myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
@jasperskywalker on tumblr asked to hear my opinion on the impacts and implications of single-family homes. This is the answer, and it got LONG.


Housing 101: the “single-family home” is generally defined as “a free-standing structure that is meant solely for the residential occupation (no business activities) of a nuclear family (two adults and their children), and that is located on a piece of land also owned by the same people and which has no other structures on it (except a garage/shed).”

The concept of single-family housing is not particularly new, and it isn't inherently evil or anything either. There are plenty of great perks to living in a single-family home, and for many people it is perfectly suited to their lifestyle. *I* live in a suburban single-family home, and as much as I hate some aspects of that, I admit it does have some benefits that I enjoy. So please don’t take my rant here as if I’m saying single-family housing is bad and needs to be bulldozed entirely. That’s not my intent.

However, everything needs to have a balance. The dominance of the single-family home in the modern housing market is historically very new, and that dominance is destroying our cities and our economies, expanding the income gap, dividing us socially, increasing stress and general unhealthy lifestyles, and reinforcing the cycle of poverty in our society. Click here for the rest of my rant. )
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
For hadanelith, who asked about this weeks ago, sorry for the delay!

I'm going to preface this with a disclaimer: I'm an urbanist, I dislike suburbs for a number of reasons, and land-use zoning is one of the tools of suburbia. Of my two points below, one is intrinsic to the loss of walkable urbanism; the other is only tangentially related. So there's my bias, up front and disclaimed.

I'm gonna skip all the history of land-use zoning, which can basically be summed up with two phrases: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions", and "Not In My Back Yard" aka NIMBY. We'll come back to that last one, though.

My problem with land-use zoning is two-fold: 1) it curtails pedestrian accessibility and is therefore deadly to walkable urbanism. And 2) it lets other people tell you what you can and can't do with your property.

Allow me to elaborate.

Land-use zoning means that you have only one land use on each piece of property. So each property can be an office OR a restaurant OR a house OR a bookshop, etc. That rules out the ability to have mixed-use buildings, where the restaurant and the bookshop are on the ground floor, the office is on the second floor (or next door in the same building), and the apartments are on the third and fourth floors, etc. With zoning, every use is in a different building and, thanks to minimum parking regulations, on a different block as well. That means from your house you have to walk AT LEAST one block to reach the restaurant, the office, or the bookstore - and because the suburbs take this concept to the extreme, it's usually more like six blocks to one of those and another four blocks to the next. In suburbia, similar things are concentrated together, so there are a bunch of houses next to each other, and six blocks away are all the restaurants and offices and bookshops. That doesn't sound so bad.... except that there isn't usually a direct walking/bicycling route to get there, so a 10 minute trip by car is a 25 minute trip by bicycle and a 45 minute walk. Pedestrian traffic dies, the only way to get anywhere is by car, and the people who don't have a car are screwed.

For extra detail, it's generally assumed that a residential density of 15-20 dwelling units per acre is the threshold for walkable urbanism, aka enough foot traffic to support commercial developments just from people walking by. Garden-style apartment buildings average about 18 units per acre. Single family neighborhoods average about 3 homes per acre. That's a huge gap.

Part Two!

Land-use zoning is under the purview of the city/municipality that regulates development in your area. Zoning is generally handled by a planning/development department within the government, and approved by City Council or the equivalent political body. For cities with zoning, those people, whoever they may be, get to pretty much arbitrarily decide what they think any given piece of land ought to be developed as, and then make it basically illegal to do anything else unless you come and ask their permission, and they still have the right to tell you "no" JUST BECAUSE. I have seen property zoned for X that has stood vacant for a decade, because there's no market demand for X, and when the owner tries to have it re-zoned into something that will sell, the city staff have looked me in the face and said they don’t care, they're willing to wait until the market changes so they can get what they want on that property. Meanwhile the owner (my client) is stuck paying property taxes on land they can't sell or develop, just because of the zoning.

That's bullshit.

