustering a few businesses at suburban railroad stations with somewhat dense housing around that. There is strong public support for purchasing open space to stop new building in open country, even if it adds taxes. A number of old city downtowns are attracting households without children, particularly the lively centers of New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston but recently smaller metropolitan areas—Minneapolis, Denver, even Cleveland.

So there is some movement back to centers-and-communities, but these are relatively small victories, and we are losing the war. By far the most urban growth is scattered through the countryside, multiplying the urbanized land per household. For example, New Jersey, which has pioneered with a State Plan that calls for recentralization and has encouraged Transit-Oriented-Development, nevertheless lost 90,000 acres of farmland and forest to subdivisions, office parks and cleared lots in the 5 years 1995–2000, according to a Rutgers University study. That was the same rate of countryside invasion as the previous decade, and there is even faster invasion of the forested areas of the Highlands, from which much of the State’s drinking water comes.

Returning to the traditional urban pattern of strong neighborhood, city and metropolitan centers in the US will require policy changes.

5. Strategies toward recentralization

If the public were persuaded that global warming, depletion of water, soil, minerals and energy are significant threats, it would be easy to make the case for recentralization. But Americans do not seem to be aware of these threats or do not care what happens to their offspring or expect that ‘they’ will come up with a technological fix. Because the public does not seem ready to change, Congress and the President are not ready to propose strong policies to achieve sustainable urban areas. Two bills are being debated simultaneously in Congress: an energy bill that promotes fossil fuel use and the Climate Stewardship Act, which would do the opposite.

Until a strong majority is persuaded that sustainable practices are essential and that recentralized urban areas are an important step toward it, three other strategies might promote recentralization.

5.1. Getting the prices right

There is general agreement, politically right and left, that the price system is a way to allow the freest consumer choice and most efficient production. The trouble is, current prices ignore sustainability—i.e. the future costs of today’s decisions. The value of soil, water and minerals that are being depleted, the disintegration of the oceans’ productivity, the likely damages of climate change, the loss of environmental services from habitat destruction and from the ravages of invasive species resulting from loss of biodiversity—none of these costs is reflected in current prices. Current prices do not even reflect the certain rise in the price of energy, minerals and food as production limits are reached.

In addition, taxpayers are actually subsidizing production and consumption of products and services that reduce sustainability. For example, those couples living in the new mini-mansions sprouting throughout metropolitan suburbs and exurbs are subsidized substantially by tax exemptions for their mortgage interest and their real estate taxes—subsidies far greater than low-income households receive for housing. The result is high energy used to heat and cool a great deal of space per person, more land covered and lots of water, pesticide and fertilizer runoff from sweeping lawns.

The pattern of development is shaped in large part by fragmentation of local government on the outskirts of cities. Where these local governments control land use and are responsible for raising school taxes, the municipalities have usually made their decisions on a financial basis—attracting factories, offices and stores that do not send anyone to school and resisting housing, especially for moderate-income households, that do have school children. The result is long-distance commuting by car to scattered jobs the suburbs have attracted from homes pushed far away by suburban zoning. Minneapolis—St Paul Metropolitan area and the Meadowlands across the Hudson River from Manhattan have instituted tax-sharing programs among the municipalities. That allows rational land-use to be considered ahead of school taxes.

Transportation subsidies distort development the most—movement of both humans and freight. There have been a few studies of the out-of-pocket taxpayer costs of driving—money spent on patrolling, building and repairing roads beyond what road-users pay in taxes. Brookings Institution calculated that only 58.9% of highway costs were paid from motorist-based charges [1]. That means that gasoline taxes and other fees for vehicle drivers would have to be increased more than two thirds to pay their way. Analyzing the “Federal Highway Administration Cost Allocation Study: Final Report” (1997), they found that autos contribute 70% of their cost, single-unit trucks weighing more than 50,000 pounds pay only 40% (but lighter trucks pay 150%). The large subsidy to large trucks gives them a price advantage over railroad and waterborne freight movement. A 1994 study of New York State (1991 data) by Komanoff Energy Associates found that 35% of funds spent to provide for trucks and cars were paid from general funds, not motorists—so road users of New York State should be paying 50% more taxes and fees than they do. Because trucks do greater damage to roads—over 50,000 pounds, they do 10,000 times the road damage of a 3500 pound car—they are subsidized even more than cars, and ocean and air freight are heavily subsidized as well. The result is not only more transport energy used than shippers might have been willing to pay without the subsidy, but also—because the price of goods is lowered by freight subsidies—more goods are produced and imported, with attendant environmental cost. It is puzzling that a nation losing manufacturing jobs to other countries would, as the US does, subsidize freight from overseas.

