All posts tagged: Cities

Los Angeles – No to Measure S

Dear Friends in the City of Los Angeles, For those of you who are residents and are able to vote, there is a ballot measure to take an important stand against in next week’s local elections: Measure S. L.A. Times, Governor Brown, Mayor Garcetti, and many others have came out against this measure, (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) which will basically prohibit development in the City for the next two years and make it extremely difficult in the years after (to be explained below). For those of you that don’t know, the City of Los Angeles like the rest of California, is in the midst of a housing crisis. With a vacancy rate hovering around 2%, the supply of housing is extremely tight and housing costs are skyrocketing. What most people don’t realize is that at around $56,000, the median wage in Los Angeles is actually not that high, yet average home sale prices have now soared above half a million. That is lunacy. Renters are also suffering, with many paying more than 30% of …

Who Decides Our Spaces?

In the past week, there were two news items that came to my attention regarding public space. One is in Hong Kong, where the Town Planning Board is reviewing a plan to extend the Avenue of Stars on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. The other is in New York, where the mayor is openly considering the removal of the pedestrian plazas in Time Square. Though the motives and incentives are different, both instances are controversial : they seek to remedy areas that are actually immensely popular (though more for the tourists in the case of Time Square). This brings me to ask, who should be in charge of shaping the urban environments around us? It appears that both in Hong Kong and New York, they appear to employ top-down planning favoring expertise and technical knowledge. Yet, is that really a good approach, especially when most of the decision makers do not necessarily visit or have intimate knowledge of areas they are trying to change. On the other hand, a bottom up approach to planning could …

The Mental Acrobatics of Space

Space has always fascinated me. It is something we experience constantly, but few would pause to give thought about. As a child, I built castles and moats out of rocks and mud. I drew imaginary and fantastic maps. I created cities out of Lego and origami. Yet, I never truly understood the spatial arrangements and relationships between objects. To be honest, despite going to graduate school I still do not completely understand them. In my humble opinion, I believe the interactions between psychology, design, and planning have been quite weak. Why do we prefer smooth edges and straight lines? Why do we have preferences for certain spatial arrangements? Why are certain places more attractive than others, even if they are designed similarly? Why do we prefer to be in the middle of spaces as opposed to the edges? How do we use the space around us and why are some spaces more utilized than others? Certainly, part of the answers to these questions depend on not only personal preferences but also historical and cultural background – …