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How superstar cities can continue to scale

Aaron Renn’s latest article in the Manhattan Institute is about how America’s top cities can “grow to new heights.” Usually when we talk about urban problems, it is because of failures. But in this case, it is about problems of success (though I suppose you could argue these are still failures).

Cities such as New York and San Francisco have, in his view, stopped thinking like growth cities and that is leading to high home prices and overburdened infrastructure. But we all know that these problems are not unique to only “superstar cities.”

Not surprisingly, Aaron argues that we need to stop implementing land use policies that only exacerbate our housing supply problems. Things like rent control and inclusionary zoning. And in some cases, it may be time for states to start intervening in local planning decisions.

For the full article, click here.

1 Comment so far

  1. Myron Nebozuk

    Hi Brandon,
    Thank you for this. At the end of the article, the Manhattan Institute helpfully lists their mission. It is “to develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility”. Got it.

    Although I appreciate and agree with the points made by the author, there is another factor that is increasingly acting to thwart the good, the innovative and the beautiful at the civic level. It is the ascendant generation of otherwise unemployable social justice types that are increasingly taking up positions in cities’ planning departments. In their quest to more equitably distribute resources and access to citizens, they also create a wake of mediocrity that is oblivious to learning from precedents or people who have achieved excellence (because history is bunk and excellence has typically come mostly from white males in the past). In my city, newly constructed bike lanes illustrate a new mode of thinking that is single minded and not open to iterative improvement. Most of our major city streets now have infrastructure in place for bicycles. Parking has been reduced, snow removal has become all but impossible and visual clutter has gone way up (every six feet, the bike lanes are announced by three foot tall fluorescent ‘lollipops’; these lollipops seem to say: “Hey stupid: stay out of the bike lane”. Contrast this visually cluttered and diminished experience of our streets with Vienna’s or Stockholm’s shared use pathways. Not a sign in place in those cities. Didn’t see a single pedestrian/ bike/ vehicle collision in either of those cities. When I brought up this disparity at a recent bike lane public forum, I requested that City staff study and learn from excellent built examples from elsewhere. The moderator deflected my request thus: “Sir: we are dedicated to providing a safe space for all participants in this forum; please rephrase your request to be less accusatory”.

    We used to be a society solved problems by debating issues. Now, we have to settle for making sure that the least informed person in each room doesn’t feel excluded or diminished.


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