Survey of 17,000 Asks Why Bicyclists Break the Rules of the Road

Denver cyclists commute on one of the city’s annual Bike to Work days. (Photo by Jack Dempsey/Invision for goodnessknows/AP Images)

The blame game in the cars vs. bikes war can get ugly. But accidents happen, as the saying goes, and as long as drivers and cyclists continue to share city streets, figuring out why they happen should be a public safety priority.

One University of Colorado Denver researcher is looking into what causes bicyclists to break the rules of the road. Wesley Marshall, a professor of civil engineering, recently asked more than 17,000 people to complete what he called the “Scofflaw Survey” to figure out what makes them disregard traffic laws.

“Not all bicyclists that break the law are these hooligans that are out to be sort of anti-society,” Marshall told Colorado Public Radio. “I think a lot of people do it for very practical reasons.”

The results of the survey will come out later this summer, but advocates of measures such as protected bike lanes will gleefully note that Marshall already is pointing to infrastructure, noting that cyclists are navigating a route built for cars, not bikes. From CPR:

“If we give these people a system that’s built for and really meant for cars, you might see more people breaking the law,” he said. Conversely, he said, cyclists are more likely to obey signs and signals when they are bike-specific.

When it comes making decisions about spending on that custom infrastructure, it helps to have the right numbers on your please-can-I-have government form. As Rachel Dovey recently reported in “Bicycling, Pedestrian Advocates Looking for Better Numbers to Crunch,” “national reports detail the country’s most dangerous streets, but for local planners who want to boost and measure multimodal travel, established metrics often fall short.”

Dozens of bike advocates around the U.S. have already asked Marshall for locally tailored results.

On the market: Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking we have done this one before. Well actually, we haven’t. That was a different, but similar house to this contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

There are similarities, not least with location and inspiration. But this is a different house, going by the name Solaris and dating back to just 2014. it has just gone on the market.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

We like it. The purists might prefer something with originality, but we like the amount of effort that has gone into this modern-day recreation of an art deco house. At least, in terms of the white, rendered shell.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

Inside is a very different proposition. This is every bit the high specification modern house, with the detailing and finishes to match and with the added bonus of bifold doors opening out onto the terrace on the ground floor and two balconies on the first floor for that outside / inside living.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

When we say high end, we mean it too, with a bespoke Porcelanosa kitchen with Gaggenau fittings, a Porcelanosa bathroom off the master bedroom, multi zone audio via B&W speakers, multi-zone video, Creston control and remote access and a 5.1 dedicated cinema room.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

As for the living space, that’s over two floors. The ground floor has the hall (with spiral staircase to the first floor), a cloakroom and plant room and a high ceiling sitting room with bifolding doors opening out onto the granite terrace. Also on this floor is a study, a fourth bedroom and an en suite shower room, the kitchen / breakfast / dining room and a utility.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

Head up the spiral staircase and you’ll find the cinema room and its 75-inch 3D LED TV, the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a balcony overlooking the garden, two further bedrooms and the family bathroom. A further spiral staircase leads up the circular belvedere room with 180 degree views of the sea and along the seafront.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

Outside space includes a bespoke electric sliding gate, parking for a number of cars, a double garage, a gym area, a secluded seating area, lawn, terrace areas and a pond.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

If you fancy living here, you’ll need something in the region of £1,600,000.

Images and details courtesy of Rouse estate agents. For more details and to make an enquiry, please visit their website.

Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
Contemporary art deco-style property in Frinton-On-Sea, Essex

How Homelessness Is Shifting in Los Angeles

Tents set up by homeless people on Skid Row in Los Angeles (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

More homeless people in Los Angeles are leaving Skid Row for other more visible areas of the city, such as parks and near freeways. A recent count revealed a 12 percent rise in the homeless population in the last two years, but according to a report this week by Marketplace, the location shift has several reasons.

Some of the increased visibility is the result of lawsuits. Until the city can supply more affordable housing, the homeless can legally camp on sidewalks from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.

The police are also restricted in the way they deal with people’s possessions.

“If they take somebody into custody, then law enforcement needs to take all of their property,” says [a street outreach advocate]. “They need to input it. They need to store it.”

Itemizing all that stuff can take hours. It’s not just tents, but piles of belongings. Some of it’s essentially trash, and the cops don’t have a place to store it. For police, those are big incentives to look the other way.

