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Resilient Cities Research Report

April 23, 2014 Comments off

Resilient Cities Research Report
Source: Grosvenor

The ability of cities to thrive as centres of human habitation, production and cultural development, despite the challenges posed by climate change, population growth and globalisation, is determined by their resilience. From a real estate investor’s perspective, resilience allows cities to preserve capital values and generate sustainable rental income in the long term. In human terms, cities are resilient if they absorb shocks, like Hurricane Sandy, maintain their output of goods and services and continue to provide their inhabitants with a good quality of life according to the standards of the time.

Resilience – the ability of a city to avoid or bounce back from an adverse event – comes from the interplay of vulnerability and adaptive capacity.

Vulnerability is a city’s exposure to shocks in terms of both magnitude and frequency. Shocks may be due to changes in the climate, environmental degradation, shortage of resources, failed infrastructure or community strife due to inequality. That most cities have survived for the last several centuries or, in some cases, millennia, indicates a long period of stability in the pattern of urban growth. Recent population growth and industrialisation, despite many benefits, are destabilising planetary systems and making previously safe places more vulnerable than they ever were before.

Yet cities, like societies, are adaptable. Just like societies, they vary enormously in their adaptive capacity due to governance, institutions, technology, wealth and the propensity to plan.

So resilience increases when cities have more adaptive capacity and decreases when they are more vulnerable. Exponential population and economic growth is placing so much pressure on resources that resilience, which has for so long been a free gift of history, urgently needs to be rethought.

By quantifying the resilience of 50 of the world’s most important cities we, at Grosvenor, hope to contribute to this vital debate.

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CRS — Green Infrastructure and Issues in Managing Urban Stormwater

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Green Infrastructure and Issues in Managing Urban Stormwater (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

For decades, stormwater, or runoff, was considered largely a problem of excess rainwater or snowmelt impacting communities. Prevailing engineering practices were to move stormwater away from cities as rapidly as possible to avoid potential damages from flooding. More recently, these practices have evolved and come to recognize stormwater as a resource that, managed properly within communities, has multiple benefits.

Is the curb 80% full or 20% empty? Assessing the impacts of San Francisco’s parking pricing experiment

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Is the curb 80% full or 20% empty? Assessing the impacts of San Francisco’s parking pricing experiment
Source: Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice

The city of San Francisco is undertaking a large-scale controlled parking pricing experiment. San Francisco has adopted a performance goal of 60–80% occupancy for its metered parking. The goal represents an heuristic performance measure intended to reduce double parking and cruising for parking, and improve the driver experience; it follows a wave of academic and policy literature that calls for adjusting on-street parking prices to achieve similar occupancy targets. In this paper, we evaluate the relationship between occupancy rules and metrics of direct policy interest, such as the probability of finding a parking space and the amount of cruising. We show how cruising and arrival rates can be simulated or estimated from hourly occupancy data. Further, we evaluate the impacts of the first two years of the San Francisco program, and conclude that rate changes have helped achieve the City’s occupancy goal and reduced cruising by 50%.

Where America is sprawling and what it means

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Where America is sprawling and what it means (PDF)
Source: Smart Growth America

People in compact, connected metropolitan regions are more likely to move up the economic ladder, have lower household costs, enjoy more transportation choices and lead longer, safer, healthier lives according to a new report out today by Smart Growth America and the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center.

Measuring Sprawl 2014 evaluates development in 221 major metropolitan areas in the United States, and ranks these areas based on how sprawling or compact they are. The report also examines how sprawl relates to life in those communities, based on factors like economic mobility, the cost of housing and transportation, life expectancy, obesity, chronic disease and safety.

Startup City: The Urban Shift in Venture Capital and High Technology

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Startup City: The Urban Shift in Venture Capital and High Technology
Source: Martin Prosperity Institute

High tech startups are taking an urban turn. Manhattan and Brooklyn, downtown San Francisco, and Santa Monica are all becoming tech hubs. This is a new development. While large urban centers have historically been sources of venture capital, the high tech startups they funded were mainly, if not exclusively, located in suburban campuses in California’s Silicon Valley, Boston’s Route 128 corridor, the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and in the suburbs of Austin and Seattle. But high tech development, startup activity, and venture investment have recently begun to shift to urban centers and also to close-in, mixed-use, transit-oriented walkable suburbs. This report, which is based on unique data from the National Venture Capital Association, Thompson Reuters and Dow Jones, examines this emergent urban shift in high tech startup activity and venture capital investment.

