Saturday, February 3, 2018

AFFH Has No Basis in the Fair Housing Act

AFFH Has No Basis in the Fair Housing Act

By Stanley Kurtz — May 17, 2016

Megacities of the Future , YIMBY Paradise?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Fixing the Racist Highways of America

Editor's Note: Are highways racist?  If so, the racist "Plan Bay Area" needs to rethink its policy of infill housing on brownfield sites (toxic waste sites) for affordable housing along the freeway. (aka. "transit oriented development").  I believe that economics and politics are stronger reasons why low income housing is in the "toxic danger zone" than overt racism.   It is positively shocking to me and fellow environmentalists,  that CEQA is being dismantled to allow developers to build on urban infill sites despite the unsafe environmental hazards.  Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to toxins in our environment.  

Anthony Foxx Wants to Repair the Damage Done By Urban Highways
During the first two decades of the Interstate Highway system, almost half a million households were displaced. Most were low income and people of color, Foxx said.
During the first two decades of constructing the Interstate Highway System, almost half a million households were forced to leave their homes.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is offering a surprisingly honest appraisal of America’s history of road construction this week, with a high-profile speaking tour that focuses on the damage that highways caused in black urban neighborhoods.
U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke at the Center for American progress today about the legacy of discrimination in transportation. Image: CAP
U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke at the Center for American progress today about the highway system’s legacy of discrimination. Image: CAP
Growing up in Charlotte, Foxx’s own street was walled in by highways, he recalled in a speech today at the Center for American Progress. Building big, grade-separated roads through thickly settled neighborhoods devastated communities, uprooted residents, and cut off the people who remained from the city around them.
“The people in my community at the time these decisions were made were actually not invisible,” he said. “It is just that at a certain stage in our history, they didn’t matter.”
From I-95 in the Overtown neighborhood in Miami, to the Staten Island Expressway, to I-5 in Seattle, freeways divided and weakened city neighborhoods all over the country. Foxx estimates that nearly 500,000 households were compelled to relocate by the construction of the interstate highway system between 1957 and 1977. Most were people of color living in low-income neighborhoods.
“Areas of this country where infrastructure is supposed to connect people, in some places it’s actually constraining them,” he said.
The speech marks the launch of a new initiative spearheaded by Foxx called “Ladders of Opportunity,” which aims to shape transportation policy based on how infrastructure can serve as a barrier, or bridge, to jobs, education, and better health.
Foxx’s power is limited. U.S. DOT doesn’t have the authority to simply turn off the federal funding spigot for projects like the Detroit region’s $4 billion plan to widen two highways, siphoning resources from struggling inner suburbs to more affluent, farther-flung communities. The transportation secretary can’t wave his hand and stop Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper from pumping more traffic and air pollution through north Denver with the widening of I-70.
Of the $60 billion in annual federal funding allocated to surface transportation, 90 percent is doled out to state and local agencies by formula, Foxx noted. The remaining 10 percent funds U.S. DOT operations, discretionary programs like TIGER, and transportation research.
Even when U.S. DOT is poised to back a project that aims to benefit a disadvantaged community, local politics often gets in the way.
Foxx used this image of the Atlanta area to launch a discussion about the disparities in sidewalk infrastructure in America.
Like many other urban roads, Atlanta’s Buford Highway doesn’t work well for a lot of people who live nearby.
Foxx singled out Baltimore’s Red Line light rail project to make his point. “We had planned to commit about $1 billion to this project, only to have it cancelled by the state of Maryland,” he said. The Baltimore NAACP and other groups have filed a civil rights complaint in response to Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to spike the project.
The disparities go beyond highway planning. “Look at our basic sidewalk infrastructure,” Foxx said, pointing to a photo of the notorious Buford Highway in suburban Atlanta. “You see these roads are really designed for cars, not people. There are no sidewalks, and where you see sidewalks there are no crosswalks.”
That leaves families like Raquel Nelson’s vulnerable. A driver killed Nelson’s 4-year-old son, A.J., while they were trying to cross a hostile road in suburban Atlanta, where crosswalks were few and far between. But it was Nelson who was charged with vehicular homicide.
“This is not an isolated case, not in Atlanta and not in this country,” Foxx said. “If we want a society in which everyone has a real shot no matter where they come from, then it’s imperative that we acknowledge that these divisions, past and present, still exist.”
So what can U.S. DOT do? Foxx said the agency is retooling some of its programs to better emphasize social equity. For example, U.S. DOT is making “access to opportunity” a priority when selecting which projects will receive TIGER funding. Foxx also said the agency will beef up its civil rights office, which has the power to shut down projects determined to have a “disparate impact” on disadvantaged groups. Historically, the office has rarely exercised that authority to police the social impact of highway projects.
Mostly, however, Foxx’s campaign will have to rely on the power of persuasion. He’s trying to change the hearts and minds of governors, transportation agency chiefs, and other decision makers by raising the profile of issues that transportation secretaries haven’t tackled head-on before.
“The question that we have to ask is, ‘What kind of country do we want to build?'” he said.