Coming back now to NIMBY, which drives me up the fucking wall. NIMBY is what happens when people buy a home that backs onto commercial property and then get upset when the restaurant behind their house stays open until 2am playing live music and hosting large parties. What the hell did you think was going to happen, people? And then the neighborhood gets even more upset when the City won't let them build a ten-foot fence between the houses and the restaurant. Property owners think that zoning should protect them from their neighbors by preventing any activity they disapprove of ("Not In My Back Yard"), but at the same time, zoning should not prevent them from doing whatever they want on their own property. You can't have it both ways, people.

Here ends my soapbox.
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
In which this blogger says exactly what I've been thinking:

"...It’s the ultimate unfairness in the American transportation-funding scheme: we accommodate the every desire of drivers, trying to eliminate any possible inconvenience at massive expense, while transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists have to fight for tiny scraps. Alternative transportation advocates like to frame their requests for more funding in terms of reparations for 60 years of policy that has favored roads, but I’m not sure even that rhetoric captures the true inequity of the situation. We haven’t just favored roads; we’ve built a truly decadent infrastructure system for drivers, while everyone else gets shoved out of the picture." [emphasis from the original]
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
is anyone else using LJ on their ipad? am i the only one who's annoyed by the size-eight-million type? my vision is just fine, LJ, is there a way i can change this to fit more than, let's see... 14 words on one line? 'cause that would be useful.
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
so i'm a parent now, and it's time to retire my trusty little pick-up truck (which loyally took me all over texas and once to north carolina) and get a car with a back seat for sam's carseat and interior storage for his stroller. i really love driving stick in my truck, so my only other starting requirement was to get something with a manual transmission in it.

i thought about getting a full-cab truck at first, but i do need that inside storage space for the stroller if nothing else. my second thought was to get a hatchback - which is very different than a truck, i admit, but they have roomy rear storage and i think they're super cute. they also get far better gas mileage than trucks, which are built for hauling heavy loads, something i don't need to do much of now that we've bought a house and are no longer moving our entire household every year or so.

i looked at some hatchbacks and really liked the mazda 3, but then i started contemplating crossovers as well - a crossover is higher off the ground like a truck and has more seating and storage than a hatchback. the mazda cx-5/-7/-9 all look pretty great, imho, and there are some other crossovers i like the look of as well as the mazdas, and i found some on carmax that were in our price-range too. but then, before i got a chance to test-drive anything, we had a conversation with my dad-in-law about car-shopping, and he urged us to get a minivan.

a minivan.

kill me now.

my dear hubby, of course, bought that argument hook, line, and sinker, and he's now pushing me towards a minivan as well. so i did some research. beyond the sliding doors (which i hate for multiple reasons), it might seem to the casual observer (me) that crossovers and minivans are very comparable vehicles. this turns out to be true in some cases but not in others. minivans and crossovers have roughly equivalent gas mileage - a criterion i'm very conscious of, though it's not a deal-breaker for me. but they differ in a lot of other ways:

-minivans are lower and closer to the ground than crossovers, for ease of loading both children and stuff, and for being limited by curbs wherever you go
-minivans typically have more legroom, and often have one more seat than crossovers
-minivans have somewhere between 1.5x to 2x the maximum storage volume of crossovers (75cuft to 100cuft in crossovers, compared to a typical 150cuft in minivans, as measured when all the rear seats are down); i'm not sure why that is, but i'd guess it's due to the full-size rear-end of minivans that i personally think is ugly
-minivans flat-out do not have manual transmission as an option
-crossovers typically have better traction than minivans, since they typically come with all-wheel-drive, being therefore slightly safer in poor weather conditions

so if i'm getting a vehicle that makes the most sense for our lifestyle, given the fact that we're planning to have at least one more kid and i want to foster as well, then the minivan is clearly the most sensible choice.

the trouble is, i think minivans are ugly, and they don't come with manual transmissions, aka they aren't as fun for me to drive. on top of all that: sliding doors. do not even get me started.

so do i get a vehicle that i don't like - not just that it isn't my favorite, but i actively do not like them - just because it is the most logical choice for my future needs? i feel like if i do, i will hate myself every time i drive it, even when it's being as useful and practical as advertised. is there room for compromise here?
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
So I may have spoken too soon with my last entry, on the subject of being tired of pregnancy.