That’s not the only way L.A.‘s homeless population is becoming more visible, however. As Next City reported last fall, an effort to bring high design to social services shelters has yielded an uncommonly beautiful respite for formerly homeless Angelenos in Skid Row’s new Star apartment building:

Until now, Skid Row’s mostly low-rise buildings didn’t even appear in the skyline — out of sight, out of mind. Now, Mike Alvidrez, the executive director of Skid Row Housing Trust, the developer of the sleek Star, hopes, perhaps the homeless will be seen.

L.A. has also turned to technology and big data to try to help homeless people access resources. Last fall, a group of public and private interests, including the L.A. Housing Authority, L.A. County Health Services and the Chamber of Commerce, earmarked $213 million to broaden a computerized system that more efficiently links homeless people to necessary services.

Mental illness, high rents and being in transition leave many Angelenos with few options save homelessness. Los Angeles also leads the nation in number of homeless veterans, a title Mayor Eric Garcetti hopes to relinquish. According to the Los Angeles Times, he and federal officials have pledged to house every homeless veteran by the end of the year, and in January, the Mayor said he was more than halfway to his goal. Earlier this year, Next City’s Alexis Stephens reported that following a class-action lawsuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a strategic plan to put its 387-acre tract in West L.A. to better use and create more permanent housing.

However, Marketplace reports that advocates say they’ve seen a rise in middle-aged homeless people, some victims of recession-era job loss.

“The city and county have done such a terribly poor job of creating affordable housing, basically they’ve ignored the issue,” Steve Clare, executive director of the Venice Community Housing, told the Times last month.

“I think homelessness is not just a social problem,” People Assisting the Homeless CEO Joel John Roberts told Marketplace. “It’s a poverty problem. And until this country addresses poverty, we’re always going to have homelessness.”

What Change Will Come to My Kansas City?

Luxury residential towers rise in Kansas City’s Power & Light District. (Photo by Christian Gideon)

Kansas Citians, no matter where they live, carry a huge piece of the place with them, and I’m no exception to that rule.

Fondness for one’s hometown is nothing unusual. But the fondness Kansas City, Missouri, natives have for theirs strikes this native as unusually deep and strong. Whenever I meet a K.C. expat in my travels, the conversation immediately shifts to talk of home: the neighborhoods where we lived, the haunts we frequented, the places we loved and, of course, the barbecue we ate. I’ve even had perfect strangers embrace me the moment they found out that we shared hometowns.

I was raised in a changing Kansas City (I left for college in 1976), and on a visit last year, I saw how the city is changing once again. I was there, in part, reporting my recent Next City feature, “The $295 Million Mall Taxpayers Bought Kansas City,” which explores the development of the city’s Power & Light District, a popular entertainment-restaurant-shopping destination.

But shiny new attraction districts aside, the winds of change that once promised progress and inclusion for all Kansas Citians seem to have shifted direction sometime between the 1970s and now. For all the progress I saw around me on that visit, I got the sense that my Kansas City — the one the tourists don’t visit — was being left behind while the other one forged ahead.

Promise of a New Kansas City

A start toward a new Kansas City had just begun a few years before I was born in 1958. The covenants that had kept black families like mine confined to a small corner of the city were struck down as unenforceable not long before my parents bought my childhood home in 1954 in a white middle-class neighborhood on the East Side.

Change gathered steam as I came of age. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked the arrival of the city’s black community (which had never been denied the vote) as a political force in its own right. The sense of newfound power that swept through the community felt less like the end of an injustice, though, and more like a long overdue acknowledgement that blacks were to be partners in the city’s progress.

There were still matters that the newly empowered black political leadership ended up fighting the city and the state over. One was the “freeway the East Side didn’t want.” I knew it as the South Midtown Freeway, and its route split the East Side in two. After years of lawsuits and a stalemate, the city’s first black mayor got the road built by downgrading the section that ran a few blocks west of where my grandmother lived. That road is now known as Bruce Watkins Drive, named for a prominent black businessman.

