Tag Archives: cities

Why Is Affordable Housing So Expensive?

In many cities, affordable housing has a problem: it’s not affordable. California Governor Jerry Brown made that point again, emphatically, with his new state budget. He’s said that won’t put any new state resources into subsidizing affordable housing until state and local governments figure out ways to bring the costs down. Last year, opposition from labor and environmental groups blocked the governor’s proposal to exempt affordable housing from some key regulatory requirements. Brown had offered $400 million in additional state funds for affordable housing if that proposal was adopted. Now that money is off the table, as Brown said in his budget speech: “We’ve got to bring down the cost structure of housing and not just find ways to subsidize it.”

But the costs are substantial. … Read the rest

Cities Seek Deliverance From the E-Commerce Boom

This post is part of a CityLab series on open secrets—stories about what’s hiding in plain sight.

Just before 3 in the afternoon on a rainy spring day, Keith Greenleaf busts out his “bricklaying” skills. That’s delivery-driver parlance for balancing an inordinate amount of cardboard boxes on a metal handcart. As high as his collarbone he stacks them, packages labeled HP, J. Crew, Amazon Prime. “This is probably one of the first days I don’t have Pampers or dog food,” he says.

Greenleaf also doesn’t have any 60-pound boxes of copier paper, which is a welcome way to finish his daily rounds.The veteran UPS driver is parked near 22nd and I St. in Washington, D.C., having arrived there about six hours earlier in a … Read the rest

Applying the ‘Rooney Rule’ to Cities

The city of Pittsburgh will no longer make hiring decisions for leadership positions in city government without interviewing at least one person who is not a white male. This was the hiring approach instituted in 2003 by the recently deceased Dan Rooney, who was president of the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team that his family owns. As chair of the NFL’s diversity and inclusion committee, he was able to have the entire NFL adopt this hiring policy, and it’s been called the “Rooney Rule” ever since.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto decided to honor Mr. Rooney by adopting a similar hiring rule for city government hiring. An executive order he signed on Wednesday creates a Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the city and directs the … Read the rest

Grooving to the Oldies at New Orleans’s Temple of Uncool

“My Secret City” is a collaboration between CityLab and Narratively, a digital publication featuring extraordinary stories of ordinary people, told through video, text, photo essays, comics journalism and more.

I try to follow the steps of a line dance forming to a song I’ve never heard before when a middle-aged woman in hot pants whispers that I’d better get off the dance floor with my cocktail glass, because there is no telling how dangerous the dancing might get. A few minutes later, sensing my confusion and observing my missteps, a man approaches me on legs shaky from age but firm from cha-chas and says, “Dancing is just fancy walking. If you remember that, you’ll never go wrong.” As he walks away, “Shama Lama Ding Dong” … Read the rest

The Ultimate Photo Map of the 1906 San Francisco Quake

OpenSFHistory/Western Neighborhoods Project

Of all the horrible scenes that poured out of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which killed roughly 3,000 people and injured 225,000 more—one of a refugee camp at the old Hamilton Square on April 19, a day after the quake, haunts Woody LaBounty.

“There’s a guy actually sweeping the grass next to two women with a shocked, middle-distance stare,” says LaBounty, executive director at the Western Neighborhoods Project. “Shock, bewilderment, uncertainty in many faces.”

For LaBounty, it’s a reminder that the famous disaster was just that—a catastrophe that left human lives as well as buildings in ruins. “In recent years, as a community we have defaulted to an almost celebratory attitude around the anniversary” of the tragedy, he says. “But many people died. … Read the rest

Sidewalks Full of Handmade Monuments to Buenos Aires’s Disappeared

This post is part of a CityLab series on open secrets—stories about what’s hiding in plain sight.

Liliana Giovannelli, 61, rarely visits the commemorative stone in Buenos Aires that carries her husband’s name. Set into the sidewalk in the north of the Argentine capital, it does not mark his grave, but the spot where he disappeared from work at a ceramic factory in 1977, at the age of 27. His body was never found. Some 40 years later, Giovannelli is still looking.

The handmade plaque, carefully inlaid with broken crockery and colored glass, is dedicated to Giovannelli’s husband, Juan Carlos Panizza, and three other missing potters kidnapped by the military from a factory in Villa Adelina on … Read the rest

Exploring Richmond’s Underground Music Scene

This post is part of a CityLab series on open secrets—stories about what’s hiding in plain sight.

Evan Hoffman lives in an apartment on a quiet street in Richmond, Virginia. On weekend nights, some music fans seek out his basement instead of downtown’s theaters and bars.

Underground concert venues—typically in someone’s basement, backyard, or living room—exist wherever there’s demand for live music. In Richmond, the handful of formal venues is vastly outnumbered by private house venues with colorful names like Sloth Sanctuary, Crystal Palace, or Lucy’s. Typically hosted by renters, the names of venues rove around the city as hosts change residences.

Hoffman has run Good Day RVA, a non-profit music and film collective, since 2012. Read the rest

For the First Time, UNESCO’s Peace Prize Goes to a Mayor

You probably haven’t heard of the winner of this year’s UNESCO Peace Prize. In the past, the award, officially called the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Prize, has been granted to internationally renowned figures including Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, and Shimon Peres. This year, for the first time ever, the award goes to a mayor: 56-year-old Giusi Nicolini, mayor of a small Italian island that’s home to about 6,000 people.

The island in question is Lampedusa, a small islet roughly equidistant from Southern Sicily, Malta and Tunisia. In recent years, it’s found itself at the heart of Europe’s refugee crisis. As mayor, Nicolini has stood out from her colleagues by campaigning to ensure that the island deals as efficiently and humanely as possible with the migrants and refugees … Read the rest

The Secret Lives of Speakeasies

This post is part of a CityLab series on open secrets—stories about what’s hiding in plain sight.

Whisper “speakeasy” into a search engine of your choice and odds are you will stumble across the story of Kate Hester, the Pittsburgh hotelkeeper at the center of the amusing, possibly apocryphal origin story for the word.

Hester appeared in what can only be described as a prototypical trend piece for The New York Times in July 6, 1891. The story goes like this: Hester owned a saloon in McKeesport, just southeast of the city, that sold booze in defiance of a state law that upped the costs of licenses for alcohol so much that it was nearly prohibited. When customers got too rowdy, Hester would hush … Read the rest