A 2001 calculation: worldwide, “…governments intervene in the marketplace to create $860 billion in perverse subsidies,” those subsidies have a demonstrable negative effect both economically and environmentally [2].

None of this includes the tremendous environmental costs of transportation—air and water pollution, habitat disruption and a large contribution to global warming. Nor does it include the cost of lost time from road congestion (calculated at over $14 billion in 2005 in New York State—not the worst congested part of the US), according to the nonprofit Community Consulting Services. They also estimated the environmental cost of travel in New York State in 2005: $38.6 billion, including health and other damages of air pollution, health and productivity losses from noise, vibration damage to roads and buildings, and accident costs not paid by insurance [3].

A team from the University of Minnesota estimated dollar values for some of the unpriced impacts of driving, based on others’ studies as well as their own analysis [4]. Adding the cost of air pollution’s damage to health, other damages of air pollution, noise (calculated from the lowered value of homes near noisy roads), time lost in congestion and accident, fire and robbery costs paid for by the public, the dollar value of these was set somewhere between 3.4 cents per vehicle mile and 23.5 cents—most likely about 7.3 cents. For a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, that ‘most likely’ 7.3 cents would add nearly $2 a gallon were vehicle owners to pay the environmental and social costs. And that does not include the environmental cost of habitat destruction diminishing biodiversity or the cost of pollution generated in producing vehicles and their fuel.

Environmental Defense, one of the world’s largest environmental advocacy organizations, has just begun publishing a newsletter called Envestors update, “to communicate the message that the marketplace can help protect the environment.”

Ignoring these subsidies and environmental and social costs encourages individual decisions that promote sprawl and limit recentralization. Households moving far from their jobs to get cheaper housing is one example. They would not find the total package of housing and travel cheaper were they charged the real costs of driving—further, their house would cost more if the environmental damage of its location were included in the price, e.g. the habitat interruption caused by scattered homes in open countryside and the extra cost of serving it with electricity and mail.

If we are going to leave the urban pattern to the sum of individual decisions, sustainability can only be improved if we get the prices right. Putting dollar values on environmental assets is being done world wide—by other nations and the UN—but was prohibited by Congress in the early 1990s when the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce had begun to do it. Congress asked the National Research Council to study the value of environmental accounting and tell them whether to continue the Bureau’s activities. The report, Nature’s Numbers, strongly recommended continuation [5]. It has not happened. As a result, our Gross Domestic Product celebrates the price paid for goods sold but not the cost of assets decreased, and in individual decisions, those environmental assets are ignored.

We are edging into pricing environmental assets. The ‘cap and trade’ system of regulating air quality begins to price the capacity of air to absorb wastes by allowing a polluting business to buy the right to pollute from a business that is reducing its waste stream into the air. While cap-and-trade experts say this has nothing to do with valuing environmental assets, it does put dollar value on the asset of air’s capacity to absorb wastes. A second current movement toward putting a price on a formerly ignored cost is road pricing by time of day with tolls adjusted to congestion, recognizing the value of time wasted by highway delays. This movement is racing ahead, impelled, in part, by states privatizing highway expansion. The European Union, where gasoline taxes already are several times those in the US, is trying to get the price of travel even more closely aligned with the full economic and social costs by using weight-distance user fees which would replace but be higher than current gas taxes.

5.2. Strengthening the magnetism in city center

With the rapid increase in households without children, the high density of city living is less of a deterrent—if living at high density is rewarded. The cities that offer rewards of arts, continuing education, entertainment, the best health care and good retailing—particularly those cities that have not lost their office jobs—seem to be attracting residents again. A recent book found “elements of downtown or near-downtown revivals” in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Portland, OR, and Vancouver, BC. And among the new residents, “people under 40 for whom the suburbs hold no appeal [6]”.