There was also the schools battle. White families withdrew their support for the tax hikes needed for upkeep after the district proposed busing for racial balance. The school district began busing black students from my neighborhood school to alleviate overcrowding when I was in third grade. My mother put me into the city’s best private school, Pembroke-Country Day, just as the public schools began a long decline. Years of lawsuits culminated in a sweeping court order that led to the construction of lavishly equipped magnet high schools designed to lure white students from outlying districts with college-quality facilities. Not only did the white students not come, the schools’ performance on state tests worsened, and in 2011, the state withdrew the Kansas City Public Schools’ accreditation. It has since regained it provisionally, but the move threw an obstacle in the path of civic resurgence and hit the East Side especially hard.

The post’s author could not have taken this 2014 photo from where he did when he was growing up in Kansas City. He would have been in the middle of someone’s home. The area in the foreground — the old heart of Kansas City’s black community — has been almost completely emptied out. At least one block (1800 block of Highland) has been lovingly restored — but it’s now a largely empty quarter. (Photo by Sandy Smith)

Where a Tree Canopy Hides Reality

Black, white and green were the primary colors of my youth. Black and white because this is America, after all, and K.C. is, or at least sees itself as, the most American of cities. It’s the closest large city to the geographic center of the 48 states and the one that’s often held up, for better and for worse, as the perfect example of Middle American virtue. As black-white race relations remain the great American social issue thanks to the legacy of slavery, so we should expect to find it a salient matter in “The Heart of America.”

The “green” in my childhood was because of where I lived, just off one of the city’s famed boulevards. Those who have never seen Kansas City have no idea just what a verdant city it is thanks to its system of parks and boulevards, an early 20th-century improvement that has led numerous visitors to marvel at the city’s loveliness.

Before last year, I was already impressed by the K.C. I had seen on a 2006 visit. The city seemed more confident, less defensive of its status as a Bona Fide Big City that the folks on the coasts should respect. And it had a livelier night scene than the city I’d left in the ‘70s. By 2006, Westport, the oldest part of the city, had blossomed into an entertainment district packed with bars, restaurants and clubs, and I even managed to stumble across a club with live jazz on the Country Club Plaza, another civic jewel.

The K.C. I visited last summer was more impressive still: The Crossroads Arts District was still in the process of becoming when I was there almost 10 years ago. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts wasn’t even a dream. The majestic elms that lined Benton Boulevard in my home neighborhood, felled by Dutch elm disease in the 1960s, had found worthy replacements in the trees that once again turned the street into a green cathedral.

But beneath that tree canopy I also could see a different, less pleasant reality. The homes that housed stable working families when I grew up were now tattered, or even abandoned. My own boyhood home was now just a plot of grass, a casualty of the spread of meth, the crack of the Great Plains. All of those sparkling, lively entertainment districts were on the other side of town, across Troost Avenue, the north-south thoroughfare whose name is shorthand for the city’s persistent racial divide. Meanwhile, across the street from a now-shuttered high school (Lincoln), what had been a neighborhood full of homes, the heart of the city’s black community for decades, had reverted to prairie. It seemed that the only good things left on the East Side were the barbecue joints and Swope Park.

Race relations in Kansas City are far better than in St. Louis — on that my K.C. cousins agree with me. And that in turn has meant that most white Kansas Citians have accepted the city’s two black mayors, including current Mayor Sly James, and black Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, the first of those two mayors, as their own too. But it hasn’t meant that the fruits of the city’s resurgence have been evenly distributed, a fact that a drive down Prospect Avenue, the main commercial street on the East Side, brings home starkly. I grew up catching buses on Prospect that took me downtown or to my grandparents farther south. The street the buses ply today is nearly bereft of activity, in stark contrast to West Side streets like Broadway and Main Street. No one, not even the leaders who speak for the city’s black residents, has figured out how to revive it yet.

But I hope those leaders keep trying, and that they get the rest of the city to join them. The financial burden of the Power & Light District bond may keep the city from being as much of a partner as it might have once been, but the city has long prided itself on its roll-up-your-sleeves, get-things-done spirit. I for one hope that, with private initiative backed by city cooperation, my next trip home will include a visit to a Jazz District whose clubs swing into the night the way they did in the days of Boss Tom. I’d like to see a Prospect Avenue revived with restaurants and small shops run by neighborhood entrepreneurs. And I’d like to see the homes beneath those majestic trees on Benton Boulevard restored to the charm they once possessed. All of this will be a little harder with the Power & Light District debt hanging over city hall, but it’s not impossible. If a bunch of artists could bring a city district back from the dead, surely someone out there can bring the East Side back to life too.

