CityLab

  • 4 Ways to Help Close the Racial Startup Gap
    For almost 40 years, the rate at which Americans have started new businesses has been in a steady decline. This is bad news, since new firms drive the high-wage jobs and market competition that our economy desperately needs. Racial and socioeconomic disparities in business ownership further stifle entrepreneurship and threaten the long-term economic health of our cities and our economy.But a silver lining may have come in one of the most unexpected of places: the Trump administration’s tax overhaul. A little-known provision in the final version signed into law enables states to establish “opportunity zones” that encourage investors to defer capital gains, so long as they invest in existing or new businesses.The bipartisan Economic Innovation Group, a key proponent of the provision, has estimated that there are $2.3 trillion in unrealized capital gains. This could be used to create a pool of capital for investment in areas designated as opportunity zones, or census tracts that have a poverty rate of at least 20 percent and median family income no greater than 80 percent of the median for the overall region.This new source of investment could make a difference in addressing the nation’s steady decline in the rate of new business startups. But it will only be effective if the fastest-growing segments of our population—people of color—are able to become entrepreneurs at exponentially increasing rates.It is well established that businesses owned by women and people of color disproportionately lack access to venture capital and small business loans, which limits their ability to launch, expand and grow. But access to capital is just one part of the problem: The systems in place for identifying, fostering and supporting entrepreneurs favor white males from the start. A recent study from Stanford economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues at the Equality of Opportunity Project found that people of color, women, and children from low-income families become inventors at a fraction of the rate of white men, often despite demonstrating higher performance at a young age.Recently, Living Cities, the nonprofit group in D.C. that I lead, looked into the entrepreneurial environments in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Albuquerque, in order to provide local leaders and opportunity zone investors with guidance on where these investment dollars should be deployed to increase business dynamism in their own backyards. We mapped the unique obstacles that people of color and lower-income and lower-wealth Americans face in launching and scaling new businesses, and looked at potential intervention points and strategies to overcome these barriers.What we found was, in order to help new businesses thrive, cities need to have healthy local entrepreneurial ecosystems. Those are the policies, programs, organizations, products and services in a bounded geography that together shape the environment in which local business owners start, operate and grow. In the best cases, these factors interact to make a city a welcoming and easy-to-navigate place for aspiring entrepreneurs of all races and socio-economic backgrounds.To build such an an ecosystem, leaders across sectors must proactively connect business owners of color with experts, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, April 23, 2018By Ben Hecht
    2 hours ago
  • The Geography of Health in America
    In 2016, a greater percentage of babies were born at low birthweight in Jackson County, Colorado, than anywhere else in the country.That might not seem like such a big deal these days, with modern technology powerful enough to nurse babies who are born months premature back to health. But according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual County Health Rankings Report, we should think twice before dismissing the importance of underweight babies. Indeed, the 2018 Key Findings Report cautions that low birthweight (LBW) is an important signifier of long-lasting health discrepancies.The context surrounding health problems like these is the focus of the 2018 annual County Health Rankings Report: After eight years of focusing largely on place-based health discrepancies, this year’s report seeks to highlight the disparities that exist between different communities in America. To do this, the researchers dig into the lines along which various health discrepancies fall, such as birth weight, child poverty, teen pregnancy, educational attainment, unemployment, and residential segregation. What they find is that these health measures are the worst in the Southwest, Southeast, Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, and the Plains regions. Within these places, communities of color are disproportionately affected across all measures.“We need to understand those gaps in order to be able to present the whole story,” said Marjory Givens, an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin’s County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Program. “Our intention is to call attention to the fact that not everyone has the opportunity to be healthy where they live, and that means having difficult conversations about segregation and structural inequities.”So why is low birthweight so important? As Givens says: “When you start behind, you tend to stay behind.”The annual report ranks the health of nearly every county in the nation, shedding light on the state of public health in America. Their rankings are based on a model that analyzes county-level data from all 50 states, which weighs over 30 health behaviors and outcomes (spanning housing and transit to drug and alcohol use, income, and access to clinical care). For some, the obstacles these measures define start at birth and persist throughout their lives.According to the report, LBW babies—that is, those born at less than about 5.5 pounds—are at greater risk of developmental problems, cardiovascular disease, cognitive problems, and premature mortality, as well as other associated health issues. What makes this especially alarming is that, after about a decade of incremental decreases, the percentage of low birthweight babies grew 2 percent between 2014 and 2016.County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (2018 Key Findings Report)Just as important, though, children are much more likely to be born underweight if their mothers are unhealthy. “The low birthweight measure gives us a sense not just of the experience of babies, it also provides an indication of maternal health,” Givens said. “We know that mothers who receive adequate and culturally competent prenatal care, and have equal access to economic opportunities, have more healthy birth outcomes.”When it comes to birthweight, this means that being black has a strong ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, April 23, 2018By Alastair Boone
    6 hours ago
  • The Case For Preserving Mobile Homes
    Today, about 40,000 mobile home parks exist across the United States. They were critical to filling housing shortages during World War II and even more so after the end of the war. They have the potential to create opportunities for low-income housing, yet many mobile home parks are in danger of erasure from our cultural landscape.Eduard Krakhmalnikov, a preservationist and landscape architect, has a passion for these often-overlooked places. His research on mobile home parks was featured in Landscape Architecture Magazine in 2013 and more recently in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Minnesota History. Below, Krakhmalnikov shines a light on the significant role mobile home parks played in United States history, and explains why they are endangered.Tell us a little more about the history of mobile home parks in the United States.Mobile homes really started out with the automobile in the 1920s. In this form, they were an attachment to the car, but you could take them with you and live more comfortably.[Their rise in popularity] split the use of the “proto” mobile home, as it’s called, into two different functions: One was for vacations, and the other was for people who were using them as a more or less permanent home—but also as a place to move around and find new opportunities. It’s really American in that way, and it also created a sense of mobility.Especially during and after World War II, workers lived in mobile homes near otherwise unoccupied agricultural spaces and railroads [where factories were built]. Mobile home parks were built by both private and government developers next to spaces of production, and they were able to quickly provide housing for war workers and the construction workers who built the factories. If it weren’t for mobile homes, I don’t believe we would have produced nearly as much [ammunitions and supplies] during the war. When the war ended, the country experienced a massive housing shortage, so more mobile homes sprung up. Much of the baby boomer generation’s early years were spent in mobile homes, and the homes became increasingly popular in the 1960s and ‘70s.Today, mobile homes aren’t as visible, partly because the most vulnerable groups of people live there. Mobile home parks tend to house single women, people who have just moved to the country, retirees, and young families on a limited income. But, there are also a lot of people who have lived there for generations; they value the mobile home park as their community and a part of their identity.(Eduard Krakhmalnikov)Do you think that mobile home parks have a place in our current housing discussions?We talk about affordable housing all the time, as we should, but we never talk about mobile homes or mobile home parks—even though they’re primarily used as affordable housing. When we talk about affordable housing and historic homes as preservationists, we really need to start including mobile home parks in those discussions. They fill a critical gap [in housing opportunities], but they’re also endangered.Why are they endangered?[Since most mobile home parks ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, April 23, 2018By Carson Bear
