Is it about the home or the location of the home?

I recently saw this:

I think this is promoting living in the country as the person making the statement would be okay with a cabin rather than a mansion. The cabin looks like it is in decent shape, but it is no mansion.

However, this gets at a question I wonder about a lot: what exactly is it that motivates many people to select where they live? Here are several of the major factors:

-How many resources they have? What can they afford?

-What kind of neighborhood or community do they want to live in?

-Proximity to work.

-Quality of schools.

-Proximity to family.

-Preferences for kind and style of residence.

If you choose to live in a cabin in the country, you are elevating some of these factors as more important than others. But, is the choice primarily about the country and nature, the relative lack of people, the different kind of house, or something else? Reducing it to a binary choice of cabin/country versus city/mansion is simple but the decision might be much more complicated.

Robot vacuum as mapper and research tool for homes

The Roomba may also be a cartography tool to map homes:

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The company announced a $1.7 billion deal on Friday for iRobot Corp., the maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. And yes, Amazon will make money from selling those gadgets. But the real value resides in those robots’ ability to map your house. As ever with Amazon, it’s all about the data

The Bedford, Mass.-based company’s most recent products include a technology it calls Smart Maps, though customers can opt out of sharing the data. Amazon said in a statement that protecting customer data is “incredibly important.”

Slightly more terrifying, the maps also represent a wealth of data for marketers. The size of your house is a pretty good proxy for your wealth. A floor covered in toys means you likely have kids. A household without much furniture is a household to which you can try to sell more furniture. This is all useful intel for a company such as Amazon which, you may have noticed, is in the business of selling stuff…

Amazon would not be alone in wanting to map your home. Apple Inc. also unveiled a tool in June for the next release of iOS, its mobile operating system, that uses the laser scanner on the latest iPhones to build 3-D models that it’s dubbed “RoomPlan”.

While I can imagine the commercial potential of this mapping (beyond retailers, this can be very useful for real estate businesses as well), I am also interested in the research potential. Such mapping could reveal how residents use space, floor plans, and people and pets moving through areas. Rather than relying on people’s reports on their interior activity or direct observations of this, the Roomba can be the research “eyes.” Equip it with a camera, microphone, and other sensors and it could collect all sorts of information (all agreed to by the research participants, of course). A vacuum and research device, all in one.

Urban high-rises under construction, Los Angeles edition

In cities across the United States, the development and construction of downtown high-rises is ongoing. This was one of my views of Los Angeles this weekend:

Who is funding such development? Who will purchase the spaces in these new buildings? How does it all fit within a metropolitan landscape marked by uneven development and residential segregation? Located near L.A. Live, Crypto.com Arena, and downtown Los Angeles, this is desirable property.

Does a “medium sized suburb” have 20,000 residents?

I recently saw a headline comparing a group of people to the population size of a suburb:

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Nearly 20,000 Cook County residents holding revoked FOID cards — enough to populate a medium-sized suburb

More population comparisons from later in the story:

Arthur Jackson, first deputy chief of police for the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department, told legislators over the years, 33,000 Cook County residents’ firearm owner’s identification cards have been revoked because of violent felony convictions, domestic violence charges or serious mental health issues.

That’s more than the entire population of Highland Park in Lake County.

Of that total, “nearly 20,000” have not turned in their cards — more than the population of north suburban Deerfield.

“Medium” is between “small” and “large.” The smallest suburbs can be just a few hundred or a few thousand people while the largest suburbs can have several hundred thousand residents. Is nearly 20,000 in the middle?

The comparisons to specific suburbs might be more helpful, particularly if people know something about Highland Park or Deerfield. They can picture these communities and then make the connection to the number of people with revoked FOID cards.

Other comparisons that might be better: the number of people in a basketball arena, the number of students at a college, the number of people at a concert.

I am not sure that a “medium-sized suburb” is clear enough to help people understand the number at question here.