Is there a "Narrow Car" in your future?

Narrow cars are under development at all of the major auto manufacturers.  Personalized transport systems are unlikely to be replaced by mass transit.  Narrow cars will effectively DOUBLE our FREEWAY capacity at virtually no cost.

China to Build the Largest City in Human History

China is working on building a megacity that will have more people than the UK, Canada, and Australia combined. It's called Jingjinji, a megalopolis with Beijing at the center. And it might be just as nightmarish as you imagine.

This is what happens when you reply to spam email

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Urban Planning for the People

Urban Planning For People

The recent publication of the United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 2014 Annual Energy Outlook provides a good backdrop for examining the importance of current information in transportation and land-use planning. I have written about two recent cases in which urban plans were fatally flawed due to their reliance on outdated information. In one case, San Francisco's Plan Bay Area, the planners are ignoring reality, and a court challenge is underway. In the other, a court invalidated the city of Los Angeles Hollywood Plan.

Progress In Automobile CO2 Emissions

The new Annual Energy Outlook forecasts continuing and material progress in improving energy efficiency, reducing fossil fuel consumption and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks (light vehicles). Per capita carbon dioxide emissions from light vehicles are projected by EIA to fall to 51 percent below the peak year of 2003 (Figure 1).

The gross (not per capita) 2040 carbon dioxide reduction from light vehicles is projected to decline 28 percent in 2040 from 2003. Most significantly, the reduction is to occur as gross driving miles increases 29 percent (Figure 2). The actual 2040 emissions are likely to be even lower, because the 2014 Annual Energy Outlook assumes no vehicle fuel economy improvements after 2025. Improvements in vehicle technologies and cars using alternative fuels, and under government incentives, seem likely.

The emissions forecast improvements have been stunning, to say the least. The 2002 Annual Energy Outlook had expected a 46 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions from light vehicles between 2000 and 2020. The revised forecast – which takes into account what actually has occurred – says there will be a 9 percent decrease.

This is the result of multiple factors. In 2002, EIA predicted a 55 percent increase in driving between 2000 and 2020. The 2014 Annual Energy Outlook revises that figure to 22 percent (Figure 3). Fuel economy is improving, which is being driven by stronger regulations as well as technological advances.

Driving is Down
Driving per capita fell nine percent from the peak year of 2003 to 2012. This decline is not surprising given the sorry state of the economy and high unemployment. Gas prices have risen 85 percent (inflation adjusted) over the same period. The decline in driving is modest compared to the increase in gas prices – a 0.9 percent reduction in driving per capita for each 10 percent increase in gasoline (Figure 4), inflation adjusted. This is half or less the reduction in transit ridership that would be expected if fares were raised by the same percentage.

Meanwhile, little of this reduction in driving has been transferred to transit. The increase in transit per passenger miles per capita captured less than one percent of the driving decline. Indeed, the daily increase in per capita transit use is less than the perimeter of a 20-to-the-acre townhouse lot.

With fewer jobs, higher gas prices and the new reliance on social media, as well as a rise in people working at home, people may have become more efficient and selective in their driving patterns (such as by consolidating shopping trips). Certainly those with jobs use their cars for those trips above as much as before.

Meanwhile, the EIA forecasts that driving per capita will rise gain, once the economy is released from intensive care. However, with the near universality of automobile ownership, the potential for substantial increases is very limited.

Hiding Success?

It might be thought that the planning community, with its emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, would be rushing to incorporate these into their plans and even to herald the improvements.