    7 hours ago
  • You Cannot Win the War on Noise
    The new film “A Quiet Place” is an edge-of-your-seat tale about a family struggling to avoid being heard by monsters with hypersensitive ears. Conditioned by fear, they know the slightest noise will provoke a violent response—and almost certain death.Audiences have come out in droves to dip their toes into its quiet terror, and they’re loving it: It’s raked in over $100 million at the box office and has a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.Like fairy tales and fables that dramatize cultural phobias or anxieties, the movie may be resonating with audiences because something about it rings true. For hundreds of years, Western culture has been at war with noise.Yet the history of this quest for quietness, which I’ve explored by digging through archives, reveals something of a paradox: The more time and money people spend trying to keep unwanted sound out, the more sensitive to it they become.Be quiet—I’m thinking!As long as people have lived in close quarters, they’ve been complaining about the noises other people make and yearning for quiet.In the 1660s, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal speculated, “the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” Pascal surely knew it was harder than it sounds.But in modern times, the problem seems to have gotten exponentially worse. During the Industrial Revolution, people swarmed to cities roaring with factory furnaces and shrieking with train whistles. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer called the cacophony “torture for intellectual people,” arguing that thinkers needed quietness in order to do good work. Only stupid people, he thought, could tolerate noise.Charles Dickens described feeling “harassed, worried, wearied, driven nearly mad, by street musicians” in London. In 1856, The Times echoed his annoyance with the “noisy, dizzy, scatterbrain atmosphere” and called on Parliament to legislate “a little quiet.”It seems the more people started to complain about noise, the more sensitive to it they became. Take the Scottish polemicist Thomas Carlyle. In 1831, he moved to London.“I have been more annoyed with noises,” he wrote, “which get free access through my open windows.”He became so triggered by noisy peddlers that he spent a fortune soundproofing the study in his Chelsea Row house. It didn’t work. His hypersensitive ears perceived the slightest sound as torture, and he was forced to retreat to the countryside.The war on noiseBy the 20th century, governments all over the world were engaged in an endless war on noisy people and things. After successfully silencing the tug boats whose tooting tormented her on the porch of her Riverside Avenue mansion, Mrs. Julia Barnett Rice, the wife of venture capitalist Isaac Rice, founded the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise in New York in order to combat what she called “one of the greatest banes of city life.”Counting as members over 40 governors, and with Mark Twain as their spokesman, the group used its political clout to get “quiet zones” established around hospitals and schools. Violating a quiet zone was punishable by fine, imprisonment ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, April 23, 2018By Matthew Jordan
    7 hours ago
  • Navigator: Code-switching
    “Hello?” she said on the phone.I whipped my head around to look at the transgressor. The Amtrak quiet car had suddenly become not so quiet. How annoying, I thought, fighting the urge to shush the person behind me. Instead, I vented on Twitter, as one does.But soon, it dawned on me what I was becoming … that person—the enforcer of rules. That’s ironic, because when I first came to America, I didn’t know a lot of the rules. I’ve been clucked at for bad escalator etiquette; I’ve texted in the movie theater. I know, I know, but it’s all true, I’m afraid.The rules regulating one space often differ from those regulating another. That’s obvious, but easy to forget the longer you stay in one place. We all code-switch between contexts, but it may not always be a smooth transition. And even in the same space, the code—whatever it is—can sometimes be enforced differently for different people. (Just ask the two black guys at the Rittenhouse Square Starbucks in Philadelphia, who were arrested just minutes after they sat down.)So tell me about how you’ve code-switched between different spaces. Did you have trouble transitioning? Did you commit any faux-pas? Drop me a line at tmisra@theatlantic.com.Reading List:This week on CityLab: If you think Dutch cities are all about that weed, you’re so wrong. ¤ In L.A.? Grab dinner with a stranger and talk about race. ¤ Why does the online presence of local newspapers suck so damn much? ¤ The demise of “dese, dem, dose,” and other Midwestern linguistic quirks. ¤ Brutalism, interrupted. ¤ An art exhibition bringing America’s eviction crisis to life. ¤ Brazil’s favelas are sprouting community gardens. ¤ “By the time urban renewal arrived in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, Memphis Lee’s diner was already done for.” ¤ Need Avocados, Kombucha, and Cheap Houses? Come live in the ‘burbs of Chicago! ¤ (thinkhomewood.com)Here's what else we're reading, watching, and listening to:Attack of the tumbleweeds! (New York Post) ¤ Artists and photographers are obsessed with Mumbai’s iconic fleet of black and yellow taxis. (Scroll.in) ¤ Why have restaurants become so unbearably loud?! (Vox) ¤ “The size and landscape of those salt gardens is just overwhelming.” (Atlas Obscura) ¤ Queer love and Christianity collide in Mizoram, India. (The Caravan) ¤ The robots are coming…to assemble your IKEA furniture. (New Yorker) ¤ Portraits from lower Alabama. (The Bitter Southerner) ¤This weekend, also check out CityLab fellow Sarah Holder’s recommendation: In New York in the ‘80s, "People lived louder and larger than they had just years before,” writes Frank Bruni. MTV launches. Hip Hop transforms the city. Madonna and Rupaul debut. Reagan takes office. Immigrant and avant-garde artists rise. AIDS runs rampant, and goes unaddressed. This month's issue of NYT Style Magazine pays tribute to a decade that molded the city in ways that are incredibly relevant today. What’s that word for feeling nostalgic for a time you didn’t even experience?  Felt that. OK, we have one more: Design/architecture nerd Mark Byrnes wants to ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Tanvi Misra
    3 days ago
  • Getting High is a Civil Right
    On April 7, Maryland’s legislature finally agreed, after months of haggling, on a cannabis bill that is designed to increase the diversity of companies licensed to grow, process, and sell medical cannabis. The state’s first round of cannabis licenses included not one African-American company, which caused Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus to protest. The African-American state legislators forced Gov. Larry Hogan to at least study racial disparities in the emerging cannabis market, to keep hope alive for a new bill that would help cannabis entrepreneurs of color into the pool of licensees. Ensuring minority ownership in the state’s medical cannabis market is one of the Black Caucus’s priority agendas this year.“It’s a billion-dollar industry and we’re not going to allow that to start up and flourish in Maryland with no African-American participation,” said Black Caucus chair Del. Cheryl Glenn in The Washington Post. “Especially given the history of the incarceration of African Americans over the years because of marijuana. ... That’s ludicrous, and it’s unacceptable.”Washington, D.C.’s leaders, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, both black women, have fought off Congress to secure the decriminalization of cannabis that residents voted into law in 2014. Holmes has said that a “vital reason” why this is a civil rights issue is that 91 percent of D.C.’s weed arrests are of African Americans. Sen. Cory Booker, an African American, currently has a bill pending that would officially lift federal cannabis prohibition laws.   This is all a far cry from how black lawmakers in and around D.C. responded in the mid-1970s, when cannabis decriminalization was also up for debate. The War on Drugs was waged by powerful white conservatives from the White House down, but African Americans in D.C. did plenty to help roll that war out, as James Foreman Jr. reports in great detail in his book Locking Up Our Own, which won a Pulitzer prize for general nonfiction this week. It recounts the role of black politicians, civic leaders, judges, and lawyers in helping usher in the mass incarceration crisis among African Americans.The first chapter relates the 1975 cannabis decriminalization attempts of David Clarke, a white D.C. city councilor who had worked for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and graduated from Howard Law. Clarke was worried about the escalating arrests of black D.C. residents—334 in 1968 to 3,002 in 1975—and so he introduced a bill that would give fines instead of prison time for possession of less than two ounces of weed, and would have police issue citations instead of arrests for anything smaller.Clarke, who is now deceased, had plenty of support from the medical community, some legal authorities, including judges, and the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He did not, however, have the support of  D.C.’s black leaders—at that time D.C. had a black mayor and a majority black city council. There was a huge inner-city heroin problem at the time, largely affecting African Americans—especially Vietnam War vets—and there wasn’t widespread public knowledge yet of ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Brentin Mock
