Selling Walkability on Wealth

When I was growing up in the Chicago-land area, I walked. Everywhere. Going to school? Walk. Got a baseball game at the local field? Walk. Meeting up with friends? Walk. It was a fact of life, and one that I haven’t really appreciated until lately. This leads us to the first installment of this project: Rule 1 in Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City Rules” – Sell Walkability on Wealth. 

Look around your neighborhood. Are there sidewalks outside every home and places you can go shop, eat and hang out? Did you know that having a walkable city powers property value? In Denver, homes that are in walkable neighborhoods sell for nearly 150% more than homes in suburban sprawl where the only method for getting around town is to drive. People will pay more for properties that are in denser, easier-to-get around neighborhoods.  

Other cities are finding that the more walkable they make their neighborhoods, the more talented young workers want to live there before even finding a job! In a presentation to the group CEOs for Cities, the Segmentation Company found that nearly 2/3 of college educated young adults look for a place to live first, then find a job. This shows that city life, and the proximity of activities, amenities and necessities are especially important if a city wants to attract young people. By creating more walkable areas, a city not only attracts talent, but creates jobs, too. There’s stronger economic growth in more walkable areas, since places that are easy to get to on foot, bike or public transit will have more people visit their shops and stores. 

Increasing suburban sprawl has led to increases in the amount of roadway that blankets our planet and in the amount households spend on automotive costs. When you live in a suburban area, your car is essentially the only mode of transportation available to you to get to things you want to do and places you want to go. It is a fact of car ownership that the more you drive your car the more often you pay for gas and the more you pay for repairs down the line. The car industry has done a very good job of advertising car ownership as the pinnacle of luxury, personal success and autonomy. Hidden behind all those “signifiers of success”, however, are lots and lots of dollar signs exiting your account. Walking costs nothing and is healthy for you! Walking creates what policy nerds call “positive externalities” – mainly, a fitter and healthier population and a city that can save on infrastructure. Building sidewalks and making streets more pedestrian friendly is incredibly cheaper than building new roads, maintaining existing roads, wasting commuters’ time in traffic and contributing to climate change. 

Traffic and congestion trying to get home!

Traffic and congestion trying to get home!

Now, walkability is great and it makes getting around the urban center of a city easier, but most cities aren’t optimized for walkers anymore. Cars and roads dominate America and changing car culture throughout the country will be very difficult. A lot of the opposition to walkability comes from business owners, who see the parking available on their street as prospective customers who will come into the store and buy things. But I ask you - how many times have you simply grabbed the first available parking spots even though your final destination was a couple blocks away? Parking and cars don’t always mean business and money. And perhaps a city that is pro-business doesn’t have any problem attracting new workers and talent to move to the city. All well and great, but I believe that environmental concerns and the emphasis of living in dense, dynamic areas of younger workers will soon trump desire to live in suburban sprawl and spend significant chunks of time commuting to and from work. That’s why it’s important to start small, on local neighborhoods and cities. Spend some time walking around where you live and see if there’s convenient access to the things you need. If there is, great! Get outside and walk! If there’s not, see what you can do to make your area more walkable, citing the benefits we talked about above. Also, stay tuned for more ways to help your city become more walkable and a more enjoyable place to live. 

An easy to walk down street in Little Italy, CA. Note the James Coffee sign in the distance…!

An easy to walk down street in Little Italy, CA. Note the James Coffee sign in the distance…!

Cities that put their focus on its people and not on the cars that clog their roads can generate a stronger economy, attract talented workers, create jobs and make people happy. Do you live in a walkable area? Let me know!

Quote of the Day:

            “Somehow, while a central government investing in highways and subsidizing oil companies constitutes freedom, any local investment in sidewalks and bike lanes smacks of a communist takeover”.   Jeff Speck

Instant Coffee While Camping

A couple weeks ago, my fiancee and I took a weekend camping trip to Anza-Borrego State Park, about 2 hours northeast of San Diego. I was able to snag a weekend off, and there was a full-moon and a lunar eclipse that was going to create a Super Blood Moon on Sunday night, so I was in. Needless to say, the trip was great.

One of the essential things I bring when it comes to camping anywhere is coffee. When you’re in the great outdoors, your sleep schedule can get a little wacky. I remember some other camping trips we’ve done where we hit the tent around 7:00 PM because it was dark out! We ended up waking up with the sun, but the first couple nights of sleeping outdoors are always a little restless. There’s nothing better than a hot cup of joe to rouse you from your grogginess.

