David Holtzman

David Holtzman
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David Holtzman is a planner for Louisa County, Virginia, a freelance writer, and a former Shelterforce editor.

How About Walkable “Small Town-ism?”

Forgive me if, after living in a small town for seven years, I have forgotten exactly what “walkable urbanism” means. ...

Making Mixed-Income Developments Work

A single development with an intentional income mix involves very specific challenges—both in its design and its management.

Control of Farmland, City Style

I have thought a lot lately about the issue of land ownership for farmers, and the barriers they face to buying land so they can plan for growing their business and serving more food consumers. This issue really matters on the edges of metropolitan areas, where farmers can find lucrative markets for their products and […]

Do Fences Prevent Good Neighbors?

Lately I've been reading about places where communities are separated by fences. Not divided, as if they had previously been...

A Victory for Local Control re: Fracking

Localities in New York State appear to have won the right to ban fracking, thanks to a decision by the...

Deep-seated, Anti-Government Mood Remains

The stunning upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary election on Tuesday by a Tea...

Outside Investment or Self-Reliance for Rural Success?

Recently I came across a couple articles that questioned the economic viability of rural areas in large parts of...

A Farm-to-Fork Movement, Starting with the Corner Store

One of the more intriguing aspects of the local food movement in the United States is the effort to...

How Millennials Are Rocking the Cradle

On this blog recently there have been several posts wondering whether the millenials are going to stay in the...

Tiny Homes, Big Solutions

A couple years ago I wrote on this blog about the burgeoning tiny house movement. Individuals across America are...

Maybe Money Really Can Grow On Trees

Guess what? The local food movement is actually good for your local economy! At least that seems to be...

Once a City Dweller, Always a City Dweller?

Just how strong is the long-term allure of the city to young people today? Sure, cities don't have the...

In the South, Politics and Tourism Don’t Mix

The Civil War is big business in Virginia, which saw more than its share of big battles during the...

Landlines Turned Lifelines

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the growing hardships of people living a rural life. They tend to have...

If You Build It: A Story of Transformation Through Education

“If You Build It,” a new film directed by Patrick Creadon, explores what happens when teachers urge students to...

Better Business, Better Food…Better Community?

At a grand opening for a new retail market operated by a farm family, celebrants posed for a group...

Cause of Death: Rural Life?

Every once in a while I read that the federal government has come up with some new definitions for...

Despite Changing Dollar Store Demographic, NIMBY Attitude Persists

Last winter I wrote about a possible trend in which dollar stores were moving into older downtowns, filling vacant...

Can a Community Fair Save a Dying Town?

Last weekend there were two ribbon cuttings here in Louisa County. One was for an expansion of the food...

Homeowner Associations Have Draconian Rules. Why?

I’ve always been somewhat puzzled as to why people choose to buy houses in neighborhoods with homeowner associations (HOAs)....

From Motel to “Growtel”

A young man trying to build the urban farm economy in West Sacramento, Calif., has a novel idea. He saw...

Could Kit Homes Make a Comeback?

It's interesting to look at housing trends from the past to try to find ideas on how to deal...

Marketing the Farmers’ Market

After making only our second visit to the farmers' market in our county this summer, my wife and I...

Cape Cod’s Fish Pier Is Tourist Bait

Last year I wrote on Rooflines about a personal connection I had to the time when Cape Cod, that...

Have CDCs Created a Dependent Poor Population?

Michael McQuarrie’s article, “What Mumbai’s Slums Do Right, And Why We Should Emulate Them,“ in the new issue of...

Show Up and Be Heard for Rural America

As I was reading recently about China's effort to herd around 250 million farmers and their families from the...

CDCs Adapt to the New Normal

CDCs and their support organizations consider what it takes to weather the recession—from business model changes to different funding streams to mergers.

Rural Transit: A Matter of Life or Death, and in Danger

In the city, many working people and senior citizens rely on public transit to get to the office, doctor appointments,...

Building Community Note by Note

As I listened to a fine bluegrass band play in Courthouse Square in Virginia the other night, I was...

The Potential for Affordability

The other day a genteel old six-bedroom house at the end of my street went up for auction. It...

To Move Forward, Richmond Must Confront Its Racist Roots

Successful cities adapt. They do not achieve success by remaining static. Adapting might be thought of in terms of building a...

Life Without Fossil Fuels

Last fall, I wrote on Rooflines about people in intentional communities who engage with the market economy, even as they...

Questioning the Core of Charlottesville’s Economy

What makes a local economy thrive, not just on the surface, but deep down? I found myself...

