Why EV’s are false prophets in the fight for a better world

Source: Motortrend

Few narratives in the last decade have generated as much momentum as that of electric vehicles. They’ve been heralded as a revolution. Saviors to our gasoline addiction and warriors in the fight for a more sustainable world. Federal departments have noted they have the potential to dramatically improve public health and reduce ecological damage. Financial observers have christened EVs as the next frontier for outsized opportunity and returns. To be seen in one is the ultimate status symbol, signifying that you’re not only someone, but someone who cares about the world, and how the world thinks of you. …


How to solve America’s homelessness crisis

San Francisco city-sanctioned homeless encampment with social distancing squares across from city hall. Source: KTLA/Josh Edelson/AFP.

Homelessness is an artificially created problem. Though it’s a dire reality faced by hundreds of thousands of people daily, it’s a reality that need not exist. This isn’t just idealistic posturing.

The primary challenge faced by any homeless person, definitionally, is that they do not have a permanent home to live in. If a homeless person is provided permanent housing, definitionally, they are no longer homeless. This is good news for any one concerned with the crisis that’s been plaguing cities and people around the country. There is a simple solution that can theoretically universally be implemented in relatively short…

On fleeing or defending areas vulnerable to rising seas

Flooding in Miami after Tropical Storm Eta. Source: Miami Herald

The Ocean is coming. Whether we like it or not, the seas are rising. Slowly, but ever so surely, it will swallow entire places and inundate others. It’s up to us how we choose to respond to this existential threat for hundreds of millions globally, and tens of millions domestically. Not responding is not an option.

There are two schools of thought with respect to dealing with sea level rise in the built environment: the first, fortify our existing communities to create defensible places. The second, shift our resources and attention away from the coasts to prepare for life inland.


The institutionalization of real estate and the rise of ‘placeless’ places

Fenwick, a 310 unit apartment building in Silver Spring, Maryland. Source: SK + I

Many of America’s towns and cities could charitably be described as boring. New development, that is. America is home to an incredible diversity of regional architectural and planning styles. We cherish what makes each of these places special, traveling far and wide to take in their idiosyncrasies and beauty. But somewhere along the way, we stopped building according to local traditions. Over the last 70 years, America hasn’t put its best design foot forward.

It would be disappointing enough to fail in gracing a land as physically beautiful as the US with the built companions it deserves. But it’s downright…


Making sense of what’s going on in the red-hot housing market

Photo: Bob Sacha / Getty Images

Real estate. It’s on everyone’s minds. At least it certainly feels that way. Everywhere you turn, there’s an article about home prices soaring to record highs, a tweet about someone getting outbid on a home they offered 10% above ask, or a video trying to make sense of the market right now and if one should get involved. Anecdotes have prevailed in these uncertain times. It’s a bubble! Home prices have increased 25% in our market, and it’s going to pop like 2008. We’ve all heard or uttered these words in the past several months.

There’s talk of bubbles and…

Technology should be in the service of people, not the other way around

Rendering of Sidewalk Toronto’s Quayside Development in Toronto. Source: Sidewalk Labs

In 2017, Sidewalk Labs won an RFP to develop 12 acres of land on the Toronto Waterfront. Sidewalk framed it as a disruptive project that would revolutionize the way places were built through implementing a series of innovations that would finally make cities smart. Over the course of 3 years, the Alphabet (née Google) subsidiary developed a vision for the site replete with a 1,500 page plan, and a $1.3 billion price tag. This vision was cut short in May of 2020, when it was announced (on this platform, no less) that the project would be shelved.

One could reasonably…

A westian take on the state of American places.

Artwork for Kanye’s smash hit Stronger. Source: Daft Punk Anthology

In 2007, Kanye released what has become one the most recognized and celebrated songs of the 21st century: Stronger. It earned him a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, and has been played at weddings, pre-games and bar mitzvahs incessantly since its release. Don’t worry, I’m humming “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” as I re-read this too. The question no one thought to ask, until now, is if it had anything to do with architecture and cities? Probably not. Actually, almost certainly not. But for the sake of an eye-grabbing headline and a compelling lede, let’s roll with it! It’s not…

Displacement is the real enemy. The only way to solve it is more housing and better protections.

“Gentrify This!!!” billboard Source: Newcastle University Urban Design

Gentrification is the most misunderstood concept in America today. Much needed investment and newcomers do not equal displacement. Let’s set the record straight.

The Urban Displacement Project, a Cal Berkeley initiative that aims to understand the nature of gentrification and displacement in American cities, defines gentrification as:

“a process of neighborhood change that includes economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood — by means of real estate investment and new higher-income residents moving in — as well as demographic change — not only in terms of income level, but also in terms of changes in the education level or racial…

A Photo Essay on The Holy City

An aerial view of Charleston Source: My talented friend Will Fontaine (@Will_Fontaine on Instagram)

This is the first entry in a series documenting the beauty, quirks and fabric of great cities & towns. It’s meant as an observational journal to document my thoughts and perspective on a given place, as well as a tangible guide to what good urbanism looks like in the real world.

Almost two years ago, I went to Charleston for the first time. It was a place I had thought about constantly. Growing up in suburban New York, I was starved for walkable places with high quality architecture. Whenever I went into the…

The power of first impressions

Entry Hall of the Original Penn Station. Source: Viewing NYC

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Eye rolls allowed. I hesitate to use a platitude so freely, and for the opening line of a piece, no less. But the reason phrases like this are so often used is that there’s no small degree of truth to them. So, platitude. As humans, we’re wickedly judgmental. Though we try our best to give everyone and everything a fair shake, only the most strong willed can overcome the power of passing initial judgement. I’m not so strong willed.

Regardless of what one sees or experiences in their stay…

Coby Lefkowitz

Passionate about cities and the potential to create better places at the intersection of Real Estate Development & Urban Planning. Twitter: @cobylefko

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