National Links: Old Buildings and Governance

Every day at The Overhead Wire, we collect news about cities and send the links to our email list. At the end of the week we take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

Stop fetishizing old buildings: UCLA researcher M. Nolan Gray believes we should stop fetishizing older homes while building new and more housing stock that’s safer and energy-efficient. While he’s not against historical design, the problem is that we continue to build less and less housing while paying more for housing that isn’t up to current standards such as ADA, and in California could fall in an earthquake. (M. Nolan Gray | The Atlantic)

Who really governs cities?: In his new book Constructing Community, Jeremey Levine discusses how the governance of American cities has changed away from traditional urban machine politics as the public sector atrophies. Jake Blumgart interviews Levine in part about the rise of non-profits and foundations that have overtaken the public sector in some aspects and govern from outside of established accountability such as elections. (Jake Blumgart | Governing)

Cities can fix broken sidewalks faster: In 2016, disability rights activists won a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles over the sad state of its sidewalks. The result is that the city is required to spend $1.4B over the next 30 years on sidewalks, but progress has been frustratingly slow. UCLA professor Donald Shoup suggests that the city can speed up the process by requiring sidewalks be ADA compliant before a home is sold, putting the onus on homeowners to make faster fixes to the 10,750 mile network. (Donald Shoup | Bloomberg CityLab)

Milan announces huge expansion of bike network: The Italian city of Milan has approved a plan to build a 750km (466mi) bike path network by 2035. The idea is to put 86% of the 1.4 million residents of the city within a kilometer of the bike network that includes four circular lines around the core and 16 radial lines. The program is expected to cost €225 million. (Ron Johnson | Momentum Mag)

Creating a concrete block alternative: Residents of Boise Idaho have been asked to separate plastics labeled #4 and #7 into separate containers in order to reuse the hard to recycle plastics in those categories. Compliance has been low, but the city still collects 30 tons of material each month which is compressed and steamed to create blocks with Lego like molds for stacking. The process creates no emissions and uses 100% of the materials which makes them incredibly eco-friendly. (Rain Noe | Core77)

Quote of the Week

“We’re in a moment of urgency that has to be focused on finding solutions rather than staying focused on potential barriers. Policies are up for policymakers to change and revise as meets the needs of the moment. And we have partners along city, state, and federal government who are ready to go all in on this.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu in the Boston Globe discussing implementing policy ideas including fare free transit.

This week on the podcast, former BART GM Grace Crunican moderates a panel discussing the role of board members in transit agencies with former MBTA board member Monica Tibbits-Nutt and former Houston Metro board member Christof Spieler.

Jeff Wood

About Jeff Wood

Jeff Wood is an urban planner focused on transportation and land use issues living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jeff blogs at The Overhead Wire and tweets @theoverheadwire. He also shares news links daily from around the country on issues related to cities at The Direct Transfer