Reforms in Land Use and Local Finances Will Help Make China’s Urbanization More Efficient

March 27, 2014 Comments off

Reforms in Land Use and Local Finances Will Help Make China’s Urbanization More Efficient
Source: World Bank

  • In the last 30 years, urbanization helped lift half a billion people in China out of poverty
  • Urban strains caused by inefficient urban sprawl are showing
  • New report lays out comprehensive reform agenda toward efficient, inclusive and sustainable urbanization

The Global Financial Centres Index 15

March 20, 2014 Comments off

The Global Financial Centres Index 15 (PDF)
Source: Z/Yen Group

GFCI 15 provides profiles, rating and rankings for 83 financial centres, drawing on two separate sources of data – instrumental factors (external indices) and responses to an online survey. 103 factors have been used in GFCI 15, of which 52 have been updated since GFCI 14 and 1 is new. GFCI 15 uses 25,441 financial centre assessments completed by 3.246 financial services professionals.

The Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) was first produced by the Z/Yen Group in March 2007 following another research project into city competitiveness we undertook in 2005. The aim of the GFCI is to examine the major financial centres globally in terms of competitiveness. The GFCI has been published every six months (although the index is actually produced every three months). The reports are all available to download.We have been able to increase the number of respondents and additional data in successive editions of GFCI and this has enabled us to highlight the changing priorities and concerns of finance professionals across a period of great economic instability.

The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults

March 19, 2014 Comments off

The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults
Source: Brookings Institution

Employment prospects for teens and young adults in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas plummeted between 2000 and 2011. On a number of measures—employment rates, labor force underutilization, unemployment, and year-round joblessness—teens and young adults fared poorly, and sometimes disastrously. This report provides a number of strategies to reduce youth joblessness and labor force underutilization.

Artificial light puts ecosystem services of frugivorous bats at risk

March 18, 2014 Comments off

Artificial light puts ecosystem services of frugivorous bats at risk
Source: Journal of Applied Ecology

Summary
1. Currently, tropical forests are transformed into pasture and agricultural areas at an unprecedented rate, yet converted areas are often abandoned by farmers because depleting soil fertility renders unprofitable any agricultural land use. Natural succession of abandoned land could counter the loss of biodiversity, but the rate of natural reforestation is slow.

2. Neotropical frugivorous bats facilitate natural succession because they seem to tolerate habitat disturbance when dispersing seeds of pioneer plants. Under naturally dark conditions, bats produce a copious seed rain even in deforested habitats and connect distant forest fragments. Yet, artificial light at night may compromise bat-mediated seed dispersal if bats avoid lit areas. This may delay or jeopardize natural forest succession in fragmented tropical landscapes.

3. We asked whether the foraging behaviour of Sowell’s short-tailed bats Carollia sowelli, a specialist on infructescences of pepper plants (Piperaceae), is negatively affected by artificial light at night.

4. First, in a dual choice experiment with captive bats, we demonstrate that food was less often explored and consumed in the dimly illuminated than in the dark compartment, indicating that artificial light alters the foraging behaviour of fruit-eating bats. Secondly, using observations in free-ranging bats, we found that infructescences were less likely to be harvested when plants were illuminated by a street lamp than under natural darkness.

5. Synthesis and applications. Natural succession of deforested areas and connectivity of remaining forest patches may suffer due to artificial light at night through a reduction in nocturnal seed disperser activity in lit areas. This could have negative impacts on biodiversity and consequent effects on land erosion, particularly in developing countries of the tropics where light pollution increases rapidly with growing economies and human populations. Mitigation requires that the use of artificial light should be limited in space, time and intensity to the minimum necessary. The effectiveness of ‘darkness corridors’ to enhance fragment connectivity and to reduce species loss should be evaluated. Policy-makers of tropical countries should become aware of the potential detrimental effects of artificial lighting on wildlife and ecosystem functioning.

See: How Urban Light Pollution Could Be Killing Rainforests (Atlantic Cities)

The Mega-Regions of North America

March 13, 2014 Comments off

The Mega-Regions of North America
Source: Martin Prosperity Institute

Cities have always been the natural economic units of the world. But over the past several decades, clusters of cities and city regions have grown outward and into each other, forming mega-regions. More than just a collection of cities or one giant city, a mega-region is greater than the sum of its parts.

The earliest iteration of the idea of a mega-region dates back to 1957, when the economic geographer Jean Gottman coined the term “megalopolis” to describe the emerging economic hub that was the Boston-to-Washington corridor (he would publish a book with that title in 1961). Derived from the Greek and meaning “very large city,” the term came to be applied to a number of other regions: the great swath of California stretching south from San Francisco to San Diego; the vast Midwestern megalopolis that extends east from Chicago through Detroit and Cleveland and south to Pittsburgh; and the bustling Tokyo-Osaka region of Japan.

