Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Buyer Beware

Living in Nashville I am experiencing the first hand ways of how the aspirations of a City don't always follow the reality.

In 2010 Nashville had a major flood that affected the largest sector of the Downtown area and extended into the Donelson area as far as the largest hotel in the area, Opryland, the mall adjacent and in turn the Grand Ole Opry itself.

Nashville doesn't discuss it and if they do the facts are buried with one lone photo near Joe's Crab Shack showing water in recession and not the original photo that had the waterline near the roof.  Did the new owner of that building that paid millions for it know of this issue?  Doubtful as water damage is not required in real estate disclosure here in Tennessee.

I never heard of it until I went to the Opry on the tour and they discussed how it affected them and in turn I went home and did some research but not enough as again this is a City-Town where the powers that be - The Chamber of Commerce - don't want it as a major topic of conversation. And why? The last thing they want is to discourage development and growth that is taking place at rapid pace.

Development here is so bizarre so badly planned that it defies rhyme or reason two elements often found in Country Music.  One area hit, the heavily gentrified Germantown area, has my favorite coffee shop, Barista Parlor. On Thursday when the post Harvey rain hit, their Manager (an adorable guy who is from California and has lived here 4 years) had to clean flooding rain waters that came through the two garage doors that align the back wall which faces the Cumberland.  When I told him that well if it had continued rather that riding a Motorcycle to work from his home in Donelson he could switch to a Jet Ski as this is ground zero for flooding.   He had never heard of the flood.  Which doesn't surprise me as well few here are that well informed but his colleague the most adorable kid I have met in my life is a local and he recalls it in detail.  And the irony was that as Harvey was bearing down he and I were discussing the flood and he was filling in the gaps of what I had learned.  And Nashville did nothing to ever prevent it and it shows with the rain that flooded much of the surrounding hoods in Nashville that largely house the poor.   Bellevue a once working class community is now only just coming out of and a mall that was submerged is being rebuilt with high end grocery stores and a new High School is coming as a way of turning the area into a more Middle Class community closer to Nashville with reduced commute times.  And again our highways show the issues that this growth has led to, urban sprawl in a town that has much to do to be a city.  And if that flood was on the table that might be a problem.  Regardless, it is.

And this last rainfall brought the subject back to the table and the debate will return and nothing will get done.  I think I finally figured out what the Nashville Way is!!!

And this is being played out in Seattle as it is on a major earthquake zone and there is huge development with little regard to what will happen when, not if, the quake hits. And with the massive fires that are now raging in Eastern Washington that means Seattle and the Western half of the State will have to assist in that economic redevelopment.  That fires are not considered a major threat I find interesting as fires are raging in Los Angeles again and they are bordering much closer to major areas. 

And add to this rain and exceeding heat, again Seattle has experienced the hottest summer ever and in turn will have droughts due to the fires and the shortage of water and warmer winter. And the cycle goes on and on.    Build it they will come and then when they arrive what then?

And that issue of excessive heat that has played out in Arizona and Nevada, two red states the rely largely on the hospitality industry and in turn tourism and well those nice brown people that don't speak English to do the heavy lifting.  Is that the problem or the whole they don't speak my language thing that is the problem:?  Frankly is the latter over the former and we want them to speak our language - Americana - how dare they believe we should learn theirs.  

And I lived in San Francisco for a decade and they too have seriously shot themselves in the foot and the gun is still warm.  But they have the Valley and they can disrupt that no doubt. 

Think about  Florida, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico as Irma bears down.  And we still have Louisana drying out.  This means a spread of resources and in turn rescue and restoration crews, budgets and materials that will be pushed to the limit all while Cities struggle to get their share of the pie in which to rebuild.  And the irony is that the same Developers who profited will do so again.  It is a game of chance in which they have doubled down.  They are of course well insured but many of those whom they sell these overpriced buildings and the tenants are not.  We are seeing that in Houston. And here in Nashville to rent either a home/apartment let alone a storage unit I was required to have policies and actually provide them with copies to do so.  And the same with a rental car, just having a Visa Card with rental insurance a perk was not enough.  I since have an annual policy with Insure My Rent a Car to back up the card policy.  And yes they sell those for those who don't have auto insurance with the only caveat is you don't drive over 30 days straight.  And for the record flood damage is not covered, so here is my easy plan - when a water threat hits just return the car.  That I can truly always get another.  And people wonder why I ride the bus.  But in many places, such as Houston they have done little to expand their options for commuting and in turn made sprawl worse, roadways unsafe and the environment suffers, you know that global warming thing that Texas thinks is a farce.