10 of 30 NFL teams play in the suburbs of the city whose name they hold

Ten NFL teams have a big city in their name but play in the stadiums located in the suburbs of that big city. Here are the 10 (sourced from here and here):

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-Buffalo Bills play in Orchard Park

-Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington

-Los Angeles Chargers play in Inglewood

-Los Angeles Rams play in Inglewood

-Miami Dolphins play in Miami Gardens

-New York Giants play in East Rutherford (New Jersey)

-New York Jets play in East Rutherford (New Jersey)

-San Francisco 49ers play in Santa Clara

-Washington Commanders play in Landover (Maryland)

Two bonus suburban teams: the Arizona Cardinals, not named after a city but a state, play in suburban Glendale and the New England Patriots, named after a region and not a city, play in suburban Foxborough.

If the Bears end up in Arlington Heights, that would push the number of suburban NFL teams up to 13 total.

Summing up the environmental issues McMansions present

Australian architect and artist Mathieu Gallois working with several groups described the negative environmental consequences of McMansions:

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The project organisers made the following conclusions about McMansions: “the brick veneer construction’s thermal performance is poor and inappropriate for Australia’s hot climatic conditions; the foundations are laid on a large concert slab that possess high levels of embodied energy; the terracotta tiled roof’s thermal performance is poor and inappropriate for the Australian climate; the aluminium window frames have a high level of embodied energy and their thermal performance is poor; the window glazing is of a poor level, as is its thermal performance; the PVC plumbing has a high embodied energy; the steel lintels have a high embodied energy and represent lazy design solutions”.

On this basis they argued that “Australian brick veneer homes are the biggest and most poorly designed built homes in the developed world; too big, not built to be recycled, not responsive to climatic conditions, not built for future adaptability, with poor cross ventilation. Moreover, such houses are designed to face the street rather than being orientated to maximise the site’s positive climatic engagement; their multi-faceted roofs do not optimise or facilitate the provision of PV panels or solar HWS; their roofs do not harvest rainwater; the stairwells are not sealable; and the rooms and living spaces are generic, unresponsive to different seasonal climatic conditions”.

That is a negative assessment, particularly compared to how homes might be constructed in a greener manner.

Just thinking about these negative environmental consequences, I wonder if it is possible to create a greener McMansion that roughly keeps the size, architecture, and price that a decent number of Americans and Australians are willing to buy. Could strategic choices be made to make a significantly greener home without too many alterations? This would provide a different product and help address concerns some might have about McMansions.

Tax breaks and suburban and Sunbelt growth

Wells Fargo is seeking a tax break to construct a regional office in suburban Irving, Texas:

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The Irving City Council will vote Thursday on millions of dollars in economic incentives to support the huge campus that’s expected to house 4,000 workers…

The agreement with Irving calls for Wells Fargo to “occupy at least 800,000 square feet of office space in the newly constructed buildings by December 2026. The proposed new office development would serve as a regional hub for Wells Fargo.”…

Irving proposes in its economic incentive agreement to give Wells Fargo up to $19 million in tax increment finance district funds to build a 4,000-space parking garage and “to reclaim a portion of the lake between the two adjacent parcels on the south side of Promenade Parkway.”

A separate economic incentive of up to $12 million would support construction of the Wells Fargo offices.

The project will increase the city’s tax “property value by a minimum of $200,000,000,” according to the City Council filings.

I can imagine the argument from Irving and similar communities about why the tax breaks are worth it:

  1. Such a move helps entice national and international brands to your community.
  2. Such a move brings jobs to the community.
  3. The tax breaks will be outweighed by the tax and physical improvements to the property in question.

All of this helps boost the status of the suburb and the economic prospects in the community.

On the other hand, tax breaks have downsides:

  1. Lots of communities offer tax breaks. The company may be less interested in this specific community and more interested in how much money they can get from a community.
  2. Less money will come into the community than if no tax breaks were offered.
  3. At some point, the tax breaks run out and then what happens to the company and the newly developed property?

As the title of this post asks, how much development in suburban areas like Irving involves tax breaks? Would Wells Fargo locate in Irving or in the region without tax breaks?

Midwestern ice fishing and McMansions

An analysis of words in Midwestern Airbnb listings includes a connection between McMansions and fishing:

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Anyone can catch a walleye with a few bucks’ worth of basic gear, some practice and a little luck, Roach said, though that doesn’t stop some Midwesterners from dropping the equivalent of several years’ salary on boats, McMansion-grade ice-fishing trailers and sophisticated electronics designed to better target the finicky fish.

