Home Search: Finding Common Ground Between Urban & Rural

20170225_142413February 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

The Walkability of Rural Places

20161016_112808Three 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

The Local and the Global: Lessons from Detroit

imageIn 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

Treasuring Places of Character

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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

Local Land Ownership and the American Dream

imageThree 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

Curbing the Need for Speed

imageBack 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

Growing Deep

imageThe 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

Morgantown’s People Mover

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.

That’s why I was pretty excited to discover this radical transportation mode operating in Morgantown, West, Virginia: Continue reading

Formula Business Restrictions & The Fight Against Cookie Cutter Places

imageWhen 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

Why Did the Streetcar Disappear?

imageA few weeks ago I penned what I considered a clever narrative about the rise of the automobile to the point of our present-day near complete dependence upon it. In that post, I made the assumption that the automobile earned its preferred status by out-competing all other modes of transportation in the hearts and minds of the American people and our policymakers. Well today I take up my (virtual) pen once again to tell you that in making this seemingly safe assumption, I mistakenly left out of this narrative a chapter of our public transportation history so dripping with drama and intrigue that when I found out about it this past week I could hardly sleep soundly at night. It is the story of the humble electric streetcar (also known as the trolley, tram, or urban rail), the undisputed king of public transportation in the early part of the twentieth century. Continue reading