    3 days ago
  • The U.S. Is Finally Getting a System to Warn When an Earthquake Is Coming
    This story was originally published by Slate’s Future Tense and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Having grown up in Southern California, I’m well-versed in the telltale signs of an advancing earthquake: light fixtures starting to swing, the slight rumbling of furniture, the creaking of walls and door frames. Every year in school, in alternating months, we would run through reacting to an earthquake—learning how to get under our desks to duck, cover, and hold on. So I know what to do when the ground starts shaking. For me, the most nerve-wracking thing about an earthquake at this point is not knowing when one is coming.Although there still is no way to predict a quake before it occurs, seismometers have gotten sensitive enough to detect one as it’s beginning, before the ceiling fan starts to sway. Countries sitting on some of the most earthquake-prone and dangerous faults on Earth have been using this technology to build early warning systems to alert residents as soon as possible—Mexico first implemented its system in the early 1990s, and Japan launched its own in 2007. These governments were prompted to act urgently after devastating quakes that hit their metropolitan areas—Mexico City in 1985, and Kobe in 1995, respectively—and left thousands dead.The U.S. has taken longer because it has wanted to build a more robust system, but it’s now nearly ready for prime time. The U.S. Geological Survey is currently in stage one of its public rollout of ShakeAlert, an early earthquake warning system for California, Oregon, and Washington (the states most prone to quakes). ShakeAlert has been in the works since 2006, and it’s taken a while to implement partly because of a deficit of federal funding over the years, says Robert-Michael de Groot, a staff scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).Even in places that already have alerts, they’re far from perfect. When an 8.2 magnitude quake hit off the southern coast of Mexico on Sept. 7, Mexico City residents got almost two minutes of warning. But when a 7.1 quake hit close to the much more highly populated Mexico City area on Sept. 19, residents didn’t receive the warning before the powerful shakes began.ShakeAlert is divided into two parts. There’s the technical and scientific fragment, led by the USGS, which uses the nearly 860 seismometers all along the West Coast faults to detect earthquakes as they’re occurring.Earthquakes happen when the earth is trying to release excess energy, which it can do by sending out waves through its faults. The first wave is a sound wave–like primary wave, or P-wave, moving at about four miles per second. These are followed by one or more secondary waves, or S-waves—the more dangerous ones that cause shaking—at about two miles per second.When a seismometer detects the P-wave hitting the Earth’s surface, it sends this data to ShakeAlert’s three processing centers, which then use algorithms to generate alerts. The algorithms decide the threshold at which an alert needs to be sent. There are ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Chau Tu
    3 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: ‘A Check Against Tyranny’
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingTaken for granted: Federal judges didn’t mince words Thursday when ruling against the Justice Department in its fight to withhold federal grant money from “sanctuary cities.” The ruling states that cities don’t have to provide federal immigration authorities with certain kinds of help—like notifying when an undocumented immigrant was in their custody or holding an inmate for 48 hours—to receive federal grant money, as BuzzFeed News reports. This deals a blow to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department, taking away a point of leverage in the cities-versus-feds immigration battle. The Republican-appointed judges, ruling from the 7th Circuit, said if Sessions had his way, “a check against tyranny is forsaken.” (Washington Post) 4/20 extra: To understand legal battles over California’s sanctuary state policies, look to the historical struggle over cannabis legislation. CityLab’s Sarah Holder has the story. Marching for Columbine: Today’s National School Walkout for gun safety has high school students across the country marching to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Vox has first-person accounts from 6 survivors of that massacre, and on CityLab, we have an update on the latest city-state preemption battle over gun control legislation: This time it’s in South Carolina. Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Does Homeownership Really 'Drive' the Black-White Wealth Gap? A new paper debunks various myths about the wealth gap between blacks and whites in the United States, and the methods for bridging it. Tanvi Misra What Happens When 1,000 Strangers Talk Race In L.A.? Angelenos gathered at 100 dinners this week through a city-backed initiative to spark civic and civil dialogue. Laura Bliss The Weirdest Ways That U.S. Cities Are Celebrating Earth Day From group oyster-shell bagging to a naked bike ride, some Earth Day events are more colorful than the standard festivals and tree plantings. Alastair Boone U.S. Homebuying Slows Down, But Not for Hispanics During 2017, more than 167,000 Latinos became homeowners, significantly contributing to the country's economy. However, doubts around immigration issues make their future in the real estate market uncertain. Martín Echenique Lyft Delivers Carbon-Neutral Rides The ride-hailing company announced on Thursday that it plans to become one of the largest voluntary purchasers of carbon offsets in the world. Laura Bliss History Lesson Scotney Castle (Hannah Denski/Shutterstock)Long before pre-faded jeans or wannabe dive bars, there were “ruin follies.” While ruins have always captured the imagination, these fake ones became a big hit among Europe’s 18th-century aristocracy. The prefabricated, dilapidated buildings popped up from scratch, or from existing buildings that were destroyed to create a dramatic Gothic effect. This is the history of the fake dilapidated buildings that Europe couldn’t get enough of.What We’re ReadingThe ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Andrew Small
    3 days ago
  • Before They Were Anti-Sanctuary, They Were Anti-Cannabis
    On June 10, 2005, Felix Kha drove through a red light in Garden Grove, California.In another city, in another year, he might have gotten away with a traffic fine. But when officers pulled him over, they spotted a small cloth bag on the passenger’s seat. Inside the bag was a small plastic container, and inside the container was less than a third of an ounce of cannabis. The cannabis was medically prescribed for the chronic pain he suffered from, he told them, presenting his doctor’s referral. And medical cannabis had been legal statewide since the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) took effect in 1996.The officers seized it anyway. Garden Grove wanted nothing to do with Proposition 215, it later argued in court. California had already acted unconstitutionally in passing it, and so the city would adhere to the federal government’s policy of cannabis prohibition instead. It was an argument being used by other conservative cities across the state, primarily in the Central Valley and along the southern coast.By running the light, Kha had inadvertently run right into one of California’s most heated debates, one that has continued in some form or another for decades: Among a snarl of city, state, and federal players, which laws rule?Today, California has solidified its position as a locus of federal resistance on multiple fronts. As of April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has three simultaneous lawsuits open against California’s state leadership, challenging their perceived over-reach when it comes to environmental protections,  property rights, and especially sanctuary state policies.“To the extent it looks like we’re focusing on California, that is really a product of the extreme nature of the laws California has been passing in recent days," a senior Department of Justice official told BuzzfeedNews. "They are passing laws that no other state is passing or has thought to pass, and that’s because the laws are unconstitutional.”But as the largely liberal California battles the Republican-led federal government, many of the same conservative cities involved in medical cannabis-related resistance are flexing back yet again.Last month, cities like Los Alamitos and larger counties like Orange and San Diego began to come out against California’s sanctuary policy, echoing Garden Grove’s position: their obligation to the federal government supersedes their obligation to the state. This time, instead of sidestepping cannabis laws, they're arguing cities should be able to cooperate fully with federal immigration services and turn over undocumented immigrants to ICE for deportation, even as the state declares local enforcement agencies should protect California residents. Los Alamitos was the first to finalize a vote to exempt themselves from SB-54 on Tuesday, but the mayor of Huntington Beach told CityLab he was examining the option as well. Nearly a dozen other cities and counties have signed onto the Justice Department’s lawsuit. While Trump praises their defiance, the ACLU has mounted a lawsuit against Los Alamitos’ exemption ruling, and the city has turned to crowdfunding to help pay for legal fees.To defend their stance, cities are using some of the same legal ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Sarah Holder
    3 days ago
  • Does a Higher Building Elevation Lead to More Risk-Taking?
