Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Parking Past

19 thoughts on “Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Parking Past”

  1. What a waste. Has anyone put number to this to see what the net return (positive or negative) was?

    About 20 years ago an outlet mall was built on Interstate 25 about halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, literally in the middle of nowhere. Much uglier than this one. I don’t think it lasted even 10 years. I kept wondering why anyone thought something like that could pencil out. I’ve heard there are very generous tax incentives for stuff like this.

    The rapid obsolescence of commercial sometimes baffles me. A fancy sports arena was built more or less in the middle of nowhere in Sacramento for a basketball team. Barely 20 years later, there was talk of replacing it with an even grander one (which ultimately happened). Using generous taxpayer subsidies of course.

  2. Tejon Ranch has all kinds of weird plans… see Tejon Mtn Village and Centennial for other examples. If you’re in the Central Valley you might as well just live in Bakersfield. As for Centennial… people can’t even make new development pencil out in Palmdale these days. Forget an entirely new town on the edge of the Antelope Valley.

    1. My approach to climate change is to say very little on the subject – at least publicly. People are naturally disinclined to take personal action about anything that may or may not happen in other places, to other people, at some point in the vague distant future… In other words, right or wrong, you’re wasting your breath.

      On the other hand, people react passionately and fervently to things right in front of them that cost them money and threaten their particular personal interests. At some point in the future – assuming the climate is actually changing – people will hit a wall when their insurance premiums skyrocket or insurance companies simply refuse to insure property that’s in newly defined flood zones, or forest fire zones, or hurricane zones, or tornado zones… If you can’t get insurance, or if insurance is really expensive, property values will drop. If your town’s water supply dries up, or if your town is underwater a few times a year… People will respond to that – climate change or no climate change.

      On a personal level, I’ve already taken pre-emptive action by installing 5,000 gallon rainwater catchment tanks and other such forms of “insurance” to my own properties. If the future is bright I’ll still have access to plenty of water when needed during ordinary cyclical droughts.

      FYI, Back in 1983 I had a friend who worked at UCLA. He showed me large maps and relatively crude satellite photos (by today’s standards) of ocean currents and temperature charts. He mentioned the measurements of different atmospheric gases taken from the observatory at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Scientists understood the implications of a shifting climate decades ago. “In about fifty years this shit will get real.” Getting anyone to take it seriously before then? Not so much.

      “Failure fixes itself.”

      1. Johnny you are a true Calvinist. As Chesterton said, “original sin [total depravity] is the one Christian Doctrine that can actually be proved.”

  3. Hi Johnny — This isnt really a comment on this post, but a message to you.

    I am a longtime reader and fan of your blog and found you from Kirsten’s Fair Companies YouTube videos. You do vital work to bring up so many important issues that effect us but go under the radar (zoning, tax credits etc). Can you take a look at a ‘planned’/’new urban’ development that is before my town city council?

    Its called the Port Marigny development in Mandeville, LA http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/11/mandeville_city_council_defers_1.html

    I just moved back here from Washington, DC where my wife and I lived downtown and did not own cars. We walked to daycare, grocery etc and I appreciate the benefit of public transport and walkability but something about this development doesnt sit right.

    The local opposition to the number of units, forced the city council to delay a decision til Dec.8 so the developers can revise their plan.

    As soon as I read it, I thought “I wonder what Johnny would think of this?”

    So, what do you think?

  4. At what point do we realize that we are over “retailed?” When you visit another country, including our neighbors to the north, you realize just how much more retail space we have in the United States. Yet, our leaders–including municipal and state–lavish tax credits to build yet more retail in some deluded pursuit of tax base.

    Here in my mid-size midwestern town, which is doing well compared to many other similar sized metros thanks to two large employers providing well paying technical jobs, new retail developments just seem to steal tenants from older developments leaving vacant spaces. These vacant spaces just sit for years, sometimes decades.

    Ironically, the one place where new retail has filled in existing spaces has been in the older “downtown core.”

    1. I don’t know about other states, but n California they have favored retail over housing since Prop 13, 38 years ago. And, some people prefer retail over housing even when retail creates more traffic (traffic is the excuse for most restrictions)

  5. “The future isn’t going to be about more shopping in ever more distant locations.”

    I wonder if along the Canadian border might not be an exception to that. Bellingham, WA certainly gets a lot of Vancouver shoppers ducking the 15% (or thereabouts) sales tax.

