This past Labor Day, Paula and I did what so many Americans do over a sunny three-day weekend – we took a road trip. We had a wedding to attend in Austin and we thought we would make the most of it by dropping our kids off with the grandparents in San Antonio first. We had heard a few rumors floating around about a gas shortage following the devastation of Houston by Hurricane Harvey, but we noticed nothing unusual as we filled up the tank here in College Station and hit the road Friday evening for San Antonio. Now kid-free, we started out for Austin the following morning with half a tank of gas. We were surprised to see that the two gas stations on the corner were indeed out of gas but figured we would just stop further along the way instead. But the next station was out of gas too. And so was the next. And the next! After about an hour of this we started feeling a little panicky. If this continued on would we even be able to make it to the wedding? And what about the kids? Continue reading
February has not quite come to a close and yet 2017 has already been interesting and exciting for the Golbabai family. Over the past few months, Paula and I have spent considerable time working on out next project – finding a house here in College Station. Not just any house, mind you, but the right place for us to raise our kids and put down roots. This search was especially difficult for the two of us because of our seemingly divergent tastes. As a new urbanist and city planner, I advocate for density, connectivity and walkability. Paula, on the other hand, regularly re-reads the Little House on the Prairie series, loves wide open spaces and has been researching the maintenance of backyard chickens. Continue reading
Three hundred and sixty four days a year I am a proud New Urbanist and apostle of the Strong Towns movement. I love talking about the value of mixed-use, traditional neighborhoods. When friends are over for dinner, I often find myself taking my copy of Suburban Nation off the shelf much like an evangelist spreading the gospel. Yet despite all of this, despite knowing better, there is one day, the three hundred and sixty fifth day of the year that I can’t help but feel guilty that my kids don’t live in a suburban subdivision. That day is Halloween. Continue reading
In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle articulates three types of friendship: friendship based on utility, friendship based on pleasure, and perfect friendship based on goodness. When it comes to the relationship between multi-national corporations and local places within the context of the global economy, I cannot help but think Aristotle’s description of friendship based on utility hits it on the head. Continue reading
One of my greatest joys over the last two plus years has been watching my son grow up. On the cusp of moving from toddler to little boy, I increasingly see the all-important role Paula and I have in shaping his character (enter, “timeout”). But environment has an impact too, and one of the best places for him to exercise his character is on the playground. Here, there are opportunities to take on new challenges such as scaling the ladder and trying out the big slide, to utilize his creativity in the sandbox, to learn how to interact with both the bigger and smaller kids alike. But as we explore playgrounds around Austin, we notice they’re not all equal. Continue reading
Three years ago Paula and I became first time homeowners and landlords when we purchased our central Austin duplex. Despite all the paperwork (I never knew I could sign my name so many times), it was all pretty thrilling. But looking back at it now, I can see more clearly than ever that this process, more than anything else we have done so far, helped us better secure our financial footing by giving us the ability to make payments as if we were renting, but build equity in the process. And of course, it gave us a sense of ownership and control over our own little piece of the American Dream. Continue reading
Back in my city planning days, the two requests I heard most often from neighborhoods were 1) traffic calming to lower speeds and 2) sidewalks to give pedestrians a safe place to walk apart from the cars. Modern planners today satisfy these requests with what are called “complete streets”, in which each mode of transportation has its own separate lane – the street for cars, bike lanes for bikers, sidewalks for pedestrians. While the design makes a lot of sense at first glance, it’s actually a far cry from what we used to consider a complete street. Check out this amazing video filmed in San Francisco in 1906 and you’ll see what I’m talking about: Continue reading
The unique flavor of local businesses is as beautiful as it is important, helping to make each place special and combating the spread of “Anywhere, USA” towns. Yet one thing that has perplexed me is how do these same businesses retain their local image in the face of success? Isn’t expansion and the franchising of stores the logical next step?
Well, I recently discovered that growing deep in place can be an alternative to growing broadly. Here are two great examples of this concept: Continue reading
Transportation is one of my favorite topics here at The New Localization. It’s so basic and yet it’s such an economic, environmental, social, and political heavyweight. It has everything to do with the design of our cities. As late as the 1970s, we Americans were still dreaming of new and innovative ways to move people from Point A to Point B, but fresh ideas today seem a bit harder to come by.
When Paula and I travel, one of our favorite things to do is to search out unique places of character. Now there are many factors that go into making a place unique and special, but the one most immediately obvious to us is the clustering of small, one-of-a-kind locally owned businesses within a walkable area. Here in Central Texas, towns such as Fredericksburg and Wimberley are so successful with this design that they are consistently listed as top day-trip tourist destinations, well worth the hour long trip it takes us in Austin to get there and linger for a day. These places offer a stark contrast to the collections of chain stores and big box developments which, by their very nature, turn any location into an Anywhere, USA. Continue reading