The Smart Growth Network—the US Environmental Protection Agency with a number of environmentally oriented non-governmental organizations—recently wrote this:

“Recent trends in the global economy—industrial clustering and specialization, diversification of the workforce, reintegration of work and home—are placing a premium upon community character and quality of life. Companies are on the move and being drawn to communities that offer a good quality of life. Why? First, companies realize that their workers want to live in communities that offer reasonable commutes, a vibrant social life, environmental amenities, housing and transportation choice. To retain and attract their employees, companies must locate in such environments. Second, business is increasingly conducted beyond the boardroom—in cafes, restaurants, health clubs, public spaces, etc.—places where people can come together, converse, share ideas and network. The suburban office park, filled with buildings and cars, but with few destinations, is becoming an outmoded venue for conducting business. Lastly, the private sector in the new economy equates competitive advantage with the ability of being where the action is and to them the action is in urban or town centers. Although technology frees them to locate anywhere, it is proximity to suppliers, a workforce and networks that is drawing business to the central business district (CBD).”

“The emphasis on place presents enormous opportunities for communities to capitalize on their quality of life assets and to employ them as a tool for economic development. Doing so requires communities to think of quality of life as a commodity that can be cultivated and managed. Communities need to make strategic decisions that improve rather than harm livability and make them lucrative places for business, and labor to locate. The new economy values distinctive places that have the talent, technology and infrastructure to sustain competitive advantage. Talent is attracted to sociable communities—places with destinations, public and civic spaces, environmental amenities—where they can come together with colleagues and friends either through planned or chance encounters… Aside from communication infrastructure, the new economy demands physical infrastructure that reduces the cost of business. This means buildings that can be quickly reconfigured and constructed, housing of varying types and costs, development patterns that are predictable, and transportation systems which increase mobility [7].”

To achieve this attractiveness for the new economy, many cities require some redesigning. After World War II, most cities tried to respond to the competition of highway-based suburban development by copying it—cutting wide swaths through the urban fabric or engineering existing streets to maximize auto flow. Now, cities are being guided back to designs that fit their primary function, to bring people (not cars) together. A principal guide is Project for Public Spaces (www.pps.org), a nonprofit organization that grew out of the research of William H. Whyte, Jr on how people use urban spaces. Cities throughout the world, but principally in the US, have learned from PPS how to organize the public to look at their neighborhoods and city centers as places they want to inhabit and then design those places for convenience and for the pleasure of people on foot. PPS has even persuaded city traffic engineers that moving cars should not always be the prime purpose of streets. The New Jersey and New Hampshire Departments of Transportation have engaged PPS to help them broaden the range of considerations in planning the movement of people and freight to include the human habitation through which travel arteries run. The current jargon is “Context-Sensitive Design” and “traffic calming.”

A recent study by S.B. Friedman & Company of new clusters of activity around transit stations “found that a rider’s decision to walk [to the station] is affected by a ‘pleasant walking atmosphere’—defined as an interconnected network of streets (with sidewalks) and a continuous architectural fabric, with stores next to the station”—not parking lots or parks [8].

Recent reduction of crime in cities certainly facilitates downtown renewal, but after decades of losing out to the suburbs, city centers may need a large jolt to reverse the downward cycle. One large office building or arts center may not be enough, and few entrepreneurs are able to invest in a moribund downtown alone. Under that circumstance, assembling a coalition of investors willing to make concurrent commitments—“if you do this, I’ll do that”—would be needed to turn the downtown around. This requires cooperation of the national, state and local governments, business and important institutions like universities and hospitals. They should come together and agree on what each party will contribute. Johnson & Johnson did that to renew the City of New Brunswick, New Jersey, where their world headquarters is. They started an organization that included members of the nearby neighborhoods as well as business and institutions. They got the State government to build a new road into downtown, the federal government to subsidize a hotel, the City government to fix up the main shopping street, Rutgers University to put its art school and art center in an empty department store and build a new medical school downtown, the County government to enlarge a downtown hospital. Johnson & Johnson built new offices downtown for a subsidiary corporation. When all of that happened, Johnson & Johnson built the new headquarters downtown. Each made a commitment because all the others did. It required all of their contributions to renew a very rundown center.

