After having the 4th-mildest winter in 70 years, the weather hasn't really changed. Abnormally-warm February temperatures have hung around to become abnormally-cool March temperatures. I'm ready for real spring, thank you.
- ProPublica reports on the bafflement inside the New York City Council about how to stop paying multi-million-dollar settlements when the NYPD violates people's civil rights—a problem we have in Chicago, for identical reasons—but haven't figured out that police oversight might help. (One Daily Parker reader suggested taking the money out of the police pension fund.)
- A bill moving through Florida's legislature would address suburban sprawl by redefining it. (Want to bet a real-estate developer lobbied for this one?)
- A ransomware attack a few weeks ago has affected up to 130 organizations, according to researchers and online boasts from the attackers.
- United Airlines wants to start air-taxi service between the Loop and O'Hare by 2025, using electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) airplanes.
Finally, I laughed out loud at the YouGov survey that found 46% of American men who have never flown an airplane think they could land an air transport with only some help from Air Traffic Control. I laughed because I do know how to fly a plane, and I don't think I could land a 787 well enough to use the plane again under any circumstances without a few dozen simulator hours. In fact, I would probably spend several crucial minutes trying to figure out how to change the radio to 121.5 and the transponder to 7700. But hey, the United States put Dunning and Kruger on the map, so this seems about right to me.
A few large US cities have seen housing prices rise much faster than inflation, particularly in higher-density areas. Eric Levitz explores some possible causes:
The United States is very good at sabotaging itself through policy errors. But few of our nation’s governing failures are as simultaneously needless and detrimental as our inability to build housing.
There are between 1.5 million and 6 million fewer homes in the U.S. than there are households ready to occupy them. The proximate cause of this mismatch isn’t hard to discern: Over the past ten years, the number of housing units per 1,000 people in the U.S. has actually fallen.
By itself, a rising ratio of people to units would be sufficient to put pressure on housing supply. But since the pandemic, the number of discrete households in the U.S. has also spiked. This phenomenon has multiple causes. One is that much of the millennial generation is aging out of its roommate-tolerating years en masse and starting separate households.
Another is that the rise of remote work has led many Americans to seek more personal floor space, whether by ditching roommates or upgrading from, say, one-bedroom dwellings to two-bedroom ones so as to make room for a home office.
[But] what is it about living in an English-speaking country that turns people against high-rises?
Speaking English probably didn't cause the housing crisis, but the correlation is hard to miss.
I'm arguing with the Blazorise framework right now because their documentation on how to make a layout work doesn't actually work. Because this requires repeated build/test cycles, I have almost no time to read all of this:
Finally, a group of Chicago aldermen have proposed that the city clear sidewalks of snow and ice when property owners don't. Apparently the $500 fines, which don't happen often, don't work often either.
We had four completely-overcast days in a row, including one with some blowing snow, so I'm happy today has been completely clear. Tomorrow might even get above 10°C—which would at least get into normal March temperatures. This whole winter has been weird, as the next few will likely be until temperature increases start leveling out.
In other news:
Finally, Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders explain how AI could write our laws in the future.
The New York Times today has an interactive feature explaining how converting pre-war offices to apartments is a lot easier than converting modern office buildings. Simply put, before the 1940s, no one had air conditioning, so the buildings had more light and air:
These kinds of buildings, often dating to the early 20th century, make for simpler conversions because the same logic that shaped how they were designed as offices a century ago determines how apartments are planned today. Both share a rule of thumb that no interior space be more than 8 or 9 meters from a window that opens.
Iconic prewar skyscrapers like the Empire State Building were designed to this standard, and with this smallest unit in mind: a single rentable office 3 to 6 meters wide and about 8 meters from the windows to the common corridor. That was just the right amount of space for a receptionist’s anteroom and a windowed office.
Dan Kaplan, a senior partner with the architecture firm FXCollaborative in New York, identifies the private-eye suite in any film noir as a classic example: frosted glass doors, a secretary framed by interior transom windows, and then the detective in his private office flooded with natural light.
But the conversion puzzle gets more complex with offices built after World War II. That’s because the modern office has strayed far — increasingly far — from the window rule.
