“Oakland: the city that told Google to get lost
Highly paid employees are pushing up rents near the tech giant’s California headquarters, forcing locals out and destroying communities, say activists. Now Oakland’s residents are fighting back – hard. But are they too late?
If pushing your enemy into the sea signifies success, then Google’s decision to start ferrying workers to its campus by boat suggests the revolt against big technology companies is going well. Standing on the docks of Oakland, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, last week, you could watch the Googlers board the ferry, one by one, and swoosh through the chill, grey waters of the bay towards the company’s Mountain View headquarters, 30 or so miles to the south.
Not exactly Dunkirk, but from afar you might have detected a whiff of evacuation, if not retreat. The ferry from Oakland – a week-long pilot programme – joined a similar catamaran service for Google workers in San Francisco launched last month. The search engine giant is not doing it for the bracing sea air. It is a response to blockades and assaults against buses that shuttle employees to work.”
Photo: Protestors blocking buses heading to Google and Apple headquarters. Flickr Vision
“Unaffordable cities: squatting in Caracas’s tower of broken dreams
Virginia López. Feb 12 2014
In the chaotic Venezuelan capital, even a policeman and his family are obliged to live illegally in the infamous Tower of David
The walls of the Tower of David can talk. Fifty-two storeys high and crowned with a heliport, this unfinished highrise, originally conceived as a bank, was meant to stand tall among its neighbours in downtown Caracas as an emblem of Venezuela’s booming economy and the city’s uber-modernism of the 1990s.
Instead, with the country struggling with one of the world’s highest inflation rates, chronic food shortages and a currency black market where the dollar trades at 10 times the official rate, La Torre de David (named after its principal investor David Brillembourg, whose untimely death in 1993 coincided with the collapse of the Venezuelan economy), is a metaphor for the state’s failure to provide its citizens with housing, public transport and even safety.
Illegally occupied eight years ago by more than 300 families and featured last year as a hideout in the American TV series Homeland, this industrial-scale squat counts a policeman among its residents. Not that 27-year-old Jorge Luis Cadena is exactly proud to call it home to his wife and three children.”
Photo: Jorge and his wife, Yecenia, at the top of La Torre. Photograph: Leo Alvarez for the Guardian
The Next City:
"Raising Their Voices Together, Underserved Neighborhoods in New Orleans Get Heard
Nathan C. Martin. February 12, 2014
The floodwaters receding from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina not only left a destroyed city in their wake, but also an uncertain power vacuum. The government’s inept response on every level opened space for entities whose motivations spanned the spectrum, from goodwill to greed, to fill the vacuum and determine the trajectory of the city’s future.
The setting was ripe for disaster capitalists and others to move in and influence rebuilding efforts while the city’s most important stakeholders — its residents — remained largely dispersed and traumatized. More than eight years after the storm, one can see evidence of this in the closed Charity Hospital, the first school system in the country comprised entirely of charters, the closure and demolition of all New Orleans’ major public housing projects and an overall schema that tends to yield fruit to post-Katrina transplants while entrenching historical inequity that cuts along lines of class and race.”
Photo: The Neighborhood Partnership Network helps amplify the voices of disenfranchised neighborhoods like Treme (above). Infrogmation of New Orleans via Flickr
The Atlantic Cities:
“Why We Should be Worried About the Rapid Growth in Global Households
Emily Badger. Feb 14, 2014
Demographers are not as worried today as they were several decades ago about the prospect of a “population bomb,” a scenario where so many people come to populate the planet that we exhaust its resources. Population growth has slowed in many parts of the world. And in much of North America, Europe, China, and Brazil, fertility rates are so low that local populations are on pace to decline.
These trends, however, don’t cover the whole story of human impact on the environment. The growth in the number of humans on earth may be slowing. But something very different is happening in the growth of human households.
A “household explosion” long underway in developed countries is now rapidly accelerating around the world.
Researchers Mason Bradbury, M. Nils Peterson, and Jianguo Liu identify some hidden but seismic shifts on this front in a new paper in the journal Population and Environment. For years – in some countries, centuries – the average household has been shrinking in size. As a result, the total number of global households is growing much faster than the growth of the world population itself.”
The Atlantic Cities:
"The Difficulty of Mapping Transit ‘Deserts’
ERIC JAFFE FEB 07, 2014
The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago is not on pace to meet its goal of doubling transit ridership by 2040. A little early to call things, sure, but the fact is the transit network isn’t connecting workers with jobs. The Tribune says that “most jobs in the region can’t be reached in a 90-minute commute” (and Brookings recently quantified “most” at a more precise 77 percent). According to a report drafted for a regional transit task force, Chicago suffers from too many “transit deserts”:
The Chicago area’s mass transit agencies are doing a poor job of serving the commuting needs of the region — portions of which are “transit deserts” — while planning efforts are haphazard, a new report says.
A transit “desert” is a relatively new concept, defined as an urban area full of transit-dependent people (usually city residents who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or all of the above) but lacking sufficient transit service. The report mentioned by the Tribune doesn’t identify the exact transit deserts in Chicago, saying only that the term applies to “significant portions” of the metro area. Perhaps the final report, due at the end of the March, will be more precise.”