Buffalo, NY, which has been beset with large job losses, this year, received an American Planning Association award for doing much the same. “Overall, the [downtown] plan—and the process of planning—have done what any good plan must do: alleviate the uncertainties that inhibit private investment,” according to Bradshaw Hovey, who was involved in the plan and reported on it for the Planning Association [9]. “Blue Cross of Western New York plans to build a new headquarters for 1200 employees… A developer will build a new mixed-use project on a Theater District site long underused as surface parking. Bass Pro Shops will build a 250,000-square-foot Outdoor World in a shell of Buffalo’s historic Memorial Auditorium,” Hovey reported. In addition, three new medical campus facilities, a new US courthouse and several housing projects will be built.

5.3. Arguing the case for enforceable regional plans

But even these two strategies will not stop the scatter through the countryside. Nor will the many effective local efforts at environmental protection, led primarily by non-governmental organizations. For example, in the New York Region, the Wildlife Conservation Society works with local officials to design a development pattern that will preserve the animal and plant life that was there before development. But there are 780 local governments in the New York Region, each with land-use authority. Only a regional plan could shape the area into centers and communities.

Opponents of regional planning argue that it would be expensive economically and socially because a regional plan runs counter to what most people have chosen in their individual free-market decisions. That is not necessarily true. Free market choices people make individually do not always add up to choices they might make as a community and cannot make as individuals. For example, some people would choose to live in an apartment or on a smaller lot IF there were a reward for giving up space in and around their home, i.e. if giving up living space would result in shorter trips to where they want to go often. (Many people responding to Regional Plan Association questionnaires said they would choose to live at higher density if they could be closer to their work and services they needed.) In spread city, a household gets no benefit from giving up housing space. Everything is scattered at a distance, reachable only by car. So the households that would choose higher density to be near their jobs and other activities or to be in a lively place often cannot get it in the open market. They must work politically with other people to agree on a plan that would achieve the pattern they would choose. The families that would live in an old city if it had good schools, adequate parks and safe streets also must get that through community decision-making; they cannot attain it alone through the market. A regional plan helps to achieve that—as Portland, OR, demonstrates.

No one has arrayed the full panoply of problems resulting from the current plan-less spread and scatter. Were all the problems presented, a majority might well decide that their individual decisions were not adding up to a satisfactory condition. The Smart Growth Network argues the case for better urban planning, but the coalition has refused to define ‘smart growth’ and has not arrayed all the reasons to adopt it that might mobilize a broad coalition of support.

Environmental protection and improved opportunity for low-income residents (discussed above) are the strongest but not the only arguments for recentralization. In addition,


With central destinations, there is an alternative to traffic congestion not available without them, i.e. public transit. Regional Plan Association studied the conditions that encourage people to use transit instead of driving. A large, strong downtown surrounded by housing in a density gradient was the condition that attracted the most people to choose bus or rail to work. High housing density near jobs and services allows people to walk to work. In 1995, about 25% of Manhattan residents did; nearly a third of all Manhattan trips are on foot. In spread city, distances generally are too great for walking along roads not designed for people on foot or bicycles, and people are not going to the same places so they cannot ride together even when highways become jammed.


When the general public uses public transit there is good service for those who cannot drive or should not drive, including people too poor, too old or too young. In spread city, the old and young are immobilized by the spread and scattered pattern. Distances are too great for walking, roads are often too narrow and dangerous for biking, and too few people are going to the same place to ride together in a bus. The number of accidents involving drivers over 75, per mile driven, is very high “What happens to older people when they stop driving in the US?“ This was the question that spurred a new study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) that examined travel behavior of the 65+ population, based on recently released data from the Federal Highway Administration, the National Household Transportation Survey of 2001 (NHTS): 21 percent of the 65+ do not drive, and “61% of older non-drivers stay home on a given day in more spread-out areas, as compared to 43% in denser areas. More than half of older non-drivers use public transportation occasionally in denser areas, as compared to 1 in 20 in more spread-out areas.” With an expected increase in the 65+ population from 35 million today to 62 million by 2025, these issues will grow. Teen-agers too young to drive may also be immobilized, or their parents spend hours driving them places [10]. For working people, the cost of operating a car had become a major burden even before gasoline prices rose, according to STPP studies—and that does not cover the full public costs of their driving.