This report uses metro level data to provide a portrait of the populations and economic outputs of the twelve mega-regions in the U.S. and Canada (comparable data for Mexico were unavailable). Population data are from the US Census Bureau American Community Survey and from Statistics Canada. The data on economic output for both U.S. metros and nations are from the most recent Metro Economies Report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors; Canadian data are from the Montreal Chamber of Commerce. Karen King and Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute compiled the data and Matheson created the maps.

Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities

March 13, 2014 Comments off

Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities
Source: Urban Institute

The underground commercial sex economy (UCSE) generates millions of dollars annually, yet investigation and data collection remain under resourced. Our study aimed to unveil the scale of the UCSE in eight major US cities—Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, DC. Across cities, the UCSE’s worth was estimated between $39.9 and $290 million in 2007, but decreased since 2003 in all but two cities. Interviews with pimps, traffickers, sex workers, child pornographers, and law enforcement revealed the dynamics central to the underground commercial sex trade—and shaped the policy suggestions to combat it.

Street Stops and Police Legitimacy: Teachable Moments in Young Urban Men’s Legal Socialization

February 28, 2014 Comments off

Street Stops and Police Legitimacy: Teachable Moments in Young Urban Men’s Legal Socialization
Source: Yale Law School (via SSRN)

An examination of the influence of street stops on the legal socialization of young men showed an association between the number of police stops and a diminished sense of police legitimacy. This association however is not only a consequence of the number of street or car stops they experience or of the degree of police intrusion that occurs during those stops. Rather, the estimated impact of involuntary contact with the police is mediated by evaluations of the fairness of police actions and judgments about whether the police are acting lawfully. Whether the police are viewed as exercising their authority fairly and lawfully directly shapes respondent’s decision acceptance and the impact of stops on respondent’s general judgments about police legitimacy. Fairness and lawfulness judgments, in turn, are influenced by the number of stops or the degree of police intrusion during those stops. Similarly, judgments of justice and lawfulness mediate the estimated influence of judgments of the general character of police behavior in the community on general perceptions of police legitimacy. These results suggest that the widespread use of street stops undermines legitimacy. Lowered legitimacy has an influence on both law abidingness and the willingness to cooperate with legal authorities. However, the findings also show that it is not only police streets or police conduct during such stops that matters per se, but more importantly public perceptions of police injustice/illegality during those stops. The results suggest that police legitimacy is shaped by how fairly/legally the police are viewed as exercising their authority.

Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class

February 26, 2014 Comments off

Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class
Source: Center for American Progress

“Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class” is COWS’s (or the Center on Wisconsin Strategy’s) local government companion to the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s “States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class” report.

Our report is based on the practical experience and struggle of elected officials and advocates from around the country in moving their communities onto the “high road” of shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. Its goal is to arm progressive local elected leaders and advocates with a range of effective policies that, if adopted, would make a significant difference in getting on that high road. They will be able to use better democratic organization to add value, reduce waste, and capture and share locally the great benefits of doing both.

In the summary of their state report, our colleagues at the Center for American Progress Action Fund made a compelling case for why state and local governments need to take bold action to restore the middle class and ensure more access to it. The basic reason is that, over the past generation, American economic and political inequality has tremendously increased to the point that our status as a democratic society is severely threatened. In this summary of our report, we will assume the truth of that argument. Before getting to the particular policies we recommend for cities, however, we step back to argue that cities are a particularly important, and in many ways unique, solution to these and other social problems.

Statistical Signs of Social Influence on Suicides

February 24, 2014 Comments off

Statistical Signs of Social Influence on Suicides
Source: arXiv.org

Certain currents in sociology consider society as being composed of autonomous individuals with independent psychologies. Others, however, deem our actions as strongly influenced by the accepted standards of social behavior. The later view was central to the positivist conception of society when in 1887 \’Emile Durkheim published his monograph Suicide (Durkheim, 1897). By treating the suicide as a social fact, Durkheim envisaged that suicide rates should be determined by the connections (or the lack of them) between people and society. Under the same framework, Durkheim considered that crime is bound up with the fundamental conditions of all social life and serves a social function. In this sense, and regardless of its extremely deviant nature, crime events are somehow capable to release certain social tensions and so have a purging effect in society. The social effect on the occurrence of homicides has been previously substantiated (Bettencourt et al., 2007; Alves et al., 2013), and confirmed here, in terms of a superlinear scaling relation: by doubling the population of a Brazilian city results in an average increment of 135 % in the number of homicides, rather than the expected isometric increase of 100 %, as found, for example, for the mortality due to car crashes. Here we present statistical signs of the social influence on the suicide occurrence in cities. Differently from homicides (superlinear) and fatal events in car crashes (isometric), we find sublinear scaling behavior between the number of suicides and city population, with allometric power-law exponents, β=0.836±0.009 and 0.870±0.002, for all cities in Brazil and US, respectively. The fact that the frequency of suicides is disproportionately small for larger cities reveals a surprisingly beneficial aspect of living and interacting in larger and more complex social networks.

