CityLab Daily: Mayors Demand a Better Infrastructure Deal

What We’re Following

Let’s make a deal: As the National League of Cities meets in Washington, D.C., this week, city leaders are ready to lobby lawmakers for a better infrastructure deal. The delegation says the Trump administration’s proposed 80/20 split on funding is off the table. Instead, mayors are pushing for an equal partnership that would split infrastructure costs 50/50. CityLab’s Sarah Holder dishes out the concrete details from Monday’s NLC presser.

Today at the SXSW Cities Summit: CityLab’s Tanvi Misra joins a panel on gentrification, the Great Migration, and the challenges of improving a neighborhood without driving out the people who made it what it is. Put simply, it asks: “What Happened to our Chocolate Cities?” (3:55 p.m. Central). Come prepared: Check out Brentin Mock’s August story, “The Case for Saving the Small Black City

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

America’s Growing ‘Guard Labor’ Force

Many large urban areas in the U.S. now have more “guard labor” than teachers.

Richard Florida

L.A. Taps the Brakes on Freeway Expansion

After resistance from environmental and community groups, a plan to add lanes to the 710 has been put on hold, but critics remain wary.

Julia Wick

Distressed NYC Homeowners Find Help—From City Hall

Through a special fund, New York City buys up delinquent mortgages to help homeowners and stabilize neighborhoods.

Teresa Mathew

An Artistic Twist on London’s Pseudo-Georgian Architecture

A photogenic and tongue-in-cheek look at the commonly reviled design trend that signifies London’s luxury housing boom.

Feargus O’Sullivan

Rising Sea Levels and Sinking Ground Pose a Double Threat to the Bay Area

New research suggests more of the San Francisco area than previously thought could be underwater by 2100.

Matt Simon

Map of the Day

(Center for Puerto Rican Studies CUNY/Univision)

Exodus: Six months after Hurricane Maria, more than 135,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island, and it’s estimated that almost half a million people could migrate to the mainland U.S. by 2019.

There’s no single permanent way to get at how many have left, but the City University of New York’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies has found a smart way to map where people are settling: through data from FEMA and school districts throughout the country. CityLab Latino’s Martín Echenique has the story.


What We’re Reading

Police are still killing black people. Why isn’t it news anymore? (Washington Post)

The cities that own the most Bitcoin (Fast Company)

Sculptor of Chicago’s “The Bean” condemns the NRA for putting it in their now-infamous ad (Washington Post)

You can now 3-D print a house in under a day (Quartz)

Las Vegas takes a gamble on a homelessness campus (Governing)

“The trains are slower because they slowed the trains down.” (Village Voice)


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Exodus: The Post-Hurricane Puerto Rican Diaspora, Mapped

Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican migration to the continental United States continues to be one of the greatest consequences of the natural disaster that hit the island last September.

While there is no single, permanent record that maps the number of Puerto Ricans that have left the island for the continent, the City University of New York’s

The study estimated that 135,592 Puerto Ricans have settled on the continent, according to data obtained by the various Departments of Education in six states that account for 80% of the Puerto Rican population on the continent: Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. The estimate took into account the migratory patterns prior to the hurricane and data from between 2013 and 2016 collected by the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey; in addition to school enrollment of Puerto Ricans in those states in the three years before the hurricane.

Enrolled Puerto Rican Students (K-12)

Estimated Migration
Continental U.S. 24,406 135,592

Six states (FL, CT, MA, NY, NJ, PA)

21,640 111,185
Florida 11,554 56,477
Other states 2,766 24,406
Massachusetts 4,556 15,208
Connecticut 1,827 13,292
New York 2,218 11,217
Pennsylvania 2,599 9,963
New Jersey 886 5,027

Data obtained from FEMA indicates that Puerto Ricans have dispersed in 49 of the 50 states––Hawaii is the only exception––and they have continued to concentrate mainly in Florida and the northeast corridor.

FEMA reported that, as of February of this year, 19,271 families (approximately 40,013 people) have registered a change of address from Puerto Rico to one of the states on the continent. However, one of the most important conclusions of the study is that Maria’s impact has shifted Puerto Ricans’ focus from the traditional urban centers. Post-Maria, the data from the state of New York shows that the enrollment rate of Puerto Rican students has been higher in upstate cities than in New York City itself.

The Exodus in Numbers
The counties with the largest number of Puerto Ricans that, as of February 2018, registered an address in the continental U.S. with FEMA.

Puerto Ricans evacuated in the continental US, registered with FEMA

0 – 1

1 – 230

230 – 590

More than 2,850

1,130 – 2,850

ENLARGED AREA

ENLARGED AREA

WA

Hampden

1,290

OR

ME

ID

VT

NH

MI

NY

NV

CA

PA

UT

OH

IN

IL

Philadelphia

1,289

WV

VA

KY

AZ

NC

TN

SC

MS

GA

AL

Orange

4,503

FL

Osceola

2,839

Polk

1,490

Hillsborough

1,366

Miami-Dade

1,610

COUNTIES WITH MORE

PUERTO RICANS EVACUEES

TOTAL

Orange (Florida)

Osceola (Florida)

Miami-Dade (Florida)

Polk (Florida)

Hillsborough (Florida)

Hampden (Massachusetts)

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

Broward (Florida)

Cook (Illinois)

Hartford (Connecticut)

4,503

2,839

1,610

1,490

1,366

1,290

1,289

1,122

1,116

1,001

Puerto Ricans evacuated in the continental US, registered with FEMA

0 – 1

1 – 230

230 – 590

More than 2,850

1,130 – 2,850

ENLARGED AREA

ENLARGED AREA

ME

VT

NH

MI

NY

Hampden

1,290

PA

OH

IL

IN

Philadelphia

1,289

WV

VA

KY

NC

TN

SC

MS

GA

AL

Orange

4,503

FL

Osceola

2,839

Polk

1,490

Hillsborough

1,366

Miami-Dade

1,610

COUNTIES WITH MORE

PUERTO RICANS EVACUEES

TOTAL

Orange (Florida)

Osceola (Florida)

Miami-Dade (Florida)

Polk (Florida)

Hillsborough (Florida)

