Want to learn more about land use, parking, public transit, and more? Check out this collection of resources recommended by NEXTers.
The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. Widely heralded as a “masterful” (Washington Post) and “essential” (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson).
Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places by Jeff Speck. Nearly every US city would like to be more walkable—for reasons of health, wealth, and the environment—yet few are taking the proper steps to get there. The goals are often clear, but the path is seldom easy. Jeff Speck’s follow-up to his bestselling Walkable City is the resource that cities and citizens need to usher in an era of renewed street life. Walkable City Rules is a doer’s guide to making change in cities, and making it now.
The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee. Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?
Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving by Peter Norton. “The foundation has been laid for fully autonomous,” Elon Musk announced in 2016, when he assured the world that Tesla would have a driverless fleet on the road in 2017. “It’s twice as safe as a human, maybe better.” Promises of technofuturistic driving utopias have been ubiquitous wherever tech companies and carmakers meet. In Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving, technology historian Peter Norton argues that driverless cars cannot be the safe, sustainable, and inclusive “mobility solutions” that tech companies and automakers are promising us.
There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster—Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer. In this revelatory book, Singer tracks accidental death in America from turn of the century factories and coal mines to today’s urban highways, rural hospitals, and Superfund sites. Drawing connections between traffic accidents, accidental opioid overdoses, and accidental oil spills, Singer proves that what we call accidents are hardly random. Rather, who lives and dies by an accident in America is defined by money and power. She also presents a variety of actions we can take as individuals and as a society to stem the tide of “accidents”—saving lives and holding the guilty to account.
Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom by Sarah A. Seo. Before the twentieth century, most Americans rarely came into contact with police officers. But in a society dependent on cars, everyone–law-breaking and law-abiding alike–is subject to discretionary policing. Seo challenges prevailing interpretations of the Warren Court’s due process revolution and argues that the Supreme Court’s efforts to protect Americans did more to accommodate than limit police intervention. Policing the Open Road shows how the new procedures sanctioned discrimination by officers, and ultimately undermined the nation’s commitment to equal protection before the law.
Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems by Jenny Schuetz. Unequal housing systems didn’t just emerge from natural economic and social forces. Public policies enacted by federal, state, and local governments helped create and reinforce the bad housing outcomes endured by too many people. Taxes, zoning, institutional discrimination, and the location and quality of schools, roads, public transit, and other public services are among the policies that created inequalities in the nation’s housing patterns. Fixer-Upper is the first book assessing how the broad set of local, state, and national housing policies affect people and communities. It does more than describe how yesterday’s policies led to today’s problems. It proposes practical policy changes than can make stable, decent-quality housing more available and affordable for all Americans in all communities. Make sure to check out the recap of our event with Jenny Schuetz!
Golden Gates: The Housing Crisis and a Reckoning for the American Dream by Conor Dougherty. The adage that California is a glimpse of the nation’s future has become a cautionary tale. With propulsive storytelling and ground-level reporting, New York Times journalist Conor Dougherty chronicles America’s housing crisis from its West Coast epicenter, peeling back the decades of history and economic forces that brought us here and taking readers inside the activist movements that have risen in tandem with housing costs.
Carfree Cities by J.H. Crawford. In this volume filled with historical and contemporary references to guiding historic precedents and ideological errors of 20th-century planning, the author sets up the carfree city as the cornerstone of sustainable development. This book outlines a structure carefully designed to maximize the quality of life for people and communities worldwide.
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander. Patterns, the units of this language, are answers to design problems (How high should a window sill be? How many stories should a building have? How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?). More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seems likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.
Neighborhood Defenders by Katherine Levine Einstein, David M. Glick, and Maxwell Palmer. Since the collapse of the housing market in 2008, demand for housing has consistently outpaced supply in many US communities. The failure to construct sufficient housing – especially affordable housing – in desirable communities and neighborhoods comes with significant social, economic, and environmental costs. This book examines how local participatory land use institutions amplify the power of entrenched interests and privileged homeowners.
Articles and Essays
“3 Challenges, 3 Errors, and 3 Solutions to Integrate Frontline Communities in Climate Change Policy and Research: Lessons From California” by Fernandez-Bou et al.
“Paying Community Members for Their Time” by Brittany Hutson
“The perils of being black in public: we are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd” by Carolyn Finney
“‘Workforce Housing’ Is an Insulting Term by Miriam Axel-Lute
“Can Minneapolis’s radical rezoning by a national model?” by Patrick Sisson
“A Small Town’s Adventures in Tactical Urbanism” by Benjamin Schneider
“The Problem with Prescribing ‘Access to Cars’ in the Fight Against Poverty” by Angie Schmitt
“Why We Need to Design Streets for Pedestrians, Not Cars” by Jessica Lowry
“Before Redlining and Beyond” by Alex. B. Hill
“One of Europe’s Smallest Nations Tries a Big Idea: Free Public Transit” by Feargus O’Sullivan
“How Burrowing Owls Lead to Vomiting Anarchists (Or SF’s Housing Crisis Explained)” by Kim-Mai Cutler
Arrested Mobility by Charles C. Brown
The War on Cars by Doug Gordon, Sarah Goodyear, and Aaron Naparstek
Strong Towns Podcast, The Bottom-Up Revolution, and Upzoned by Strong Towns
“Location! Location! Location!” feat. Nikole Hannah-Jones on Code Switch by NPR
Documentaries and Video Essays
Let the Fire Burn (2013) dir. Jason Osder
“The House We Live in” (2003) in Race – The Power of an Illusion prod. Larry Adelman and Llewellyn M. Smith
Owned: A Tale of Two Americas (2022) dir. Georgio Angelini
“What we don’t understand about gentrification” (2015) by Stacey Sutton
Durham’s Interactive Redlining Map by Tim Stallman
Jerusalem Demsas (@JerusalemDemsas)
Tom Flood (@TomFlood1)
Destiny Thomas (@DrDesThePlanner)
Olatunji Oboi Reed (@theycallmeOboi)
Peter Kalmus (@ClimateHuman)
Tamika Butler (@TamikaButler)