I had a my routine weekly check-up today, with some interesting results... )

Meanwhile, my bills with the doctor's office are still all screwed up - I finally received the bill from the office to match the notice my insurance sent me from a billing in August, but now the office manager is saying that the bill is wrong - which really I think is just that they billed me (and my insurance) for the total amount, but should have since deducted what I have meanwhile been paying to them visit by visit: my co-pays and the "global care" payment they asked me for. The paperwork is a nightmare, let me tell you. And I haven't even got to my delivery yet, for which there will be separate bills for the doctor's office, the hospital, the anesthesiologist, and any other services that are rendered. Thank God I have copies of almost everything I've done for this pregnancy, and that it's all in one calendar year.

(I'm kicking myself that I forgot to ask for copies of my paperwork for the lab work and the ultrasound today. Also I have no photos or stats from my ultrasound, which I thought they were going to give me at the end on a disk like last time, but apparently not! And I don't have copies of my and Critter's consent forms either. Grr....)

So, we'll see how this goes.


ETA 2013.10.26 - Well, gentle readers, I still have a baby in me. No preeclampsia! (Yet.) My doctor called to let me know that all the tests came back clean and she would see me at my normal appointment time next week. Back to waiting...
myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
Dear Everyone Who Is Hounding Me About Unimportant Shit:
(Yes, dear aunties, this includes you.)

I am:

a) nine months pregnant, with all the physical exhaustion and discomfort that entails.

b) dealing with all the last-minute planning and details that are part of being nine months pregnant.

c) two days and counting of being the last one out of the office after a twelve-hour work day.

I'm sorry that I haven't met whatever expectations you have for proper behavior or things you think I ought to be doing or spending money on right now. But frankly, I have no more fucks to give. There are only so many days in a row I can put off things like buying groceries or washing my clothes or (not that this is important) calling my health insurance provider to find out how exactly to add my future child to our insurance plan if he is without a Social Security Number. (Thank you, U.S. legislature, for making my life just that teensie bit more complicated.)

So yes, I'm sorry that I didn't hand-wash my glass when the break room dish washer was running last night. I'm sorry I haven't yet written and mailed thank-you cards for all the gifts I got at my baby shower three weeks ago. I'm sorry I'm not dressed up to your standards because my size-too-big flip flops are the only shoes I own that still fit my feet. I'm sorry for whatever other things I have done or not done that may offend your sensibilities.

Go build a bridge and get the fuck over it.


myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
i have a long-burning, deep-seated hatred for all things fashion and clothes shopping and popularity-driven uselessness.

this is a significant factor in that hatred:


Oct. 6th, 2013 09:46 am
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)

If my baby is born while the U.S. Government shutdown is still on-going, the Social Security office will not be able to issue a Social Security number and card for him at birth. Without a SSN, we can't put him on our health insurance. Not to mention things like getting a pediatrician or registering for day care.

myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
Thinking about the housing industry in the US and how Section 8 has a bad rap, how we handle low-income housing and etc, it often makes me very upset...

...but at least we're not constructing substandard buildings that collapse a decade later and kill a bunch of people, like what happens in India:

That's just depressing.
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
let me tell you of our recent adventures in home-ownership!

our lawn is dead. )
myurbandream: (the geek shall inherit the earth)
copied without permission from here: (because i don't do tumblr - gyzym, a thousand apologies to your lovely self!! - and because i agree with everything said here a thousand percent.)

dear people... )
myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
note to self: learn how nuclear power works, and what kind of waste it produces. meanwhile, this article brings into stark relief the way governments are not thinking sustainably. why resolve today a problem that can be postponed until 70 years from now? an article about radioactive waste leaking into soil and groundwater. )
myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)

apparently some bad shit went down with one of Misha Collins' fan events (Stonehenge Christmas) and I think he's feeling pretty burned by it. he didn't tweet anything for a few weeks after the fact, and i just got on my youtube subscriptions today to find that all his videos are gone/private-locked.

