Use the pandemic to ban Airbnb

Issue 146

Hey urbanists,

I hope you’re all doing well. I don’t have an essay in this week’s issue, but I want to recommend the pieces I highlighted in the first paragraph of each section. I especially liked the articles by Tamara Nopper and Lyta Gold.

I’m reading David Dayen’s new book “Monopolized” this weekend and it’s proving pretty fascinating, if not a bit heartbreaking. It’s a good look at corporate monopolization in the US, but also takes time to dig into the human impacts of consolidation and the power it gives greedy corporate leaders.

Paris Marx


Critical urbanism

Tamara K. Nopper argues that attempts to position “the affluent, white suburb” as the model for police abolition allow white people to act as the savior, while downplaying the racist structures at play in making the suburb what it is. Annalee Newitz imagines what a Muni social support service could like like in San Francisco, funded out of money taken from the police budget. In Horizons, I outlined how automobility and suburbanization destroyed communities and why we need to rebuild them with a focus on public luxuries. In Tribune, I called for cities to use the pandemic to banish Airbnb and take over short-term rental properties.

Barcelona will take over vacant properties at half their market value if landlords don’t rent them. In the face of an eviction crisis, it’s time to question private homeownership. “Train Daddy” Andy Byford wants to get people back on transit in London. Meanwhile, London suspended free transport for under-18s as part of its bailout deal, and teachers say that could keep disadvantaged kids from school. Cities in Canada are cutting speed limits to save lives. 15 US states are following California’s push to electrify trucks and buses. Uber bought Routematch, a transit software company, as it tries to get more data on transit services. NYC subway has higher ridership than all US airlines. More automakers are rolling out hands-free driving systems even though it’s not clear how safe they are. Uber will let California drivers set their own prices (sort of… not really). German court ruled that Tesla misled drivers about Autopilot, and bans its mention in advertising.

Tech dystopia

Lyta Gold digs into Silicon Valley billionaires’ obsession with fiction and why they take the wrong lesson from fantasy worlds. Patrick McGinty examines the evolution of books about autonomous vehicles and how COVID-19 has called the industry’s bluff (the tech isn’t anywhere near delivering on its big promises). Michael Eby describes the DIY computer of Yugloslavia and the potential alternative is represents.

Tesla’s stock price is through the roof, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s another Amazon. Uber and airports aren’t providing drivers with bathrooms. Tech CEOs are really mad that tech journalism isn’t just founder worship anymore. Massachusetts is suing Uber and Lyft for misclassifying drivers. A submission in Australia shows how Google may try to argue against US antitrust action. Cisco is being sued for caste discrimination. Tech workers are joining the July 20 Strike for Black Lives. Apple won its EU tax case, but a bigger antitrust battle is looming. New EU investigation will look at whether Apple, Google, and Amazon are building monopolies with their digital assistants and smart home products.

In this week’s Tech Won’t Save Us, I spoke to Juan Ortiz Freuler of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society about how the Global South could create a better future of tech and how they’re demanding the digital labor of their users be accounted for in global tax negotiations.

Climate crisis

Ford’s new Bronco, which doesn’t even have hybrid or electric options, is a form of climate denial. US fracking companies are going bankrupt and leaving their wells uncapped. The fossil fuel energy system disproportionately hurts Black people in the United States. Oil majors are trying to get rid of assets that will be expensive to extract. Canada isn’t doing proper accounting of the impact of clearcut logging.

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