Hampden (Massachusetts)

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

Broward (Florida)

Cook (Illinois)

Hartford (Connecticut)

4,503

2,839

1,610

1,490

1,366

1,290

1,289

1,122

1,116

1,001

Puerto Ricans evacuated in the continental US, registered with FEMA

0 – 1

More than 2,850

1 – 230

230 – 590

1,130 – 2,850

Hampden

1,290

WA

ME

Philadelphia

1,289

MT

ND

MN

VT

OR

NH

WI

ID

SD

MI

NY

WY

PA

IA

NE

NV

OH

IL

CA

IN

UT

MO

CO

WV

KS

VA

KY

NC

TN

AZ

OK

NM

SC

AR

MS

AL

GA

TX

Orange

4,503

LA

FL

Osceola

2,839

Polk

1,490

Miami-Dade

1,610

Hillsborough

1,366

COUNTIES WITH MORE PUERTO RICAN EVACUEES

TOTAL

Orange (Florida)

Osceola (Florida)

Miami-Dade (Florida)

Polk (Florida)

Hillsborough (Florida)

Hampden (Massachusetts)

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

Broward (Florida)

Cook (Illinois)

Hartford (Connecticut)

4,503

2,839

1,610

1,490

1,366

1,290

1,289

1,122

1,116

1,001

Puerto Ricans evacuated in the continental US, registered with FEMA

0 – 1

More than 2,850

1 – 230

230 – 590

1,130 – 2,850

WA

ME

MT

ND

MN

VT

OR

WI

NH

ID

SD

NY

MI

WY

Hampden

1,290

PA

NE

IA

NV

OH

IN

IL

Philadelphia

1,289

CA

UT

WV

MO

CO

KS

VA

KY

NC

AZ

TN

OK

NM

SC

AR

MS

AL

GA

TX

LA

Orange

4,503

FL

Osceola

2,839

Polk

1,490

Hillsborough

1,366

Miami-Dade

1,610

COUNTIES WITH MORE PUERTO RICAN EVACUEES

TOTAL

Orange (Florida)

Osceola (Florida)

Miami-Dade (Florida)

Polk (Florida)

Hillsborough (Florida)

Hampden (Massachusetts)

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

Broward (Florida)

Cook (Illinois)

Hartford (Connecticut)

4,503

2,839

1,610

1,490

1,366

1,290

1,289

1,122

1,116

1,001

Source: Center for Puerto Rican Studies CUNY | UNIVISION

FEMA registers the highest number of evacuees in Florida with 18,013, followed by New York (3,683), Massachusetts (3,399), Pennsylvania (2,954), Connecticut (2,281), New Jersey (1,690), Texas (1,361), Illinois (1,324) , Georgia (530), and Virginia (479).

Similarly, the study shows how the migration before Maria—attributed to the island’s fiscal crisis and known by academics as “Millennial migration” (because a majority of the people who migrated were late Millennials)––has directly influenced the decisions of those affected by the hurricane to move to the continent.

As the study states: “It is evident that post-Hurricane Puerto Rican migration is, and continues to be, driven by Millennial migration, in terms of relocating to similar states, located in both U.S. South, particularly Florida, and in traditional states of settlement. More importantly, Puerto Ricans showed dispersion within both states of new and traditional states, by residing in counties outside central cities.”

What impact does this have?

The island is being depopulated progressively, and quickly. Centro’s researchers estimate that Puerto Rico could lose around 470,000 residents between 2017 and 2019, as a direct consequence of the devastation caused by Maria. This figure is close to the approximately 525,769 Puerto Ricans who left the island between 2006 and 2016.

Thus, Puerto Rico could lose almost the same amount of people that it lost in ten years, but this time in only two, because of Maria. Today, there are almost 5.5 million Puerto Ricans living on the continent, while on the island there are 3.3 million. The tipping point was, according to the data, the financial crisis that began in 2006.

According to Jennifer Hinojosa, research associate, co-author of the study and coordinator of Centro’s data center, the problem is huge. The groups that have migrated are mainly people of reproductive age and their children, and that represents generational change for the future. “They are children who are going to grow up on the continent, and not in Puerto Rico, and if they return after having been away all this time, this will become a big economic and social problem in the years to come,” says Hinojosa.

The Puerto Rican education sector is one that has been affected the most by migration to the continent. A total of 243 public schools closed throughout the island between 2006 and 2017. Some were closed because of budget cuts, others when underfunded schools struggled to fill their seats as students moved to the continent. Another 467 schools are expected to close by 2022 as a result of the post-Maria exodus, according to the study.

The number of teachers has also declined: In 2006 there were 40,514 teachers in Puerto Rico, while at the end of 2017 the figure was almost half that: 20,915. The decrease has meant a shortage of teachers for Puerto Rican schools. The government of Puerto Rico is pushing to close schools and privatize education on the island.

According to Hinojosa, the migration will not stop in the near future. “We are seeing that the return of Puerto Ricans to the island is diminishing,” she says. “We could be losing an entire generation of Puerto Ricans on the island.”

America’s Growing ‘Guard Labor’ Force

The February 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida, was the deadliest high-school shooting in U.S. history. In response, the Florida legislature passed a law that raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm; imposed a three-day waiting period; banned bump stocks; and, controversially, enabled school districts to deputize teachers to carry weapons on campus. This “school marshal” program provides $67 million for voluntary gun training and certification, and could result in as many as 37,000 armed staff across the state (including coaches and counselors, but not full-time classroom teachers).

The legislature, however, rejected a ban on firearms like the one used in the shooting. Instead of such significant gun-control measures, Florida took one step further in the expansion of America’s already outsized security-industrial complex.

In a 2014 New York Times op-ed, economists Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev documented the startling rise of “guard labor“ in America. According to their broad definition, the United States employs more guard labor—including private security guards, police officers, prison and court officials, members of the armed forces and civilian employees of the military, and weapons producers—than teachers. They noted that the U.S. is unique in its massive guard-labor numbers, with a proportion of guard labor four times as high as in Sweden, twice as high as in Germany, and considerably higher than in the United Kingdom or Italy. (Building on their work in a follow-up piece for City Observatory, Joe Cortright mapped guard labor across U.S. metropolitan areas.)

