The Tallest White Elephant in the World

WhiteElephantReaching more than a thousand feet into the air, The Shard was hailed as one of the wonders of the age when it was completed. Yet Britain’s tallest building is almost entirely empty, as its owners struggle to find buyers and tenants for its offices and luxury flats. As our picture shows, London’s 72-storey skyscraper is largely dark in the early evening, while the surrounding buildings are bright with office lights. Continue reading

Tower Blocks Should be Demolished

Tower-blocks-in-HackneyHigh-rise housing should be replaced by streets of terrace homes says Policy Exchange set up by planning minister.

Modernist tower blocks should be demolished and replaced with streets of terrace houses and low-rise flats that people actually want to live in, an influential Conservative think tank will claim on Thursday. Continue reading

Rhode Island’s Tallest Building Will Soon Go Dark

superman-building

Rhode Island’s tallest building will soon be its most visible symbol of the state’s long economic decline. The 26-story Art Deco-style skyscraper, known to some as the “Superman building” for its similarity to the Daily Planet headquarters in the old TV show, is losing its sole tenant this month. No one is moving in, and the building, the most distinctive feature on the Providence skyline, will no longer be fully illuminated at night, if at all, its owner says. It’s a blow for the city and the state, which had 9.4 percent unemployment in February and has had one of the worst jobless rates in the nation for years.

Nicolas Retsinas, a senior lecturer in real estate at Harvard Business School, says 111 Westminster, as the building is also known, will be “the ultimate urban pothole.”

http://www.wbur.org/2013/04/07/superman-building-go-dark

 

The End of the Single-Family-Home

The following article will help explain the extreme folly of the Hollywood Community Plan. This HCP promotes the same type of cramped, vertical housing that people understandably reject.

Don’t Bet Against The (Single-Family) House

by Joel Kotkin, February 29, 2012

Nothing more characterizes the current conventional wisdom than the demise of the single-family house. From pundits like Richard Florida to Wall Street investors, the thinking is that the future of America will be characterized increasingly by renters huddling together in small apartments, living the lifestyle of the hip and cool — just like they do in New York, San Francisco and other enlightened places.

Many advising the housing industry now envisage a “radically different and high-rise” future, even though the volume of new multi-unit construction permits remains less than half the level of 2006. Yet with new permits at historically low levels as well for single-family houses, real estate investors, like the lemmings they so often resemble, are traipsing into the multi-family market with sometimes reckless abandon.

Today the argument about the future of housing reminds me of the immortal line from Groucho Marx:Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes? Start with the strong preference of the vast majority of Americans to live in detached houses rather than crowd into apartments. “Many things — government policies, tax structures, financing methods, home-ownership patterns, and availability of land — account for how people choose to live, but the most important factor is culture,” notes urban historian Witold Rybczynski.

Homeownership and the single-family house, Rybczynski notes, rests on many fairly mundane things — desire for privacy, need to accommodate children and increasingly the needs of aging parents and underemployed adult children. Such considerations rarely enter the consciousness of urban planning professors, “smart growth” advocates and architectural aesthetes swooning over a high-density rental future.

Just look at the numbers. Over the last decade— even as urban density has been embraced breathlessly by a largely uncritical media — close to 80% of all new households, according to the American Community Survey, chose to settle in single-family houses.

Now, of course, we are told, it’s different. Yet over the past decade, vacancy rates rose the most in multi-unit housing, with an increase of 61%, rising from 10.7% in 2000 to 17.1% in 2010. The vacancy rate in detached housing also rose but at a slower rate, from 7.3% in 2000 to 10.7% in 2010, an increase of 48%. Attached housing – such as townhouses – posted the slightest increase in vacancies, from 8.4% in 2000 to 11.0% in 2010, an increase of 32%.

The attractiveness of rental apartments may soon be peaking just in time for late investors to take a nice haircut. Rising rents, a byproduct of speculative buying of apartments, already are making mortgage payments a more affordable option in such key markets as Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Urbanist pundits often insist the rush to rental apartments will be sustained by demographic trends. One tired cliché suggest that empty nesters are chafing to leave their suburban homes to move into urban apartments. Yet, notes longtime senior housing consultant Joe Verdoon, both market analysis and the Census tells us the opposite: most older folks are either staying put, or, if they relocate, are moving further out from the urban core.

The two other major drivers of demographic change — the millennial generation and immigrants — also seem to prefer suburban, single-family houses. Immigrants have been heading to the suburbs for a generation, so much so that the most diverse neighborhoods in the country now tend to be not in the urban core but the periphery. This is particularly true in Sunbelt cities, where immigrant enclaves tend to be in suburban areas away from the core.

Millennials, the generation born between 1983 and 2003, are often described by urban boosters as unwilling to live in their parent’s suburban “McMansions.” Yet according to a survey by Frank Magid and Associates, a large plurality define their “ideal place to live” when they get older to be in the suburbs, even more than their boomer parents.

Ninety-five million millennials will be entering the housing market in the next decade, and they will do much to shape the contours of the future housing market. Right now many millennials lack the wherewithal to either buy a house or pay the rent. But that doesn’t mean they will be anxious to stay tenants in small places as they gain some income, marry, start a family and simply begin to yearn for a somewhat more private, less harried life.

In the meantime, many across the demographic spectrum are moving not away from but back to the house. One driver here is the shifting nature of households, which, for the first time in a century are actually getting larger. This is reflected in part by the growth of multi-generational households.

This is widely believed to be a temporary blip caused by the recession, which clearly is contributing to the trend. But the move toward multigenerational housing has been going on for almost three decades. After having fallen from 24 percent in 1940 to barely 12 percent in 1980, the percentage topped over 16 percent before the 2008 recession took hold. In 2009, according to Pew Research Center, a record 51.4 million Americans live in this kind of household.