How the Zombie House Crisis Mutated and What Cities Are Doing About It

(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Are there more zombies in our city than ever before, or are we just paying more attention to them?

“Zombie properties” is a clever name to describe residential buildings that are neither alive nor dead: They are caught in the limbo of an incomplete foreclosure. The real estate title stayed with the homeowner even after foreclosure proceedings began. The lender walked away — in some cases to avoid having the risk of a low-value property on the books. Homeowners walked away thinking the property was no longer theirs.

With no one explicitly responsible for the property, the zombie house falls into vacancy and decay.

As the National Community Stabilization Trust’s Annie Carvalho describes it, even though the national mortgage settlement has made incomplete foreclosures less common, cities, especially in the Midwest, still struggle with those that were abandoned before the settlement was reached. “It’s still very difficult for folks locally to identify where they can go to make something happen to a property,” Carvalho says.

The longer a house is empty, the more dilapidated it gets. That’s partly why it now seems like zombies are everywhere.

Their ubiquity is somewhat misleading, in part because the zombie label is sometimes used to describe any kind of empty property. Whole neighborhoods, of course, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, long ago saw disinvestment and were effectively abandoned because of suburban flight that began in the 1950s.

“The thing that happened because of the housing crisis [in 2007-2008] is that this started trickling into different neighborhoods. The problem just ballooned,” Carvalho says. (Carvalho and other experts talked about the very visible problem at the Center for Community Progress’ Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference in Detroit last week.)

The memorable “zombie” branding blurs some of the nuances of the technical term, says the Housing Partnership Network’s Danielle Samalin — vacancy does not necessarily mean a foreclosure is in limbo. But more pointedly, “one reason we may be hearing more about zombie properties than in years past is because one of the worst enemies to ending the foreclosure crisis is time,” Samalin says. “With time, delinquencies become worse, turn into defaults, into foreclosure, and then for a variety of reasons, people may walk away from their homes. … I have the sense that this dynamic of properties in a limbo foreclosure state has become the latest mutation at this late point in the foreclosure crisis.”

The result? Demoralized homeowners, the debilitating infection of blight on a community, and no easy way to push property into the hands of somebody who will take responsibility for it.

Since the mortgage crisis, says Samalin, the community development sector has been working with renewed fervor (and more visibility) to respond to the plague of zombies. The “key to effective solutions is that we understand that this foreclosure crisis is not steady state,” Samalin says. “As time goes on, the virus mutates and we need to find new solutions.” That means strategies that are both preventive and curative.

HPN, for example, takes the preventive approach by counseling its members around the nation to stave off foreclosure. Working with two of its members in Chicago and Cleveland, and other partners, it developed the Resolution Specialist Program to help develop loan modifications that can assist homeowners so that they can stay in their homes. “We have found that when high-quality, intensive nonprofit counselors are integrated into the loss mitigation process, rather than as an adjunct social service provider, the outcomes improve for all stakeholders,” Samalin says.

HPN also is working with the NCST on the ReClaim Project, which interrupts the “not-mine-not-yours” dynamic of zombie properties with an entity that seizes responsibility for them. ReClaim acquires “very low-value distressed assets” that are likely to become zombies, often through a donation that includes a cash contribution to cover program expenses. HPN’s Resolution Specialist Program is integrated into the process, in case homeowners can still be found and contacted in the hopes of completely avoiding foreclosure. But if that’s not possible, and a foreclosure needs to proceed to get a resolution on the property, ReClaim is a way to expedite it, so that it can get back into local hands as quickly as possible. In many states, Carvalho said, foreclosures can drag on for years, leading to neighborhood instability and a vacant property that has a less and less chance of being rehabilitated. In worst-case scenarios, the program also expedites a demolition.

ReClaim is a national program, but it focuses on specific communities. Carvalho mentions parts of Florida and large Midwestern cities like Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus.

A home sits vacant in Youngstown, Ohio. The city passed bold legislation to combat “zombie properties.” (AP/Photo Mark Stahl)

Samalin describes ReClaim as “deeply rooted in local place.” It succeeds “because of an ability to balance national scale and efficiency with deep local engagement,” she said. “We are able to work with large banks and servicers because of our national platform, and yet our goal is to enable community control of properties.”

