Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days.

Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days. Share your favorites on Twitter with #cityreads.

"Park Central," Anne Taylor Fleming, L.A. Magazine

I am standing in a sun-splashed meadow, feeling as if I could be in a faraway enchanted place. There are grassy undulations; the kid in me wants to lie down and roll over and over. I keep thinking of the lines from the poem by Federico García Lorca: Green, How I want you green. / Green wind. / Green branches. Everything is so aromatic. There are coast oaks and sycamores and wild grasses and that signature smell of warm sage. I forget that I am in deepest L.A., in the Westlake neighborhood adjoining downtown, as this is the prettiest park I think I have ever seen in the city—or certainly one of the loveliest. Vista Hermosa is a 9.5-acre haven that opened in 2008. It’s traversed by winding paths and streams, and you can catch the skyline as you meander. Designed by local landscape architect Mia Lehrer, the space is transportive, doubly so when you know that it is the first public park to be built in this dense pocket of Los Angeles in more than a hundred years. I have, walking through it, one of those corny shivers of civic patriotism and gratitude because someone—a fair amount of people, actually, from politicians and philanthropists to activists and environmentalists—is trying to beautify and salvage this piece of earth we call home.  
You can see their efforts as you move about. A few miles away is Grand Park, which spills like a verdant carpet between City Hall and the Music Center. Since opening 15 months ago, it has become a retreat for loft dwellers and office workers and a destination performance space. Grand has been called our answer to New York’s Central Park. That’s quite an exaggeration; Grand is a decidedly more modest urban playground, but it has cast a spell, drawing huge numbers for myriad free concerts and dance fests. I read about the crowds and the joy, and I think, “Really, this is Los Angeles?”

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"A Toast Story," John Gravois, Pacific Standard

All the guy was doing was slicing inch-thick pieces of bread, putting them in a toaster, and spreading stuff on them. But what made me stare—blinking to attention in the middle of a workday morning as I waited in line at an unfamiliar café—was the way he did it. He had the solemn intensity of a Ping-Pong player who keeps his game very close to the table: knees slightly bent, wrist flicking the butter knife back and forth, eyes suggesting a kind of flow state.

The coffee shop, called the Red Door, was a spare little operation tucked into the corner of a chic industrial-style art gallery and event space (clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Evernote, Google) in downtown San Francisco. There were just three employees working behind the counter: one making coffee, one taking orders, and the soulful guy making toast. In front of him, laid out in a neat row, were a few long Pullman loaves—the boxy Wonder Bread shape, like a train car, but recognizably handmade and freshly baked. And on the brief menu, toast was a standalone item—at $3 per slice.

"Poverty Rates Surge in American Suburbs," Megan Thomson, PBS Newshour

Since 2000, the number of poor people living in suburbs has grown by 65 percent. 

For example, poverty is up by almost 16 percent in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.  Up more than 27 percent in the suburbs of providence.  Nearly 79 percent outside Seattle.  And in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, the number of poor has swelled almost 143 percent.  More poor people now live in America’s suburbs than in cities or in rural areas.

The main explanation for this shift is simply demographics.  Many more Americans have moved to suburbs in recent years, and that growth included low-income residents and new immigrants.  Other factors - suburbs are still recovering from the foreclosure and financial crises.  Kneebone says federal programs for the poor were mostly designed back in the 60’s with rural or urban communities in mind, and when hard times came to the suburbs, many weren’t prepared.

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"Evangelical Urbanism: A Review of the Downtown Project's Vegas Revival," Alissa Walker, Gizmodo

As the other story goes, downtown Vegas is not a once-glorious place that crashed and burned; it's been experiencing cycles of rebirth for 100 years. But by building upon the latest revitalization movement that started almost a decade ago, the Downtown Project has impeccable timing and even better momentum—a $350 million, five year investment from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

After spending the week there, living downtown, walking the blocks, and talking to local residents, I believe what's happening in Vegas could be a third chapter in its history, one in which the city is being reshaped by another growing, powerful organization: the Downtown Project enthusiasts.

" Why Hawaiians Carpool So Much," Ryan Holeywell, Governing

Of all areas with at least 50,000 commuters, three of the top 11 with the highest carpooling rates are found in the Aloha State, a review of Census estimates shows.

In the Honolulu metro area, more than 14.7 percent of adult workers carpool to their jobs. In both the Hilo and Kahului-Wailuku areas, on the Big Island, more than 14 percent of residents carpool to work.

Why, exactly is that the case? It has to do with money and culture.

Top image: Jeff Whyte /

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