In a stunning turnaround, today it is school employees—the very people to whom we entrust our children—who are being enlisted as guard labor.

With help from the economic data firm Emsi, I set out to map the rise of guard labor and the connection between security guards and teachers across America’s metro areas. Emsi provided the base data on guard labor and teachers for the decade spanning 2007 to 2017. Our definition of guard labor is narrower than that of Bowles and Jayadev, limited to what they call “protective guard labor”—that is, police officers and detectives, prison guards, private security guards, transportation security screeners, and other protective service workers. Our definition of teachers includes pre-school, elementary, middle-school, and high-school teachers, as well as special-education teachers.

For each metro, we looked at the change in guard labor over time, the number of guards per 10,000 people, the location quotient for guard labor, and—most importantly for our purposes—the ratio of guards to teachers. These statistics speak volumes about America’s priorities, and provide yet another example of how we frequently choose to increase security rather than address the root causes of crime and violence.

In 2017, across the nation as a whole, there were 2.9 million guards and 3.6 million teachers—a guard-to-teacher ratio of 0.80. Over the decade 2007 to 2017, however, the U.S. added more than twice as many guards as teachers. During this time period, the number of guards grew by 5 percent, compared to just 2 percent for teachers, and private security guards alone increased by a whopping 11 percent.

Guard labor is concentrated in the country’s large metros (of more than 1 million people), which are home to more than 60 percent of the nationwide cohort. These 53 large metros have also seen a much faster rise in guard labor over the past decade, an increase of 7.6 percent between 2007 and 2017, compared to 2.8 percent for small and medium-sized metros. Large metros have an average of 95.2 guards per 10,000 people, compared to 76.8 for small and medium-sized metros. The guard-to-teacher ratio is also higher in large metros (0.88 versus 0.71).

Let’s start by looking at the large metros where guard labor has grown the most over the past decade. Overall, a third of large metros and a quarter of all metros have seen double-digit percent increases in guard-labor population between 2007 and 2017. Only five large metros have seen net decreases. Guard labor has grown by 25 percent in Orlando and Charlotte, and by more than 14 percent in all the metros in this top 10 (see chart below). In addition, there are roughly 19 small and medium-sized metros where guard labor has grown by 25 to 50 percent.

Large metro Percent change in guard labor 2007-2017
Orlando 26.4%
Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 25.8%
Charlotte 24.1%
San Antonio 19.9%
Houston 19.4%
Dallas 19.0%
New Orleans 18.3%
Grand Rapids, MI 17.7%
Salt Lake City 17.0%
Jacksonville, FL 14.3%

Next, we look at places with the most guards per 10,000 residents. Baltimore tops the list, followed by Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and New York. The Miami metro, where the Parkland shooting took place, is eighth. Almost a fifth of small and medium-sized metros have more than 100 guards per 10,000 people.

Large metro Guard labor per 10,000 residents
Baltimore 140.23
Las Vegas 131.62
Washington, D.C. 130.33
New York 127.59
Memphis 124.78
New Orleans 123.05
Richmond, VA 120.45
Miami 116.10
Buffalo, NY 116.08
Tucson 102.67

Now, we look at the location quotients, or LQs, for guard labor. LQs are a way of comparing a metro’s share of something—an industry or occupation, for example—to the national average. An LQ of 1 means a metro is equal to the national average; an LQ of 2 means its level is double the national average. Las Vegas tops the list of large metros, followed by Miami, Baltimore, and New York. In addition, there are two small and medium-sized metros—The Villages, Florida, and Pine Bluff, Arizona—with LQs of 3 or higher, and another 25 with LQs above 1.5.

Large metro Location quotient
Las Vegas 1.54
Miami 1.45
Baltimore 1.44
New York 1.43
New Orleans 1.43
Memphis 1.37
Washington, D.C. 1.29
Buffalo, NY 1.23
Richmond, VA 1.22

Last, we look at the ratio of guards to teachers. Again, Las Vegas tops the list, followed by Miami, and then Tucson, Phoenix, and Baltimore. More than a quarter of large metros and a fifth of small and medium-sized metros have guard-to-teacher ratios of one or higher.

Large metro Ratio of guards to teachers
Las Vegas 1.79
Miami 1.39
Tucson 1.31
Phoenix 1.23
Baltimore 1.19
Sacramento, CA 1.14
Richmond, VA 1.11
Washington, D.C. 1.10
New Orleans 1.08
Memphis 1.06

America as a whole has nearly as many guards as teachers, and, in many places, guards already outnumber teachers. Even with its huge number of guards, America has by far the most gun deaths in the developed world.  

It’s patently obvious that America’s solution of adding more and more guards does not address the root of the violence epidemic. The money we waste on guards—or training school staff to be guards—could be much better spent improving our schools, developing our young people, and enacting and enforcing laws that are proven to prevent violence in the first place.

The Trump Administration’s War on New Housing

As the nationwide housing affordability crisis deepens, the Trump administration is moving to adopt steel and aluminum tariffs that will make it worse, particularly in dense urban cities. This move follows new tariffs on Canadian lumber late last year and harsher enforcement on the migrant workers from Mexico and Central America who are essential to the industry. The combined effect could mean higher rents and more expensive housing in the years to come.

Earlier this month, the administration signaled it would increase steel tariffs to 25 percent and aluminum tariffs to 10 percent. While the goal is to inject some life into the U.S.’s steel industry—which employs just 143,000 workers, many clustered in the politically important Midwest—the Wall Street Journal and others have pointed out that the tariffs could ultimately hurt employees in much larger steel-consuming industries. President Trump has exempted Mexico and Canada from these tariffs, but these countries only make up 25.61 percent of U.S. steel imports. One industry that will be hit hardest by these tariffs is the construction industry, which could be bad news for renters and prospective homeowners. As new supply continues to fall short of rising demand, this could lead to more pressure on rents and housing prices.