Yet, this is not the case. San Francisco Bay Area planners hid behind over-reaching state directives to "pretend-it-was yesterday" and employed out of date forecasts for vehicle emissions.

Data in Plan Bay Area documentation shows that 95 percent of the projected improvement in greenhouse gas emissions would be from energy efficiency improvements. These have nothing whatever to do with its intrusive land use and transport strategies. 

The additional five percent requires social engineering residents into "pack and stack" high density developments, virtually outlaw detached housing on plentiful urban fringe land and will likely cause even more intense traffic congestion.

California's high speed rail planners have made the same kind of mistake, using out-dated fuel economy data in their excessively optimistic greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The Illusion of Transit Mobility

Part of the problem is an illusion that people in the modern metropolitan area can be forced out of their cars into transit, walking, and biking, without serious economic impacts (such as a lower standard of living and greater poverty).

Transit is structurally incapable of providing automobile competitive mobility throughout the metropolitan area without consuming much or all of its personal income (of course, a practical impossibility). But there is no doubt of transit effectiveness and importance in providing mobility to the largest central business districts (downtowns) with their astronomic employment densities (Note 1). Yet, outside the relatively small dense cores, automobile use is dominant, whether in the United States, Canada, Australia, or Western Europe. The transit legacy cities (municipalities) of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, with the six largest downtown areas account for 55 percent of all transit commuting in the United States.

The Delusion of Walking and Cycling as Substitutes for Driving

Illusion becomes delusion when it comes to cycling and walking. Walking and cycling work well for some people for short single purpose trips, especially in agreeable weather. However, walking and cycling are inherently unable to provide the geographical mobility on which large metropolitan areas rely to produce economic growth. True, cycling does approximate transit commute shares in smaller metropolitan areas, like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Bremen, but still accounts for barely a third of commuting by car according to Eurostat data. Prud'homme and Lee at the University of Paris and others have shown in their research that the economic performance of metropolitan areas is better where more of an area's employment can be reached within a specific period of time (such as 30 minutes). That leaves only a limited role for walking and cycling.

Toward an A Non-Existent Nirvana?

The "Nirvana" of a transit-, walking-, and cycling-oriented metropolitan area proves to be no Nirvana at all. We don't need theory to prove this point. Take Hong Kong, for example, with its urban population density six times that of Paris, nine times that of Toronto, 10 times Los Angeles, 12 times New York nearly 20 times Portland, and nearly 40 times that of Atlanta.

This vibrant, exciting metropolitan area cannot deliver on a standard of living that competes with Western Europe, much less the United States. Despite the high density, the overwhelming dominance of transit, walking, and cycling, Hong Kongers spend much longer traveling to and from work each day than their counterparts in all large US metropolitan areas, including New York and in most cases the difference is from more than 50 percent (as in Los Angeles) to nearly 100 percent.

The problem goes beyond the time that could be used for more productive for rewarding activities. Housing costs are the highest among the major metropolitan areas in the eight nations covered by the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Hong Kong's housing costs relative to incomes are more than 1.5 times as high as in the San Francisco metropolitan area and almost five times as high as Dallas-Fort Worth. Meanwhile, the average new house in Hong Kong is less approximately 485 square feet (45 square meters), less than one-fifth the size of a new single family US American house (2,500 square feet or 230 square meters), though Hong Kong households, are larger (Note 2).

When households are required to spend more of their income for housing, they have less discretionary income and necessarily a lower standard of living. This loss of discretionary income trickles down to people in poverty, whose numbers are swelled by higher than necessary housing costs.

Planning is for People

Contrary to the current conventional wisdom, the prime goal of planning should not be to achieve any particular urban form. What should matter most is the extent to which a metropolitan area facilitates a higher standard of living and less poverty.
Note 1: In 2000, employment densities in the nation's six largest downtown areas (New York, Chicago, Washington, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia) was three times that of the downtowns in the balance of the 50 largest urban areas, and 14 times as dense as outside the downtown areas.
Note 2: According to the 2011 census, the average household size in Hong Kong was 2.9 persons. This is more than 10 percent larger than the US figure of 2.6 from the 2010 census.
Wendell Cox is a Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris and the author of “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.
Photo: Prius photo by Bigstock.

