flwyd: (1895 Colorado map)
Someone on a local games day list asked why rent in South Boulder is so expensive and why the roads are so wide and the yards so big. Cribbing from Boulder History Museum's timeline and 35 years of stories from my dad and others, here's some background.

Boulder's population more than trebled from 1950 to 1970, driven in part by easier access[1], good science/engineering jobs[2], and post-war suburban boom that visited most of the country. Martin Acres was the first large-scale cookie-cutter housing development in Boulder, with a lot of cheap modest houses[3].

Development of the Table Mesa subdivision (which includes Emerson) occurred in the mid-60s[4] at the base of the fancy new NCAR. With several other high-tech employers in the south part of town[5] and a booming economy, the Table Mesa neighborhood targeted well-paid professionals with families, leading to the ubiquitous 2-level with a two car garage, a porch, and a big yard.

While the Blue Line policy restricting housing development on the mountain sides was introduced in 1959 and the city started buying open space in 1967, most of Boulder's growth-restrictive policies didn't start until the 1970s. By then Boulder was one of the national centers of environmentalist culture and had begun attracting recreational and outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to environmental concerns, growth restrictions play to the advantage of existing homeowners (who are also, not coincidentally, the primary electorate). By preserving open space and limiting housing construction, market value for existing houses goes up on account of demand outpacing supply and the house having a nice view and convenient outdoor recreation.

Boulder has continued limited growth policies for the last 40 years, but has only really been concerned about soaring housing prices for the last 20 or so[6] and they've only gotten serious about density in perhaps the last 15 years. These days there seems to be wide support for dense (but not tall) housing and New Urbanism ideas like mixed use development. Yet with a greenbelt of permanent open space, transitioning to this model is slow. There aren't many places one could build a new subdivision on these principles. And even single family houses which get bought and torn down usually get replaced by a much larger, fancier single family house rather than a multi-family dwelling.

So why are rents in Boulder so high? Demand greatly exceeds supply and there are social limits to increasing supply. Why is demand so high, even at high prices? Boulder's one of the most enjoyable places in the country to live for certain sets of people, including professionals (who can often afford Boulder housing prices) and students (who can include rent in their student loans). And part of the reason that Boulder is an attractive place to live are the restrictions on growth. The construction-focused policies of Denver's suburbs has resulted in a lot of houses which are pleasant as dwellings but hasn't led to any communities as attractive as Boulder, let alone Boulder's geographic perks.

[1] My grandfather told my dad that the vote he was most proud of from his time in the Colorado Legislature was the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, which opened in 1952.
[2] NIST (then the National Bureau of Standards) and Rocky Flats were opened in the early '50s; Beech Aircraft and Ball Aerospace in the mid-late '50s; NCAR in the early 1960s.
[3] http://boulderthistory.org/timeline.asp says you could get a home loan in Martin Acres for $700 down in 1950.
[4] My dad's family moved into a brand new house on Carnegie Drive in 1963. My dad said they could've gotten a better deal elsewhere, but his mom wanted a brand new house so she wouldn't have to clean it before moving in, a luxury she'd longed for in the Army.
[5] IBM's presence on the Diagonal starting in the mid-60s is a fantastic example of "Of course everyone will drive to work."
[6] My parents paid $80,000 cash for a 4-bedroom house in 1980. In the late '90s, houses in our neighborhood were selling for $400,000.
[Bonus footnote] Boulder was a dry town from 1907 to 1967, so the British ideal of a pub in every neighborhood was illegal when most Boulder subdivisions were built.
flwyd: (Om Chomsky)
The Pope made a speech to the Queen of England which could be interpreted as comparing atheists to Nazis.
As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.

I leave open the question of whether Pope Benedict XVI prefers the sobering lessons of religious extremism from the 16th and 17th Centuries. It's true that many of the violent extremists of the 20th Century were explicitly atheistic: Stalin and other Soviets, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the Khmer Rouge. But many other violent extremists were religious, even if their target selection wasn't motivated by religion. U.S. segregationists and South African apartheid advocates, conflicts in Rwanda, Guatemala, Vietnam... World Wars I and II were not about religion, but aside from the Soviets, all the major players were at least nominally religious. And regardless of the private views of Nazi leaders, their extremist persecutions were largely ethnic and social, not religious: being a nonpracticing Jew didn't buy reprieve, nor did they distinguish between Christian and atheist homosexuals.

Leonard Shlain wrote something interesting in The Alphabet vs. The Goddess: the conflicts between communism/socialism and capitalism in 19th and 20th Century Europe can be seen as a new phase in the continent's history of religious warfare. The communists don't believe in God, but they have religious texts (Das Kapital, for instance), prophets, and a sometimes-violent fervor based on a set of ideas.

So far the 21st Century has provided one major ideological conflict: Wahhabists and other extremist Islamic groups in a decentralized fight against imperialism and secular and insufficiently-religious governments. And there are conflicts which mix nationalism with religion that have spilled over from the last century: Israelis and Palestinians in the near east and Muslims and Hindus in Pakistani/Indian border lands. But the bloodiest conflicts, in eastern Congo and southern Sudan, are about concerns much older than religious conflict: land and resources. And as the world population grows and the climate gets more volatile, these sorts of conflicts can only be expected to spring up more often. The important thing isn't what the folks involved believe, it's what they have and what they want.

11/11 11:11

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 11:11 am
flwyd: (rose silhouette)
91 years ago today, peace was declared in Europe. The war to end all wars left an unstable continent that fell in to war again two decades later.

20 years ago this week, the Berlin Wall, the most tangible piece of the Iron Curtain, was declared open. Although Eastern Europe's transition into capitalism and democracy has not been free of pain and strife, dictators and warmongers have little traction there.

America and its allies, primarily European, are today at war in Asia, in places outsiders have been at war in recent memory. If we do things right, hopefully Iraq's and Afghanistan's next two decades can be like Europe's in the last 20 years, not like Europe's in the 20 years after World War I. If we do (more) things wrong, we may be back for thirds.

Peace takes time. Peace takes work. Peace is worth it.
flwyd: (step to the moon be careful)
At 9:40 a.m. on Saturday, July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted in thick fog by Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith, Jr., accidentally crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors, where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located. One engine shot through the side opposite the impact and fell on a nearby building; the other plummeted down an elevator shaft. The resulting fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. Fourteen people were killed in the incident. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded. Despite the damage and loss of life, the building was open for business on many floors on the following Monday.
-- Wikipedia

I wonder why I never heard this mentioned after the September 11, 2001 attacks. I guess the analogies to Pearl Harbor (where enemy planes hit a U.S. landmark) were more resonant than this incident where a U.S. Army plane hit a New York landmark.
flwyd: (1895 USA map)
"Hello, I'd like to make a reservation. The name's Jackson. Andrew Jackson."
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