Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Planning Confidential: You Don’t Know Gentrification

Posted by Roobs on June 20, 2013

Gentrification Sign

Gentrification.  Often considered a third-rail topic, gentrification has become so controversial that the mere mention of it can elicit strong and passionate debate. Proponents of urban development (not calling it gentrification) say it improves neighborhood because it improves the physical environment of a neighborhood and quality of life for residents, new and old.  Critics, however, see gentrification as a tool by wealthy developers and urban professionals to displace an undesirable bloc of the population (read: minorities).  But in all the kerfuffle of debate, many critics of gentrification seem unwilling to look at the real causes of the problems they see – the displacement of the poor.  Studies are showing that gentrification doesn’t actually do all that critics have long accused it of.  By not focusing on the root cause of the poor’s displacement, gentrification critics are just as, if not more so, detrimental to the livelihoods of the very bloc they seek to protect.

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Planning Confidential: What They Don’t Teach in School Can Hurt You

Posted by Roobs on May 27, 2013


I originally wanted to go to law school but I changed my mind during my junior year at Berkeley.  I chose to go into urban planning instead, since it fit in more with my personal and professional interests.  My two years in UCLA’s urban planning program were fun, educational (obviously), and stressful.  I got to study really great topics in planning and even design a neighborhood around a potential high-speed rail station in Burbank (neat!)  But now that I am a year removed from graduation; I look back and think that there are things that planning school just doesn’t do well in preparing future planners.  I  believe there are a few things we can change to fix that.

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Planning Confidential: Time to Embrace the Neighborhood Bar

Posted by Roobs on May 14, 2013

The other day I read an article announcing that the beloved UCLA hangout bar, Westwood Brewing Company (aka: BrewCo), would be closing this summer; to be replaced by a chain seafood restaurant.  The loss of this college-age oriented hangout is yet another loss for the student population in Westwood, and an example of the constant struggle for identity of this urban village between the wealthy homeowners and student population.  What urban planners have always been willing to argue is that street-level retail and restaurants are essential.  But what they are less likely, though arguably always thinking, is that neighborhoods need bars.  It’s time we get over our reservations and embrace the benefits and necessity of a neighborhood bar in urban planning and development.

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Planning Confidential: 4 Reasons SimCity is Better Than You

Posted by Roobs on May 8, 2013


SimCity.  Possibly the most popular computer game among urban planners.  You get to put roads where you want them.  Transit where you want it.  Build a high-rise, high-density core, and there’s not a NIMBY in site.  Or at least none that you can’t simply bulldoze out of the way.  Yes, every urban planner loves SimCity.  Except for the ones that don’t.

It was about a year ago or so when I first read a planning-related article about the popular city simulation game.  The article was more of an attack on the game being perceived as a “urban planning” simulation, citing how it is not at all realistic to what planners do and potential graduate students in planning should avoid it (if I could find it I would add the link, but I can’t).  My response: of course it’s not realistic.  It’s a computer game!  But here’s why SimCity is better at planning than the haters.

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Planning Confidential: Everything you thought about planning is true.

Posted by Roobs on May 6, 2013


Welcome to my new series entitled: Planning Confidential: Everything You Thought About Planning is True.  The title is a play on the great book by Anthony Bourdain: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.  Unlike Bourdain, I lack the years of experience to create a truly entertaining “tell all” book.  However, like Bourdain, I have plenty of opinions and a willingness to share them.  Over the next few posts under this parent series, I will explore some of my favorite topics in the planning and development field.  Some may be serious.  Some may be more playful.  But it I hope it will all be fun.  For me, at least.

If you don’t like it then I’m sure there’s a permit application you could be approving right now.

Post Index:

1) 4 Reasons SimCity is Better Than You

2) Time to Embrace the Neighborhood Bar

3) What They Don’t Teach in School Can Hurt You

4) You Don’t Know Gentrification

5) Developers, Height, and Cost of Housing

6) The Moral Imperative to Build

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Trolley Buses Won’t Solve LA’s Transit Woes

Posted by Roobs on April 22, 2013


SF Muni Trolley Bus

When I was at UCLA for my urban planning master’s, one of my professors told us that whenever you are provided with a potential solution, you have to ask if that solution solves the problem you set out to solve.  A post by Alexander Friedman on Streetsblog LA makes a decent argument to bring back trolley buses – electric buses powered by overhead wires – to Los Angeles as a way to provide a temporary fix to LA’s transit woes.  While I have no problem with trolley buses given their great environmental benefits and long-term savings, I believe Mr. Freidman overestimates the effect trolley buses have on transit ridership and their benefits to overall transit service.

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A Case Against Using ‘Queer’ in Organizations

Posted by Roobs on April 18, 2013


For the past two years, I served as the Chair of the California Young Democrats (CYD) LGBTQ Caucus.  When I began my tenure leading the board back in 2011, the caucus was named the CYD Queer Caucus.  One of my first acts as Chair back in 2011 was to rename the caucus.  Originally, I intended the name to be changed to simply the CYD LGBT Caucus.  But surprisingly, there was a backlash among caucus members.  Not necessarily at the renaming as a goal, but the complete drop of the “Q” or Queer.  Ultimately, I compromised to include the Q in the acronym.  But I still think this is the wrong way for a political caucus or an activist group to go.  Here is why I don’t like to include the word “Queer”.

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Should PhD Students Have to Pay Tuition?

Posted by Roobs on April 9, 2013


A couple weeks ago, my roommate had a friend over for dinner.  My roommate is getting his PhD in Public Health at UCLA and so is his friend.  The evening was fine until his friend made, what I believe, was a rather bold statement.  She believes that PhD students, once they reach “candidacy”, should not be charged tuition.  She also stated that this is normal to not charge tuition.  I was taken aback by the statement and began to probe why she felt that way.  And the probe soon turned into argument.  She eventually left with no real resolution to the topic.  I then began to research the topic on my own.  Should PhD students have to pay tuition like Master’s students and undergraduates?  Is it normal practice for the PhD students to not pay tuition?  The quick answer is no.  It is neither right nor normal.  Here is why.

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