To keep it light, we didn’t bring the full coffee complement we usually have at home. Some reasons were obvious, such as no power outlets to plug in a grinder, and others were more mundane, such as keeping our packs and equipment light and easy to carry. Our go-to coffee while camping is Starbucks’ “Colombian Instant Coffee” packets. Now before you turn your nose up at instant coffee, let me explain a few things.

First, this instant coffee is actually good! One of my first forays into the coffee world was way back in college, when I boiled water and put some Folger’s instant coffee into my cup. I didn’t know how coffee was supposed to taste, so I thought it was decent! Second, instant coffee is making a sort of comeback and having a renaissance. Instant coffee is no longer the means for a quick jolt in the morning. More and more coffee roasters are venturing into the instant coffee game, knowing that sometimes all you have time for is some boiling water and pre-ground beans.

While instant coffee will never be my first, second, third and (probably) fourth choice for brewing coffee, it certainly comes in handy in a pinch and in the more stark and adverse environments I tend to find myself in. Next time you’re out for some camping, or a long bike ride, pick up some of this instant coffee and come to the realization that not all instant coffee is bad.

EDC: Everyday Coffee

For a certain segment of the American population, EDC is thrown around a lot. When you search “EDC” on Instagram, approximately 8.6 million posts come up for viewing, and the majority of them have some sort of “tacti-cool” gear - the blackest of blacked out watches, knives and guns. For me, EDC means something totally different: Every. Day. Coffee. Boom.

This EDC is the coffee that I drink on a very regular basis. When I wake up in the morning, this is the coffee I brew before hopping on the bike and going to work. It’s nothing incredibly special, but it certainly gets the job done. This time, my EDC is “Organic Mayan Blend” from my favorite big box grocery store Costco! One of the best things about this coffee, besides its taste, is that you can get a very large bag of whole beans for fairly cheap!

These EDCs are an essential part of my morning routine and help me get the day started off on the right foot. With the right brew method, these coffees can add a lot of enjoyment to the daily slog of early mornings and sleepy walks around the city with Jack’s Cycle Cafe’s unofficial mascot dogs, Hilo and Leia. Aren’t they so cute?

Leia is ready to see you now.

Leia is ready to see you now.

Hilo is not sure if he trusts you yet…

Hilo is not sure if he trusts you yet…

Now, most people’s EDCs are “coffee in a plastic tub” grounds from a company like Folger’s or Maxwell House. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those coffees, but because coffee is such a big part of my day, I would like to enjoy a smooth and full bodied coffee that tastes delicious, while also kick-starting my day. I have fond memories of my early coffee drinking days my senior year in college, when there was nothing better (at least I thought) of brewing a big pot of Folger’s coffee, and then using the empty plastic container as coin jug.

The Organic Mayan Blend is from Jose’s Gourmet Coffee, roasted and packaged out of Vernon, California. The original Jose is from Cuba, and grew up hearing his dad and uncle wax poetic about the coffee trees on their farms. Jose’s is also engaged in sustainable farming practices in partnership with the coffee farmers who provide the green coffee beans prior to roasting. Sustainable coffee farming practices are a big deal in the world of coffee. When coffee first became popular, it was dominated by huge corporations like Folger’s and Maxwell House, who essentially ripped off coffee farmers and bought their beans super cheap, leaving the farmers barely able to eke out any sort of profit. As coffee became more popular and consumed more for its taste, the origin of coffee and the livelihood of its growers became more important to merchants and consumers. Now, the big movement in coffee is Direct Trade, with coffee roasters dealing directly with farmers rather than through intermediaries. This allows coffee farmers to get much better prices for their harvest, which in turn allows them to make an actual living and invest more in their business, thus producing better and better beans in more sustainable ways.


The Organic Mayan Blend advertises a “floral & delicate aroma” with a sweet, chocolaty taste, full body and smooth finish. Letting the boiled kettle water sit for at least 5 minutes seemed to make the water much more amenable to the brewing process, and allowing the coffee grounds to bloom for a full minute and a half also brought out a lot of the sweetness of the coffee. This Costco coffee is excellent for those of us that love to enjoy a tasty and delectable mug of coffee in the morning without dipping into our savings to get that $50/12oz bag of beans that will be gone in about two days. For an EDC, the Organic Mayan Blend is about as great as it gets. It is tasty enough that I want to drink it everyday, and also economical enough that I’m not going to zip through the whole bag in the matter of a weekend. I highly recommend this coffee to all you EDC drinkers out there. Ditch the Folger’s and the Maxwell House!