Nearly half of all U.S. steel imports go into construction, with a large share of that steel going into multifamily housing. While wood frame construction is increasingly common for apartment buildings up to five stories, the taller structures that are needed in white-hot housing markets such as San Francisco, New York, and Austin depend entirely on access to steel. According to a study released by the Trade Partnership earlier this month, the proposed steel tariffs could lead to 28,000 lost jobs in the construction industry. That’s a lot of housing that won’t be built, and affordable projects that already operate on tight margins will be the first to be cut. While exemptions from the tariffs might offer hope, the price volatility in the near term could still scuttle many large projects, where price certainty is crucial for investors.

This new tariff follows on the heels of other recent initiatives that hurt new housing construction. Last April, the Trump administration placed a 20.83 percent tariff on Canadian lumber, to the benefit of politically valuable voters in Maine. Within the construction industry, these imports commonly turn into framing lumber, which is used to build single-family homes and small multifamily buildings. As Jen Skerritt pointed out earlier this month in Bloomberg Businessweek, Canada is the major source of this framing lumber, and the rising prices that result from the tariffs mean that builders are already raising prices and looking for ways to cut costs. One alternative is to switch to other materials such as steel or concrete, but this month’s tariffs dash the former alternative.

At the same time that the new tariffs are raising the cost of construction materials, the administration is also cracking down on the labor that puts it all together. One study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that over 1.1 million undocumented immigrants, many of them skilled in essential trades such as framing, work in the construction industry. There’s no real doubt that the status quo is unacceptable, but the solution is legal status and workers’ protections, not deportations. Although the industry already faces a major labor shortage, the administration is moving to deport many of these immigrant workers and hounding homebuilders who employ them. The result, according to the National Association of Home Builders, is that labor shortages are worsening, particularly in border states with high housing demand like California and Texas. With labor making up such a substantial portion of the cost to build homes and apartments, these shortages will translate into higher rents and housing costs.

All of this comes at the worst possible moment for renters and prospective homebuyers. Rents are rising in cities across the country and affordable units are disappearing. Traditional ways of building new affordable units are also breaking down. Following tax reform, the value of low-income housing tax credits, which subsidize the construction of new affordable units, is collapsing. Local efforts to squeeze new affordable units out of developers through inclusionary zoning in cities like Portland are also proving to be a major disappointment. As life for renters is getting harder, mortgage rates are increasing, which makes it harder for renters to turn into homeowners. There are many reasons why housing is expensive, including overly restrictive land-use regulations, but introducing tariffs and cracking down on immigrant workers will only worsen the crisis.

The White House may be trying to help the small number of workers in the steel and wood products industries, but this kind of protectionism could instead end up hurting them—and a great many others. What Trump wants to see are steel mills that are reopened and a handful of laid-off workers back on the job. What goes unseen are the millions of families who will pay higher rents, the homes and apartments that will go unbuilt, and the Americans who can no longer afford to move to thriving cities.

Mayors Are Demanding a Better Infrastructure Deal

It’s no secret that America’s crumbling roads and bridges and chronically struggling transit systems need help: The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it would take $2 trillion to bring the nation’s infrastructure into an “adequate” state of repair. That dire situation has been a recurring theme of President Donald Trump’s never-ending infrastructure week.

But the proposal the White House finally released last month to address the problem has drawn criticism from city leaders for shifting the funding burden onto the backs of state and local governments. At the National League of Cities’ annual conference this week, mayors and city council members declared rebuilding infrastructure as their number-one priority in the year to come. And they’re determined to negotiate better terms on Trump’s infrastructure deal.

“A good plan is not a good plan unless there’s money connected with it,” said NLC executive director Clarence Anthony at a press conference Monday morning. While the White House proposal, “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America,” is often billed as a “$1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan,” many critics have noted that this figure is misleading at best. Instead of direct federal funding, Trump’s proposal requires cities to prove they can shoulder up to 80 percent of the bills for federally funded infrastructure projects themselves. That sum would then be matched by a federally sourced 20 percent. In all, only about $200 billion of that $1.5 trillion would come from the feds.

City leaders are now in D.C. to lobby lawmakers for a better deal. “We are asking our partners—because we do recognize you as partners—in the federal government to rebuild with us as we rebuild our cities,” said NLC vice-president Karen Freeman-Walker, mayor of Gary, Indiana.

On Monday, delegates met with DJ Gribbin, the special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy; on Wednesday, they’ll talk with House and Senate leaders, particularly key members of the infrastructure committees. And on Thursday, they’ll go straight to the White House to make their case. “At minimum, we’re asking for an equal partnership of 50 percent funding from the federal level to local governments,” said Anthony.

“The 80-20 split is off the table,” added Los Angeles city council member Joe Buscaino. “An equal partner is an equal partner.”

Mark Stodola, mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, and the president of the NLC, outlined four critical infrastructure areas: water, transportation, broadband internet, and workforce development. “We’ve got to make sure we provide a sustainable investment,” said Stodola. “We’ve got to address not only the existing infrastructure backlog, but also long-term funding streams that are necessary to maintain this infrastructure.”

The statistics are daunting: More than 6,000 bridges are structurally deficient, and 41 percent are over 40 years old; access to broadband internet, meanwhile, is lacking for 78 million people, due to connectivity issues or prohibitive cost. Cleveland city council member Matt Zone also emphasized the importance of climate resiliency in rebuilding: 2017 was already the most expensive year for natural disasters in history, due to extreme events like hurricanes Maria and Harvey, costing $306 billion in damages. “We’ve got to invest in durable infrastructure, not just infrastructure—infrastructure that doesn’t need to be continuously rebuilt when every storm happens,” Zone said.

Instead, the White House is going in the opposite direction, proposing $275 billion in cuts to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key player in post-storm emergency response, and $30 billion from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program, which funds affordable housing and allows cities to use discretionary funds for infrastructure resilience projects.

And it’s not just that local budgets don’t feel like inflating their infrastructure contributions. A lot of them can’t: In 47 states, preemption measures curb cities’ ability to raise their own revenue to meet infrastructure needs; in 22 states, cities can’t use sales tax hikes to fund infrastructure.

