Posted by Leonard Steinberg in January 1st, 2013

I am blogging from sunny Cape Town, South Africa……my place of birth and still possibly the most beautiful place anywhere…….and while far removed from the concrete jungle of Manhattan, I have learned many lessons, or have been reminded of  some from the past……so here goes:

1) Beauty sells:  Cape Town features exceptionally beautiful natural beauty in its topography and vegetation……but there are areas that have been developed where this beauty has been badly damaged. In the areas where a strong consideration has been made to structural esthetic standards and landscaping, not only is the quality of life much better, but the real estate values area considerably higher.  Tourists flock toward at the beautiful parts too. Beauty is worth lots! So let’s keep planting those trees in Manhattan and build beautiful, interesting buildings too. If profit is the only driving force in New York, so be it……as long the end end result is beautiful. It’s just smart.

2) Security: we area extremely spoiled in Manhattan with the safety levels…..the same is not true in Cape Town, where even in the best neighborhoods, panic buttons, electrified fences, guard dogs, and a whole host of other security devices and procedures are part of daily life. In a country where the divisions between rich and poor are extreme, let us not ignore the fact that in the USA this divide keeps growing and the masses are not happy. While crime exists everywhere, South Africa’s crime is especially violent and life threatening, even in a robbery. The primary source of the worst criminals are organized illegal immigrants, may from Nigeria. They are a horrible drain on South Africa’s people…..of all races.

3) Politicians are  trouble: we have seen our US politicians mess put the fiscal cliff negotiations amongst other numerous cataclysmic blunders……in South Africa the same is true where pandering and maneuvering always trump what is best for the country. Politicians mainly hurt economies and development. They are simply not practical.

4)Mayors rule! The mayor of Cape Town, Helen Zille, has delivered a small miracle in Cape Town…..just like our Mayor Bloomberg she is focused on practical solutions for the city’s problems. She invests in that which boosts the local  economy. Smart, sensible, tough, tough on crime, fast…..a lot the adjectives usually not associated with most politicians. Politicians as managers simply get it!

5)  Views are universal value adders:  Many homes boast gorgeous water, Mountain, city or garden views in Cape Town……those with the most breathtaking views in Clifton, Bantry Bay, the City Bowl, Bishopscourt and Constantia have exceptional views and always command a premium. A huge premium.

6) Car culture. I am staying at a gorgeous home overlooking all of Cape Town and Table Mountain up on Signal Hill. While close to everything, you simply have Everywhere everywhere for everything. The gym is 9 minutes drive. That’s 18 minutes per day……or almost 2 hours driving per week if you work out frequently……that’s over 100 hours driving per year to go to the gym…..or a 4 day vacation. My point is that while life in a big city has its negatives, not relying on a car for everything can be a huge time saver and makes life much more productive.

7) Trash: a favorite topic of mine….. It seems that everywhere I go, whether St. Tropes, London or Cape Town, all cities have better, smarter, more aesthetically pleasing ways of housing and collecting garbage. Hence my photo above that shows how trash is neatly contained in containers on wheels…..wheeled to the garbage truck , connected to a hoist and thrown in the back of the truck. Why on earth is Manhattan so backwards in this area?  It’s disgraceful that we have streets lined with garbage bags. I feel this may become my call to action!

8) Authenticity: as I observe cities across the globe, the globalization and sameness of design keeps getting worse. Developers and city planners take note: things that are unique to a city make that city special and noteworthy. Elements, materials, and details that are unique to an area, define that area. I am not talking about re-creating history or Disney-fication……..just good, intelligent design…..and it can be very innovative design too.

9)  LUXOFLATION is the tax on the rich: while some parts of the world have become very angry towards the rich, wanting to raise their taxes relentlessly……and in many instances some me of rich have been abusive of the system paying ridiculously low, disparate taxes ……know that the rich pay a price regardless of the taxes they are paying……in South Africa the luxury taxes and import taxes are HUGE….my car would cost almost double here. In other parts of the world, the rich pay more than double for their Hermes Kelly bags than they did just a few years ago……they all pay MUCH more for travel, homes, clothing, travel, etc. LUXOFLATION is the new tax on the rich and these extra dollars fuel sales tax, and corporate profits that filter down to everyone’s pension funds…..