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✊🏙 Amazon HQ2 backlash, ‘let Malibu burn’, millennials don’t want cars, & much more!

Hey urbanists, Amazon’s two new headquarters has united the right and the left in opposition, the Cal
November 18 · Issue #60 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
Amazon’s two new headquarters has united the right and the left in opposition, the California wildfires present uncomfortable questions about how building patterns might need to change in response, and so much more.
It’s a jam-packed issue. Have a great Sunday.

Amazon HQ2
Amazon officially chose Long Island City in New York and Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia as the locations of its new headquarters, and the backlash has been deafening from people outraged over the billions in subsidies one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world will receive and how the 25,000 high-paid tech workers it intends to add to both cities will only make housing affordability even worse.
There were a lot of great stories written about Amazon this week, and I want to highlight some of the most insightful:
  • Amazon used the HQ2 process to get a ton of data about cities across the country, which it plugged into an algorithm to help it choose the “winners.” That means they’ve known the cities for quite a long time and used the process as leverage for more incentives.
  • Opposition is growing to stop Amazon from receiving an estimated $2 billion in incentives from New York and Virginia with no public consultation or community input.
  • New York will make sure Jeff Bezos has a helipad.
  • The land in Long Island City that will now house Amazon was originally set aside for 1,500 affordable housing units.
  • It should be illegal for big companies to play states and cities against each other for corporate welfare packages.
  • Toronto celebrates losing HQ2, but still has Sidewalk Labs to deal with (even though this article frames it as a positive because the reporter spoke to Richard Florida.)
  • A lot of establishment Democrats won’t speak out against Amazon because “jobs.”
  • “In cities with inflexible housing markets, a 2017 paper from the London School of Economics found, the addition of tech jobs in fact reduces real wages, since rents and other costs go up significantly.”
  • Let’s try a more radical demand: Nationalize Amazon.
Should we let Malibu burn?
The images of the wildfires devouring towns and homes across California are horrifying to see. So far, 79 people have been declared dead and more than 1300 are missing. The mainstream media is a much better place to look for coverage of the actual fires, but there are a few important aspects to consider.
The fires will make California’s housing crisis even worse as thousands of people are displaced after having their homes burned to the ground. However, the state keeps (re)building in fire-prone areas, which is just another example of our collective ignorance of the forces of nature and how climate change is making them worse.
One of those areas is Malibu. In a preview of what an unequal climate dystopian future could hold, while homes were burning, Kim Kardashian hired private firefighters to protect her mansion from the flames. Marxist author Mike Davis wrote “The Case for Letting Malibu Burn” (pdf) in 1998 in which he argued that the government shouldn’t be wasting money to protect mansions in fire-prone areas like Malibu, and he stands by it today.
I’m infamous for suggesting that the broader public should not have to pay a cent to protect or rebuild mansions on sites that will inevitably burn every 20 or 25 years. My opinion hasn’t changed.
Other great reads
“We are promised a futuristic city that thrives in the face of imminent crisis. All we have to do is, piece by piece, hand over control of the city to corporations and trust in the benevolence of capitalism with Silicon Valley characteristics.” — Jathan Sadowski
🏆 Uber and Lyft are rolling out rewards programs
🚗 Lime has bikes, scooters, now it’s trialing car rentals in Seattle. Fiat 500s will be available at $1 to unlock, then 40 cents a minute.
🚇 LA’s Gold Line extension will be shortened after cost overruns due to steel tariffs, rising wages, and higher construction costs
🇨🇦 Toronto’s King Street Pilot project boosted transit ridership by 11%, decreased cars in the downtown core by 13%, and saw cycling jump by up to 440%
🇫🇷 Municipalities in Paris agree to ban diesel cars built before 2000 by July and those built before 2010 in 2025
☀️ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is wasting no time pushing for real climate action and a Green New Deal, but establishment Dems ignore the science, say they need to be “realistic”
🏘 Think public housing has to be run down and poor quality? A quick look around the world shows otherwise.
🌍 We talk a lot about expensive Western cities, but housing in African cities is 55% more expensive than in comparable cities
51% of millennials say cars aren’t worth the expense and they’re 21% more likely to buy their first home close to a city center
🇮🇹 Flooding is a big problem for Venice — too bad it’s plan isn’t going to make much of a difference
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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