My Journey from Tyranny to Liberty

I am an Chinese immigrant who come to America to seek freedom from the Communist China. I was born right before China’s Cultural Revolution and grew up in Chengdu, Capitol of Sichuan province, China. As you know, in China there is only one party that is truly in power: The Communist Party. The government, which is the Communist Party, controls everything: Factories, schools, the press, hospitals, land, and universities. Growing up there, I never heard of such a thing as a “private company." There were no choices of any sort. We were all poor. We had no gas or stove, no TV, no phones, no refrigerators, and no washing machines. In the cities, electricity was rationed. In the countryside, there was no electricity.

Our family of five had to live on the very low wages my parents earned. The local government issued coupons for people to buy everything from pork to rice, sugar, and flour and there was never enough. We got to buy only 2.2 pounds of pork per month for our family of five. We lived in a two room 'apartment', without heat in the winter and no indoor plumbing. I got impetigo every winter from the cold damp winter weather, which was common for kids to get. Eight families lived in our complex, and we had to share bathrooms (holes in the ground outside), one for all males, and one for all females. When the lights were out, no one would replace the bulb for a while so it would be totally dark to go to the bathroom. It became a quite scary adventure at night for us to go there. We had only government run hospitals which were filthy. I was afraid of going to a hospital because I might get diseases. The last two years before I left for college, we moved into a three-room apartment provided by my dad's work-unit. It had concrete walls and a concrete floor, a water faucet and sink, but no heat. It had a shared public restroom without a shower or bathtub - but, it was infinitely better than what we had before.

I was eager to go to school when I turned 6 years old. My parents did not let me to go to school because they needed me to babysit my younger brother who was one year old. They could not afford his child care. I cried for a long time that night. My parents felt so guilty so they bought me a movie ticket next day. Finally, I went to school at age of 7. I was so happy and motivated to be a top student. As a child, we were brainwashed in public school every day. We were taught that two-thirds of the world population were suffering and living in hunger and our socialist country was the best. We didn't think that maybe China should be counted as part of the two thirds of suffering humanity! We believed whatever the government told us because we did not know anything else. I thought the other countries must be hellish if they were worse than we were. Anyway, we chanted daily: “Long Live Chairman Mao, Long Live the Communist Party. I love Chairman Mao." I was so brainwashed as a small child that I could see Chairman Mao in the clouds or the cooking fire. He was like a god to me. We were required to read all of Mao’s Red books, wear Mao’s buttons, write journals, and confess any bad thoughts to Mao.

We were required to conform, not stand out as an individual. I was held back to join the Young Pioneers because I was not humble enough (I told my classmates I should be in the first batch to join due to my 100% grade on every subject and they reported on me). The big powerful state from top to bottom was always watching us very closely: from Beijing’s central government to our neighborhood block committees and police stations. We had no rights, even though our constitution said we did. It was very scary that local police could stop by our home to pound on the doors at night for any reason. The government told us how to dress (Mao’s suit), what to buy and eat (coupons), where to live (household registration system) and what to read (government newspapers). The land belonged to the people (the government actually) and citizens were not allowed to have any weapons or off to prison they would go. Things have changed a lot in China since the open door policy of Deng Xiaoping really got going in the early 1980s; people have more freedom than ever before to start businesses, get jobs in another city, travel overseas, etc, but the political system is still fundamentally the same one party rule.

My favorite teacher in high school told me that he was sent to a Re-education Labor Camp because the Communist Party punished those who criticized the party even though the party was asking for feedback. His health was ruined during those years. He said “China is not a country of laws." I was determined to study law in college. After three whole days, eight hours of testing each day, I scored very high and was admitted by Fudan University (one of the top five universities) in Shanghai law school. I became the first one in my entire extended family ever to go to college. When there I was depressed to find out that what we learned in school and what was reality were totally different things. The society was not ruled by law but ruled by men. After I became a law school faculty member at Fudan University in Shanghai, I had to be careful about what to say in the classroom or during the party political study and self-criticism meetings. My leaders in law school even intruded into my private life telling me, for example, that I received too many letters (I was too social), or I should not go to my boyfriend’s parents’ house for dinner and spend a night. I was a law school faculty member and yet I was still being treated as a child!