Money is saved by using and maintaining the tremendous investment already in the cities rather than letting city buildings and infrastructure deteriorate because higher-income people have moved out. New construction outside the cities also is less expensive in a centers-and-communities pattern than in a sprawl pattern. Florida contracted with James Duncan & Associates to compare actual public costs, capital and operating, of eight patterns of development [11]. Costs varied from $9252 for the central city development to $23,960 per unit in the most spread and scattered development with a range in between for those less spread and scattered. Even developments along highways cost over $16,000. (All in 1989 dollars) New Jersey has a State plan that tries to promote centers-and-communities. A Rutgers University study found that, by following that plan instead of allowing sprawl, the State and its cities and schools could save $1.3 billion in water and sewer lines, roads and electric lines and save $400 million a year in operating costs. Several studies are cited in Joel Hirschhorn, “GROWING PAINS: Quality of Life in the New Economy” [12]: (1) The US Office of Technology Assessment estimated that sprawl adds 10–20% to infrastructure costs (1995). (2) In South Florida, infrastructure costs of $10.5 billion over 20 years could have been reduced to $6.15 billion [13] (3) In the next 20 years (from 1999), Rhode Island will pay an extra $1.5 billion, 29.6% extra, for infrastructure as well as lost property taxes—54.6% more in cities, 14.8% in suburbs [14]. (4) “Local governments spend $120 million extra a year [15]. (5) Looking at all US studies: Compact growth uses 45% less land, 25% less cost for roads, 20% less for utilities, 5% less for schools [16] (6) The US Housing and Urban Development Department found very similar numbers in ‘State of the Cities”, 1999. Downtowns are efficient places to do business, especially as business becomes more complex so a wider range of experts and administrators must get together frequently. Travel in large downtowns may be slow, compared to driving among outlying offices, but downtown there are many more people within a square 15 min.


Centers of activities contribute to a sense of community—whether they are the large metropolitan downtown, smaller city downtowns or neighborhood and suburban centers. People using the centers live around them and identify with them. Even if they drive there, once in the center they get out and walk and see each other face-to-face. More people live close enough together so they see their neighbors. They use transit more and meet at transit stops. By contrast, in outlying subdivisions, households live on large lots, are in their car when they leave the house and, with the scatter of jobs and services, probably go different directions from their neighbors—or their spouse, for that matter—to work, to shop, to recreate, to pray. They share little with their neighbors—except a common interest in keeping out new homes because they will bring too much traffic. “Community is of significant value to cultural conservatives, for very good reason. Without it, there are few mechanisms to uphold morals and maintain standards of behavior. …If you do not know your neighbor, why should he care if you disapprove of his misbehavior? Historically, transit helped foster community, just as the automobile helps undermine it. The reason is that when most people took transit, they normally walked from their homes to the bus or streetcar stop. Other people from the neighborhood were doing the same, and as they walked and at the car stop, they met face to face. …In contrast the automobile works to isolate neighbors [17].” The late George F. Kennan expressed the same theme: “The automobile has turned out to be…the enemy of community generally. Wherever it advances, neighborliness and the sense of community are generally impaired [18].” In the wake of the Columbine High School shootings, The New York Times surveyed a range of social scientists and found much agreement that: “…the isolation of larger lots and a car-based culture may lead to disassociation from the reality of contact with other people.”


Because spread city scatters everything, it goes on and on without any clear boundaries. Despite local government authority over land use, spread city residents do not have effective control over their real environment because they constantly travel beyond their local borders in all directions. So there is no logical border for a local government. In spread city, people are governing each other as much as they are governing themselves. For example, the ugly stores along the highway that they must drive by every day may bother them, but it is likely that the decision to allow those stores to be located there was made by someone else’s local government, and they did not have a vote. By contrast, centers-and-communities create a clear area of common interest that can govern itself.