    If you’re in a penthouse, stay away from the ponies: Researchers have found that people are more likely to take financial risks at higher elevations inside a building.In a study published recently in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers looked at data from more than 3,000 hedge funds all over the world and found a “weak but significant” correlation between the volatility of each fund and the elevation of the building floor (ranging from the first to the 96th) where the firm was located.The finding seems to reflect a fact of commercial real estate: The higher the office, the more expensive it is to rent or own, so a company sitting pretty at the top may have more money to wager. But the study was designed to test the effect of elevation on individuals, not corporate entities.In one experiment, participants made bets inside the glass elevator of a tall building. In some cases the elevator was ascending, and in others it was descending. As the elevator ascended, those who traveled up to the 72nd floor were more likely to choose a riskier bet. The descending group, on the other hand, opted for a more conservative choice.In another experiment, researchers asked some participants on the ground floor and others on the third floor of a building to make 10 decisions, each of which had different risk and payoff options. Those on the third floor chose riskier options more frequently than people on the ground floor.Sina Esteky, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of marketing at Miami University in Ohio, noted that there’s an architectural association between elevation and power stretching back through history. “Powerful buildings are put on top of a hill, [and] a lot of religions discuss divinity, or people of high power, being in high physical positions. It seems to be a deeply rooted association, [and] it seemed like the reason elevation can lead to people taking more risks is they usually feel more powerful.”One person who’s well aware of the connection between building height and power is penthouse owner Donald Trump. As a developer, Trump routinely inflated the number of floors in his buildings, because, he said, people “like to have apartments that have height, the psychology of it.”In their paper, the authors note that although past research has looked at how “atmospheric factors” like lighting and sound can affect consumer decisions, few studies have delved into the effects of spatial positioning. This, they write, is surprising, because “with rapid urbanization, particularly vertical expansion in high-density urban environments, consumers are making a growing number of decisions in multi-story buildings.”Meanwhile, there has never been more opportunity to work high above the ground. The number of super-tall skyscrapers around the world keeps rising, especially in financial centers like New York City and Hong Kong, and 2017 set a record for the number of new skyscrapers built in a single year. That could mean more people working on the 65th or 82nd floor who are tempted to ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Teresa Mathew
    3 days ago
  • Lyft Delivers Carbon-Neutral Rides
    Over the years, John Zimmer, the co-founder and president of Lyft, has often pointed to a class he took as an undergraduate as the source of his ideas about environmental sustainability—and by extension, Lyft’s goals to create greener transportation options.The class at Cornell University was called “Green Cities.” The professor, Robert Young, opened the first lecture by describing how roads and transit systems built decades ago weren’t designed to sustain the rapid growth of urban populations today, Zimmer recalled. “If we don’t fix the infrastructure problem, we’re going to have a major economic and environmental problem,” Zimmer told a roundtable of reporters in Washington, D.C., in late March.Founded in 2012, Lyft is now an $11 billion ride-hailing company, second in the industry to Uber alone. Its concept of ride-hailing has long been founded on reducing the need for personal car ownership. But today, the company made perhaps its most meaningful move yet towards reducing carbon emissions: Lyft is promising to offset the carbon emissions of every ride around the world, making all rides “carbon neutral.” From now on, Zimmer and his co-founder Logan Green wrote in a Medium post, “your decision to ride with Lyft will support the fight against climate change.”According to the post, Lyft’s total annual investment will amount to over a million metric tons of carbon, “equivalent to planting tens of millions of trees or taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road,” which will make Lyft one of the largest voluntary purchasers of carbon offsets in the world. Scott Coriell, a Lyft communications officer, said the company does not have a specific estimate for the cost of the investment, but that it will be in the millions of dollars. According to a 2015 report by the NGO Ecosystem Marketplace, General Motors, Barclays bank, and PG&E were the top three voluntary buyers of offsets between 2012 and 2013, respectively scooping up 4.6 million, 2.1 million, and 1.4 million carbon offsets, which are measured in metric tons, during that period.Carbon offsets have been the subject of some scrutiny and scandal; some companies that take money promising to plant trees and capture emissions have been exposed as worthless or scams. Coriell noted that Lyft will become carbon neutral by investing in offset projects that would not have happened without their backing. These projects will all be U.S.-based and close to Lyft’s largest markets, Corriel said, and will include investments in a manufacturing emissions reductions project in Michigan, oil recycling in Ohio, and a wind energy farm in Oklahoma. These projects are verified under the American Carbon Registry, Climate Action Reserve, or Verified Carbon Standard—all rigorous third-party standard setters of legitimacy.The announcement is not Lyft’s first gesture towards environmental sustainability. In 2017, it signed “We Are Still In,” joining hundreds of states, cities, and corporations (including Uber) in pledging to uphold the U.S. carbon emissions reduction goals set forth by the Paris climate accord, after President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw the country’s commitment. At the time, Lyft ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Laura Bliss
    3 days ago
  • The Weirdest Ways That U.S. Cities Are Celebrating Earth Day
    When Earth Day began in 1970, the dire state of cities had a lot to do with it. Urban industrialism had literally become lethal: During a particularly warm Thanksgiving weekend in 1966, the smog in New York City killed nearly 200 people. As the environmental historian Adam Rome told CityLab’s Laura Bliss in 2015, back in the ‘60s, “[c]ities epitomized everything that was wrong with the planet.”A lot has changed in the intervening decades. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed after the first Earth Day, and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts followed. Cities have cleaned up their air and water, and many have stepped up as forces for environmental progress. San Francisco is now striving for zero waste by 2020, and Portland, Oregon, is working toward cutting the city’s carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030.Earth Day at the Capitol, 1990 (Greg Gibson/AP)According to Kathleen Rodgers, the president of Earth Day Network, thousands of events will happen around the world this weekend in honor of Earth Day, which is officially on Sunday. They are intended to draw public attention to issues that environmentalists wrestle with year-round: climate change, habitat loss, and plastic pollution, to name a few.But for many city dwellers, the goal is a little simpler: to engage with their communities in an Earth-friendly way and have a good time. Here are a few of the more unusual ways that American cities will be advocating for a healthy planet this weekend.Drinking Thomas Dolby’s Beer in BaltimoreIf you live in Baltimore, you may have spotted Thomas Dolby driving his motorboat around the city’s harbor. “I don’t have a car, but I have a little motorboat, and I use that to get around,” Dolby told CityLab. “You’ll often see me out there on my way to Safeway to get groceries, or on my way to Fells Point to get breakfast.”Those who don’t know Dolby from his jaunts around the Baltimore Harbor may remember the British musician’s 1982 hit, “She Blinded Me With Science.” Now you have another reason to listen to it: Baltimore’s Peabody Heights Brewery has partnered with Dolby to release a new wit—that’s a Belgian wheat ale, in brewery-speak—called “She Blinded Me Wit Science.” Fittingly, the label will feature an image of Professor Trash Wheel, the newest googly-eyed trash-collecting device on the Inner Harbor.Proceeds from the beer will benefit the Healthy Harbor Initiative, whose goal is to make the harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. The beer will be released in Baltimore and around the country on Saturday, just in time for Earth Day.  “I think people should get enjoyment out of their harbor,” said Dolby, who is currently a professor of the arts at Johns Hopkins University. “The harbor is already a great center of gravity for Baltimore events … but it would certainly be nice if there were a beach or two.”Recycling Oyster Shells in RichmondOn Saturday, volunteers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rice Rivers Center, just outside of Richmond, will help the Virginia Oyster ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Alastair Boone
    3 days ago
  • Does Homeownership Really ‘Drive’ the Black-White Wealth Gap?
    The wealth gap between blacks and whites would take 225 years to disappear, according to one recent, rather optimistic, estimate. As to how this could happen, theories abound.Squeezing shut the homeownership gap is a popular solution, and understandably so. A century of racist housing policy—redlining, mortgage loan discrimination, preferential housing subsidies—has created major barriers to homeownership for black Americans. Simultaneously, the federal government has long promoted homeownership as one of the primary asset building mechanisms in the U.S. The result: A homeownership gap that largely overlaps with the wealth gap. But will eliminating the former also do away with the latter?According to a new paper from the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University: Not really.In this report, authors William Darity Jr., Darrick Hamilton, Mark Paul, Alan Aja, Anne Price, Antonio Moore, and Caterina Chiopris set out to debunk a number of myths about this racial wealth gap—and its fixes. Improving financial literacy, elevating educational achievement, increasing savings, and encouraging entrepreneurship may be helpful, but ultimately insufficient, they argue; these solutions place the brunt of the responsibility on black Americans, to correct a problem they did not create.But bridging the homeownership gap is a long-touted piece of the solutions puzzle. In 2017, in an article for The New York Times Magazine, sociologist Matthew Desmond wrote: “Differences in homeownership rates remain the prime driver of the nation’s racial wealth gap.” And research by various public policy organizations and housing experts appears to back this up. Technically, they’re not wrong: Housing market conditions and policies do worsen economic inequality. But what the authors of the Duke University paper take issue with is the implication—or perhaps more accurately, the inference—that the homeownership gap causes the wealth gap. They write: The word “drive” suggests a causal link between homeownership/home equity and the generation wealth. However, a major flaw in this reasoning is that, by definition, homeownership/home equity is a component of wealth. Hence, the statement that “homeownership drives wealth” is equivalent to saying that “wealth drives wealth.” In other words, there’s a chicken-and-egg problem in the way we talk about the relationship between homeownership and wealth. And the authors of the Duke University paper are arguing that the wealth disparities came first. They write in the paper: Without sufficient wealth in the first place, households have limited means to invest in homeownership. Wealth, after all, begets more wealth. Of course, the decades of discriminatory housing policy have driven a deeper wedge between racial groups, but the seed of the black-white wealth gap was sown back during slavery. For this argument, the researchers have some support. A recent historical analysis found that there’s a significant economic penalty for being black in America, and it has remained constant for over 100 years.That’s why doing away with the homeownership gap, by itself, will not create wealth parity for blacks and whites (although the authors of the Duke paper agree that it will help). They have numbers to prove it: White households that do not ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Tanvi Misra
    3 days ago
  • Dutch Cities Don’t Love Weed
    If you assume the Netherlands has an anything-goes attitude toward cannabis, think again.This month, the city of the Hague—home to the parliament and royal family of this famously tolerant country—announced that, while it will still tolerate the possession of small amounts of cannabis, it will ban public consumption in its city center. The move is apparently in response to complaints about noise and smells. While it might seem tame compared to countries that ban smoking outright, it still marks a turnaround for a place that has an international reputation for permissive drug policies.Indeed, the tide seems to be turning against general tolerance in the Netherlands, with increasing curbs being placed on cannabis trade and public consumption. So why is this tightening up occurring here at a time when other countries are moving toward relaxing their laws?The truth is that the Netherlands has been trying to curb some aspects of the weed business for a while now. As things stand, cannabis possession is technically illegal, but for personal consumption, that law is ignored. Amsterdam (later followed by Rotterdam) banned coffee shops from setting up within 250 meters (820 feet) of secondary schools as far back as 2011. Meanwhile, the whole country came close to limiting weed sales back in 2012, when the government proposed a “Weed Pass” system that would limit cannabis sales to national residents, replacing a cannabis club membership system that had long been in place in the county’s three southernmost provinces. While a few border towns kept the system, the pilot was largely abandoned due to fears that it increased black-market street trading.Now the Hague’s move is the most comprehensive ban the country has seen yet. What it implies is less a drug crackdown and more of a general shift away from tolerance of cannabis use in public. The ban is being introduced partly because people simply don’t like smelling weed when they’re, say, buying a ticket at the central station. This needn’t come as a surprise. The Netherlands—or at least Amsterdam—may have earned a stereotype among some Americans as a sort of daily re-enactment of the Woodstock Festival with added windmills. The country can nonetheless strike visitors as a rather buttoned-up place, one that places high value on social and environmental orderliness.Consumption isn’t necessarily the target here—the Netherlands has long had comparatively low levels of cannabis use compared to other European countries, anyway. It’s more about combatting a sense of public untidiness and tacit official approval for weed use. Banning coffee shops around schools, for example, won’t necessarily deter young people from getting their hands on cannabis. What it does do is lessen their exposure to it, as does banning its use from central streets. Frustration at publicly active stoners is also partly influenced by the country’s ongoing anti-tourist backlash, which has seen clampdowns on anything from beer bikes to Airbnb. Coffee shops are especially popular with travelers who face tighter controls at home, though weed tourists are more likely to choose Amsterdam than an attractive but ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, April 20, 2018By Feargus O'Sullivan
    3 days ago
  • What Happens When 1,000 Strangers Talk Race In L.A.?