Honestly this is also why I can't stay here I have never been sure what the hell is going on here it is all so convoluted and full of shit it is exhausting. If one more fuckwit says some version of "I'll pray for you" I will pray that I don't smack them across the face.  I cannot trust those who think faith will fix this shit.  No people will.  As this is a red state and in the South so the GOP here are bigger blowhards than Harvey ever could be. 

Paul Krugman had an outstanding column about this subject and once again - let the buyer beware.

Why Can’t We Get Cities Right?

Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Sep 4, 2017 

The waters are receding in Houston, and so, inevitably, is national interest. But Harvey will leave a huge amount of wreckage behind, some of it invisible. In particular, we don’t yet know just how much poison has been released by flooding of chemical plants, waste dumps, and more. But it’s a good bet that more people will eventually die from the toxins Harvey leaves behind than were killed during the storm itself.

Oh, and if you trust the current administration to handle Harvey’s aftermath right, I’ve got a degree from Trump University you might want to buy. There are already signs of dereliction: Many toxic waste sites are flooded, but the Environmental Protection Agency is conspicuously absent.

Anyway, Harvey was an epic disaster. And it was a disaster brought on, in large part, by bad policy. As many have pointed out, what made Houston so vulnerable to flooding was rampant, unregulated development. Put it this way: Greater Houston still has less than a third as many people as greater New York, but it covers roughly the same area, and probably has a smaller percentage of land that hasn’t been paved or built on.

Houston’s sprawl gave the city terrible traffic and an outsized pollution footprint even before the hurricane. When the rains came, the vast paved-over area meant that rising waters had nowhere to go.

So is Houston’s disaster a lesson in the importance of urban land-use regulation, of not letting developers build whatever they want, wherever they want? Yes, but.

To understand that “but,” consider the different kind of disaster taking place in San Francisco. Where Houston has long been famous for its virtual absence of regulations on building, greater San Francisco is famous for its NIMBYism — that is, the power of “not in my backyard” sentiment to prevent new housing construction. The Bay Area economy has boomed in recent years, mainly thanks to Silicon Valley; but very few new housing units have been added.

The result has been soaring rents and home prices. The median monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is more than $3,000, the highest in the nation and roughly triple the rent in Houston; the median price of a single-family home is more than $800,000.

And while geography — the constraint imposed by water and mountains — is often offered as an excuse for the Bay Area’s failure to build more housing, there’s no good reason it couldn’t build up. San Francisco housing is now quite a lot more expensive than New York housing, so why not have more tall buildings?

But politics has blocked that kind of construction, and the result is housing that’s out of reach for ordinary working families. In response, some workers engage in extreme commuting from affordable locations, spending as much as four hours each way. That’s no way to live — and no way to run a city.

Houston and San Francisco are extreme cases, but not that extreme. It turns out that America’s big metropolitan areas are pretty sharply divided between Sunbelt cities where anything goes, like Houston or Atlanta, and those on the East or West Coast where nothing goes, like San Francisco or, to a lesser extent, New York. (Chicago is a huge city with dense development but relatively low housing prices; maybe it has some lessons to teach the rest of us?)

The point is that this is one policy area where “both sides get it wrong” — a claim I usually despise — turns out to be right. NIMBYism is bad for working families and the U.S. economy as a whole, strangling growth precisely where workers are most productive. But unrestricted development imposes large costs in the form of traffic congestion, pollution, and, as we’ve just seen, vulnerability to disaster.

Why can’t we get urban policy right? It’s not hard to see what we should be doing. We should have regulation that prevents clear hazards, like exploding chemical plants in the middle of residential neighborhoods, preserves a fair amount of open land, but allows housing construction.

In particular, we should encourage construction that takes advantage of the most effective mass transit technology yet devised: the elevator.

In practice, however, policy all too often ends up being captured by interest groups. In sprawling cities, real-estate developers exert outsized influence, and the more these cities sprawl, the more powerful the developers get. In NIMBY cities, soaring prices make affluent homeowners even less willing to let newcomers in.

Can America break out of these political traps? Maybe. In blue states where cities build too little, there’s a growing political movement calling for more housing supply. Until now, there’s been much less evidence of second thoughts about unmanaged development in red states, but Harvey may serve as a wake-up call.

One thing is clear: How we manage urban land is a really important issue, with huge impacts on American lives.

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