Saturday, January 30, 2010


As my seventh month of blogging winds down, I recognize (and to a certain degree apologize) that my posts have been a bit more infrequent this past month. This is in no way an indication that I am retreating from the blogosphere, but it does reveal a few things:

- I'm quite a bit busier through work. At the beginning of the month, as I was transitioning from contracting to PFT work, I was juggling three jobs simultaneously. That has fortunately come to an end.

- I've become a bit pickier about photography. My mission is that all substantive blog posts will have at least one graphic, and I have no plans to deviate from that at this point, even though it often makes it much more difficult to develop a new topic. (It also makes my subject matter far more provincial than I had originally anticipated, since my work has not yet required me to travel at the level that I had expected that it would.) Sometimes I have to return to a site because I realize in hindsight that the photo just doesn't quite get the point across. Obviously this is time consuming.

- I'm getting a bit closer to suffering writer's block. This may explain more than anything why my posts have slowed down; I don't ever want to be completely tapped out. One way of preventing this is of course for me to travel more, which I have every intent of doing. Another of course is for the followers of my blog to continue the comments, or for those who never commented, to begin doing so. I welcome praise and criticism, as well as corrections if my observation is factually inaccurate. Thanks for all the support in the past, and help keep the dialogue continuing well into the future. Thanks again!


Anonymous said...

Why hasn't growth control gained traction in the midwest?

In California prop 13 limited prop tax growth to less than the inflation rate, that meant that housing didn't pay for itself. What a city collected in property taxes from housing didn't cover the cost of the new services demanded by the new residents. So cities were reluctant to zone for additional housing.

More recently, California passed AB 32 and SB 375 which together increased land use restrictions to limit global warming.

I am not sure that it will be effective in doing much to actually stop global warming, but discouraging new construction on the urban fringe has tended to help renew inner cities. Places like Oakland, Long Beach and downtown LA that previously had been wastelands came back because these were the places where it was easier to do development.

The cities in the midwest have really good bones. Most cities have grids, they have lots of pedestrian friendly mixed use neighborhoods that are set up for transit.

While much has been written about the problems in the City of Detroit, the Detroit region itself has had a fairly stable population.

I have wondered if cities in the midwest did more with growth control if the would function better?

Desmond said...

"Another of course is for the followers of my blog to continue the comments, or for those who never commented, to begin doing so. I welcome praise and criticism, as well as corrections if my observation is factually inaccurate."

Keep on writing - I highly enjoy reading American Dirt and find it one of the best sources of commentary on normal environments. Thanks for the effort and thought that you clearly put into this project.

AmericanDirt said...

I appreciate the comments and compliments!

Anonymous, you raise a legitimate concern which many regions in the US have addressed more vigorously than the Midwest. I have no doubt that urban growth boundaries help reorient development toward the center. However, would Oakland/downtown LA have revived REGARDLESS of growth boundaries simply because of latent interest in the great architecture and urban landscapes? Growth boundaries restrict land supply and if demand does not flag, prices will go up--sometimes exorbitantly (as in California, or, to a certain degree, Portland).

Indianapolis trumpets its affordability, which generally accompanies the lack of natural or legislative restrictions on growth. Most of the Midwest perceives its affordability to compensate for the relative lack of geographic appeal. Widespread discouraging of new exurban construction in a city like Indy may seriously curtail its affordability, removing one of its biggest trump cards.

However, the two words I try to avoid when analyzing social trends are "always" and "never". If Indy's growth is SOLELY attributable to its cheap housing costs, prices may not go up so much with growth boundaries. I'm not one to suggest blanket regulations across vast stretches of jurisdictions, but localized, democratic initiatives that achieve an incremental "monitoring" of growth quantity/quality may work better. Any other form of growth restriction in central Indiana will be hugely unpopular with the electorate. I've already talked about the Rural Historic District in Trader's Point, and I know that Shelby County SE of Indianapolis has engaged in farmland preservation initiatives that warrant further research on my part. Those may be the solution for Midwestern cities who want both urban character without sacrificing affordability (or demand to live there altogether). Then again, some may argue that this is elitism and NIMBYism writ large.

As for Detroit, I would agree it has good bones, at least in the areas where severe osteoporosis hasn't set in. But I'm afraid your assertions that the population is stable may no longer be true. After a rough 1970s and 1980s, it's true that metro Detroit stabilized and grew slightly in the 1990s. But most Census estimates suggest precipitous decline again in the past decade; some estimate that the entire state of Michigan will have lost population.