    LOS ANGELES, CA—As the seven diners passed the roast chicken and collards, Veronica Perez cleared her throat. “I have a tough question that’s a little bit hard for me to ask,” she said. “Do we know why it is that homeless people are disproportionately African American in this city?”It was a tough question. Los Angeles is facing a historic homelessness crisis. And in many contexts, especially in the company of strangers, bringing up race can be uncomfortable. Yet race was the main course inside Perez’s ninth-floor apartment in the downtown Arts District on Tuesday night. It’s what these seven Angelenos, who had never previously met, had gathered to talk about over a catered meal of soul food.In other dining rooms across the city this week, some 1,000 Angelenos are joining them, talking about how skin color shapes their lives in this city over 100 meals in private homes around town. It’s part of embRACE L.A., a city council initiative to open up civic and civil dialogues about race.Anthony Foster, a coordinator at Community Coalition, a local nonprofit partnering with the city to facilitate the conversations, jumped in to field Perez’s question. Foster, who is black, cited L.A.’s growing unaffordability, which disproportionately affects people of color. Coupled with the rates of incarceration and low access to mental health care, “the system makes it hard for you to get on your feet, and stay on your feet,” he said.That led Perez, a public affairs professional, to wonder if the city should look at homelessness as a civil rights issue. “If the demographics looked different, would there have been earlier calls to action?” she wondered.“I think that’s why this is getting more attention now,” said Ernesto Hidalgo, who works in social-impact real-estate development and grew up in South Central L.A. “Yes, there are more homeless. But also the complexion of the folks we’re seeing now is a little bit different.”Launched in 2016, the first of the embRACE L.A. dinners was piloted by city council president Herb Wesson at his own home last spring, echoing the work of the chef-artist (and CityLab contributor) Tunde Wey, whose work Blackness in America brought similar dialogue-driven meals to cities around the country. This year marks L.A.’s first round of municipally sponsored dinners. The events are free to residents, who applied via an online process in March. Demand turned out to be more than double the seats available, so guests were selected by lottery. Volunteer hosts offered up dining rooms in affluent and lower-income communities alike, from majority-black neighborhoods in South L.A. to the ranch-like compounds of Topanga Canyon, which is mostly white. “That signaled to us that there’s a real hunger to talk about race in this city,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, the communications director for Wesson’s office.It was revealing, then, that the first of two hours of the conversation on Tuesday night did not focus on race explicitly, but on the record number of individuals living on L.A. streets. Perhaps that is the beauty of the “100 ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, April 19, 2018By Laura Bliss
    4 days ago
  • U.S. Homebuying Slows Down but Not for Hispanics
    There are more than 51 million Hispanics in the United States and their influence in the American real estate market is becoming increasingly significant. During 2017, the number of Hispanic homeowners reached 7,472,000. This figure is an increase of 167,000 homes owned since 2016. The increase largely has been driven by the purchase of new properties in areas where the Hispanic population has been growing rapidly, like Kansas, Iowa and Utah.These findings were released earlier this year, in the 2017 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, a project of the Hispanic Wealth Project in association with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.The authors note that today, 46.2 percent of Hispanic households own their properties, returning to the levels registered in 2012 but not yet reaching the highs of 2005-2007.Year   Hispanic Homeownership Rate Number of Hispanic-owned households Annual Change in the number of hispanic-owned households 2017 46.2% 7,472,000 +167,000 2016 46.0% 7,305,000 +213,000 2015 45.6% 7,092,000 +248,000 2014 45.4% 6,845,000 +68,000 2013 46.1% 6,777,000 +96,000 2012 46.1% 6,680,000 +352,000 2011 46.9% 6,328,000 +130,000 2010 47.5% 6,198,000 –56,000 2009 48.4% 6,253,000 –65,000 2008 49.1% 6,319,000 +15,000 2007 49.7% 6,303,000 208,000 2006 49.7% 6,095,000 +243,000 2005 49.5% 5,852,000 +404,000 2004 48.1% 5,448,000 +275,000 2003 46.7% 5,172,000 +261,000 2002 47.0% 4,912,000 +414,000 2001 47.3% 4,497,000 +256,000 2000 46.3% 4,242,000 N/A Source: U.S. Census BureauAccording to the report, 15 percent of all homes sold in the U.S. during 2017 were bought by Hispanics. The purchasing power of this demographic group is most influential in traditionally Latino states such as Florida, Texas and California, but it is also significant in other states with Hispanic populations that have grown recently like Kansas, Iowa and Utah, as mentioned previously. In states like Wyoming, Oklahoma and Nebraska, Hispanics do not constitute a majority demographic group, but each shows a rise in the percentage of Hispanic homeowners, increasing in 2017 to 56 percent, 50.3 percent and 46.7 percent, respectively.By 2024, Hispanics are expected to add 6,000,000 new homes owned to the national total, leading the growth of homeowners and stimulating the real estate market in the U.S. The report explains that this increase will be due to the fact that some Hispanics are leaving the states that have historically hosted them, and moving to other jurisdictions like Kansas, Iowa and Utah, lured by a job market in need of a labor force with and without college degrees, and where the housing is more affordable, enabling them to become homeowners.For the most part, Hispanics who choose to move from California, Florida and Texas are millennials who have a higher educational level than their parents, and were born in the United States or are DACA recipients, says Sonja Díaz, director of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA. She explains that this internal Hispanic migration to other metropolitan areas such as Des Moines (Iowa) or McAllen (Texas), is because there is growing demand for Hispanic labor, as well as greater availability of homes priced under $300,000.“It's about where Latinos live, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, April 19, 2018By Martín Echenique
    4 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: Don’t Be a Jerk
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingScoot over: The perceived scooter scourge has been removed from San Francisco’s sidewalks, but the problems they caused were all too human. According to The Washington Post, there’s one big hurdle for electric scooter sharing to clear: jerks. The overlapping dilemmas of clutter and vandalism point to why we can’t have nice things. The Post even wrote handy PSAs for how to behave on a scooter. But the problem is probably best summed up by this kicker: “People just need to be responsible and know the limits,” said Patrick Tao, 37, after taking his first ride on a Bird in San Francisco on Tuesday. He parked his scooter, which had a flat tire, next to a bike rack. He thinks the tech could have a future, but acknowledges, “There is always going to be some a--hole who ruins it.” ICYMI: CityLab’s Laura Bliss covers the turf war breaking out between Bird, LimeBike, and Spin. Bias training: The Philly Starbucks incident sparked a sweeping national conversation about being black in in public spaces. And today, Slate features an essential discussion with Slate writers Jamelle Bouie and Aisha Harris, NPR’S Gene Demby, and sociology professor Tressie McMillan Cottom about how society’s racism adds friction to the routine transactions of everyday life if you’re black, from getting coffee to attending a yoga class. CityLab context: Brentin Mock writes about how bias is