part of me feels like this was going to happen eventually - that if he gave so much of himself to his fans, eventually something bad would happen - but the other part of me is so fucking pissed off at whoever the people were that ruined this for the rest of us. i'm not even really a true minion - i haven't done GISHWHES or been to any of his con panels or followed him on twitter (well, no officially). but i still really enjoy in a passive way how much of himself he gave to us fans in so many ways, even just interacting with us as real people (i use "us" in the collective sense, having never so much as been in the same state as the man myself). i think it's a damn shame that anyone could ruin the relationship between him and his fans - we appreciate him as an actor, he opens up to us, we appreciate him as a person, he asks us to do amazing things, we accomplish amazing things in his name, and the world is a better place. now that cycle has been wrecked, i think, or at least wounded and scarred, and it's just really extremely disappointing and saddening.
myurbandream: (zeguenerin=ich)
dear lj,

please stop freaking out about the fact that i log in from two different ip addresses. let me clear up the confusion: sometimes i'm at home, sometimes i'm at work. i am at a point now where i have both ip addresses near-memorised, because you keep sending me emails about it. if you could try to remember those two numbers yourself, then we wouldn't be having all these false alarms, now would we?

myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
Raise your hand if you've ever played a game (computer game, board game, RPG, whatever) where you get to set the qualities of your character/tool/system on a sliding scale. zB: I think it's the Sims game where, at start-up, you get to pick the look of your character and then you get to pick their personality, by starting with a set number of points and assigning those points to different categories (smart, funny, athletic, etc) until all your points are gone. You only get so many points, so you have to pick how to distribute them and hope that the result works out in game-play the way you want it to.

Wouldn't it be awesome if the national budget worked the same way?

That's kinda how my budget works. )
myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
as a citizen-urbanist and professional land planner, this made me want to break something the first time i read it.

seriously. i wanted to punch these assholes in the face. )


after reading this, i couldn't decide what an appropriate course of action would be: a) cry, b) break something, or c) hate the world forever. i opted for d) post a rant online.

to put this in my perspective, i am extremely biased against cars. extremely. )

what this article indicates to me is that, yes, in fact, privatized mass transit did at one point work - and work well - for the major cities of the united states. unfortunately we have had half a century to entrench the idea of the automobile into the collective mind of... well, everyone.

it's not just traffic engineers and conventional city planning and oil/gas subsidies and the American ideal of private suburban life that make owning a car something everyone wants to do. because owning a car isn't something every wants (or can afford) to do. the problem is that you have to do it anyway.

nowadays, most people don't have the option of multi-modal transit (aka different ways of getting around). think of where you live now. think of how many places there are within walking distance (about 1/4-mile, or about 4 city blocks) that you can buy lunch, or mail a package, or put your kid in day care, or buy cat food, or get a book to read. how many places are within biking distance (anywhere 1/2-mile to a mile, about 15 city blocks, or the typical length from one highway intersection to the next)? where is the nearest public transit stop, and does it go in the direction you travel on a daily basis? how far is your commute to school/work, and is that distance practical to travel in any way but by private vehicle? is there anywhere within walking distance that you can sit down in the shade to eat a meal or read a book or people-watch without feeling either unwelcome or unsafe?

and to think that we had those things, and some asshole executives took away our options in order to make themselves more money.... i seriously want to break something.
myurbandream: (Default)
long lead-up to the political question. )

What I want to know is this: what do you think are (or should be) your "rights" - as a human being, or as a citizen?

my own beliefs. )
myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
now i know why the fashion-self-conscious spend so much time, money, effort, and discussion on shopping.

that shit is difficult.

unreasonably so, imho.

stupidly lame lj-cut is stupid. )

how the hell am i supposed to look nice at work without breaking the bank on bespoke clothes? seriously, internet, i am asking you.
myurbandream: (sanzo's happiness)
lj, why the hell are you making cuts with little scissors on the screen now? you're messing up my clever cut sentences all over the place! what the hell?!



myurbandream: (Default)

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