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February 26, 2020  

Why Housing Is “The Wickedest of Wicked Problems”

February 26, 2020

A recent article in the New York Times called “Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build”—that’s fourteen “builds,” by the way—chronicled the drama (and a fair amount of absurdity) surrounding a proposed development in Lafayette, California.

Lafayette, a wealthy suburb east of Berkeley, is known for being notoriously anti-development. When a developer proposed to build hundreds of new homes across the street from a BART station—something the land was zoned for—it set off a firestorm of protests. Some people protested that the plans were too big, others that they were too small. At one point, the developer, Dennis O’Brien, found himself in the farcical position of being sued in support of himself.

The article by Conor Dougherty is the kind of story that brilliantly illustrates the complexities, controversies, and personalities of the housing crisis. Which also makes it the right kind of article to get the Upzoned treatment.

In this week’s episode of Upzoned, host Abby Kinney is joined by Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn and Strong Towns senior editor Daniel Herriges to unpack the Lafayette story. Together, they discuss what the situation in Lafayette says about the degree to which housing policy should be controlled at the state level vs. the local level, the dangers of one-dimensional solutions for complex problems, and whether or not it’s time to reform our laws to simply get more building done.

Then on the Downzoned, Chuck Marohn tells the story of how he met Kansas City rapper Kemet the Phantom, whose song, “Get Out (The Streetcar Song),” is the new Upzoned bumper music. That meeting was a reminder to Chuck that the movement to build strong towns goes far beyond built environment professionals: engineers, planners, and architects.

Show Notes