Urbanization as Opportunity

February 21, 2014 Comments off

Urbanization as Opportunity (PDF)
Source: World Bank (forthcoming)

The developing world already packs 2.6 billion people into its relatively dense cities. In 100 years, it could have three times as many urban residents. As their per capita income grows, they will they will also demand more land, perhaps twice as much per person as they do today. Governments can accommodate this increased demand either with a sixfold increase in the average built area of existing cities or with a combined strategy of expanding existing cities and developing entirely new cities. The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which guided a sevenfold increase in the built area of New York City, shows that a government can manage successful urban expansion on the required scale if it implements a plan that is narrow but strong. China’s development of Shenzhen shows that a government can use a new city to unleash systemic reform. The next few decades offer a unique opportunity to speed up progress by following these examples.

All Cities Are Not Created Unequal

February 21, 2014 Comments off

All Cities Are Not Created Unequal
Source: Brookings Institution

Inequality may be the result of global economic forces, but it matters in a local sense. A city where the rich are very rich, and the poor very poor, is likely to face many difficulties. It may struggle to maintain mixed-income school environments that produce better outcomes for low-income kids. It may have too narrow a tax base from which to sustainably raise the revenues necessary for essential city services. And it may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families, so that those who move up or down the income ladder ultimately have no choice but to move out.

Endeavor Insight Report Reveals the Top Qualities that Entrepreneurs Look for in a City

February 18, 2014 Comments off

Endeavor Insight Report Reveals the Top Qualities that Entrepreneurs Look for in a City
Source: Endeavor

Endeavor Insight, supported by Omidyar Network, recently released a report that addresses the question “What Do the Best Entrepreneurs Want In A City?”. With research culled from surveys and interviews with 150 founders of some of the fastest growing companies in the U.S., the report offers some important takeaways for urban leaders. Studies show that entrepreneurs often look to large cities rather than less urban areas to start their ventures and tend to stay put as their firms grow, with a majority of the founders surveyed living in metropolitan regions with populations of over one million. With this in mind, Endeavor Insight set out to explore the key elements of cities that allow them to attract and retain high-impact businesses, and the steps that leaders and policymakers can take to equip their cities for entrepreneurial growth.

The research uncovered a few key lessons on what makes certain cities more attractive than others. While a strong quality of life, talent pool and customer base were the most cited considerations, there was also a surprising lack of mention of business-friendly regulation as a factor. City leaders who dedicate resources to fostering these identifiable characteristics have the highest potential of drawing the types of innovative entrepreneurs, companies and jobs that can transform their local economies.

Report on the State of Health + Urbanism

February 18, 2014 Comments off

Report on the State of Health + Urbanism
Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A newly published research report from MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) highlights the complexity of the issue. Produced in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects, the document examines an array of public health matters in eight major metropolitan areas in the United States, and suggests a wide array of possible remedies, from better mass transit to extensive tree-planting.

Gathering “wild” food in the city: rethinking the role of foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management

February 12, 2014 Comments off

Gathering “wild” food in the city: rethinking the role of foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Recent “green” planning initiatives envision food production, including urban agriculture and livestock production, as desirable elements of sustainable cities. We use an integrated urban political ecology and human-plant geographies framework to explore how foraging for “wild” foods in cities, a subversive practice that challenges prevailing views about the roles of humans in urban green spaces, has potential to also support sustainability goals. Drawing on research from Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and Seattle, we show that foraging is a vibrant and ongoing practice among diverse urban residents in the USA. At the same time, as reflected in regulations, planning practices, and attitudes of conservation practitioners, it is conceptualised as out of place in urban landscapes and an activity to be discouraged. We discuss how paying attention to urban foraging spaces and practices can strengthen green space planning and summarise opportunities for and challenges associated with including foragers and their concerns.

Are City Fiscal Woes Widespread? Are Pensions the Cause?

February 7, 2014 Comments off

Are City Fiscal Woes Widespread? Are Pensions the Cause?
Source: Center for State & Local Government Excellence

This brief explores the extent to which economic factors, poor fiscal management, and/or high pension costs contribute to the challenges cities with financial problems face.

Key findings:
+ Only a small number of cities overall face serious financial troubles and one-third of them are in California.
+ Pensions are a minor factor in financially troubled cities; fiscal mismanagement tops the list, followed by economic problems.

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