I realized I could not really have the personal freedom I dreamed to have if I stayed in China, so I decided to re-enter school in the USA. It was a long and stressful process for me to step down from my position and leave China. I went to the local security office to apply for my passport seven times and was treated as a deserter with papers literally thrown at my face. My law school made me sign a paper saying that I must return to my job in Shanghai after two years of graduate study, or they will eliminate my position and send my personnel file (everyone has one in China which follows you from birth to death) to my hometown in Chengdu, which would be a death sentence for my law teaching career. However, I was determined to leave and did not care about what I had to sign.

I arrived in America in 1988 with $100 in my pocket. The first ten years when I was in the U.S, I still had nightmares about being trapped in China by the government and having to dig a big hole in the ground, into the blue Pacific Ocean, so I could escape, jump into the Ocean, and swim to the United States. Even when I went back to China later to visit with my American husband in 1991, my fears would return. For example, staying at a friend’s apartment in Beijing, one night the police came to pound on the door and wanted to check our papers. Someone must have reported to them that that there was a foreigner in the neighborhood. I was pregnant with our first son at that time, and we were in deep sleep after midnight when the police’s door-pounding scared the heck out of me and brought all the childhood bad memories back. Fortunately, they only wanted to check our papers, or maybe just let us know who was in charge. Another time I was in China during June 4th (Tian An Men crackdown) anniversary for a business trip, I was in a business-friend’s car, when we were randomly pulled over by the local police to check out our IDs and search our car. They did not have to show any search warrant. I used to also travel often to Guangdong Province for business when I worked in Hong Kong. I remember the taxi drivers called the local police “mafia” because of their brutality and corruption.

I did not hesitate to become an American citizen in 1995. Here I could speak freely and have my rights protected. I do not take my new freedom for granted. I vote in every election. As a U.S. citizen, I have worked for private companies in Hong Kong and Denver. Later, I started my own business and worked hard to grow my business. For the past 15 years, my husband and I have raised three children in Parker, Colorado, enjoying a middle class life: kids, a house, a dog, and 2 cars. From the $100 I brought over from China to having my own businesses and properties, I know I am living the American Dream. All the immigrants I know who come to this country do so because they believe America is a land of opportunity and freedom. We know that if you are smart, work very hard, and save your money, you will be successful and make a nice living here. I love this country. I want my children to continue to enjoy the freedom that brought me here. I want my children to have the same opportunity I had to succeed.

By telling my own story, I wanted to share my message with you: big governments do not work; big governments are very dangerous because they eventually use force. Big government attracts people who love power and control. Big government seems to want to distract you and direct your choices to unimportant social conventions yet limit your choices on really important things like speech, self-defense, and property rights. The freedom we have in this country is precious. The governments in the US are essentially pretty good. However, we are losing more and more liberty every day. The two major parties of this country have always expanded the government (federal or state), even when they say they are shrinking them. Whoever is in power always wants to 'do' something, to 'solve' some problem. It never really works because government must use force to solve whatever problem of the day arises. Now the federal government is $17 trillion in debt from all the problems it has 'solved'; we are losing our freedom to choose in many aspects of our life: health care, education, speech, privacy, what we want to buy to protect our families, how much money we want to keep after our hard work, etc., and even in New York drink sizes! Big government is like a cancer; it will grow and spread and keep growing if we don’t stop it. Do not believe things will always get better. I know that people are born the same everywhere, yet their cultures and systems of government can be vastly different. Our culture, our people, and our increasing reliance on more government are, I think, a very dangerous trend.

The country has been on the wrong path for too long, all our governments have been growing bigger for too long. What kind of country is this if we have to work over a half of the year to pay all the taxes and fees: federal, state, city, county; including payroll, phone, gas, car license, eating out, hotel stays, air travel, licenses, tariffs, etc. We are taxed to death for many things we don't want and the country is broke. This is astounding to me. What kind of country is this if the government uses force to take your money and spend the way they see fit and still tell you it is good for you? Are you its servant or master? Do you own yourself or not? What kind of country is this if the government takes away your choice of marrying anyone who makes you happy? Are you a consenting adult or not? What kind of country is this if the government can put you into a prison for what you are consuming? What kind of country is this if we become like a China Socialist Iron Rice Bowl, where people are treated the same everywhere; where it does not matter whether you work hard or not, that you are told "If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." and where you must redistribute what you produce. What kind of country is this where the government monitors our private email and phone calls? What kind of country is this if the IRS can target you based on your political affiliation? Why have we Americans become so unsure of ourselves that we want to be like other countries and to think like them instead of wanting them to be like us? When did this change happen? Where is the America I dreamed of - full of strong men and women without fear of acting on their own behalf?