Two inventions liberated office space from the window: air-conditioning and the fluorescent light bulb. Just as the elevator and steel-cage construction enabled buildings to grow taller in the late 19th century, the architectural historian Carol Willis has written, fluorescent lighting and air-conditioning enabled their floor plates to become much deeper.
Then local rules add still more complexity: Maybe the building has to meet stricter seismic requirements as an apartment than as an office (much of the West Coast), or the whole facade must be replaced to meet current wind-load standards (hurricane-prone places). Or you can only convert 18 of the 32 existing office floors into residential use (in Manhattan, such use caps depend on a building’s age and location). Or units must average at least 500 square feet in size per building (downtown Chicago). Or every legal bedroom must have its own working window (New York requires this but Philadelphia and San Francisco don’t).
Still, the commercial real-estate collapse of the last three years has made conversions imperative in big-city downtowns like the Chicago Loop.
The result, probably in only a few years, will be to transform former dense commercial districts like the Loop into dense mixed-use districts that people want to live in.
The storm predicted to drop 100 mm of snow on Chicago yesterday missed us completely. That made my Brews & Choos research a lot more pleasant, though I did tromp all over the place in heavy boots that I apparently didn't need. Of course, had I not worn them, I would now be writing about my cold, wet socks.
So while I'm getting two reviews together for later this week, go ahead and read this:
Finally, author John Scalzi celebrates the 25th anniversary of his domain name scalzi.com, exactly one month before I registered my own. But as I will point out again in a couple of posts later this spring, The Daily Parker started (as braverman.org) well before his blog. Still, 25 years is a long time for a domain to have a single owner.
The rain has stopped, and might even abate long enough for me to collect Cassie from day camp without getting soaked on my way home. I've completed a couple of cool sub-features for our sprint review tomorrow, so I have a few minutes to read the day's stories:
Finally, Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse hope to tap into National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act funds to turn their organization's namesake into a museum. That would be cool.
I spent way more time than I should have this morning trying to set up an API key for the Associated Press data tools. Their online form to sign up created a general customer-service ticket, which promptly got closed with an instruction to...go to the online sign-up form. They also had a phone number, which turned out to have nothing to do with sales. And I've now sent two emails a week apart to their "digital sales" office, with crickets in response.
The New York Times had an online setup that took about five minutes, and I'm already getting stuff using Postman. Nice.
Finally, I've got a note on my calendar to check out the Karen's Diner pop-up in Wrigleyville next month. Because who doesn't want to be abused by servers?
We've had rain since about 9am while the temperature has held onto 1°C with two hands and a carabiner, so neither Cassie nor I will get our quota of walks this afternoon. But that does give me extra time to digest all this:
- James Fallows eulogizes his old boss, President Jimmy Carter.
- After listening to yesterday's oral arguments, the Washington Post team covering Gonzalez v Google doesn't think the Supreme Court will overturn Section 230.
- A history teacher wants to help Bloomington, Ill., move past its anti-urbanist land use policies.
Oh, and I had some work to do as well.
I see a connection between all of these.
First, the city has accepted six proposals to convert office buildings on LaSalle Street to apartments. I used to work in one of them, so that should be interesting. These will go through community review, and will cost over $1 billion, but could bring almost 2,000 apartments to the Loop.
Second, Zurich Re and Motorola have separately sued the Chicago suburb Schaumburg, Ill., one of the most dismal suburban hellscapes I've ever seen, to get the $100 million in tax breaks the village promised before the pandemic. The village offered these incentives to get the two corporations to build sleek new office buildings surrounded by parking lots that they hoped would bring in $300 million a year in secondary benefits to the village. Then came the pandemic. Since no one really wants to go to Schaumburg voluntarily, everyone is SOL here.
Finally, a man recently won a $91 million settlement after a car crashed through a 7-11 in Chicago and injured him. It turns out, a car crashes through a 7-11 on average 20 times a day in the U.S., in part because the company doesn't want to spend the $2,000 per store to put up bollards, and in part because cars and people should not occupy the same infrastructure at the same time.
What do these things have in common? They're all points in evidence that pedestrian-focused urban development makes a lot more sense than the horrific car-focused alternatives.