part of Starbucks’s design.Andrew SmallMore on CityLab The Rise of the Rest (of the World) American cities still have the edge when it comes to high-tech startups and venture capital, but other parts of the world are rapidly catching up. Richard Florida Three Years After His Death, Freddie Gray's Neighborhood Faces a New Loss Baltimore plans to partially demolish Gilmor Homes, the public housing complex that was once the focus of protests. Michael Anft Why Are Newspaper Websites So Horrible? The pop-up ads! The autoplaying videos! Andrew Zaleski Puerto Rico Is Hit by a Total Blackout Almost seven months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is experiencing a complete power outage. The island’s electricity provider said it will take from 24 to 36 hours to bring power back across the U.S. territory. Martín Echenique How 'Evicted' Became an Exhibit The National Building Museum brings Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book—and the American housing crisis itself—to life. Kriston Capps Photo of the Day Robin Hood Gardens, London. (Oliver Wainwright)Beauty is in the eye of the destroyer. An exhibit at Boston’s pinkcomma gallery showcases the demolition of Brutalist buildings as a call to preserve this divisive architectural style. Curator Chris Grimley compares the modern distaste for béton brut to a similar wave of “venomous dislike” for Victorian ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, April 19, 2018By Andrew Small
    4 days ago
  • Three Years After His Death, Freddie Gray’s Neighborhood Faces a New Loss
    On a day that is mockingly cold and overcast, a wrecking crew is tearing down a block of rowhouses in West Baltimore—part of a massive citywide effort to demolish vacant properties. As the machines rip and churn, Sharon Parhan stands in her doorway, watching.Parhan lives on the northern edge of Gilmor Homes, a 532-unit public housing development that sprawls over several blocks in Sandtown-Winchester, one of the city’s most chronically poor neighborhoods. Gilmor also faces a wrecking ball in its future: Several buildings in the complex have recently been targeted for demolition. If the city gets its way, six of the taller four-story structures will bite the dust. The remaining three-story townhouses and the apartments above them will remain intact, for now. Under the proposal, 123 families will be relocated.Parhan’s gaze shifts to the east, where dozens of men huddle in a sheltered doorway. Drug runners yell out names—“John Wick!” John Wick!”—announcing the availability of free “testers” of heroin. “You see what’s going on out there,” says Parhan, 63, an Army vet who lives on a small disability check. Her arm traces a 360-degree circle. “They need to tear all this down too.”Among the current residents and neighbors of Gilmor, feelings tend to be similarly unsentimental. But this is also a place of great local significance: The complex served as the set for the first act of a story that has defined Baltimore’s recent history.One block west of Parham’s unit sits Bruce Court, where two more buildings have been tapped for removal. It was here on the morning of April 12, 2015, when city police caught up with a 25-year-old Gilmor resident named Freddie Gray, who had fled their approach a few blocks away. Bruce Court residents watched as Gray was wrestled into a police van; he died of the injuries he sustained in that van a week later, on April 19, touching off a wave of protests and unrest. In the days and weeks that followed, Gilmor Homes found itself at the center of a national debate over police brutality and urban poverty.Today, three years later, Bruce Court residents have other problems to deal with. Monay Stewart uses her oven for heat, months after reporting broken units in her apartment. The former UPS worker keeps her 16-year-old daughter, Keyasia, close at hand, and closely monitors her two-month-old infant, Kamari, as he sleeps in a back room. “The baby’s room faces the back, where there’s drug dealing all night and day,” Stewart, 42, says. “They hide drugs in his windowsill. If they get arguing and shooting out there, who knows what will happen?”Shootings happen regularly, Stewart says. She and Keyasia are familiar with the drill: Get flat on the floor. “There’s no community here—not really,” she says. “A lot of your neighbors are on drugs. They promote nothing but negativity. It’s not like people are looking out for your kids. There’s no supermarket near here. That’s not a good neighborhood.”In the next building down, David Carlton works on the abstract ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, April 19, 2018By Michael Anft
    4 days ago
  • The Rise of the Rest (of the World)
    We hear a lot these days about the so-called “rise of the rest”—the ascent of second-tier American cities such as Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Detroit, and Nashville as challengers to the established tech capitals of the Bay Area, New York, Boston, and Seattle. But the reality is that the rise of the rest is happening mainly in cities outside of the United States.That’s the key takeaway from the 2018 edition of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report from Startup Genome. The report charts the rise of vibrant startup ecosystems in Europe, Canada, and especially China. It also describes which cities and countries are leading the way in the fastest-growing sub-sectors of the tech industry, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, and robotics. The report includes data on more than 1 million companies in nearly 100 ecosystems, and examines capitalization, founders’ biographies, and a company’s connectedness with the greater ecosystem, among other factors.The graph from the report below shows the concentration of venture capital in startups across the major regions of the world: the U.S., Europe, Asia-Pacific, Canada and the Americas (excluding the U.S.), and Africa.Venture capital funding by region (Startup Genome)The U.S. remains the world’s leading center for venture capital investment in startups. But look at the trend from 2012-13 to 2016-17.  The U.S. share of total venture capital investment has declined from roughly 70 percent in 2012 to slightly more than 40 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific region has seen tremendous growth in VC funding, increasing its share from about 14 percent to nearly 40 percent. In fact, in 2017, the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region were perfectly even on this metric, each accounting for 42 percent of the global share (the graph shows two-year intervals).Much of the growth in venture capital investment in the Asia-Pacific region has taken place in China, which now has 35 percent of the globe’s “unicorns” (privately held startups worth a billion dollars or more), up from 14 percent in 2014. The U.S. share of such standout companies has decreased from roughly 60 percent to 40 percent over that period. It’s worth pointing out here that in my own research on global venture capital data from a few years back, I found that China has a sizable number of very large investments in excess of $500 million, which are hard to justify as traditional startup venture capital and skew its figures upward. (I excluded those investments from my data.)Still, there’s no denying China’s increasing tech dominance. A recent analysis from the Wall Street Journal corroborates the findings of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report: In 2017, Asian investors (led by China) accounted for 40 percent of global venture capital funding, compared to just 5 percent 10 years ago. The growth of VC investment in China is driving unprecedented worldwide growth in tech startups. Global startup activity created $2.3 trillion in value between 2015 and 2017, up more than 25 percent from the period of 2014 to 2016. And while most Chinese venture capital flows to Chinese startups, investors ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, April 19, 2018By Richard Florida
    4 days ago
  • Why Are Newspaper Websites So Horrible?
