Craft Beer, Urban Planning, and Gentrification

I co-authored a chapter in the new book Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Craft Beer with the estimable Jesus Barajas and Julie Wartell. Our chapter is titled “Neighborhood Change, One Pint at a Time” and it explores the relationship between craft breweries, urban planning and policy, and gentrification.

We found that many cities have changed their zoning codes recently (and even offer subsidies) to make it easier to establish craft breweries and brewpubs, with the goal of economic development. There’s a strong narrative (and anecdotal evidence) of craft breweries “revitalizing” neglected neighborhoods. New breweries often seek inexpensive industrial spaces in close proximity to urban centers and residential districts. In turn, they serve as anchor institutions that appeal to whiter, wealthier, and more educated demographic groups. Many craft brewers explicitly see themselves as agents of neighborhood revitalization and “committed urbanists.” The brewers we interviewed uniformly stated that neighborhood character was an important or even primary reason for their location choice, and many referred to themselves as pioneers and catalysts in neglected historic neighborhoods.

Locations of craft breweries and brew pubs across the United States. California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Michigan have the most craft beer locations.

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College Football Stadium Attendance

A few months ago, I wrote about the large investments that U.S. universities are making in their football stadiums. This also included a visual analysis of stadium capacity around the country. Outside of North Korea, the 8 largest stadiums in the world are college football stadiums, and the 15 largest college football stadiums are larger than any NFL stadium.

I received a few comments interested in further analysis of the actual attendance of games held in these stadiums. While capacity is interesting because it represents an expectation and sustained investment by the school, attendance represents the utilization of that investment. My stadium capacity data covered every NCAA division I football stadium in the U.S. as of the 2015 college football season. So, I downloaded the NCAA’s 2015 home game attendance data to compare. My data, code, and analysis are in this GitHub repo. First, I visualized the FBS attendance figures themselves:

NCAA college football teams' stadiums' 2015 average attendance per game Continue reading College Football Stadium Attendance

Craigslist and U.S. Rental Housing Markets

This is a summary of our JPER journal article (available here) about Craigslist rental listings’ insights into U.S. housing markets.

Small map of 1.5 million Craigslist rental listings in the contiguous U.S., divided into quintiles by each listing's rent per square footRentals make up a significant portion of the U.S. housing market, but much of this market activity is poorly understood due to its informal characteristics and historically minimal data trail. The UC Berkeley Urban Analytics Lab collected, validated, and analyzed 11 million Craigslist rental listings to discover fine-grained patterns across metropolitan housing markets in the United States. I’ll summarize our findings below and explain the methodology at the bottom.

But first, 4 key takeaways:

  1. There are incredibly few rental units below fair market rent in the hottest housing markets. Some metro areas like New York and Boston have only single-digit percentages of Craigslist rental listings below fair market rent. That’s really low.
  2. This problem doesn’t exclusively affect the poor: the share of its income that the typical household would spend on the typical rent in cities like New York and San Francisco exceeds the threshold for “rent burden.”
  3. Rents are more “compressed” in soft markets. For example, in Detroit, most of the listed units are concentrated within a very narrow band of rent/ft² values, but in San Francisco rents are much more dispersed. Housing vouchers may end up working very differently in high-cost vs low-cost areas.
  4. Craigslist listings correspond reasonably well with Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates, but provide up-to-date data including unit characteristics, from neighborhood to national scales. For example, we can see how rents are changing, neighborhood by neighborhood, in San Francisco in a given month.

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Urban Informatics and Visualization at UC Berkeley

The fall semester begins next week at UC Berkeley. For the third year in a row, Paul Waddell and I will be teaching CP255: Urban Informatics and Visualization, and this is my first year as co-lead instructor.

This masters-level course trains students to analyze urban data, develop indicators, conduct spatial analyses, create data visualizations, and build Paris open datainteractive web maps. To do this, we use the Python programming language, open source analysis and visualization tools, and public data.

This course is designed to provide future city planners with a toolkit of technical skills for quantitative problem solving. We don’t require any prior programming experience – we teach this from the ground up – but we do expect prior knowledge of basic statistics and GIS.

Update, September 2017: I am no longer a Berkeley GSI, but Paul’s class is ongoing. Check out his fantastic teaching materials in his GitHub repo. From my experiences here, I have developed a cycle of course materials, IPython notebooks, and tutorials towards an urban data science course based on Python, available in this GitHub repo.

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The Inside Field Exam and Urban Complexity

I recently completed my inside field exam, one of the many steps involved in advancing to candidacy. The three professors on your inside field committee send you six questions – a pair per professor – and you are given 72 hours total to answer one question from each pair. The answers are to be in the form of a scholarly article with thorough citations. Long story short, you’ve got to write 30 pages of academic scholarship in three days.

The exam questions themselves are very interesting. The professors construct them based on their reading of your inside field statement, trying to probe areas that might be particularly rich or a bit weak in the statement. Here are the questions I answered:

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Urban Complexity and the March Toward Qualifying Exams

The Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley has a rather arduous process for advancing to candidacy in the PhD program. It essentially consists of 6 parts:

  1. Take all the required courses
  2. Produce an inside field statement – a sort of literature review and synthesis explaining the niche within urban planning in which you will be positioning your dissertation research
  3. Complete an outside field – sort of like what a minor was in college
  4. Take an inside field written exam
  5. Produce a defensible dissertation prospectus
  6. Take an oral comprehensive exam covering your inside field, your outside field, general planning theory and history, and finally presenting your prospectus.

Whew. Lots to do this year. The good news is I am currently wrapping up my inside field statement and preparing to take the inside field exam. My topic is generally around complexity theory in urban planning. Here is the working abstract from my statement:

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