Big government people have always been attracted to power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 
Judy Arnold aka. "Captain Ahab", Marin Supervisor, narrowly won re-election by a few hundred votes June 2014.
She claims it was a plot by the Invisible Tea Party of Marin to end her political career
and vows to find every last one of them.

Steve "I am the King" Kinsey, Marin Supervisor, is pushing for urbanization initiatives
OUTSIDE his district while preserving his backyard in Woodacre.

Susan "Build, baby, Build!" Adams, Marin Supervisor works tireless to
 build government subsidized apartment buildings in her district.
Defeated by a landslide election in June 2014.

Kate "No Ears" Sears, Marin Supervisor, delayed discussion of the Strawberry Priority Development area, forcing one determined resident to appear before the board thirteen times to ask it be placed on the agenda.  This earned her the nickname Kate "No Ears" Sears.

Katie "Little Bo Peep" Rice, Marin Supervisor watches passively while the county of her birth
 gets turned in a dense, urban landscape by a juggernaut of special interest groups, developers, and her fellow supervisors.

In an act of supreme political arrogance, the Marin County Board of Supervisors are implementing a strategy to urbanize Marin. According to polls, voters are 70% opposed.

Big government people are perpetually alarmed busybodies who fearfully want to insert themselves into everybody's business here and abroad, telling them what to do or not do. That is why I felt I had to become an advocate for liberty. Let us stop these people now. Wake up and stand up. Remember how this country was founded and what our constitution really protects - Individual Liberty! Vote for liberty, vote for small, effective, and limited government.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Don't Judge Blacks Differently

Does race trump truth? In a confrontation between police and perpetrators, what is more important? Facts or skin color? When protests morph into riots, do we excuse bad behavior based on race? If we do, how are we ever going to end racism? Chloe Valdary, a student at the University of New Orleans, confronts these critical questions and offers a compelling answer. 

Why I love living in Marinwood- Nature

This is the real reason I love living in Marin. Nature in all her beauty. I lived in Los Angeles for 16 years and never saw a clear starry night under the pink glow of urban living. I gladly trade convenience, culture, fine dining and other "advantages" of urban living for a moments peace with nature. Photo taken from my garden in the early morning in Marinwood, CA.

At 'Nature Preschools,' Classes Are Outdoors

At 'Nature Preschools,' Classes Are Outdoors

At Audubon Nature Preschool, a "classroom" can be a pond, a bamboo forest, a meadow, or a garden. That's because Audubon is a "nature preschool"—one of a growing number of preprimary schools where children spend all or part of their days outdoors.
Five years ago, only a couple dozen such schools operated in the United States. Today, there are close to 250, according to the Natural Start Alliance, a coalition supporting early-childhood and environmental education.
The surge in nature preschools can be partially attributed to Richard Louv's decade-old best-seller, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
Louv, a journalist and author, theorizes that the shift toward nature-based education is happening quickly at the pre-K level because preschools can be less structured than K-12 schools.
"Many preschools are private or independent, so there's more flexibility there," he said in an interview.
Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" to describe the price of humans' isolation from nature, including "diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses."
Louv's ideas come at a time when the prevailing trend in schools is toward more academic instruction. And many believe the level of academic rigor has ratcheted up because of the Common Core State Standards.
"Teachers are so tired of the direction that much of education has been going toward," Louv said, "toward more and more testing, toward canceling recess, toward longer school hours, toward anything but real experience in the real world."

