SECRET SAUCE AND THE SUBURBS

I had a lot of fun with the latest full episode of Mass for Shut-ins. Amanda Kolson Hurley visits to talk about her new book Radical Suburbs, which looks at various attempts at creative urban planning in the suburbs. Unfortunately we don't like to learn anything as a nation so more often than not suburbs have either terrible planning or (more often) none at all. But some people are starting to come around. More people than ever are thinking about all that Gray Space, all those empty malls, all those parking lots, all those eight-lane roads nobody can walk across.

There's also one of my favorite tales about a very rich man who was very obsessed with eating and became extra-very obsessed with a particular sauce. What he did to get a taste of it is pretty amazing even by Gilded Age standards.

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18 thoughts on “SECRET SAUCE AND THE SUBURBS”

  • "…. often than not suburbs have either terrible planning or (more often) none at all. "

    which is odd since Park Forest, Chicago suburb, and Levittown (NY) were notable for their being first planned communities when laid out after WW II
    Granted where suburbs are the product of unregulated sprawl you are right.

  • i echo that story when my wife makes her german chocolate frosting. i generally say something like "if you spread that frosting over a stack of shirt boxes, i would eat it."

  • I just got back from Colorado. While I was there, my brother showed me an empty field that will have up to 3k houses built on it over rhe next couple of years. They'll need at least one new school and guess who won't be paying for it–the people who make all of the money selling the houses. Big bucks for the buiilders–increased taxes for all; Thanks Obama!

  • demo: In California, property taxes are basically capped at 1%. Which means to pay for infrastructure (including schools), cities impose often stiff impact fees. One of the contributors to the housing crisis in the states, but also ensuring that RELATIVELY little money comes from municipal General Funds for new growth. School funding is also a complicated issue. The State has taken on more of a direct role in funding California schools, most school districts (which are separate government entities than cities and counties) also assess impact fees.

    Now…long term maintenance is always an issue. The "growth ponzi scheme" from Strong Towns (another recommended website on these issues). Some of these costs are also funded by the blizzard of special districts and assessments created by California cities to avoid somewhat the strictures created by Prop 13. In my city, for instance, all new development must annex into a "Mello Roos District Number 2" which pays for a range of services and facilities.

    I like Granola Shotgun, but his doomsday prepping light just makes me tired. If the system collapses, not sure I want to even be around :)

  • @ Brian M:

    I think that Cali is prolly WAAAAAAAAY ahead of a number of other states*. I would require a that all developers who are building large numbers of homes, regardless their pricing, be required to pay substantial fees for the infrastructural costs of roads, 1st responders, schools and other items that they never get stuck with.

    * I'd say about 25 or so, including all of the former traitor states**

    ** They're not really "former" traitor states. Most of them still chafe at not being allowed to own black people.

  • Impact fees should be mandatory on any new capacity.
    Failure to do so unfairly burden poor, inner cities and those on fixed income.
    Without impact fees the inner cities continue to subsidize starter castles in the suburbs with their property taxes going to pay for infrastructure.
    Check the way back machine for a site by "the Carneige Group" out of Oly., WA who'se mantra was growth should pay for growth. They had accumalated anumber of studies, links etc. exposing the insidious welfare for developers that is baked into or present system.

  • @ k:

    Were the Carnegie Group folks co-opted, bribed or hounded out of business?

    Looks like they think like me and the short bit I read on the homepage about the commissioners' comments re: a video that they hadn't already seen (might be mean to them, I guess?) and refused to screen. Assholes.

    There is a major push on in my city to make it more appealing to "families" and "visitors". They apparently plan to achieve this by putting in some pocket parks and, in the process of building them, make it impossible for some politically unreliable businesses to stay afloat. Streets are torn up, sidewalks are blocked and, although the city's clerk of the works told me that it was all going to be beautiful and beneficial to ALL–I only see several local "Bizniss jeanyusses" getting welfare. There isn't, afaia, any minority, female or start-ups included.

  • @democommie
    Basically exhaustion.
    Espiacially when promoting a narrow issue where one has to continuely repeat ones arguements and return to knock down zombie "logic" time and time again while opposition gets paid by developers community (chambers etc) to be as abstructive as possible.
    The tendency was to wander off subject and into the general realm of a "good Government" organization ( i.e. League of Women Voters) just out of frustration from having to go over the same ground over and over again.
    That coupled with environmental outrages, outright corruption and any number of other malfeasence that come to light as one pursues a single thread through the arcane bowels of regulations and (failure) of enforcement the urge to expose those other items took focus off the main message.

  • This is Johnny from Granola Shotgun.

    Brian M – Just a quick clarification on your "Doomsday Prepper Light" comment.

    I live in earthquake country so I have water and a good supply of other essentials set aside for when the pipes break and the lights go out. That's not the same as believing the End-of-the-World is imminent. It's just a desire to ride out a rough patch.

    We have regular cyclical downturns in the economy: the 2008 financial crash, the Dot Com implosion in 2000, Black Monday in 1987, the deep recession of 1981…. We could go back to the big crash of 1929 or the Panic of 1873… These are normal parts of how the world works. I simply acknowledge that reality and plan accordingly by staying out of debt and having reserves on hand. That's not the same as living in a bunker waiting for Jesus.

    Most people dismiss any form of prudence and preparedness as a sign of individual freakiness. Shrug. I'm sure they'll all really enjoy bitching about how incompetent the government is while they wait for FEMA trucks to arrive with bottled water.

  • Johnny: I know. I am not really making fun of you in any way, because you are being very rational. My comment is more a reflection of my own…laziness…perhaps.

    I have never been very good at "adulting", and storing portable water and food would probably be beyond my limited capacity!

    Hey, at least I did not choose to relocate from one firestorm victimized area to an even more dangerous fire prone area, like some of the "victims" profiled in the regional press.

  • @ Brian M:

    People who build in box canyons, flood plains (riparian or intertidal), tornado prone states or whatever and DON'T understand what they're doing–gambling–are the ones who praise GOD for sparing their asses while slaughtering everyone around them.

  • Kunstler is a less-graceful version of writer James Grant of "Grant's Interest Rate Observer": he's successfully predicted seventeen of the last three economic downturns.

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