The NLC presser also touted some of the creative funding fixes cities have employed recently, such as L.A.’s Measure M, which raises transit funding via a sales tax increase (and which was recently cited approvingly by an unnamed Trump staffer). Other cities have turned to public-private partnerships: Virginia’s high occupancy toll lanes on the Beltway got a funding boost from a private firm; and New York and New Jersey are reconstructing the Goethals Bridge with the help of an Australian bank.

Smaller communities—the ones that need a federal assist the most—have also raised cash by selling off public utilities like water systems, but studies show that residents often end up getting charged more for the same product. “Our ability to pay doesn’t change the need for that infrastructure,” said Gary’s Freeman-Wilson, “but it certainly determines our ability as local elected officials to deliver.”

Bipartisan aspirations on immigration and health care reform have been dashed before, and leveling funding to 50/50 is an ambitious target. But at Monday’s press conference, Stodola expressed confidence that the NLC’s negotiations in the coming days will bring results.

“It seems like Congress has got their feet in concrete, and they need to take them out,” said Little Rock Mayor Stodola. “So we’re going to break that rock. We’re going to knock them out of that concrete, and by golly we’re going to take it to them on the Hill.”

An Artistic Twist on London’s Pseudo-Georgian Architecture

On first glance, the plates in Pablo Bronstein’s new book look like a set of yellowed reproductions of 18th-century architectural prints. The Anglo-Argentinian artist’s drawings of elegant, apparently Georgian buildings lie framed with lavish curlicues of scallop shells, serpents, and swags of heavy fabric. Look closer, however, and incongruous details start to emerge—a contemporary drugstore sign on one page, or the thicker modern window frames currently spreading across London on another. On closer inspection, some of the old buildings don’t look all that old.

That’s because they aren’t.

Bronstein’s book, Pseudo-Georgian London, looks not at London’s 18th and early 19th century architectural heritage, but at the buildings constructed in recent decades that seek to imitate it. If you haven’t visited Britain recently, it might be hard to imagine just how numerous such buildings are. Nearly every city, town, and village in Britain now has buildings less than 30 years old that are nonetheless adorned with cornices, stone cornering, sash windows, brick lintels, and neoclassical porches. The antique effect is brought together with a facing of yellow brick veneer.

The book offers a photogenic, somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at the trend. It’s also a re-appraisal of—or at least a rare invitation to truly look at—a critically reviled architectural style that is both one of the most ubiquitous and least commented on of recent decades.

British Pseudo-Georgian has some distinct aesthetic and social differences from historically-informed styles in North America. It sits within an urban setting where it is often cheek by jowl with the originals it superficially imitates. And it caters to a public who, within just a few generations, lived in the historic housing it’s modeled upon, particularly in London, where pre-Victorian neighborhoods are relatively common. And while such neighborhoods are now astronomically expensive, they were nonetheless places that many poorer residents were desperate to leave not so long ago.

“In the 1920s and ‘30s you had many working class families living in Georgian housing that had essentially become slums,” Bronstein told CityLab during an interview in London. “In the postwar period, these families moved into Modernist, sometimes Brutalist public housing, and were delighted—they got proper kitchens, bathrooms, plumbing.” That delight was nonetheless somewhat short-lived. “Just a single generation later, these people’s kids start already moving into housing that simulates the Georgian architecture their grandparents left,” Bronstein added.

Pseudo-Georgian homes thus partly reflect one of the most significant forces in the reshaping of contemporary London—the selling off of public housing units at reduced rates to their tenants. Started in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, tenants-turned-owners sell the units they bought at a profit. Those that stayed in the city often moved into Pseudo-Georgian homes, returning to buildings that strove to resemble the rundown housing from which their grandparents had escaped. These new buildings seemed to pride themselves on their clearly visible difference from the modernist public housing that often surrounded them.

This housing may have suggested to its new tenants a tradition of family domesticity, but the reality of life in Georgian housing had actually been rather different.

Earl’s Terrace, West London. While this particular row of 18th century houses has always had wealthy tenants, more modest streets constructed on similar lines elsewhere in London were home to far poorer residents well into the late 20th century. Kieran Doherty/Reuters

Bronstein points out that 18th and early 19th century townhouses were typically shared by several families and were “a very hierarchized form of building, with large grand rooms on the ground and first floor, but tiny rooms with low ceilings on the top floors or in the basement.” Designed to emphasize the different social ranks of their tenants, the interiors of these original Georgians bore little resemblance to Pseudo-Georgian’s more equally-sized rooms with a nondescript aesthetic of plasterboard and fiberglass cornicing.

Does this clothing of contemporary housing in the lightest, filmiest of 18th century dress-up mean such buildings are inherently meretricious? Not necessarily. Placed next to brand new developments in the currently popular brick modernist style—invariably touted as “limited edition,” “unique,” or “exclusive,” by its developers—there is at least a studied restraint to the Pseudo-Georgian.

“While the real estate market at the moment is all about difference and exceptionalness,” says Bronstein, “[the Pseudo-Georgian] was always sold for its elegance. It doesn’t aim for high luxury. It’s not exceptional, but its non-exceptionalness is part of its interchangeability as goods.” There’s even a degree of wit that creeps in here and there, like the Pseudo-Georgian building using the gel joint between its two sheets of brick veneer to suggest a non-existent division between what appears externally to be two houses.

Bar a few developments known for their size or royal connections, Pseudo-Georgian architecture of this type is unlikely to end up heavily featured in any histories of this era’s architecture. This serviceable vernacular is an interesting marker of London’s recent transformations, even as its popularity as an agreed marker of middle-of-the-road good taste wanes.

Pseudo-Georgian London, published by Koenig Books, is available to buy here.

Rising Sea Levels and Sinking Ground Pose a Double Threat to the Bay Area

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

If you move to the San Francisco Bay Area, prepare to pay some of the most exorbitant home prices on the planet. Also, prepare for the fact that someday, your new home could be underwater—and not just financially.

Sea-level rise threatens to wipe out swaths of the Bay’s densely populated coastlines, and a new study in Science Advances paints an even more dire scenario: The coastal land is also sinking, making a rising sea that much more precarious. Considering sea-level rise alone, models show that, on the low end, 20 square miles could be inundated by 2100. But factor in subsiding land and that estimate jumps to almost 50 square miles. The high end? 165 square miles lost.