    1. The arbitrage between tax rates and/or currency exchange rates (between countries, states, and municipalities) is a small potatoes, localized, and transient condition. It works for the moment, but it may not last in its current form. I can imagine multiple scenarios where the US/Canadian boarder becomes significantly more difficult to cross, particularly for casual shopping trips. I can also see a time when saving a small amount on sales tax becomes irrelevant as people simply don’t do much discretionary shopping anywhere on either side of the border.

      People living in the suburbs of Boston sometimes move to a house in southern New Hampshire to see their property and sales taxes decline. The trade off is that they need to live in New Hampshire farther away from employment and culture in Massachusetts. I can envision several scenarios where people are very happy in the short term and then terribly disappointed farther out on the event horizon. What happens when jobs dry up, commuting becomes tedious and expensive, pension promises and investments are defaulted upon, and people are trapped in a place with no local prospects?

      People and businesses in California often relocate to Nevada, Utah, or Arizona for similar economic reasons. The personal advantages are clear and immediate. The long term consequences of having millions of people migrate from a borderline Mediterranean climate with water, agriculture, and fuel challenges to remote desert locations where those challenges are multiplies by ten and with no other reason for existing other than they’re cheap… That process is going to play out over the next generation or two – and not always as people expect or like.

      The same dynamic is at work around Portland with the arbitrage between Oregon and Washington. These arrangements work for the moment, but I don’t think they can be relied upon for the long haul. Of course the people who build strip malls don’t have a long haul model. They’ll be in and out in a single generation. But the towns… they’ll be absorbing the full cost of this development pattern for the duration. Fun!

  6. I’ll just make it simpler. These malls never offer anything I want at a discounted price. If it’s an outlet selling items that are overstocked or discontinued, I expect 30-50% off for starters. And now of course comparison shopping is a real time activity on your phone. As a tail end boomer I am getting rid off stuff, not stopping in the middle of nowhere to get more.

  7. Can I understand this is as another sign that our fossil fuel based neoliberal capitalist driven economy is dying? Ie., would this trajectory of decline continue regardless of what happens to oil prices, tax policies, planning code, population growth, etc? Or can such a system always limp along with massive public subsidies/bail outs and private debt until the environment collapses and brings it all down?

    1. There are multiple interconnected dynamics playing out here. Conservative or liberal – two sides of the same coin.

      If we had an endless supply of cheap clean fuel from politically stable sources the build, discard, build, discard, build, discard development pattern could continue (economically) forever. Each town would fail and be left behind as people migrated to the next new place. When proponents of a comfortable suburban living arrangement say “nothing is wrong” they’re generally speaking from the perspective of the better performing little chunks of suburbia. They personally may not be experiencing the larger decline. If Los Angeles gets too expensive, congested, and undesirable… they move to Phoenix. Phoenix metastasizes and they move to Santa Fe. Rinse. Repeat. That’s been the de facto practice in the US for the last several decades. After about a century the abandoned insolvent old places are reclaimed by nature. Detroit comes to mind now that quail and deer occupy the empty streets and trees have grown through the insides of buildings.

      If you assume that fuel isn’t unlimited and there are externalities like pollution, wars over control of declining supplies, and so on… then things get more complicated. It’s looking like the peaking of global oil production isn’t necessarily taking the form of high prices. Instead brief oil shocks destroy market demand and choke off economic activity. The result is political and cultural upheaval rather than the perception of oil scarcity or sustained high prices. As people are stuck in the old insolvent suburban landscape without jobs, dealing with home foreclosure, and unable to move to the new better places… they get angry. Closing the boarders and bringing industry and jobs back to the US isn’t going to fix the employment scenario. It’s cheaper for companies to automate domestic production than hire redundant workers. So there’s a problem with no good solution.

      I’m not a doomer. Life will go on. But I always start with the assumption that humans reliably do the thing that delivers the best immediate results in the short term regardless of long term consequences. When those consequences arrive there’s a brief period of unpleasantness, the old slate is wiped clean, and we all get new incentives to start the whole process over again with a fresh attitude. Those periods involve war and revolution. The winners this next time (whoever they are) will pursue the best short term results at the lowest price point for a simple majority of the population. That suggests a “brown tech” future where the worse side effects will be felt by the losing minority while the the winners manage reasonably well – until the next crisis.

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