But it’s not just outside programs that are fighting zombie properties. Cities, too, are stepping up.

Baltimore has streamlined its code enforcement program through the Vacants to Value program, targeting vacant properties in neighborhoods that are on the “tipping point” of blight. Enforcement pushes owners who are in code violation — creating a real health and safety hazard — to take care of it. If they don’t, the property goes into receivership so that the city can do the repairs themselves. With continued negligence by the owner, the matters ends up in a courtroom, with the city petitioning for an ownership transfer. Then, they put the property up for auction, pre-screening potential buyers to be sure that they can begin work on the property within 12 months.

Tennessee’s Shelby County, which includes Memphis, recently enacted a similar program, and Milwaukee is also exploring options to obtain deteriorating vacant homes faster. In all cases, this gives the public sector some power to take care of property even before it is foreclosed upon and a title is officially transferred. And in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that any lender that files a foreclosure action is obliged to complete the process and sell the property before it is abandoned.

Youngstown, Ohio, though, has the boldest plan. Through legislation passed in 2013, it created a foreclosure bond program: Lenders, including the big banks, must put up $10,000 in bond whenever they issue a mortgage in the city. If that property ends up deteriorating in a zombie state, then the city can use that money to maintain and repair the house, or if necessary, to demolish it. As Samalin says, it is “a legal and grassroots approach to make banks pay for the damage to the community of vacant, abandoned properties” — not with a fine, but as a pre-emptive incentive. After all, if the bank keeps up its responsibilities, it will recoup its money.

While initially, according to Carvalho, banks were not enthusiastic about the bond program, “most banks just got over it and are dealing with it now. It’s an effective way of keeping the process moving,” Carvalho says. “Otherwise, the city has no resource or path to hold anyone accountable.” And fears that banks would be reluctant to lend to homeowners in Youngstown, because of the added $10,000 risk on the back end of the mortgage, have not come to bear.

It’s innovative work like this that gives Samalin hope that zombie properties are not an inevitable part of the urban landscape. The next great leap, she says, is developing more accessible language and stories that translate the intricacies of the housing crisis and its legacy to the public. “I suppose that’s why it’s a good thing the term zombie is so catchy,” she said. “It gets the public’s attention, and spurs a real desire to collectively fight to end this crisis.”

This post is part of a 10-part series underwritten by the Center for Community Progress. Read all posts in the series here.

Cities Are Building Job Training Programs of the Future

(AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

America’s jobless rate continues to decline at a steady pace, but not all cities have the employees that tomorrow’s industries need.

With summer job season entering full swing, cities should think about how training opportunities for younger residents can help strengthen an urban core’s shot at having a more prepared workforce in the future. Here, how a few cities are tackling this issue.

Improving New York’s Statewide Strategy
A new study from the Center for an Urban Future finds that funding for workforce development programs in New York State has gone down 5 percent since 2009-2010. Critical programs like Summer Youth Employment (SYE) have seen decreases since then (totaling $7.5 million for SYE, which provides early work experience for low-income teens). According to the Center’s “Seeking a State Workforce Strategy”:

Deep cuts to federal programs are the cause of the overall decline. … Nevertheless, state leaders do bear responsibility for the decisions to cut investments to a number of key initiatives that help New Yorkers build skills, gain work experience and connect to career pathways to employment.

It applauds the federal passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) last July and recommends that the state create a strategic Statewide Workforce Development Plan, as called for in WIOA. To do so, the state should inventory the skills of its residents and outline the work needed to meet the new opportunities of the knowledge economy.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made progress in New York City through the creation of the Office of Workforce Development and the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force. The latter has called for the creation of six “industry partnerships” to connect workers to sectors such as technology, healthcare and construction.

EPA Job Training Money Goes to Cleaning Up Brownfields
On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected 19 communities for $3.6 million in environmental workforce development and job training grants. Each will receive up to $192,300 to operate job-training programs that have the goal of cleaning up brownfield sites in economically distressed areas.

The Fresno Area Workforce Investment Corporation received a grant for the full amount and will train 70 students and place 60 graduates of its program in jobs related to recycling, solid waste management, hazardous waste cleanup, wastewater treatment and environmentally safe pest control. The training focuses on at-risk youth, veterans and disadvantaged job seekers.

