National Links: Flood Zones and Texas-Sized Regulation

Every day, The Overhead Wire collects news about cities and sends the links to our email list. At the end of the week they 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 or absurd but often useful.

Homes in flood zones overvalued by billions: New research in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change has found that American homes in flood zones are likely overvalued to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. For years the National Flood Insurance Program has incentivized developers to build in low-lying areas, but as climate change results in greater flooding, these properties are at risk of being a new housing bubble. (Zoya Teirstein | Grist)

Texas-sized fight between state, cities: Republican lawmakers in the state of Texas have often looked to pre-empt local regulations created by the state’s largest cities, often run by Democratic administrations. After years of single-issue disagreements they are now looking to create a system where no city law can be more strict than state laws, worrying local lawmakers with regard to commonplace regulations like drought management and the differences between small towns and big cities. (Jasper Scherer | Houston Chronicle)

AAR goes deep against railroad electrification: Many of the world’s railroads are electrified including in Europe and Asia, but the threat of climate change and the prospect of greater efficiency haven’t changed the minds of American railroads. In fact the American Association of Railroads has written position papers lobbying against railroad electrification. Michael Barnard picks apart the arguments– and misrepresentations of fact– the railroads make in their efforts to cling to diesel. (Michael Barnard | Clean Technica)

New York City gets public realm czar: New York Mayor Eric Adams has appointed Ya-Ting Liu to be the city’s first public realm czar. Ms. Liu will be a central contact for anyone trying to make improvements or manage public spaces in the city. The job will also begin pulling together the myriad public spaces in the city managed by multiple agencies, and Liu will soon be responsible for the city’s coming outdoor dining guidelines. (Winnie Hu | New York Times)

Belgium downtowns cutting out cars: Two cities in Belgium have reduced auto usage in their downtowns. Brussels has seen a 19% reduction in cars and a 23% increase in cyclists during the morning commute in just six months of enforcement. In Ghent, an “active transportation” scheme which brought threats against the city’s mayor has nevertheless seen great success. Cycling has doubled, and transit use has risen by 12%. (Denis Balgaranov | The and Tom Heap | Sky News)

Quote of the Week

“It’s incredibly expensive to litigate these cases and owners of big box commercial properties who assert these theories unsupported by the law, like dark store, are trying to pressure local governments to reduce their tax assessments.”

Claire Silverman in the Green Bay Press Gazette, discussing a court case in which big box stores tried to slim down their property tax bills by comparing their property valuations to those of empty “dark stores.”

This week on the podcast, Colin Parent, executive director of Circulate San Diego, comes on the program to talk about his new report, “Fast Bus! How San Diego Can Make Progress by Speeding Up the Bus.”

Photo at top by Don Becker of the U.S. Geological Survey, used under a Creative Commons license

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