Spread city is ugly. It has no clear shape, and that in itself is ugly. It turns countryside into driveways every few hundred yards, it requires huge parking fields, wide roads, multiple garages and cars parked everywhere. Stores along the highways must attract drivers with large signs because they are driving by at 50 miles an hour.


Centers-and-communities are healthy because they facilitate walking and bicycling—while roads in spread development are often too dangerous, resulting in little exercise. Fewer vehicle miles traveled equal fewer accidents. Studies on this subject are proliferating. A website summarizes peer-reviewed studies showing the link between walkable communities and health: http://www.activelivingresearch. A study based on census data covering 200,000 Americans in 448 metropolitan area counties found that those living “in spread out auto-dependent areas walk less, weigh more (an average of 6 pounds) and are more prone to high blood pressure than residents of the most densely populated places [19].”


Centers-and-communities offer choice of lifestyle. If activities are together in the center, everyone has a choice of living at high density near the center or having a lot of space but living far from the center. New York City is an example of how the magnetism works. People pack themselves into tiny apartments in skyscraper buildings and pay high rent to be near all the jobs and services and excitement of Manhattan. Others choose a lot of space but travel a long time to get to work. Still others choose a small plot with a medium-length commute. In spread city, there is no way to be near all the places you want to go to often—they are scattered.

Most people don’t know all those reasons. Their car is comfortable and convenient so they drive. The more people drive, the more buildings are spread out to accommodate the car. And eventually, everything is spread and scattered so all trips have to be by car. That process will continue until more people understand the several benefits of recentralization. While the sustainable issues are of prime importance, the additional nine reasons to recentralize provide a basis to enlarge a coalition in support that might get the issue onto the public agenda for debate. Just as people suddenly became appalled when a person lit a cigarette in a public building, informed people could become appalled when someone proposes to put an office building or large store anywhere except in a downtown.

6. Urban practice and sustainabilty: how we build

Though strong cities improve the sustainability of metropolitan areas, they do not live comfortably with nature. The vast hard surfaces of streets and buildings create heat islands that make summer temperatures more uncomfortable than suburban locales. Most cities combine storm water with sewerage, overwhelming the sewage plants during heavy rains so raw sewage flows into waterways. Even with fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT) than in the suburbs, autos, trucks and buses packed into the dense city produce bad air. Few buildings are designed for optimum airflow so most depend on mechanical air conditioning at all times.

While city living uses less of the world’s critical assets than spread and scattered development, city performance is hardly sustainable. Cities can be built more sustainable—in four steps.

6.1. Deconstruction

Sustainable construction begins with preparing the building site; almost all city sites are already occupied. Instead of bringing in a bulldozer, reducing the structure to rubble and carting it off, deconstruction takes most of it apart and finds uses for the parts. Recent experience in a few places suggests that the extra cost to the builder can be matched by the benefits. As the price of disposing of wastes rises rapidly, the cost-benefit ratio for deconstruction is likely to improve. To the local community, one benefit is that the money paid out for deconstruction goes to semi-skilled workers in the vicinity rather than to the far away dumping ground owner and the truckers who carry the waste there. Another benefit is much less pollution, air, water and noise. Here is an example of social as well as environmental costs ignored in the construction industry’s choices. Were the social costs of inner-city unemployment added to the environmental costs of demolition instead of deconstruction, the cost-benefit ratio of deconstruction would surely be better.

Deconstruction is no small item. The NYC Department of Sanitation estimates that 60% of the City’s waste stream is made up of construction and demolition debris [20].

There are obstacles to adopting deconstruction. Building sites often are too tight to conveniently store harvested materials until they can be carried to a place to be sold. Urban land for a retail sales yard is expensive and hard to find. Deconstruction takes longer than demolition and so requires more planning and care than builders usually allocate to this task. Much of the real benefit does not accrue to the builder but to society as a whole. For example, builders are not charged for the environmental pollution of demolition nor for the environmental costs of producing the new materials that compete with deconstructed harvest. Further, producing many raw materials is subsidized. But there is no subsidy to promote deconstruction, which will attain greater efficiency with practice and so, merits a jumpstart subsidy.

