tumbledry

Alexander Micek commenting on Snow +

And, your first Christmas movie this evening. “Elf”. You’ll see more of it next year.

Alexander Micek commenting on Snow +

And then last night, you laughed with (at?) us. Laughed! I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard you laugh. So, we were changing you before your bedtime, and you thought that was just the funniest thing. It was absolutely adorable.

Snow

Hey Ess,

It was your first snow today. You aren’t really at that point where you can go outside and romp in it, but your mom told you all about it. I think you sense the way the light bounces around outside is different these days, and I think it means something to your growing consciousness.

We miss you when you nap, and linger over your every coo when you are awake. When you are sad, so are we, and when you laugh, we laugh along, with tears mixed in.

Sorry I had to go to work today; sometimes moms and dads have to be gone, but it is never for long and it is never without a good reason. We’ll always be there.

Love,
Dad

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After Bath Time

After Bath Time

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Cutie π

Cutie π

Auntie Katy got matching shirts for her and Essie!

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Zoning

I’ve been reading a bit about zoning lately, this article is a neat summation of one of my concerns about suburbs in the United States: stupid zoning laws. Author “simval84” writes a blog called “Urban kchoze”, here’s a post about Japanese zoning:

Japanese do not impose one or two exclusive uses for every zone. They tend to view things more as the maximum nuisance level to tolerate in each zone, but every use that is considered to be less of a nuisance is still allowed. So low-nuisance uses are allowed essentially everywhere. That means that almost all Japanese zones allow mixed use developments, which is far from true in North American zoning.

With the kind of zoning we have here, when new homes are built, there will never be a neighborhood pizza place. You’ll never be able to walk from the ball field to an ice cream parlor. During a snowstorm, you won’t be able to trudge through the drifts to the local café, chat with your neighbors about the storm, warm up, and have a cup of coffee. When you are retired and can no longer drive, you won’t be able to meet your friends for brunch on a Tuesday in the summer. Why?

Because everything is specifically zoned to be too damn far away from everything else!

Even simply lacing the borders of housing developments with mixed use properties would be an improvement, but the closest I’ve seen is strip malls on the outskirts of developments at the intersections of huge roads. Anyhow, more from simval84 at his comments page on The Guardian.

Update: here’s more, pulling it all together in a big picture:

…minimum lot sizes mean that each lot would be very big, so there is little advantage of building a smaller house as you can’t leverage the smaller size of buildings to increase density. House building costs are also not proportional to square feet, the cost of a marginal square foot is much lower than the average cost per square foot.

As to highways and land prices, I think you must consider the impact of car-oriented “urbanism” and very high highway coverage. Let’s suppose a city with a strong center with jobs and stores located there. People who want to go live in the city will tolerate living maybe 15-20 minutes from downtown. Now, if you only have residential streets, as cars travel on average about 20-25 mph on them (including stops and lights), that would mean that the lands available for development would be lands located within 5 or 6 miles of the downtown area, so maybe 80-100 square miles.

Now add 60 mph highways through the area. Suddenly, the land situated at 6 miles from downtown is not at 15-20 minutes from downtown, but at 6 minutes from it. People will tolerate living much farther away, up to 15-20 miles away from downtown. That’s 700 to 1200 square miles of lands close enough to downtown for people to settle on. Proximity is measured in minutes, not in miles.

The result of that is that land prices collapse because there’s so much land that is at an acceptable distance from downtown. Since land is cheap, there is no pressure to build smaller houses. People can build spatially inefficient houses that are cheap to build as they are mostly empty spaces.

If you go see Europe on the other hand, most highways circumvent urban areas, they do not penetrate them. So the distance people are willing to live away from downtown is much shorter. People tend to concentrate closer to the main cities. For instance, most Paris suburbs just stop 20 miles away from the city center (they have highways, they just stop a few miles from downtown). The city of Newman, an Atlanta suburb, is 40 miles away from downtown Atlanta.

It means that land prices will be much more expensive, creating an incentive to use less land per housing unit, ie more density.

So in the US, where highways cover most of metropolitan areas, land will be very cheap, and thus it allows for people to build bigger houses for the same price.

Finally, the low-density car-oriented public realm will likely be extremely poor. Therefore, most people will spend almost their entire lives inside their homes, as there is little point to going outside. So you need an expansive and rich private realm in order to compensate and to avoid cabin fever.

Laughing

Hi Essie,

Most of yesterday and into last night you were uncomfortable. We could tell that you wanted to be your smiley, playful, charming self but something was going on in your stomach-region that was hurting. You’d start to smile and play and then suddenly it was clear that something inside was interrupting your agenda. During one of the sunny spots where you were smiling a big wide-open grin that you’ve figured out just in the last few days, your mom was making raspberry sounds with her tongue at you, and then: you laughed! It was unmistakable, so lovely, and we both teared up.

You still aren’t feeling very well, and your mom is taking care of you at home, but that little ray of sunshine helped us all through.

Love,
Dad

Headband

Headband

Family

Family

Dad and Ess

Dad and Ess

I walked upstairs after a long day at work to Mykala and Essie on the floor. It felt great to join them.

Smiling 1

Smiling 1

Smiling 2

Smiling 2

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