    When Emily Goligoski’s parents want to read their local newspaper, the two Ohioans load up the PDF version of the print newspaper on their iPad and scroll through, “turning” digitally pixelated pages instead of reading the stories from the paper’s website.“My parents refuse to access the website because it’s just so painful to look at,” says Goligoski, a veteran of Mozilla and former user experience research lead for The New York Times.These are criticisms Goligoski has heard before. As research director of the Membership Puzzle Project—a Knight Foundation-funded collaboration between New York University and Dutch newspaper De Correspondent that’s currently investigating the efficacy of membership models to sustain online news—she has heard time and again from news readers about how they’re increasingly turned off by the presentation they’re offered by local newspapers’ websites.The torments of these sites are well known: clunky navigation, slow page-loading times, browser-freezing autoplaying videos, a siege of annoying pop-up ads, and especially those grids of bottom-of-the-page “related content” ads hawking belly fat cures and fake headlines (what’s known as Internet chum).Put another way: Why must newspaper websites suck so damn much?In particular, why is the online presence of local papers so much vividly worse than other fare on the web—especially when these outlets are engaged in a desperate fight for readers and subscribers nationwide? Perhaps you recall the (in)famous cartoon drawn by Brad Colbow in 2011. Entitled “This is Why Your Newspaper is Dying,” it offered a cheeky but precise summation of several crimes against digital decency, from “Your content takes up less than 20% of the page” to “Linking to a random story in the middle of an article.”If anything, the situation may have somehow gotten worse in the years since, and the quality gap between local newspaper sites and more sophisticated content purveyors has become even more stark. We live in an age when even the lowliest of bagel shops can field a clean, elegant, and fairly slick-looking online storefront. Digital publishing has changed enormously since the advent of online news in the mid-1990s, as the initial iterations of news sites have given way to far more advanced offspring. So why has the online face many newspapers show the world grown uglier even as the need for advertising dollars from the web has grown more urgent?According to the online newsmakers of yesteryear, it’s the pressure of online advertising that makes your favorite local news site, and many others, a fresh hell that even Dante himself couldn’t have imagined.“I do believe that the clunkiness today is maybe more intrusive than ever before,” says Khoi Vinh, the former chief creative authority at The New York Times.These aren’t so much questions of the online business of news so much as they are matters that speak to online news design—the look and feel of a newspaper’s website to the reader, or what a designer calls user interface and user experience. But the business and design of news are inextricably linked. As print ad revenue cratered, the need to ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, April 19, 2018By Andrew Zaleski
    4 days ago
  • Dead Brutalist Buildings
    Sunlight dances across the exterior of a theater that looks half-eaten, its gaping holes and exposed wires open to the sky. Half-destroyed apartment buildings sit placidly, their glass windows not yet shattered. A church slowly gets chewed away by machinery.Shoreline Apartments, Buffalo, New York (David Torke)These images and others are part of “Brutalist Destruction,” a new exhibit that aims to make viewers think about the impact of destroying Postwar concrete buildings. The exhibit, curated by Chris Grimley, opened earlier this month at the pinkcomma gallery in Boston and will run through May 2018.Over the last few years, Grimley noticed that an increasing number of Brutalist buildings around the country were being demolished and photographers were there to document them. “Eventually—unfortunately—there were enough of them to cull together into the show,” he said. Some of the photographers featured in “Brutalist Destruction” had worked with Grimley before, while others he reached out to after finding their work online.Orange County Government Center, Goshen, New York (Harlan Erskine)The show includes photos of Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore; Orange County Government Center in Goshen; Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo; Third Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.; and Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. Two U.K. buildings—London’s Robin Hood Gardens and Birmingham’s Public Library—are also in the show.Such structures are seen by some as “monstrosities” but, Grimley noted, regardless of style, they are simply products of and testaments to their time. He pointed out that 50 years after the rise of Victorian architecture there was a wave of “venomous dislike” for such buildings, which led to many of them being destroyed. “Now, we’d be like, ‘that’s so short-sighted and narrow-minded,’” said Grimley. And yet, he added, critics of Brutalism and those who call for their demolition are following the same course.Preservation is a matter of ecology as much as aesthetics. “There’s this phrase that’s bandied about a lot: the greenest structure is the one that’s already there,” Grimley said. “The amount of energy, whether it’s labor of the people that made it, the actual material energy of the building itself, or the embodied energy it takes to remove it—it’s wasteful on so many fronts.”  Mechanic Theatre, Baltimore, Maryland (Matthew Carbone)Grimley has a favorite monstrosity of his own: Boston City Hall. “It’s a perennial punching bag for critics, but for us it’s one of the most fascinating and complicated buildings for the 20th century,” said Grimley. He encourages those who dislike the building to re-think the façade and what it represents. “It’s a singular piece of work made at a time when there was a newfound civic investment in infrastructure in Boston,” he said. “It signaled that Boston wasn’t the crusty 1950s version of Beantown, but something that was aggressively trying to become involved in the future.”Girmley said he hopes that visitors to the exhibit will confront their own biases about the polarizing architectural style as more and more of these buildings face the wrecking ball.“Realize that just because something isn’t to your taste,” he added, “that doesn’t mean it ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, April 19, 2018By Teresa Mathew
    4 days ago
  • Puerto Rico Is Hit by a Total Blackout
    Puerto Rico is again in the dark: The island is experiencing a complete power outage, its first since right after Hurricane Maria hit nearly seven months ago.Puerto Rico’s state-owned power authority, AEE (also known as PREPA), said the failure was caused by a bulldozer that damaged line 50700, an important underground section of the grid near the island’s largest power plant, about 50 miles south of the capital, San Juan. The bulldozer was removing a collapsed electricity tower when it hit the power line. It was operated by a crew employed by Cobra Energy, a mainland-based subcontractor that AEE hired to help in the reconstruction process.Reports say that no power plants are working on the island and that restoring electricity to 1.4 million customers could take up to 36 hours or longer. The entire island is affected, with the exception of Vieques and Culebra, two smaller islands off the east coast that are not connected to the main grid. Authorities are now focusing on restoring power at San Juan’s international airport (which is currently operating with a generator), hospitals, and banking institutions. Al momento estamos operando con generador eléctrico. No se han registrado atrasos ni cancelaciones en los vuelos. Para más información, les exhortamos a que se comuniquen con su línea aérea. — Aeropuerto SJU (@AeropuertoSJU) April 18, 2018The island’s electricity system has not totally recovered from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria last September, when nearly 80 percent of power lines were knocked down. Last Thursday, a partial blackout left more than 800,000 people in the dark after a tree fell over parts of the grid during reconstruction efforts and debris removal, also conducted by Cobra Energy.The cost of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s grid has been estimated at $17.6 billion. But Bruce Walker, an assistant secretary in the Department of Energy, recently told members of Congress that that number could change. Most of the repair efforts have been led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is said to have already spent $2.1 billion fixing the grid. Estimates of the total cost of Puerto Rico’s recovery from Maria have ranged from $40 billion to $95 billion. In Puerto Rico working on sustainable solar with @SonnenUSA and the grid goes down. #blackout #solar #puertorico pic.twitter.com/DsmjjITQ2I — Carol Wick (@CarolWick) April 18, 2018Hurricane season starts on June 1, but the island is not prepared to face future storms, and debate continues over whether AEE should remain as a public entity or start a privatization process that could change the way power is generated in the territory. A complete modernization of the grid could take several years and cost tens of billions of dollars. And so far, restoring it has not included the resilience upgrades suggested by several energy experts after Maria. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, April 18, 2018By Martín Echenique
    5 days ago
  • New ‘Mutant Enzymes’ Could Solve Earth’s Plastics Problem
    You might call it a happy accident: As environmentalists urge the world to address the plastic pollution crisis, a team of researchers has unwittingly engineered an enzyme that may, one day, literally eat our troubles away.Biologists at the U.K.’s University of Portsmouth were studying the structure of an enzyme that can break down polyester when they found a way to tweak it. The result, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, is a “mutant enzyme” that can degrade plastics 20 percent more efficiently than its original form.The enzyme comes from a bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, which was discovered in 2016 by Japanese researchers, who subsequently found that it could completely break down a thin layer of low-quality plastic within six weeks. Structural biologist John McGeehan and his team have now taken that enzyme and genetically engineered it so that it can begin the process in a matter of days. That kind of discovery is cause for excitement: It takes centuries for polyester, scientifically known as polyethylene terephthalate or PET, to degrade naturally. John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth was studying the structure of an plastic-eating enzyme, but ended up engineering it to be much more efficient. (Stuart McDill/Reuters)All this is just the beginning, though. McGeehan told the Guardian that his team wants to speed up the process even more, and find ways to scale it for industrial use. More importantly, the team imagines that the research can help prevent more plastic from entering the market in the first place.“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” McGeehan told the Guardian. To grasp what that would mean for the environment, just consider this startling statistic: 1 million plastic bottles are produced each minute. Roughly 10 percent of that gets recycled; the rest ends up in landfills, oceans, and parks.What is recycled often gets used in textiles, like clothes and carpets. Very few actually become bottles again. So, in theory, if McGeehan’s accidental discovery proves successful, the world could see a future in which we no longer need to dig up more oil to make plastic bottles.His team wouldn’t be the first to tackle plastic pollution with science. Mother nature, for one, has found her own way to respond… in the form of plastic-eating worms. Last year, researchers in Spain found a species of waxworm that has evolved to not just chew through the plastic bag containing them, but actually eat their way out. They confirmed their hunch by making worm paste, as Ed Yong explained in The Atlantic: [Biologist Federica] Bertocchini mushed them up and applied the resulting paste to polyethylene. After half a day, around 13 percent of the plastic had disappeared. Even a waxworm smoothie can destroy polyethylene. The secret was in the worms’ ability to break down beeswax, which contains some of the same chemical bonds found in polyethylene. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, April 18, 2018By Linda Poon
    5 days ago
  • Who Has the Right to Govern Your Guns?