Currently, one of New York’s biggest real estate investors, Durst, using one of the City’s biggest construction firms, Tishman, has been deconstructing structures on two Manhattan building sites. Philadelphia is using deconstruction on a large public housing project. Labor and construction industry leaders are beginning to pay attention.

6.2. High performance building

The US Green Building Council has established a rating system by which the environmental quality of new and renovated buildings can be measured. It is called LEED, and buildings are rated as Platinum, Gold or Silver, depending on points earned for:

deconstruction to minimize demolition wastes—percent of materials put back into use; percent of previously used materials used in the building, whether from that site or other sites;

percent of new building materials obtained within 200 miles, minimizing environmental costs of shipping;

re-use of slightly dirty (gray) water, e.g. for toilets and watering landscape, and reduction in clean water used;

minimizing or eliminating storm water run off;

cleanliness of indoor air, including minimizing ‘off-gassing’ of materials used in floors, floor covering, paints, upholstery;

total energy used and how much is provided from alternative energy sources.

Interest in competing for LEED rating is increasing since its 2000 inception, but still only 1400 in the US have applied for certification and only 120 have been certified. However, a single builder (Tishman) in New York City is constructing 42 million square feet of office and apartment towers and aiming at platinum and gold LEED ratings. Daniel Tishman, the CEO, said recently: to do that requires fundamentally changing the way buildings are conceived, built and operated.

A recent California survey of nationwide studies of the economics of high performance buildings demonstrates that they repay the extra costs over the life of the building in energy and water saving. In schools, studies of performance of teachers and students show significantly reduced absences and raised test scores in high-performance schools. If that performance improvement is the same in office buildings, occupants will easily be repaid in raised productivity for any higher rent.

The non-profit Center for Economic & Environmental Partnership (CEEP) conducted a survey of obstacles to adopting high-performance building standards. Its report is at http://www.ceepinc.org. The obstacles start with resistance to change, including fear that it will cost more and take longer. Also, many professionals in the building industry lack awareness and information. Some zoning and building codes interfere. There is lack of information about materials, and, sometimes, good materials are not readily available. Some regulations take away incentives to achieving greater energy efficiency or actually block it. In addition, builders do not get financial credit for facilitating what benefits the whole community, e.g. recycling water and preventing water runoff. Union rules sometimes block the most efficient methods, though unions now are taking strong interest in sustainable construction’s social benefits. Trade unions have allied themselves with environmental organizations in the Apollo Alliance, nationally and in many local areas, to achieve energy independence in America by many means including construction of high performance energy efficient buildings.

Other obstacles: Even when there would be long-term savings, the builder often does not hold the building long enough to reap them. Few in the general public know about high-performance building benefits, so owners cannot easily ask higher rent or purchase price.

There are still many unknowns; people working toward high-performance buildings are pioneering. For example, possible toxicity of indoor materials is not easily found, and improvements in materials and construction methods are being made every day.

6.3. Green roofs

Imagine a city in which the natural area that was on the ground before the building was constructed is now on its roof. While research on the effects of green roofs is not decisive, it appears that they better insulate the building from cold and heat, absorb rain water to reduce runoff, last longer than the usual roof and bring nature back into the City, including birds and insects and vegetation that absorbs air pollution. The large Chicago City Hall green roof has become widely known, and the Mayor of Chicago vows to bring gardens to many more roofs in the City. In New York, Queens Botanical Garden is building an impressive green roof, and several smaller ones are completed. They are promoted by a non-profit organization called EarthPledge, which has a model on its own headquarters on East 38th Street in Manhattan.

6.4. High-performance maintenance

Better maintenance can reduce energy and water use in both old buildings and new. New high-performance buildings rely heavily on electronic controls. Keeping the high-performance qualities relies, then, on the maintenance team being educated enough to make sure everything is running properly.

For older buildings, little attention has been paid to ways to reduce energy and water use through better maintenance. The potential is great. A few universities outside New York have begun to focus on building maintenance: Texas A&M and University of Colorado have institutes devoted to it. They report energy savings of 20–30% with little capital investment, mainly improving operations. City University of New York’s Sustainable Building Initiative is promoting similar energy saving laboratories there.

