Urban Planning With The Peace Corps

Peace Corps sign from Ghana

This is kind of old news, but for those urban planners who thought about joining the Peace Corps‘ Municipal Development program I would say you (like me) waited too long.

The program, including many urban planning-specific positions, was eliminated and consolidated into the Community Development program. I was actually not aware of the Municipal Development program when I researched about volunteer positions, probably because the decision was actually made a few years ago.

Ultimately, I decided not to apply because I didn’t think I would be able to find a position that fit my professional development goals.

[photo via National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution/flickr]

Market Failure Is Better Description Of Zipcar Than Public Failure

Zipcar - Mazda

Avis just bought car sharing service Zipcar for $500M. Read more about the deal here.

I’ll let the experts weigh in on the deal, but I think the title of Dennis Berman’s article on the Zipcar “Zipcar: Startup Genius, Public Failure” is inaccurate and somewhat misleading. If you didn’t read the article, you would think Zipcar failed to provide people with a service that let you drive a car without actually having to permanently buy or lease, traditionally rent it, or borrow from a friend.

If you did read it, you got a discussion about how the company failed its investors and stakeholders with a disappointing stock price after its much lauded IPO. For those that aren’t in the know: “public failure” as in publicly traded company failure, not failure to the public (i.e., citizens). Which is why I think “market failure” would be a more appropriate description, although even “market” has its own limitations in terms of accurate word usage.

Ultimately, I’ve always seen Zipcar as a worthwhile endeavor–an alternative to personal vehicle ownership. It’s like renting a car, but without having to go all the way to your neighborhood rental car location. Less discretionary income spent on transportation means more money for other things like organic food, iPads, and other positive economic transactions… yadda yadda yadda.

I’ve personally never used it, but those that I know who have used Zipcar liked it. Almost everyone I know is familiar with the service. I hope car sharing becomes more popular in the future, but that would require a lot of converging factors (denser cities would be one big one).

UPDATE: Corporate failure?

[photo via Zipcar]

Did Anyone Doubt Menlo Park Would Approve Facebook Expansion Project?

Facebook's Menlo Park Campus

On Tuesday night (17 April 2012), the Menlo Park City Council unanimously approved the plans for Facebook’s multimillion dollar campus expansion.

Did anyone doubt this project would not get approved?

This reminds me of the similar situation that the City of Cupertino was in when Steve Jobs blessed the City Council with his 7 June 2011 presentation of Apple’s plans for a new campus (see rendering below).

Apple'sProposed Cupertino Campus

Did anyone seriously doubt this project was going to not be approved?

Although I must say that despite the many potential benefits, residents should be somewhat antsy when their elected officials gush over such projects before any substantial planning or environmental review is done.

If I was a betting man, I would’ve loved Apple’s odds after Cupertino Mayor Gilbert Wong stated that “there [was] ‘no chance’ the city would deny the [Apple] project when it comes up for city review” (see Google’s cached search results of the Mercury News article).

[images via Social Searcher | City of Cupertino]

What Happens When We Lose A Video Store?

Blockbuster Video Store Closing

I just read an article on Indiewire titled “What We Lose When We Lose Video Stores” that was republished from Hammer to Nail about the closing of the neighborhood video store Reel Life in Brooklyn, and an interview by Alex Ross Perry with Reel Life store owner Joe Martin.

There have been plenty of articles recently that chronicled the falls of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, but this time feels different. Instead of reading mostly about the might of big box stores on small mom and pops, this article highlights the positive effects that passionate business owners and passionate people can have on their neighborhoods.

You can head over the article to read it in full, but here are some interesting takeaways (including a bit about video collectors, which I myself actually was one):

– Economics of video stores
– Death of collector’s editions of videos and DVDs
– Loss of local film expertise and strong likelihood that hard-to-find titles WILL ONLY be found online
– Loss of video stores means yet another lost opportunity at human interaction (i.e., neighborhood space)
– Relationship between independent cinema and video stores

I leave with this standout quote: “I don’t want to consider a future populated by people who grew up without nice places to go and explore their developing interests with a stranger whose opinion they trust.”

Director Michel Gondry addressed this inevitability in his 2008 film Be Kind Rewind with Jack Black and Mos Def. It’s worth watching.

So to summarize: there are less local bookstores, there are less local video stores. What will fill our neighborhoods? There are only so many bars, restaurants, and art studios…

[image via Ocala (Florida) Photos]

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Discusses End To Homelessness

The Homeless

Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan discussed homelessness in America on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Monday 5 February 2012.

Please watch the two segments as Shaun explains the recent successes in the Obama administration that will eventually lead to an end to homelessness by 2015. As daunting as this task seems, he stresses that this is wholly achievable. Good luck.

[photo via jamerco/Flickr]