"Unaffordable cities: this criminal lack of housing is a global scandal
A basic lack of homes is taking a terrible urban toll – affordability is social justice. Our only choice is to build, build, build
Alec Steffen. February 10, 2014
The first time I heard the story, I have to admit, I didn’t believe it. A friend was apartment hunting and – despite being employed, personable and trustworthy – was having a difficult time finding a place. After a few weeks, she was invited to a “pre-showing”, where landlords show the apartment to a select group of prospective tenants before having an open house.
The apartment was perfect, if expensive: think hardwood floors, lots of light, high ceilings. She was smitten. As she was strolling through what she thought might become her new home, however, a man in hip clothes walked up to the landlord and said, “I’ll give you a year’s rent, in advance”. Needless to say, she did not get the unit.
As I say, I was sceptical. Then I heard basically the same story again, from a completely different source, about a completely different apartment. Then I heard a version of it about a flat in London, another about a competitor bribing a rental agent in New York, and another about the strategy of the pre-listing offer, where deep-pocketed tenants make generous bids to the owners of buildings where workers are making major repairs, to secure places that may soon be available before other tenants can even see them.”
Photo: San Francisco’s Chinatown - one of the most densely populated parts of the city. Photograph: Michael Layefsky/Flickr Vision
"Will America’s Surging Number of Seniors Have Safe Streets to Be Active?
Angie Schmitt. Feb 11, 2014
America is aging. But our communities are poorly designed for older people.
Some cities are trying to prepare for the coming demographic changes with programs like Safe Routes for Seniors, writes Louise McGrody at Rails to Trails. But McGrody says it’s still unclear whether aging baby boomers will be able to integrate healthy activity into their lives, because of the way our streets are designed. And that has huge implications for public health:”
Photo:Steve, 88, of Yuma, Arizona is still able to ride his trike to the store. Rails to Trails
The Atlantic Cities:
"3 Depressing GIFs That Illustrate Who’s Failed by Public Transit
EMILY BADGER FEB 10, 2014
The most accessible public transit systems – accessible to many people, to many neighborhoods, to many jobs – are not necessarily accessible to riders with disabilities. The word means something very different in these two contexts, whether we’re talking about public transportation that serves a large number of people, or public transportation that does a good job of serving the specific needs of some of them.
Those goals, of course, aren’t mutually exclusive. But often a vast gap exists between them, as you can see in the three GIFs below created by Patrick Stotz, Achim Tack and Julia Griehl. They took open-licensed maps of the subway networks in New York City, London, and Hamburg – originally created by Lars Hänisch, Jake Berman, and Matthew Edwards – and removed from the picture the names of those stops that agencies don’t identify as being wheelchair accessible.
Viewed this way, these three extensive transit systems suddenly look sparse. “From time to time,” the creators explain at Mappable.info, “it’s useful and necessary to remind ‘the public’ about the limitations of ‘public transport’.”
"The Most Unlikely State in America Is On Track to Eradicate Homelessness By 2015
By Emmett Rensin February 10, 2014
One of the great ambitions of socialists is universal housing, and it’s ironic that the first state to have a policy like it is one of the most conservative in the nation.
It’s proof that if you let data guide policy decisions, it’s often progressive policies that win out.
Universal housing does seem like the kind of thing that would never happen in America. Unionized labor? Check. Social Security? Sure. Subsidized healthcare, childcare and groceries? We’re working on it. Even the guaranteed minimum income has found support from sources as disparate as Tip O’Neill and Milton Friedman. But to have a home for every citizen with the state stepping in for those unable to afford shelter on their own? In this country? Forget about it.
Or don’t. In 2005, one state defied “political feasibility” and began handing out free apartments to the homeless. These were neither temporary accommodations or shelters for the night. They were not welfare-to-work, or only if you’re married, or just-take-this-drug-test: just free apartments, no strings attached. Nine years later, they’ve reduced long-term homelessness by 74%and are on track to eradicate it completely by 2015.”
“Alejandro Aravena: architect, equaliser, el visionario
The award-winning Chilean designer has made it his quest to create buildings that remove cities’ natural divisions
When we first meet, Alejandro Aravena is sitting in a New York cafe, sketching in a journal and nibbling on a cheese omelette. Architects tend to straddle the line between art and engineering, and the blend plays out in the pages of Aravena’s journal, where cryptic notes and equations sit with scribbles and sketches. Here there’s a drawing suggesting the line of a roof or the arch of a doorway; there a page of notes and comments.
But Aravena’s plans extend far from the standard considerations of building and line, into theories of social organisation and civic engagement. He’s designing buildings, but he’s also designing cities they will occupy and the livelihoods of the people who will live in them. This becomes clear as, from time to time, Aravena flips through the book, noting something, sketching an idea, then laying it aside.
As previous interviewers have pointed out, Aravena bears no small resemblance to the comic book character Wolverine. His salt and pepper hair evokes the trademark Wolverine flip, and the intensity in his grey eyes brings to mind the character’s feral energy. Excitement and intensity pour off him as he discusses the place of design in society, and its ability to change lives.”
Photo: Alejandro Aravena: cities are a great shortcut for creating equality. Cristobal Palma