7. Conclusion

Recentralizing American urban areas with surrounding housing in a density gradient around the large and small centers would be the greatest contribution to more sustainable urban areas. Three steps can move the US toward recentralizing: (1) ending anti-sustainable subsidies, including environmental and social assets not now priced, (2) strengthening the magnetism of city centers by improving their attractiveness as places for people to meet while organizing public, private and non-profit agencies to concurrently commit to downtown investment, and (3) making the case for regional planning by arraying the many powerful reasons for recentralization which are not now recognized together. It may seem quixotic to think we can reverse the strong centrifugal forces created by the automobile in the US, but there is strong public support for buying open land, some residential return to cities by the childless and a good deal of negative discussion of sprawl and its auto congestion. If people begin to grasp the depletion of environmental assets and the threat of global warming—as European business and government leaders now have, recentralization would be on the nation’s agenda and could be backed by a broad coalition because many interests would be helped. Banning smoking in public places took only about a decade—from smoke-filled meeting rooms and public transport to handful of smokers standing outside smoke-free office buildings. Within a decade, people might be ready to ban scattered stores and offices and spread out homes.


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Tel.: +1 212 817 7246; fax: +1 212 817 1511.


William B. Shore is Senior Fellow, Institute for Urban Systems, City University of New York. From 1961 to 1996 he was a senior staff member of the Regional Plan Association, a non-governmental organization and the only agency planning land-use and transportation for the Tri-State Region surrounding the Port of New York. Mr Shore wrote reports and press releases and presented audio-visual demonstrations of the Region’s development and alternative ways to grow. He experimented with several forms of public participation and wrote extensively about it. He is executive secretary of Nature Network, a coalition of major scientific and educational organizations that promotes joint research and public education on the Tri-State environment. He is secretary of the DMZ Forum, an international organization dedicated to preserving the Korean De-Militarized Zone as an environmental laboratory and a source for restoring biodiversity to both North and South Korea, as well as a Peace Park. Mr Shore is a co-founder and a member of the Sustainable Building Initiative of the City University of New York.


does communications technologies allow you to work “anywhere”…

yet is it still done.. in a “setting” of a “community”…

Families and Farmhouses in Nineteenth-Century America: Vernacular Design and social change …

By Sally McMurry


Money is saved by using and maintaining the tremendous investment already in the cities rather than letting city buildings and infrastructure deteriorate because higher-income people have moved out. New construction outside the cities also is less expensive in a centers-and-communities pattern than in a sprawl pattern.

does a new model for “city development” involve.. being able to .. “adapt” to… changes..in social conditions… without… “forcing” anyone to leave… or stay… “…

meaning.. why would.. people…look for new land to.. “acquire” to build “new”. projects.. if they could change the projects they already…invested in…

i believe tiny homes.. are just that…

meaning… they are easy to change.. and move..and build… “no big money… just… “good old fashion… community building”… with local resources…etc..

this allows… for “better debate or “capitalistic bargaining of” the big projects”.. not.. weaken it…

other than that… why not just build the earth into a highway… the whole earth.. and then… have everybody live their whole life in cars… they never get out of… where everything is a “drive thru”…

and fix it with brawndo…

no comment…

i give you permission to tell me.. who i am and what to do….?

ed’cated… in tit ionalized… lif….back to.. the shoolfer..

“gotta have a multipass…” to say anything…

sure d’ers a song in dere… somewhere…?

pinks slips….

did you mean A’s…….

Common Property as a Concept in Natural Resources Policy Symposium On Natural Resource Property Rights
Ciriacy-Wantrup, S. V.; Bishop, Richard C.


It is easy to show that the class is not a null class. Recall the game of tick-tack-toe. Consider the problem, “How can I win the game of tick-tack-toe?” It is well known that I cannot, if I assume (in keeping with the conventions of game theory) that my opponent understands the game perfectly. Put another way, there is no “technical solution” to the problem. I can win only by giving a radical meaning to the word “win.” I can hit my opponent over the head; or I can drug him; or I can falsify the records. Every way in which I “win” involves, in some sense, an abandonment of the game, as we intuitively understand it. (I can also, of course, openly abandon the game—refuse to play it. This is what most adults do.)


“Freedom is the recognition of necessity”





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