The problem is a geological phenomenon called subsidence. Different kinds of land sink at different rates. Take, for instance, Treasure Island, which resides between San Francisco and Oakland. It’s an artificial island made of landfill, and it’s sinking fast, at a rate of a third of an inch a year. San Francisco Airport is also sinking fast and could see half its runways and taxiways underwater by 2100, according to the new analysis.

Now, subsidence is nothing new to climate scientists. “People have been aware that this is an issue,” says the University of California, Berkeley’s Roland Burgmann, co-author of the paper. “What was missing was really data that has high enough resolution and accuracy to fully integrate” subsidence in the Bay Area.

To get that data, the researchers took precise measurements of the landscape from lidar-equipped aircraft. They combined this with data from satellites, which fire radar signals at the ground and analyze the return signals to estimate how fast land is moving either toward the spacecraft or away from them.

By comparing data from 2007 to 2011, the team showed that most of the Bay’s coastline is subsiding at a rate of less than 2 millimeters a year. Which may not seem like much, but those millimeters add up, especially considering a study that came out last month suggested sea-level rise is accelerating.

“You talk to someone about, Oh the land is going down a millimeter a year, and that can be kind of unimpressive,” says the University of Nevada, Reno’s William Hammond, who studies subsidence but was not involved in the study. “But we know as scientists that these motions, especially if they come from plate tectonics, that they are relentless and they will never stop, at least as long as we’re alive on this planet.”

Speaking of being alive on this planet: Humans have induced subsidence at an astonishing scale by rapidly depleting aquifers. Take the South Bay, for instance. “Parts of San Jose have been lowered up to 12 feet due to groundwater extraction,” says USGS coastal geologist Patrick Barnard. Fortunately, the extraction policies that led to those losses are kaput. But the same can’t be said for the rest of the planet, in particular for communities that are suffering drought exacerbated by climate change.

“It’s not a major concern for the Bay anymore,” Barnard adds, “but it is for, in general, aquifers worldwide, especially in developing countries where a lot of groundwater is extracted from these large river deltas where millions of people live. They’re already extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise.”

The developing world is nowhere near ready to deal with subsidence and rising seas, but neither is the developed world. This is a problem that defies human ingenuity. It’s not like the San Francisco Bay Area can build one giant sea wall to insulate itself. And it’s not like low-lying Florida can hike itself up, or New York City can move itself inland a few hundred miles.

“There is no permanent solution to this problem,” says Arizona State University geophysicist Manoochehr Shirzaei, lead author of the paper. “This will impact us one way or another. The forces are immense, it’s a very powerful process, the cost of really dealing with it is huge, and it requires long-term planning. I’m not so sure there’s a good way to avoid it.”

Save for keeping seas from rising in the first place. That, of course, would require a tremendous global effort to cut back emissions. But even conservative projections suggest future sea-level rise could be dramatic. Which means we as a species have to seriously reconsider the idea of a coastal town, or in case of the Bay Area, a sprawling coastal metropolis. Because the sea is coming to swallow us, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Berlin Contends With Street Names of a Brutal, Overlooked Past

Take a stroll through Berlin’s Afrikanisches Viertel neighborhood and you’d quickly recognize it for what it is—an unremarkable, pleasantly humdrum working-class area like you could find anywhere in the city. Solid gray interwar tenements flank tree-lined streets. Away from the main drags, there’s little to see but parked cars and the occasional bodega. This workaday place has nonetheless sparked one of the city’s most intense recent debates about German history and memory—in a city where intense debates of this kind are common.

That’s because the neighborhood’s name—Afrikanisches Viertel, or “African quarter”—refers not to its sizable population with African heritage, but to its street names, all of which in some way reflect on Germany’s little-discussed but especially brutal colonial involvement in Africa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For years, activists have been trying to get these names changed. And following a town hall meeting earlier this month, it seems they’re finally on their way to getting what they want.

The Afrikanisches Viertel’s connections with German colonialism date back to its first development. Prior to the First World War, the area abutted the site of a zoo planned by animal importer Carl Hagenbeck, who traded animals to P. T. Barnum’s circus and planned to set up the zoo as a showcase for animals from Germany’s African possessions. Following the template of Hagenbeck’s existing park in Hamburg, the site would likely have also featured a human zoo in which non-European peoples were exhibited as if they were a form of wildlife. That zoo never opened, but its planing was reflected in the names of nearby streets. Still today, you can find yourself walking down Togostrasse, crossing Kamerunerstrasse (Cameroon Street) and hitting the little park on Kongostrasse.

Many of these names refer to former German colonies in Africa, but they aren’t the ones at the center of the present debate. Instead, activists—and the majority of Berlin’s political party representatives—are focusing their efforts on streets dedicated to historical figures involved in colonialism. When you delve even casually into the history these people took part in, it’s not hard to see why.

Germany’s grim colonial record was characterized by incredible levels of cruelty, exploitation, and violence. Under German rule in what is now Namibia, for example, the country’s forces pursued a campaign of wholesale land grabs, enslavement, forced labor, and rape. Facing organized resistance from indigenous people, the Germans quashed opposition by pursuing genocide against the region’s Herero and Namaqua people. Between 1904 and 1907, the Germans intentionally confined their opponents within a waterless desert, launching attacks on them during which, according to official orders, women and children were not spared.

Many thousands more died of disease, starvation, and violence in concentration camps, where mortality rates reached as high as 74 percent. This created an overall death toll of between 34,000 and 110,000 deaths, and a system of murder that—with its concentration camps and medical experiments on prisoners—clearly foreshadowed the Holocaust.

Three people involved in this process are still commemorated in Berlin’s African Quarter. Adolf Lüderitz and Gustav Nachtigal, who first acquired the land for Germany’s southwest African colony on a fraudulent contract, still have a street and a square apiece. Around the corner is an avenue commemorating Carl Peters, a notoriously brutal colonist in East Africa who committed psychopathic acts of violence and was known by locals as “Mkono Wa Damu”—bloody hands.

