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20thStDad

Book about 20th century US urban evolution?

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As I drove around Houston today trying to keep 2 kids asleep, I pondered how Houston became what it is today. There are so many areas that are fantastic locations, but since they were developed have degraded to crap. I know little to nothing about urban development and trends in 20th century America, but I've read bits and pieces about the "white flight" phenomenon that seemed to take many inner city areas from good neighborhoods to bad ones. The desire for larger yards and houses, the increase in families who have a car, the spread of jobs out from a central downtown core to basically anywhere, etc. I think Houston has a lot of gray areas when it comes to good/bad, but I'm guessing it went through a similar evolution.

Can anyone recommend any books on this topic? I tried to google and find one, but I might be using too many words in my search because I'm not getting anything like what I'm looking for.

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I'm a huge fan of this topic and typically try to read a few socioeconomic and urban real estate books because it$ alway$ interesting to find out THE TRUTH of what really causes mass influx into certain areas or mass flight from certain areas. I know some people may disagree with at least one of the author's/books that I post, but most of these readings beats the propaganda with pure facts (i.e. white flight that encouraged our suburbs to grow and urban cores to fail was a result of AUTOMOBILE Industry and also Racially discriminating loans that were given to non-minority male veteran's following WWI). Some of this stuff also hits international topics as well( i.e. how and why america has the largest sq. footage per occupant in the world.)

Here are some suggestions:

Who's your City ... Richard Florida (Good, Quick and Informative read about who lives were, why they migrate there and it also points out different n.hood's in major city's..pretty sure it speaks about Montrose/The Heights and maybe River Oaks. Includes some brief history lesson's as well.)

The Death and Life of Great AMerican Cities...Jane Jacobs (Haven't read this one yet,but Jane is a legend when it comes to Urban planning and what makes sense.)

Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream...Andres Duany

(Good Read, very realistic depiction of what's happened recently with gated communities, sidewalks, etc... but IMHO I'd go with Jacobs and Florida first.)

I've got to dig up some more stuff for you and will maybe post one more, this should be a good start and very eye opening.

Edited by sowanome
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I'm a huge fan of this topic and typically try to read a few socioeconomic and urban real estate books because it$ alway$ interesting to find out THE TRUTH of what really causes mass influx into certain areas or mass flight from certain areas. I know some people may disagree with at least one of the author's/books that I post, but most of these readings beats the propaganda with pure facts (i.e. white flight that encouraged our suburbs to grow and urban cores to fail was a result of AUTOMOBILE Industry and also Racially discriminating loans that were given to non-minority male veteran's following WWI). Some of this stuff also hits international topics as well( i.e. how and why america has the largest sq. footage per occupant in the world.)

Here are some suggestions:

Who's your City ... Richard Florida (Good, Quick and Informative read about who lives were, why they migrate there and it also points out different n.hood's in major city's..pretty sure it speaks about Montrose/The Heights and maybe River Oaks. Includes some brief history lesson's as well.)

The Death and Life of Great AMerican Cities...Jane Jacobs (Haven't read this one yet,but Jane is a legend when it comes to Urban planning and what makes sense.)

Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream...Andres Duany

(Good Read, very realistic depiction of what's happened recently with gated communities, sidewalks, etc... but IMHO I'd go with Jacobs and Florida first.)

I've got to dig up some more stuff for you and will maybe post one more, this should be a good start and very eye opening.

Those are great resources for people satisfied with a perspective on the American city circa 1990. With racial attitudes changed from what they were (although clearly not gone) and with larger minority populations and an increasing number of wealthy members among them, the suburbs continue to grow outward at a rate that far exceed the rate of urban population growth.

It seems that the boundary lines of areas that are desired might best be described by age, affluence, and culture. And although the legacy of the past continues to shape consumer preferences to a large extent in urbanized areas, there is nothing that would prevent tranformative change...if warranted by demand and fueled by economic grown, of course.

I do realize that a tremendous part of the argument advanced by Jacobs address public subsidy toward highways as opposed to transit. If that's what you desire, then time travel to the past is your best option. That's where such an argument might've been effective. What's that, you don't know how? Oh...well then I guess you're ____ed. As of today, millions of people live and work in areas that are not and cannot be served effectively by transit. Can you realistically imagine the gross inconvenience of transit service within the Houston area that attempted to get living in a new subdivision in the Bear Creek area to a place of work even as close to them as the Energy Corridor? Or Westchase? Every one of those places to just so irrevocably dispersed. And what are you going to do to stop more of the wrong kind of growth--simply stop funding new freeways? Yeah, look at how much growth there is waaaay up off of 290 or in The Woodlands, and tell me with a straight face that that is a fix. No. You break the freeways and growth keeps going outward; it's just that you sever the willingness of people that are highly motivated to seek what they consider to be "good schools" to work in the urban core. Urban growth boundary? Impossible. Commence your whining.

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Any other book recommendations? I'm always looking for informative literature, there's also a cool movie that chronicles how suburbia came out (once again, it has some negative tones about sprawl, but overall it highlights some great truths about how we've gotten to where we are now): http://www.endofsuburbia.com/

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Any other book recommendations? I'm always looking for informative literature, there's also a cool movie that chronicles how suburbia came out (once again, it has some negative tones about sprawl, but overall it highlights some great truths about how we've gotten to where we are now): http://www.endofsuburbia.com/

I strongly recommend The Power Broker by Robert Cato. It is neither a short nor easy read, but very rewarding.

The documentation of the development of American cities has a decided NYC bent (see Jane Jacobs); and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the questions and arguments facing Houston that seem new have already been discussed, at length. Our situation is not unique. We have the opportunity to not repeat some of the mistakes which have been made in the past.

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