A Different Pedagogy

In San Diego, Susan Seiguer, the founder and lead teacher at All Friends Nature School, has used the early-childhood-education program "Growing Up Wild" as her curricular guidepost.
She also borrows the pedagogy of a Waldkindergarten, or forest school. At these schools, children between the ages of 3 and 6 spend their days outdoors, either in a forest or some other natural environment.
Students and teachers gather at the Audubon Nature Preschool in Chevy Chase, Md. Pupils begin their days outside, come together for a morning circle, and then head to learning centers. The day ends with a story and a hike.
Students and teachers gather at the Audubon Nature Preschool in Chevy Chase, Md. Pupils begin their days outside, come together for a morning circle, and then head to learning centers. The day ends with a story and a hike.
—Julie Depenbrock/Education Week
All Friends enrolls 11 children, with one teacher for every four to six students.
"All of our days are spent outside, rain or shine," Seiguer said. "There is no facility."
"Some days we spend our afternoons building a shelter so we have a shady spot to eat our lunch or just to play in," she said. "Other days we may go on a bug hunt and see how many different types of insects are living around us, counting the different types and learning their names."
While San Diego's temperate climate may provide an ideal location for outdoor education, nature preschools have also cropped up in places with more extreme weather.
"One of the big things we say in the nature-based-education world is there's no such thing as bad weather, only poor choices in clothing," said Madison Powell, the director of the Chippewa Nature Preschool in Midland, Mich.
Every Chippewa student has a pair of waterproof, head-to-toe coveralls, as well as boots, gloves, hats, scarves, balaclavas, and changes of clothes and shoes for "indoor" school. Children spend about half the day outside, barring hazardous weather.
"If it's dangerous to be outside—if it's dangerous to be in the elements—then we are inside," Powell said. "We're not throwing them outside just because we're a nature preschool and we say we have to."
At Chippewa, four-day preschool costs around $355 per month. Eligible parents in Michigan can apply for tuition-free preschool through the state-funded Great Start Readiness Program. The Chippewa Nature Center also provides scholarship funding, so no family pays more than 5 percent of its household income.
Powell said about half of the 140 students enrolled receive some form of financial aid.

School Without Walls

At Fiddleheads Forest School in Seattle, co-director Kit Harrington said she keeps enrollment low to strengthen relationships with families. This year, 42 students are enrolled and 180 are in a "waitpool." (Tuition at Fiddleheads ranges from $330 to $780 a month.)
Like All Friends Nature School, Fiddleheads has no building affiliated with its program. Students retreat to a heated greenhouse—which has electricity and running water—when high winds make it impossible to be outside.
Otherwise, students' "classrooms" are two forest groves in the University of Washington Botanic Gardens.
"We sort of are a bridge in between what may be considered a more typical forest school approach and a more structured approach," said Harrington, a former Montessori teacher. She co-directs the preschool with Sarah Heller, whose background is in environmental education.
In winter, Fiddleheads students hike and explore the arboretum, learning about natural science.
"We follow an arc of the year," Harrington said.
"At the start of the school year, we really emphasize grounding the children in the environment, helping them connect with the space, developing a foundational awareness of themselves in relation to the environment," she said, "giving them language to describe their emotional and physical states, as well as giving them an awareness of the expectations of the setting so they are empowered to have ownership over caring for the space and caring for each other."
In the decade since Last Child in the Woods was published, the volume of studies on nature-deficit disorder and the effects of green spaces on school-age children has grown, Louv said.
A 2009 study from England's University of Essex, for example, concludes that "participating in physical activity and experiencing nature play an important role in positively influencing our health and well-being."
"Yet," the authors go on to say, "physical activity levels have dropped dramatically, and inactivity results in 1.9 million deaths worldwide annually, roughly 1 in 25 of all deaths."

'Containerized' Children

Likewise, Jane Clark, the dean of public health at the University of Maryland College Park, argues that the current generation of children has been made sedentary—"containerized" in strollers, car seats, high-chairs, and all manner of accident-preventive secure seating, which allows them little free movement.
"When they get to day care—I used to say—if a parent could just pass their child through the window, they would," Clark said.
Clark drew a diagram from a study in which three generations were asked where they played as children. The grandparent drew a radius around the house, extending several miles in each direction. The parent's circle was smaller, but still included much of the neighborhood and the surrounding woods. Finally, the child drew a circle with just the house and the backyard.
There are a lot of reasons for the shrinking play space, Louv said: the advent of "stranger danger"—parents' perceptions of threats to their children from strangers, increasing urbanization, and the strong pull of technology-based and indoor entertainment.
The schools are not without some criticism, though. "Certainly there are many potential benefits to outdoor education, and they provide an important alternative to the increasing and troubling amount of 'seatwork' and teacher-directed learning that young children are faced with in preschool, pre-K, and kindergarten settings," said Fikile Nxumalo, an assistant professor of early-childhood education at the University of Texas at Austin.
But she is "also concerned about prevailing romanticized engagements with nature in many of these schools—where there is this assumed 'natural' connection between children and nature, and where nature is seen as primarily a site for child development."
Nxumalo favors nature preschools that take a more complex view of the environment and define nature education "within current ecological challenges"—for example, discussing what it means to live ethically with animals deemed "pests" and dealing with litter in the natural environment.