The Denver Indian Center was another recipient. It will provide courses and certifications to American Indians in a seven-county area. In seven years, the Denver Indian Center has provided services to more than 20,000 workers and has an impressive job placement rate of 87 percent. The Denver-based woman-owned environmental remediation firm Bear Woman Enterprises will be conducting the training.

Young Adults in San Francisco Aspire to Afford the City
This week, Mission Local profiled the San Francisco-based Mission Techies Academy, which aims to train and empower Latino youth ages 17 to 24 for tech jobs. The rigorous 12-week program teaches software, coding and hardware, and students are connected to mentors from companies like LinkedIn and Google.

Only four trainees of the original 17 who had enrolled in the program graduated the most recent course. (Reasons given for why some of the others dropped out included work pressure, lack of interest and a family emergency.) Graduates receive $500, continued support and internship placement opportunities. One of the recent cohort of graduates commented on the affordability pressures in the city and its relationship to the tech sector by saying, “Before you know it, we’ll all be able to afford our own apartments in San Francisco.”

100 Percent Renewable Is Long-Standing Goal for Hawaii Mayor

Maui wind farm (Photo by Tom Walsh)

Earlier this month, Hawaiian lawmakers passed a bill mandating a complete switch to renewable energy by 2045. If signed by the governor, Hawaii could become the country’s first state to set a 100 percent goal. California, despite its leading solar market, has only committed to 33 percent by 2020.

Renewable Portfolio Standards are state-level policy, but as officials from Los Angeles to San Antonio are trying to prove, municipalities can incentivize the infrastructure necessary for their success. Alan Arakawa is the mayor of Maui County, which includes the islands of Maui, Lana’i and Moloka’i, and he’s spent his last two terms troubleshooting how to do precisely that.

“[A]round the world, you are seeing more and more island communities become renewable energy leaders,” he said in a keynote at the March Maui Energy Conference, mentioning Australia’s King Island, Spain’s El Hierro and Cape Verde in West Africa.

Part of the reason, he says when we speak, is the cost of shipping in traditional fuels.

“We pay some of the highest electric prices in the entire nation — almost three times higher [than the national average]. Every community that has no petroleum must pay higher prices because of the imports.”

And Hawaii isn’t far from cities with air quality problems that make 1980s Los Angeles look pristine. Traveling around the Asia-Pacific, Arakawa says he’s seen people forced to wear respirators in the smog; those images make costly imports even less appealing.

Finally, though the Mayor doesn’t mention it, Hawaii is on the short list for problems associated with Arctic warming, from hurricane frequency to coastal erosion — a factor that David Frankel, chair of the Sierra Club Hawaii chapter, sees as a major motivator in the state’s ambitious (and relatively uncontested) RPS.

In other words, it’s not too surprising that the legislature went all the way. And Arakawa thinks counties and cities can easily meet or exceed the mandates, though they may need to explore a different utility structure.

“We have the authority within communities to change the structure of how we produce energy,” he says, adding that Maui County could produce more than 100 percent of the energy it needs through a combination of solar, wind, hydro and biomass.

Currently, between 30 and 35 percent of the county’s energy comes from renewables, making its mix greener than the 2020 goals of most U.S. states. Solar projects on Lana’i, and wind farms, land fill methane conversion, and hydroelectric generators on Maui help its numbers, and a partnership with the Japanese government agency NEDO has created extensive EV infrastructure — according to Arakawa, Maui Island has the most electric vehicles per capita in the world.

Going forward, Arakawa outlines several small steps on the path to 100 percent: switching streetlights to LEDs and adding more wind to help power EVs at night. But the county’s larger step comes in the form of a recently broadcast RFP. According to a May 5th article in the Pacific Business News, the county’s Office of Economic Development has already budgeted $30,000 for a firm “to analyze the best utility and ownership structures,” with June 25th as the expected award date. Translation: The county is exploring the possibility of public ownership, among other models.

“We’re trying to figure out what is the best alternative, what animal we want to create, what is the best economic model,” Arakawa says.

Currently, Maui Electric Company (MECO), a subsidiary of Hawaii Electric Company (HECO), supplies the county’s power. According to Frankel, the islands’ IOUs have created some hurdles for renewable — and particularly solar — adopters.