Follow the link for the trailers and you can see large ice-fishing trailers. I assume that is the primary use of McMansion here: these trailers are large. They offer a lot of interior space. Maybe they are mass-produced or architecturally dubious but the size of these trailers is bigger than just a little ice fishing hut.

At the same time, the use of the term suggests that the ice-fishing trailers are over the top or unnecessary or undesirable thing. McMansion is an evocative term that is usually linked to negative judgments.

The lingering question here: is the large McMansion trailer a worse choice than a more modest ice-fishing dwelling?

(This is not the first time McMansions have been linked to transportation. See earlier posts here and here about McMansions and SUVs. Those ice fishing trailer need a sizable vehicle to tow them into place.)

Evaluating population loss figures for California and its cities

Since growth is good in the United States, news that California populations are decreasing is a newsworthy item. But, how bad are the numbers? Let’s start with the absolute numbers:

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Citing changes in work-life balance, opportunities for remote work and more people deciding to quit their jobs, the report found that droves of Californians are leaving for states like Texas, Virginia, Washington and Florida. California lost more than 352,000 residents between April 2020 and January 2022, according to California Department of Finance statistics.

San Francisco and Los Angeles rank first and second in the country, respectively, for outbound moves as the cost of living and housing prices continue to balloon and homeowners flee to less expensive cities, according to a report from Redfin released this month.

Angelenos, in particular, are flocking to places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Antonio and Dallas. The number of Los Angeles residents leaving the city jumped from around 33,000 in the second quarter of 2021 to nearly 41,000 in the same span of 2022, according to the report.

The American Community Survey estimates California’s population at 39,237,836 at July 1, 2021. If the state lost 352,000 residents in nearly two years, that is less than a 1% population loss. Not much.

If Los Angeles lost roughly 120,000 to 160,000 residents in a year out of a population of 3,849,297 (ACS estimates) that is a 3.1-4.2% population loss. A bit more.

Perhaps the real question is how the population growth in California compares to other places. Here are the numbers:

While California experienced a major population boom in the late 20th century — reaching 37 million people by 2000 — it’s been losing residents since, with new growth lagging behind the rest of the country, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The state’s population increased by 5.8% from 2010 to 2020, below the national growth rate of 6.8%, and resulting in the loss of a congressional seat in 2021 for the first time in the state’s history.

No population loss for the state over a decade. In fact, 5.8% growth, 1% less growth than the country as whole. Not much. The more interesting comparison might be to the state’s own population growth rate, which prior to 2020 was over 10% for every decade since it joined the United States.

In sum: the pandemic might provided several unique years for population in particular places and the state is still growing overall even as it lags slightly behind the whole country and lags more compared to its historical percentage growth. So the real problems here are (1) that there might be any population loss at all in populated parts of California and (2) the state is not experiencing a population boom like it did for much of its history. Are these truly huge causes for concern?

A positive on-screen depiction of New Jersey

In contrast to the typical depiction of New Jersey on TV and movies, one writer suggests a new show portrays a positive vision of the state:

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I don’t want this attention. Jersey’s bad reputation for being America’s garbage dump has done a great job of keeping people out and our blocks relatively affordable. For years, Jersey City was protected by a forcefield of bad representation. Jersey is by far America’s favorite punchline of a state. Futurama imagined America’s founding fathers dubbing New Jersey “our nation’s official joke state.” Movie after movie refers to Jersey as “the armpit of America.” Even in Marvel’s What If…?, Harold “Happy” Hogan laments the only escape from a zombie apocalypse: “Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, we gotta go to Jersey.” MTV’s Jersey Shore continues to do a fantastic job of finding the best cast to represent the state and all it has to offer folks on the outside. Snookie and J-Wow knew exactly how to lay out the red carpet. The Sopranos also knew exactly how to showcase Jersey’s finest hospitality. Come for the bar fights, stay for the gabagool.

I would argue few places are depicted well on television or in films where the emphasis is usually on character and plots rather than on places, neighborhoods, and communities.

At the same time, certain locations can acquire a particular character through the way they are depicted over the years. Viewers might see only a particular perspective on or a portion of a place.

What would the average American think New Jersey is like based on what they have seen on screen?