The laborious fight to change these names has been going on for years. As early as 1986, the local borough announced that the street still called Petersallee would no longer commemorate Carl Peters, but Hans Peters, a Luftwaffe pilot involved in covert resistance connected to the plot to assassinate Hitler. Since then, that action (deemed a cop-out by many) action has stalled. Part of the problem was that an initial proposal for an alternative name chosen by a jury—Queen Ana Nzinga, a ruler in what is now Angola—was rejected because she had dealt in slaves, requiring the process to restart.

Finally, after years of wrangling, a short list of possible alternatives was presented at the local town hall Thursday, to be decided by a jury chosen from the local area, universities, and from experts in Germany’s former African possessions. The candidates put forward are Rudolf Manga Bell, a Cameroonian king and resistance leader against German occupation; Cornelius Frederiks, who led a guerrilla war against the Germans in what is now Namibia; and Maji-Maji, the name of a protracted war against German rule that took place in the 1900s in present-day Tanzania. Other possibilities include South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba; Namibian anti-colonial leader Jacob Morenga; Anna Mungunda, a Namibian independence campaigner shot by South African forces during a protest; and American writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde.

Sure enough, the changes have their opponents. The extreme right AfD party is against any change. More surprisingly, representatives of the center-right Christian Democrats are, too—although neither party has enough representatives in office in the area to overturn any decision.

Are the dissenters right? A common argument for keeping names and monuments like these is that changing them masks the complexities of a history that shouldn’t be forgotten. Retaining them, meanwhile, doesn’t necessarily mean celebrating the deeds of the individuals.

This debate is familiar to cities and countries everywhere, with the result being called in both directions. In the U.S., it’s about monuments and street names associated with the Confederacy. In the U.K., a campaign to remove an Oxford statue of African colonist and diamond trader Cecil Rhodes sparked a similar debate two winters ago, with the statue nonetheless remaining in place. On the European mainland, Poland’s removal of communist-associated place names continued into this decade, while Spain’s attempts to remove names associated with Francisco Franco are ongoing—and by no means unanimously accepted.

In Berlin, recent history makes it difficult to sustain the argument that such names can remain to reflect history, rather than endorse it. The city has already changed so many names associated with Nazis and Soviets (albeit retaining names associated with Marxism). To draw the line at colonialism, whose effects were similarly catastrophic for its victims, would suggest a double standard that would be hard to justify, and harder to stomach. While the replacement names have not yet been confirmed, Berliners living in the area could soon find themselves waking up on Rudolf-Manga-Bell-Strasse or Maji-Maji-platz very soon.

CityLab Daily: A Tale of New Cities

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 Following

A tale of new cities: For over a decade, the Atlanta region has been carved into new cities, predominantly in white neighborhoods. But when residents in the majority-black community of South DeKalb wanted to form a new city of Greenhaven, the state legislature couldn’t even put it on the ballot this year.

With the wealthiest and whitest neighborhoods already decamped, South DeKalb’s disinvestment has paradoxically become the argument for and against Greenhaven as a city project, creating an economic quagmire that has the challenges of racial segregation at its roots. In a follow-up to an earlier article, CityLab’s Brentin Mock digs into the question of whether cityhood is the remedy that unincorporated and financially disadvantaged communities have been searching for.

Put it in neutral: A coalition of 12 cities is pledging to protect net neutrality—and shame the companies who won’t. Speaking to a panel at South by Southwest (SXSW) moderated by CityLab, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that cities are committing to only do business with internet service providers that honor net neutrality principles, as part of an “open internet pledge.”

Today at the SXSW Cities Summit:

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Portland’s ‘Granny Flats’ Get an Affordable Boost

A new startup pays the upfront cost of a backyard dwelling in exchange for some of the rent it generates.

Laura Bliss

‘Stop Killing Kids,’ Traffic Safety Advocates Protest

A march in New York City on Monday draws inspiration from the 1970s social movement that changed Dutch street design for good.

Laura Bliss

The Gateway Arch, a Global Icon, Reconnects to St. Louis

St. Louis’ Gateway Arch once stood in splendid isolation. A new $380-million renovation of its grounds brings it closer to downtown.

Zach Mortice

Building Better Bus Stops Can Be a Snap

Hold the concrete. These prefab plastic platforms are helping cities experiment with bus infrastructure, without spending so much time and money.

Linda Poon

Who’s in Charge of the Augmented City?

So far, major forays into our augmented world have been pretty harmless. But with technological advancements and unchecked intrusions by private companies, the future could be terrifying.

Jason Sayer


The Urban Lens

Instagram user @ethan.k56 sends this view an urban canyon of buildings that perfectly framed San Francisco’s Bay Bridge. He writes “You gotta wonder if they lined it up like this on purpose.” Check out this CityLab archive photo essay with some more incredible views of the Bay Bridge’s reconstruction, which took more than a decade.

Spotting some urban sights up high or down low? Tag us with #citylabontheground and we might share it here or on our Instagram page.


What We’re Reading

A decaying bridge lays bare how a struggling city treats its poorer residents (New York Times)

The plague inspired Da Vinci to design a city. We should steal his ideas. (Fast Company)

The Los Angeles Times’s architecture critic is taking a job in city hall. Here’s why. (Los Angeles Times)

The case for fare-capping (Streetsblog)

Paul Ryan says an infrastructure plan might have better luck if it’s passed in pieces (Bloomberg)

The future of Silicon Valley (San Francisco Chronicle)


Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to hello@citylab.com.

L.A. Taps the Brakes on Freeway Expansion

A controversial project to widen a heavily trafficked freeway in Los Angeles County sputtered to a surprising halt earlier this month. Transportation officials had been expected to choose between two expansion plans for the 710 freeway in southeast L.A. County. Instead, the board of Metro, the county’s transit agency, voted to move ahead with some improvements while tabling the controversial $6 billion scheme to add an additional lane in each direction  from Long Beach to East L.A.

In an (in)famously sprawling metropolis where the freeway network doubles as civic iconography, the 710 expansion had been framed as a referendum of sorts on Southern California’s mobility priorities. The original midcentury creation of L.A.’s freeway system left a bitter legacy of displacement, and the very same (largely minority) communities that were sliced and diced for that construction have been battered by the adverse environmental effects of freeway proximity. The 710 freeway corridor—dubbed the “diesel death zone” for its traffic-related health impacts—stands as Exhibit A for that phenomenon, and community groups had vocally opposed and organized against the expansion plans for many years.

