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
I was preparing for work one morning when disaster struck; my trusty beard trimmer wasn’t trimming. There was plenty of strange whirring but absolutely no movement of the blades. I spent a few minutes tinkering with it but to no avail. At this point, what are my options? It seemed to me that the problem was fixable. I have a two-year-old son who is fascinated with shaving; maybe he got a hold of it and dropped it, knocking something loose. If I couldn’t fix it myself, could a repair shop handle it? What would they charge me? How would that compare with the cost of a brand new beard trimmer? But maybe the biggest question was this: do repair shops for small electronics even exist any more? Continue reading
Quite a lot has happened in the Golbabai house since I lased posted. After months of studying, I passed my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification exam so I can now write this blog as a certified planner! A few days later, Paula and I welcomed the newest addition to our family, our beautiful baby daughter. Both Mom and baby are doing well and we’re all adjusting to this new reality of life as a family of four!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been really struck by my two children. Looking at our newborn daughter, I’m amazed at just how completely dependent we are on others when we come into the world. Continue reading
As many of you know, one of my favorite things to discuss on this blog is the intersection of the fields of urban planning and economic development, particularly as it relates to building strong local economies. This coming November, I have an exciting opportunity to prove my mettle in these areas by taking the American Planning Association’s American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the realization that the best time I have to prepare for this exam is the same one I use to research and write for this blog. Continue reading
What I loved about Northwest Hardware in Austin, Texas was the phenomenal customer service. Every time I went in, someone would talk to me in detail about my project or problem and steer me in the right direction, even if their solution was less expensive than what I was originally thinking. Sadly, we stopped by a few weeks ago only to discover that it had recently closed. The loss felt strangely close to me. After all, as a consumer I’d like to be able to shop with my values of supporting small and independent businesses that anchor the local community. Yet with the disappearance of stores that provide this option, I find myself pushed into a handful of large, consolidated big box options that lack the intimacy of a community shopping experience. Continue reading
By all accounts the famed basketball coach John Wooden is one of the most successful in the history of the game. He boasts an all-time winning percentage of over .800 (620-147), and won an incredible 10 national championships over a twelve year period (from 1963-1975), which included four perfect seasons (1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973) and an 88 game winning streak. Despite all his victories however, a deeper look into Coach Wooden’s philosophy reveals that winning was something he actually never talked about, as he did not believe that success should be judged by comparison with anyone else. Continue reading
I was in Dallas last week attending the Congress for the New Urbanism’s CNU 23 Conference, turning over the question “how do we build places people love” with professionals as enthusiastic about city design as myself. One concept that kept popping up was that of the driverless car. What bothered me about the surrounding discussion though was this attitude of inevitability regarding our driverless future. No one seemed to be stopping to ask whether such technology actually provides a net benefit to our quality of life. To be sure, such cars may provide several benefits from a possible reduction in traffic fatalities to better mobility for the elderly, disabled and others isolated by our auto-oriented society. But what about the potential pitfalls? Have we considered those? Let me just share a few unanswered questions of mine ranging from the concrete to the philosophical: 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
This past weekend, Paula, the baby and I took a roadtrip from Austin to Dallas along Interstate-35. Along that drive I was struck by the number of chain and franchise restaurants that lined the highway. Where were the local businesses? Why wasn’t there a better mix of both local and national dining options? Continue reading