Recovery from the Grassroots

An interesting new planning document by the Sandy Regional Assembly was just released by a cross-section of grassroots groups, most...

Is Your Town a Parasite?

What would you do if someone told you your town, the place you'd grown up in and where you had...

Rural Life, Invisible

Rural places can feel like they go on forever, without physical borders. It may take an hour or longer to...

Much Ado About Clean Air, But How About Our Clean Water?

The President made a big to-do about climate change in his State of the Union speech the other day, and...

Farming With Benefits

One of the many striking commercials that aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl was a celebration of the American farmer, although...

The Dollar Stores Take Their Place on the Block

When I lived in the big city, there was a Family Dollar among the various retail, cafe, bar and restaurant establishments on the nearby...

8 New Year’s Resolutions (Wishes?) for the Places Where We Live

It’s almost New Year’s Day, and that means it’s time for everyone to write down their resolutions for 2013. I’d...

News Flash: Rural Places and People are Becoming Irrelevant

The other day Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, got into the headlines with a speech in which he...

Sacred Places

What makes a place sacred? That was the question posed by a recent study that involved a group of East Texas residents. The...

The Rural/Red Take on Reality

Since few writers have mused so far on this blog about the results of last week's elections, I may as...

Thoughts on the Trailer

The trailer is the vilified and estranged cousin of the housing world. It's all but banned in many communities, for...

From Farm to Subdivision to Farm… or Forest

Soil is an important word in rural places, for many people's livelihoods have historically depended on it. From good soil...

In Praise of Farmer’s Markets, Despite Flaws

I love the farmer's market in my county, not far from where I live. It has grown into a lively...

Looking At Once Inward and Outward

A couple weeks ago close to 200 people came together at Twin Oaks, a commune in my home county of...

Underneath the Surface, a Community Fish Story

Sometimes I learn about the details of a community's development in the most random ways. My family gets together...

The American Dream of Nowhere

As I embarked on my journey the other day to a planning conference, I carried a dog-eared copy of James...

Come for the Mortgage, Stay for the Repairs

The storm that swept through the mid Atlantic last Friday night brought me a reminder of a certain truth: We...

Those Who Lived Here Before Us

One question most of us probably don't ask when we're thinking of renting or buying a home is, who were...

The Choo-Choo and the Bus

My son, who is approaching 2 years of age, is obsessed with trains. And it's no wonder: every day as...

The Raw Extraction Economy

By now most people in urban America who pay attention to the news have heard of fracking, the practice of...

Preserving History with Neighborhood Character

Driving through Virginia's Hanover County the other day, I was struck by how much history has imprinted itself on the...

Take Me Home On (Sort Of) Country Roads

The other day at a meeting I heard some residents complaining that Virginia's transportation department won’t pave their road. I had to feel for...

Rural Food Deserts

I was introduced to the concept of the community garden on my street in Boston several years ago, on a...

Neighbors: Faraway, So Close!

“Why does everyone in the country live out in the middle of nowhere? It’s so inefficient!” This...

The End of the Rural “Suburb?”

I read a recent column that suggested getting rid of the word “suburb.” While there’s still a distinction between the...

Urban Over Here ≠ Loss of Rural Freedom Over There

On the national level, the Tea Party has been viewed by some as a conservative movement concerned with rolling back changes over...

On Foot and Wheels, in Town and in the Country

Surprise! People in small towns like to walk and ride bicycles nearly as much as people in cities do. That's the...

Less Pasture, More Concrete in Rural Future?

“From concrete to pasture.” That's how one might characterize my relocation a couple years ago from Boston...

High speed Internet – Hard to find in rural places

What's it like not having access to high-speed Internet today? For anyone who is aware of high-speed Internet, not having...

At the Crossroads

On a map of the rural county where I live, there are many placenames that identify crossroads, significant in that...

Tiny Houses, Big Dreams

Not long ago I was part of a conversation with a builder who wanted to put some tiny houses on some tiny lots. The...

Getting from Here to There

Transit advocates and CDCs in two parts of the greater Boston region are building cross-movement coalitions that are making equitable transit-oriented development a part of the fight for better transit access.

Some Thoughts On This Martin Luther King Jr. Day

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as one of the lucky ones who actually had the day off to reflect on this great...

Where’s the Alt-City?

On a trip yesterday into Richmond, Va., I made sure to pick up some of the free media that clutter the doorways of bookshops...

Is it: “Faster, Stimulus! Spend! Spend!” or “Think Before You Buy”?

James Oberstar, the Democrat from Minnesota who chairs the House Transportation Committee, has been sending out cranky letters to governors around the country who...