    This month, the South Carolina House of Representatives made it clear that they don’t want anyone’s hands on their guns—not national leaders, and certainly not local ones. To keep Washington’s interference at bay, representatives introduced a bill that would let the state consider seceding from the country if the federal government were to start confiscating legally purchased firearms. But they also launched an inward-facing attack, introducing a “Second Amendment Protection Act” that would enforce extra punishments on cities that act to “restrict [gun] access beyond that which is provided by state law.”South Carolina already has harsh state preemption policies that weaken localities’ ability to pass their own gun regulations, as do 42 other states. So why is it passing a new one?The answer may lie in a bold piece of legislation passed this December by the city of Columbia, in what has become the most recent manifestation of a city-state battle over guns—waged while the federal government sits most of it out.After the October Las Vegas shooting, Washington waffled over whether to ban bump stocks, the attachment that made the killer’s weapon so deadly. As Congress spluttered and stalled, Columbia was the first U.S. city that acted unilaterally to ban their use within city limits. The bill was narrow in scope, crafted to evade the state’s existing preemption law.But based on language in South Carolina’s new bill—which seems explicitly written to invalidate the Columbia provision—perhaps it won’t be narrow enough for long. Columbia’s law initially avoided state preemption by arguing bump stocks aren’t firearms nor firearm “components” at all; simply attachments that can turn the smallest semi-automatic into a rapid-fire, continuous shooting machine. The proposed Second Amendment Protection act subtly changes the sorts of weapons localities are prevented from regulating, replacing the vague term “components” with a firm “accessories.” Under this new definition, Columbia’s ban would never have passed.South Carolina’s new, extra-strong (albeit retroactive) preemptive strike is only the latest move by states to curb local regulation on guns. But state laws skew pretty permissive, and according to recent polls, more than 60 percent of Americans agree that gun control needs to be more strictly enforced nationwide. In the majority of states, you can buy a handgun before you can drink. In three states, you can buy a long gun before you can vote. In eight states, there’s nothing to stop people from bringing conceal carry weapons into K-12 schools. Assault rifles can be sold freely in 43 states, and only Massachusetts and California have state-level bump stock regulation.To challenge these sweeping allowances, some cities are quietly—and elsewhere, loudly—pushing their own gun reform agendas. In March, Lincoln, Nebraska, followed Columbia to become the second city to ban bump stocks. (City council members called the ban a largely symbolic move, but one that brings them closer to becoming a safer “city of law and order.”) And on April 3, Deerfield, Illinois passed a bill prohibiting the possession, sale, or manufacturing of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines—to the dismay of the NRA. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, April 18, 2018By Sarah Holder
    5 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: A YIMBY Defeat
    What We’re FollowingFear of committee: Last night brought a swift end to California’s ambitious attempt to overhaul zoning and address the housing crisis—at least for this year. The much-buzzed-about SB 827 bill would have allowed the construction of taller apartment buildings near high-frequency mass transit stations. But it lost a vote in a Senate committee, with two Democrats and two Republicans each voting against it. CityLab’s Benjamin Schneider has the story on where the YIMBY battle goes next.Also on SB 827: A green house divided (San Francisco Magazine)​​​​​​ Tennessee waltz: Tennessee lawmakers are retaliating against Memphis for removing two Confederate statues last December. In a last-minute amendment to a spending bill, the Republican-dominated House voted Tuesday to strip the city of $250,000 that would have been used for a bicentennial celebration next year. The AP reports that fellow lawmakers booed Representative Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis representative, as he called the amendment vile and racist. The backstory: In December, Memphis employed a novel strategy to remove two monuments that had been protected by state law. Andrew SmallMore on CityLab The Micromobility Wars Are Upon Us As Bird, LimeBike, and Spin unleash dockless scooters in new cities, turf battles are breaking out. Laura Bliss Peter Calthorpe Is Still Fighting Sprawl—With Software In an interview, the leading New Urbanist Peter Calthorpe discusses autonomous rapid transit, Buckminster Fuller, NIMBYism, and his new urban-planning software. Richard Florida Suspiciously Black in Starbucks Starbucks doesn't need to close its stores for bias trainings. It needs to change its entire design so that it doesn’t merely reflect the character of host neighborhoods, especially if that character is racist. Brentin Mock Understanding the Great Connecticut Taxpocalypse The state relies on property taxes, and after the GOP tax bill, many fear that housing values will stagnate or crash. Kriston Capps This Town Took on Waze. Who Won? Leonia, New Jersey, closed its major streets to non-resident drivers after navigation apps routed too many commuters through the town. But not everyone is pleased with the results. John Surico Chart of the Day (Chris McCahil/SSTI)One of the first takeaways from the new 2017 National Household Travel Survey is that the average American drove less in 2017 than eight years earlier—but driving has increased among Millennials. There’s more to it than that, though: The State Smart Transportation Initiative finds that high- and middle-income Millennials (earning more than $50,000) are driving less, with lower-income Millennials fueling the generation’s uptick in vehicle miles traveled since the recession.CityLab context: What drove the driving downturn?What We’re ReadingInside a university’s controversial plan for Baltimore (The Guardian)Uber makes peace with cities through a data-sharing deal (Wired)Why restaurants became so loud, and how to fight back (Vox)As the bioengineering of people and cities converges, where do we locate the public sphere? (Places Journal)Creating bike ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, April 18, 2018By Andrew Small
    5 days ago
  • YIMBYs Defeated as California’s Transit Density Bill Stalls
    An ambitious zoning bill in California that was aimed at alleviating the state’s acute housing shortage has not survived its first committee hearing. On Tuesday night, legislators killed SB 827, which would have allowed the construction of apartment buildings up to five stories tall near every high-frequency mass transit stop in the state.SB 827 sparked a spirited debate about how the state should address its housing crisis. Its lead sponsor, State Senator Scott Wiener, argued that wresting zoning decisions away from local municipalities and forcing communities to build more densely near transit was the best way to both ease housing affordability in cities like San Francisco and help the state hit its ambitious environmental goals. Supporters of the bill—dubbed YIMBYs, for “Yes In My Backyard”—took on residents from wealthier, single-family home neighborhoods, who deployed the traditional NIMBY argument that the bill imperiled neighborhood character and would lead to traffic and parking woes.The NIMBY side had some surprising allies, among them the Sierra Club and advocates for “Public Housing in My Backyard,” or PHIMBYs, who argued that the law would enrich developers and exacerbate gentrification in low-income minority neighborhoods.Few in California argue that the lack of affordable housing isn’t a real problem: At the hearing of the Senate’s Housing and Transportation Committee, elected officials and members of the public on both sides of the issue frequently referenced the state’s severe housing crisis. But the bill’s opponents insisted that SB 827 was the wrong way to address it. Beverly Hills Vice Mayor John Mirisch called it “the wrong prescription,” and Senator Richard Roth criticized its “one-size-fits-all approach.” The amendments added to the bill over the past few months, which scaled back the rezoning and added significant tenant protections, did not sway these critics. #SB827 goes down in committee, 7 votes against, 4 in favor. Now let's go #RepealCostaHawkins, work -- gasp -- WITH communities of color on what just, equitable rezoning should look like, and build some goldang social housing. pic.twitter.com/qMnsnp9RVT — ramona phimby🌹 **YES ON PROP F** (@uhshanti) April 18, 2018The bill’s supporters, meanwhile, stressed the need for radical change to the state’s current approach to housing, in which long environmental review processes and strict local controls make new developments close to impossible in many areas. “The status quo isn’t working and we need to do things differently,” said Wiener. “We need an enormous amount of new housing at all income levels.”In the committee’s vote, the bill lost four votes to seven. The only two yes votes from Democrats were from the bill’s authors, illustrating the disconnect between the bill’s progressive goals, and the demands of constituents from liberal (and often wealthy) areas.Wiener and his YIMBY allies immediately vowed to resurrect the bill for the 2019 legislative session. In his statement about the bill’s defeat, he said he intends “to work on developing a proposal that meets the ambitious goals of this bill, while incorporating what we have learned since we introduced it.” folks, the SB827 hearing was a significant good. ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, April 18, 2018By Benjamin Schneider
    5 days ago