Problem of Access

Though she believes nature schools are a step in the right direction, Nxumalo also sees room for improvement, especially in ease of access to these schools for many urban and economically disadvantaged children.
"I think part of the risk of 'nature preschool as passing trend' is that nature preschool remains something that is not widely accessible to children and families from economically marginalized communities," Nxumalo said. "I think this needs to change."
Louv is hopeful that the more principals, administrators, and school boards get involved, the better chance nature-based education has of reaching the masses.
As for environmental barriers, he contends that even in the densest of cities, nature can be found. It may be less sprawling than it is in the countryside, but it's there—and it's vital.
"Much of our pathology, I think, as a species is we think we can go it alone. The immersion in species not our own is extraordinarily important. This is who we are—it's part of our biology, part of our humanity," Louv said.
At Maryland's Audubon Nature Preschool, located on 40 acres of nature sanctuary, students spend as much time as possible outdoors,said Director Stephanie Bozzo.
"The curriculum emerges from what the children are interested in, but we have a broad idea of which spots on our sanctuary are most appealing during the different seasons," Bozzo said.
Days at Audubon, which costs an average of nearly $800 per month, follow a familiar rhythm. Each morning, children begin outside, come together for a morning circle, and go to learning centers where they move through preplanned activities. Then, they read a story and end the day with a hike.
If the weather is nice and no one complains, Bozzo said, they might spend the entire day outdoors.
Airen Hall has had two sons attend Audubon. Before moving to the area, she said, her oldest had gone to a traditional nursery school in Syracuse, N.Y.
"In our experience, the difference goes far beyond just the kids spending a lot of time outside," Hall said. "The most important differences are in the whole philosophy of the program. [Audubon] is just such a learning-rich environment. They encourage the kids to ask a lot of questions and explore and be curious."
Audubon parents choose from five different classes: Acorns, Sprouts, Saplings, and Oaks. Acorns have class once a week for 90 minutes on the sanctuary grounds. Sprouts and Saplings divide their three hours between indoor and outdoor activities. Oaks, dubbed forest "kindergartners," meet four days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and spend half the day outside.
Bozzo tries to keep the children's boundaries wide—"wider than typical teachers are comfortable letting children explore," she said.
"Children don't necessarily feel like they're being watched at all times, which we think is very central to our mission—that children are exploring on their own and what they gravitate towards is whatever they're intrinsically interested in," Bozzo said.
And each day is different.
"That's the beauty of nature—that it's surprising and it's dynamic," Bozzo said

If you are interested in an outdoor preschool in Marinwood Park, send an email to and

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Millennials Search for Home…On Their Terms

Millennials Search for Home…On Their Terms

Rarely has a generation spawned such a cottage industry of profiling. The largest and most diverse generation in American history, millennials are also the most contradictory, sparking endless intrigue, analysis and caricature. They’re at once idealistic and anxious, wholesome and distrustful. They consistently clamor for meaning and community while the polls show an unprecedented exile from the institutions (e.g. marriage and religion) that traditionally offered both. They’re the most educated and socially conscious generation to date, and yet with the help of social media, millennials are being driven to unprecedented levels of anxiety and loneliness.
How does all this play out in the housing market? As millennials come of age and the older tier in particular begins to settle down, there are four key trends worth noting. The first is that, for millennials, dollars have replaced relationships as the primary basis for security. The second is that they are leaving big and established coastal cities for smaller and reviving inland cities. The third is that many increasingly prefer to live in hybrid arrangements that integrate one’s life, work and play, which, along with costs, may explain the revived embrace of suburban amenities, albeit in fresh forms. And the fourth is that while this generation is less mobile than previous generations, there is a crucial divide between millennials who have agency to follow their desires – who some call the “supermobile” – and those who don’t.
Editor's Note: If you are a millennial and home ownership is important, don't be afraid to move.