The unanimous vote by Metro’s board of directors doesn’t definitively rule out a future expansion of the 710 freeway; it just punts the decision for what could be years to come. But even that represents a shift in the status quo for a city that has promised to invest more heavily in non-automotive mobility (see the passage in 2016 of Measure M, which will fund some $120 billion in transit projects over the next 40 years). It also speaks to the increasing—and long overdue—volume of environmental justice concerns in policy discussions, and a dawning understanding that adding lanes is rarely a cure-all for a clogged highway. Most foes of highway expansion are now very familiar with the principle of “induced demand,“ which has shown that increasing roadway capacity merely invites more drivers to show up.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who serves as Metro’s board chair, made his take on the issue clear at the meeting: “Widening freeways, we should be past that time unless we are putting vehicles that don’t emit into those lanes. Period.”

Similar freeway struggles are being fought in cities around the country, even in places whose reputation for sprawl and reliance on single-occupancy vehicles rivals that of Los Angeles. In 2016, then-newly elected Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made headlines when he called for a “paradigm shift” away from highway widening. As proof, he cited the city’s mammoth Katy Freeway, a 26-lane monument to induced demand: Rush-hour travel times actually increased a few years after a multi-billion dollar expansion project. The Katy, Turner said, “clearly demonstrated that the traditional strategy of adding capacity… exacerbates urban congestion problems. These types of projects are not creating the kind of vibrant, economically strong cities that we all desire.”

A few years prior, Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne wrote that “Southern California’s great era of highway-building has been over for some time.” The commentary came in a column questioning the necessity of L.A.’s last big freeway widening project, an expansion of the 405 that cost more than a billion dollars and has had little tangible effect on congestion since its completion.

So why pour billions into expanding the 710 now? In a word, modernization. The 710 was designed and built in the 1950s and ‘60s, and it is ill-equipped to handle current usage—let alone the traffic of decades future. The freeway spans a mere 23 miles of Los Angeles County; the 19-mile stretch in question travels north-south from Long Beach to the 60 freeway in East Los Angeles, running roughly parallel to the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River. The 710 carries commuters, but it’s also a vital transportation artery for freight movement, connecting trucks from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the rest of the country. This makes the question of the 710 expansion slightly more complicated than the average freeway-widening equation, with the volume of freight movement creating concerns that extend beyond just moving cars full of people from point A to B.

You might not associate Los Angeles with cargo, but the two San Pedro Bay ports are the busiest in the nation: Together, they handle a staggering 40 percent of all goods entering the U.S. by sea. The 710 freeway links the ports to the commercial railroad freight yards in Vernon and Commerce, just southeast of downtown Los Angeles, making it possible for the rest of America to get everything from flat-screen TVs to automobile parts delivered from across the globe. According to Metro’s estimates, daily truck trips through the corridor are expected to increase to approximately 55,000 by 2035, more than a 50 percent increase from the current average of 36,000 trips a day. The 710’s facelift is aimed at both adding capacity and improving traffic safety and other operational issues; more than half of the interchange ramps in the corridor, for example, have higher-than-average accident rates.

But so far, the communities who live in the freeway’s shadow haven’t had much of say in the project, says Laura Cortez, a community organizer with a group called East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. A string of small cities along the corridor—Compton, Lynwood, Bell Gardens, Downey—have borne the brunt of the freeway’s emissions. In 2011, Scientific American characterized the pollution levels along the 710 “severe,” writing that “[h]ot spots for cancer-causing traffic pollutants have been found throughout the harbor area, particularly along Interstate 710.”

“The folks who live next to the 710 are people of color,” Cortez told CityLab. She’s a lifelong resident of Bell Gardens, a predominantly Latino city sandwiched between Downey and Commerce that hugs the eastern side of the 710. “We are folks who are low-income, working class, people of color. And we’re the folks who are not getting notified about the project.”

Like most projects in Los Angeles, the 710 expansion involves a patchwork of agencies. Metro has spent years developing the plan with Caltrans, the state transportation agency, and Caltrans still needs to certify final plans. The widening option was considered alongside a second (and far more expensive) proposal, known as Alternative 7, which would create a futuristic-looking, elevated four-lane route for low- or no-emission trucks above the existing freeway, at a cost of $10 billion.

At $6 billion, the scheme to expand the 710’s footprint isn’t that much cheaper, and only about a billion of it is currently funded. That plan was met with widespread dismay when it was proposed, particularly from residents and environmental and community groups. “More lanes,” said StreetsblogLA, “means more traffic, more congestion, more pollution, more asthma, more cancer, more death.” The Los Angeles Times editorial board declared that simply widening the freeway would be “a missed opportunity and a waste of taxpayer money,” calling it a “a solution straight of the 1950s.” The widening would have also displaced hundreds of homes and businesses alongside the freeway. A Caltrans environmental evaluation estimated that more than a hundred homes and 158 businesses would be displaced. KCET reported that any undocumented immigrant residents affected by displacement wouldn’t be eligible for the compensation that is standard practice in these cases.

Although Metro has at least temporarily backed off the widening project, the activist groups who have long organized around environmental justice issues in the southeast L.A. County communities along the freeway are not ready to declare last week’s vote a victory. “Instead of coming up with a cohesive and thoughtful plan… the board is asking communities to take a leap of faith and just blindly trust that the agency will somehow transform this project at some point in the future,” Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez said after the vote, according to Curbed LA.

“We are definitely still concerned,” said Cortez, whose group is part of the 710 corridor-focused Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice. “Whether [widening does happen] this year or in 20 years, there will still be displacement in the midst of a housing crisis.”

For organizers like her, the days and years ahead will be focused on educating and involving the community on various aspects of the plan as they move forward. “Even when you’re in the Metro board room, these things aren’t easy to understand,” she said. “A lot folks are frustrated. This is a very emotional process for residents who live here, whose children are affected with health issues because they live next to the 710.”