Landless Americans Are the New Serf Class

By Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox : thedailybeast – excerpt

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These single-family homes in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood face possible demolition if YIMBY state-imposed density laws are passed in Sacramento. Opponents of SB 827 convinced San Francisco City Supervisors to oppose the law that would hand local development controls to the state. photo by zrants

While home ownership remains the dream of most Americans, fewer and fewer people here can afford to own one.

The suburban house is the idealization of the immigrant’s dream—the vassal’s dream of his own castle. Europeans who come here are delighted by our suburbs. Not to live in an apartment! It is a universal aspiration to own your own home. —Los Angeles urbanist Edgardo Contini

For the better part of the past century, the American dream was defined, in large part, by that “universal aspiration” to own a home. As housing prices continue to outstrip household income, that’s changing as more and more younger Americans are ending up landless, and not by choice…

Given the surging demand among millennials and immigrants, why are builders not meeting the demand? The reasons vary, but, according to the National Association of Homebuilders, they include higher material costs, long permitting waits, labor shortages, and too few inexpensive lots…

“An overwhelming majority of millennials, including renters, want a home of their own.”…“Adjusted for housing costs, California has the largest share of its citizens living in poverty.”…

Dense housing is about three to seven times more expensive to build

As to improving the environment, even the pro-density UC Berkeley Termer Center acknowledges that virtually banning urban fringe development would account for barely 1 percent of the state’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases (PDF)—pittance for policies certain to drive house prices and rents even higher…

As MIT’s Alan Berger has noted, modern suburban development also creates environmental benefits, including water retention, species habitats, tree cover, and improved health outcomes. In addition, suggests Britain’s Hugh Byrd, low-density communities are ideally suited for an eventual transition to solar energy generation in ways that high-density ones can’t emulate

The shift to an ever more unequal, congested, and feudal society is not inevitable. We have the capacity to expand housing opportunities for future generations. There is no reason that we need to surrender the universal aspiration that for so long has defined our society… (more)

Who benefits from this rush to densify? That should be the question we ask, as we move away from the crowd into our own space and time to design our own future.

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It’s Time To Get Real About Power in Silicon Valley

By Ryan Holiday : medium – excerpt

It could be said that the first few years of this current tech boom were fueled by mostly harmless, relatively easy products — websites for sharing your photos, for looking up stuff, for connecting with old friends. And the people who made them were seen as mostly good people.

Yet this feel-good perception has slowly and then suddenly disappeared. Users have begun to regard once trusted sites with suspicion over issues of privacy. The same reporters who previously lavished unthinking praise on every new startup now search with equal enthusiasm for scandals and mistakes. Those once harmless social networks, now at a scale unprecedented in human history, no longer look so innocent. The acronym we have for what were once upstarts or underdogs — Facebook to Amazon to Netflix to Google — hints at the now ominous nature of their place in the world, F.A.N.G.

What happened?…(more)

The Bike-Share Oversupply in China: Huge Piles of Abandoned and Broken Bicycles

 

By Alan Taylor : theatlantic – excerpt (includes great photos)

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Oversupply: Ford Gobikes line the street next the Folsom and 17th Street park in San Francisco’s Mission district. They are already making their unwelcome mark on our streets. How long before they become a pile of trash like the Bikeshares in China? photo by rants.

Last year, bike sharing took off in China, with dozens of bike-share companies quickly flooding city streets with millions of brightly colored rental bicycles. However, the rapid growth vastly outpaced immediate demand and overwhelmed Chinese cities, where infrastructure and regulations were not prepared to handle a sudden flood of millions of shared bicycles. Riders would park bikes anywhere, or just abandon them, resulting in bicycles piling up and blocking already-crowded streets and pathways. As cities impounded derelict bikes by the thousands, they moved quickly to cap growth and regulate the industry. Vast piles of impounded, abandoned, and broken bicycles have become a familiar sight in many big cities. As some of the companies who jumped in too big and too early have begun to fold, their huge surplus of bicycles can be found collecting dust in vast vacant lots. Bike sharing remains very popular in China, and will likely continue to grow, just probably at a more sustainable rate. Meanwhile, we are left with these images of speculation gone wild—the piles of debris left behind after the bubble bursts… (more)

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See the sea of bikes

 

REPORT: KUSHNER’S COMPANY FILED FALSE TENANT PAPERWORK THAT BOOSTED PROFITS

By Mary Papenfuss : huffingtonpost – excerpt

“Hundreds of Kushner Cos. tenants were protected by city law from being hit with major rent hikes or forced out by a new owner…

However, the company ‘routinely’ filed false paperwork saying buildings had ‘no-rent regulated tenants,’ AP reported.”…

According to city documents — obtained by the tenant watchdog group Housing Right Initiative — at least 80 fraudulent applications were filed for construction permits in 34 buildings from 2013 to 2016. They all stated the buildings had no rent-regulated tenants, when in fact they included 300 rent-regulated units, according to tax documents, AP reported. Kushner was CEO of the company during that time.

In one case, Kushner Cos. filed false statements about tenants in three buildings with 94 rent-regulated units that it purchased in Queens in 2015, reports AP.  After the company displaced most of the residents, it sold the buildings two years later for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than their purchase price, according to AP…

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into Jared Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for family real estate operations from foreign investors during the presidential transition that may have impacted his work in the White House…. (more)

You can’t write this stuff. The report on the fraud explains the affordable housing crisis. This story describes how many rent-protected residents have been evicted by creative landlords and ended up on the street.

Donald Trump piñatas in DTLA

: laobserved – excerpt

Donald Trump piñatas are a staple at shops in the downtown Los Angeles piñata district these days… (more)

When the Trumpy Bears don’t work for you, you might try a pinata instead.

Florida Legislature Passes Bill Allowing Guns On Campus

By Doha Madani : huffingtonpost – excerpt

Gov. Rick Scott has expressed hesitancy over the bill and hasn’t ruled out a veto.

In a 67-50 vote on Wednesday, the Florida House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 7026 with an amendment that would allow certain school staff members in the state to carry firearms.

Lawmakers had been rushing to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act before the end of the state’s legislative session on Friday. The state Senate had already passed the bill with amendments on Monday, but Gov. Rick Scott (R) still needs to sign it before it goes into effect.

Scott has expressed hesitancy over allowing guns in schools and has not said whether he will veto SB 7026 or not…

SB 7026 contains a number of gun-related reforms, including a three-day wait period on gun sales, raising the age requirement for all firearms sales to 21, some regulation of bump stocks, and allocating $69 million to the state’s Department of Education for mental health programs.. (more)

Congratulations to all the students and young people around the country for supporting life. Anything is possible if you believe you work for it.

Resistance and feminism: what to expect from this year’s Armory Show

By Nadja Sayej : theguardian – excerpt

The much-anticipated contemporary art fair hits New York with a range of provocative pieces, taking aim at Trump and highlighting the work of female artists.

It’s that time of year again, when black-clad art enthusiasts descend upon New York’s Armory Show, the labyrinth-like contemporary art fair at Piers 92 and 94 in midtown Manhattan. Kicking off 8 March, over 200 international art galleries will set up their booths in the white wall jungle to dazzle, sell and sizzle on Instagram. Let’s hope they have free wifi.

On top of your painting and photo fare, there will be tech-inspired artworks in the new Focus section, where 34 artists imagine a post-human world. From 3D-printed sculptures to digital spiritualism, it’s curated by Gabriel Ritter, who is fascinated by our online personas… (more)

The new direction of art in a world of tech and the internet shares the stage with traditional media in a show of international moods and modes. Art as always leads the way into our future. This is a good show to catch if you can.