“We were doubling the amount of electricity produced by PVs for about five to six years,” he says, adding that a recent backlog of applications slowed progress. (Darren Pai, a spokesperson for HECO, confirmed in an email that a backlog of approximately 2,800 pending applications did exist last year, but he added that the company is now more than 90 percent caught up).

HECO has also proposed swapping retail net metering for a tariff program, much to the dismay of some solar advocates. According to Pai, the company’s reasoning echoes national themes: Fixed infrastructure costs and fewer ratepayers to cover them.

“Currently, the cost of grid operations and maintenance is increasingly being shifted from those who have rooftop solar to those who don’t,” he writes.

But with a pending merger between HECO and the Florida-headquartered NextEra Energy on the horizon, Arakawa says the county wants to explore every option. Bottom line: Officials want to go completely renewable — soon.

“It’s really not a question of whether we can go to 100 percent; the debate has been on how long it should take, and we say this should be done as quickly as possible,” he says.

On the market: 1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

An interesting house, with much of this 1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France seemingly untouched by time.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

Dominique-Alexandre Louis is a former pupil of Jean Prouvé and an architect with a strong reputation locally, producing eye-catching commercial and domestic designs around the Nancy area between 1953 and 1971. We are guessing that this is one of his 1960s builds.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

According to the agent, all of his private house designs are characterised by ‘light structural frames made of steel’ which maximise the internal space, with picture windows on all or part of the south-facing facades to boost the light.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

As a result the large living rooms on the ground floor are ‘bathed in light’ and mixed with the use of wood for the ceilings and exposed stone walls, help to create ‘a pleasant feeling of natural warmth’ within the property.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

We love those huge living rooms, which are so of their time, as are the stairways that lead to the upper floor space. Up those stairs you will find the libraries and bedrooms are upstairs, with light there boosted by glazed fanlights.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

Probably worth mentioning that much of the space looks original, but a closer inspection suggests renovations and updates too, not least when you get to the kitchen and have a good look at some of the finishes. The character is still very much intact though.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

In terms of the layout, that’s effectively over two separate, two-storey buildings that ‘follow the contours of the land’ and are joined by a glass corridor. There’s also a swimming pool in front of the picture windows of the lower house, a two-car garage and a ‘vast area’ for more parking. Plenty of gardens too.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

The ground floor of the lower house includes a large lounge / dining room which takes up two thirds of the width of the building and has a suspended fireplace and a marble floor in the lounge section. There’s also a ‘cellar’ type bar on this floor, along with the kitchen.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

On the first floor of the lower house, via that wonderful staircase, is a library area, laid out on a balcony overlooking the lounge, plus a large bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, two more bedrooms and a bathroom.

1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France
1960s Dominique-Alexandre Louis-designed modernist property in Epinal, Vosges, eastern France

Head into the higher house on the lower level for a large lounge, with a stairway leading to a landing, a bedroom, a keep-fit area and a bathroom.

A wonderful living space, which can be yours for €980,000.

Images and details courtesy of Patrice Besse. For more details and to make an enquiry, please visit their website.

Salt Lake City Will Have First Protected Bike Intersection in the U.S.

Salt Lake City is about to break ground on the nation’s first protected intersection for bicyclists.

This helpful video shows you exactly how that is a good thing for cyclists:

KSL Utah reports:

Currently, 200 West is 90 percent underutilized for vehicle capacity, making it an ideal location to integrate “low stress” bikeways, according to the city. The bikeway is part of the downtown transportation master plan and will nearly intersect with two TRAX stations, South Temple and 900 South. There will also be Four GREENBike stations along the way.

“Across the United States, street transformations that include protected bikeways have been shown to increase comfort and safety for people on bicycles, attract new riders, decrease motor vehicle speeds, decrease fatal and serious crashes for all modes, and improve safety for all roadway users,” the city said.

Unlike other cities that currently have or are building protected bike lanes, this is the first time a city in the U.S. is building a fully protected intersection.

The city hopes that in addition to aiding cyclists, the new lane will increase local commerce. The area will also feature murals by local artists.

“A transportation system that encourages bicycling and walking can also save money, reduce traffic congestion, build community and improve the overall quality of life,” the city wrote in its master plan. “Therefore, the city supports the concept of complete streets, requiring the accommodation of pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the planning process.”