Sometimes Vacant Land is Just Fine

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about the possibilities in vacant or underused property in the heart of the city. Kaid Benfield brought this...

Locavores, Beware

Think all planning and community development should be local? Think again, said a judge on Monday when she told a New York State county...

Housing as Economic Growth? Strange Idea, But Not in Massachusetts

Given the pain so many states such as California and Florida are suffering because they have a glut of new, empty houses, and given...

Short-Term Stimulus and Planning for the Long Term

Everyone’s excited about the money pouring, or rather trickling, out of the federal government in the form of economic stimulus. As is the case...

A Third Strand of Sustainable Housing

There’s quite a jumble of tools out there for people who want to make their houses into models of energy efficiency. As far as...

Detroit as a Test Site of the Green Future

Recently a group of planners, including long-time NHI researcher Alan Mallach, visited Detroit to survey the city’s vast vacant spaces...

Homeownership Done Right

While the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance is helping people buy homes, their aim is to build an army of trained homeowners to engage their own neighbors in organizing and advocacy.

Bringing Victims of Foreclosure Back Home

It was often disappointing during the long housing boom to see the affordable housing stock continue to dwindle even as CDCs continued to build...

Bring the Green to Rental Buildings

Given all the emphasis on green jobs and energy efficiency in the Obama administration, it’s not surprising that these uses are targeted by a...

Three Ways Not to Transform Parks — And One That Can Work

Back when I was a local reporter, I witnessed the unfortunate demise of a beloved neighborhood park in Malden, Massachusetts. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr....

Big City Papers: Do We Even Need Them?

There’s been a number of news items on Rooflines in recent months about how the recession has finally led to the demise of many...

Get Your Green On

In general, most efforts to develop “green infrastructure” at the neighborhood level have been volunteer-led, grassroots efforts. City governments don’t tend to take the...

The Mystery of a Mere Idea

Compelling ideas are all you need to start a revolution. That could be one lesson to take from the experience of Van Jones, the...

Commuter Rail�s Promise

The battle over what sort of transportation projects to include in the economic stimulus package centered around whether to emphasize...

Let’s Take Advantage of The Bad Times

With city budgets shrinking rapidly, municipal governments are desperate to collect property tax revenue wherever they can find it. So they are moving to...

Television: The Drug of the Public Realm

I have been constantly astounded since I moved back to the city last summer at the extent to which television has penetrated our public...

Keep Single Family Homes in Mind

I enjoyed looking at the examples of smart growth in NRDC’s new online feature, Picturing Smart Growth. Thanks to Kaid Benfield for bringing this...

Disasters in Tough Times

The other day the brakes went out on a fire truck as it drove down a steep side street in a Boston neighborhood. The...

Considering the Townhouse

Driving along I-95 from Virginia to New England, I noticed how many townhouse-style developments have cropped up where apartment complexes would have been built...

A Few Slightly Radical Ideas to Ponder

Here’s a handful of somewhat radical planning ideas to ponder as we enter the Great Mini-Depression: I am wondering what sort of innovations will go...

Density Revisited

This past summer, I wrote a feature for Shelterforce about a community where a CDC was battling a NIMBY mentality. The CDC was trying...

Don’t Put All The Dollars Into a Few Streets?

In a new, substantial post on planetizen.com, Charles Buki suggests that the foreclosure crisis presents an opportunity for community developers to re-assess where they...

The Trials of Grass-roots Community Planning

Tom Angotti’s new book, New York For Sale shows just how frustrating it can be to achieve true community-based planning. He writes that after...

Sorting Through What Sustainability Means

It’s interesting how language shifts slightly over time to reflect new ways of thinking. I recall a few years ago reading that some people...

Get Your Bike On

Last night, on Halloween, I saw a hundred bicyclists take command of the street. Wearing all manner of clever costume, they rode confidently in...

Transient America

This morning I read about the dismay of residents of a New York City neighborhood who have watched as people who owned homes on...

Restructuring in the works for some CDCs

What do you do when your CDC can’t afford to buy pencils or print business cards, and certainly can’t buy land or buildings? You consider...

Planning vs. Development: Can We Really Choose One?

In theory, the current financial crisis is a good thing for neighborhood planning. With developers slowing down their projects because they can’t get financing,...

What Does the Financial Crisis Mean for CDCs?

Being a person who doesn’t have much invested in the stock market, I tend not to pay too close attention to photos on the...

NIMBYism in the Big City

I am accustomed to think of NIMBY (“Not in my backyard”) as referring to suburban homeowners who want to keep out affordable housing, bars...

What Responsibilities Do Institutions Have In Their Communities?

Universities need to take an active interest in maintaining and enhancing community stability.