Instead of fading into irrelevance, the single-family house seems to be accommodating more people than before. It is becoming, if you will, the modern equivalent of the farm homestead for the extended family, particularly in expensive markets such as California. This may be one of the reasons why suburbs — where more than half of owner-occupied homes are locatedactually increased their share of growth in almost all American metropolitan areas through the last decade.

Some companies, such as Pulte Homes and Lennar, are betting that the multi-generational home — not the rental apartment — may well be the next big thing in housing. These firms report that demand for this kind of product is particularly strong among immigrants and their children.

Lennar has already developed models — complete with separate entrances and kitchens for kids or grandparents — in Phoenix, Bakersfield, the Inland Empire area east of Los Angeles and San Diego, and is planning to extend the concept to other markets. “This kind of housing solves a lot of problems,” suggests Jeff Roos, Lennar’s regional president for the western U.S. “People are looking at ways to pool their resources, provide independent living for seniors and keeping the family together.”

But much of the growth for multigenerational homes will come from an already aging base of over 130 million existing homes. An increasing number of these appear to being expanded to accommodate additional family members as well as home offices. Home improvement companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot already report a surge of sales servicing this market.

A top Home Depot manager in California traced the rising sales in part to the decision of people to invest their money in an asset that at least they and their family members can live in. “We are having a great year ,” said the executive, who didn’t have permission to speak for attribution. “ I think people have decided that they cannot move so let’s fix up what we have.”

These trends suggest that the widely predicted demise of the American single family home may be widely overstated. Instead, particularly as the economy improves, we may be witnessing its resurgence, albeit in a somewhat different form. Rather than listen to the pundits, perhaps it would be better to follow what’s before your eyes. Don’t give up the house.

Click the following link for the original article with live reference links:  JoelKotkin.com

 


Unsafe Skyscrapers for Hollywood

Did you know that the Hollywood Community Plan proposes amendments to the Fire/Building Code (public safety) to allow High-Rise Buildings with NO Emergency Helicopter Landing Facilities?

“If this provision in the Hollywood Community Plan survives,” Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Michael K. Woo said in an email last Friday, “then that will be very significant.”

“The City Planning Commission action on the Hollywood Community Plan included an amendment which would encourage a more spectacular skyline in Hollywood,” Woo said, “by allowing mid-rise and high-rise building to have more visually striking, three-dimensional building tops such as the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building in New York, the Transamerica pyramid in San Francisco, or City Hall” – constructed in 1928, nearly a half-century prior to the 1974 Code update – in Los Angeles.”

There’s only one problem: If you are trapped on an upper floor in a life-threatening fire you will have no escape!

For the full article, go to:

Laws That Shaped L.A.: Why is the Los Angeles Skyline So Bland?

 

Is This What YOU Envision for Hollywood? Los Angeles?

Link

Mayor Villaraigosa wants what he calls “elegant density”
The City reads your silence as support for this vision.

The Hollywood Community Plan is just the first of 35 Community Plans that will cover every part of Los Angeles. It is the template for all the plans that will follow.

The Zoning Administrator, the Central Area Planning Commission, and the City Planning Commission approved this Plan in just four weeks, with only minor changes.

The Plan, as it stands, is a gift to the land developers who have contributed to the campaigns of the Mayor and Council members.

Almost every Neighborhood Association and City-Certified Neighborhood Council in Hollywood has taken official positions in strong opposition to the Plan and its effect on the Hollywood Community.

The City of Los Angeles is updating the Community Plans that control land use and zoning. These plans set the vision for the future of Los Angeles. Community Plans have an enormous impact on all of our lives—for good or bad.

Every resident Citywide needs to know that they could effectively lose any chance to defend their own local Community Plans if The Hollywood Community Plan passes unchallenged and is certified.

This Hollywood Community Plan would allow for…

• INCREASED DENSITY IN BUILDING HEIGHTS = MORE TRAFFIC CONGESTION
• HISTORIC SITES NOT PROTECTED (HOLLYWOOD HERITAGE FEELS THAT THE PLAN IS A BLUEPRINT FOR THE DISTRUCTION OF HOLLYWOOD’S HISTORIC BUILDINGS)
• OBSCURING THE VIEWS OF THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS
• REDUCED PROPERTY VALUES
• CREATE CONCRETE CANYONS (BLOCKING SUNLIGHT)

The really objectionable part of the Hollywood Community Plan is the proposed massive increase in development without any plan for updating the existing inadequate infrastructure:

• PAVING OF ROADS (TO DEAL WITH INCREASED USE)
• UTILITIES (WATER, ELECTICAL, SEWAGE, GAS ETC.)
• PUBLIC SERVICES (POLICE, FIRE, GARBAGE, ETC.)
• TRAFFIC CONTROLS AND TRAFFIC MITIGATION

We, PEOPLE FOR LIVABLE COMMUNITIES, a coalition of concerned Angelenos, are reaching out to neighbors across the city. If you would like more information:
email info@plcla.org or for further information, call us at 323.380.8970.

You can also contact Councilman Garcetti with your comments or complaints since the plan was endorsed by him (whether or not you are in his district). Copy your own councilman with your comments or complaints.

http://lacity.org/YourGovernment/CityCouncil/index.htm

District 13 – Eric Garcetti
City Hall Office (213)-473-7013
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 475
Los Angeles, CA 90012
councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org

District 4 – Tom LaBonge
City Hall Office (213)-473-7004
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 480
Los Angeles, CA 90012
councilmember.labonge@lacity.org

District 5 – Paul Koretz
City Hall Office (213)-473-7005
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 440
Los Angeles, CA 90012
paul.koretz@lacity.org