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Three Mistakes Cities Keep Making

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An irresistible article from The Guardian:

Too often, cities think they’re unique and repeat the blunders that others have made before them. Here are three of the worst ideas that keep getting recycled …

Build a big mall to ‘revitalise’ the city

The gigantic out-of-town complex Centro was the centrepiece of Oberhausen’s efforts to halt economic decline and turn the German city toward post-industrial success. …. As much of the retail and service activity in the city gravitated to the new mall, many mom-and-pop businesses downtown couldn’t stay afloat. The once-vibrant streets of the city centre were gradually taken over by discount stores, empty shop fronts and visible decay.

Bury’ cars to improve the downtown core

The “Five Star” development strategy of the city of Tampere involves adding new housing and jobs, a new tram system, and prioritising pedestrians and cyclists. In order to achieve this deluxe downtown experience, the city is building underground parking facilities and a tunnel to clear the roads of cars. A clear and effective concept, one might think.

But congestion in the city wasn’t even an issue before the city completed two costly Five Star projects: a 1,000-space parking garage, and a tunneled highway section. The effect has been to increase the number of cars the city centre can accommodate – and the number of cars has duly increased.

Build a highway on the waterfront

In 2015, despite lengthy community campaigns for tearing it down and plans for high-quality waterfront urbanist interventions, Toronto decided to keep the Gardiner Expressway in place, cutting the city’s waterfront off from the rest of its downtown. …

The Estonian capital of Tallinn has decided to invest in a brand-new downtown highway, in order to grant easier harbor access to trucks. In the process, it will pave over one of the city’s only seaside parks. As a kind of absurd flourish, the city has promised to build a shiny promenade and public space in the only narrow stretch of land that now remains between the sea and multiple lanes of traffic.

Full article here.

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sarcozona
1 day ago
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Opinion: Time to Look at “Dirty Money” in Real Estate

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Peter German’s 250-page report “Dirty Money“, delivered to Attorney General David Eby on March 31 and to the people of British Columbia almost three months later, contained more than just a set of 48 recommendations for the response and reforms to the gaming industry.

It also delivered a scathing review of casino operations, oversight and regulation in British Columbia, a sector wallowing in poorly-written legislation, acrimony and denial between various concerned entities, such that “certain Lower Mainland casinos unwittingly served as laundromats for the proceeds of organized crime.”

German describes it as a “collective system failure” of the province’s casinos, where an estimated $100 million of illicitly gained currency transferred from anonymous hand to anonymous hand.

That the money laundering uncovered so far in casinos is but a “drop in the bucket”, according to Mr. German’s interviews, is disturbing enough. But it delivered a third eye-opener — that there are likely other sectors in the provincial economy are being used, mis-used and abused in the same way.

As he notes in his report, luxury and counterfeit goods, cars, boats, precious metal — anything that can be bought without too many questions being asked — formed the chain of transactions (the “spin cycle”) meant to disguise and render untraceable the origin of dirty money. (See Chs. 4 and 34 of the German Report for a sense of the scope and sophistication of such efforts). 

Now look at our real estate industry. It accepts cash deals, is self-policing, and has a history of collectively pushing back against rules which would prohibit such conflicts of interest as dual agency. According to said Christine Duhaime, a lawyer who specializes in counter-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering law, these could be just the warning signs of larger issues, also of the systemic variety:

Real estate is a really important one … It’s one of the sectors that have been overlooked from the federal oversight perspective, from the provincial oversight perspective.

One of the tell-tale signs that something may be amiss is when you examine a sector at the ground level to see what’s actually happening. And that’s where some of the hard work has already been done; in 2016, Transparency International Canada found that 45 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s most valuable properties were held by numbered companies. This infographic illustrates where some of these properties are, and some of the background behind their purchase.

And so it’s no surprise the real estate market, its participants and the entire regulatory environment are the focus of Peter German’s next investigation, commissioned by the provincial government.

It seems, at this point, the real estate industry has a choice.

There’s a widespread belief that it facilitated the movement of money — ‘dirty’ or not — into an overheated market to make it burn even hotter.  And it’s likely the German report will determine how much of it was arson.

More kindly, many of its actions (and inaction) might be called collusion – not breaking the law egregiously, but playing a very profitable game not at all in the public’s interest. Realtors, government, and of course the sellers and buyers themselves, were all making (or hiding) tons of money, and no one wanted to end the party or call the drunken participants to account.  And it’s just not their problem if not everyone got the invitation.

The least harmful accusation to be levelled by the next German Report may well be obliviousness, a kinder word than incompetence. Either way, it’s the result of failures in legislation, governance, practice or enforcement. Perhaps all of the above — something was happening, but there was no data. How would we know? And we had our best people on it.

But thanks to the cracks created by Dirty Money, such excuses will no longer pass the smell test.

So the choice for the real estate sector is this: be proactive and take responsibility now. You were trusted to self-regulate; now there’s a chance to self-correct, and in a major way. (Think, what’s the opposite of “collective system failure?”)

Or simply acknowledge that the real estate profession isn’t worthy of even such a designation. And that it is unworthy of the privilege of self-regulation.

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sarcozona
2 days ago
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Acting out.

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In retrospect, there were some unhealthy things that drove me to have sex, often violent and risky, with several dozen people and post all about it on the public Internet.

Also in retrospect, this turned out to be a really good plan that vastly improved my life.

I don't think that's how this story is supposed to go.  I'm supposed to say something like "I now realize I did these things because as a person who struggled with self-esteem and body image, I wanted to feel desirable," but my feeling is more along the lines of "I wanted to feel desirable, and fuck, it worked."  It worked great.  Made me feel like the sexiest fat little weirdo on Earth.  100% recommended.  Just use a condom.

I wanted to silence some inner pain by blotting it out with physical sensation, and... that was a fine decision.  It was a Band-Aid on the problem, which is a great metaphor because Band-Aids make you feel better and help you heal.  Kink helped me wean off self-harm and it put me in touch with people who were knowledgeable about gender, sexuality, and mental health.

It was also a really fuckin' fantastic physical sensation.  That's not a minor detail.  Sex and kink are emotionally validating, sure, but I wasn't moaning and quivering with emotional validation.

I put it all online because I wanted attention, and again, that worked out fantastically.  It turns out that the attention of random Internet strangers is actually really powerful and good for your self-esteem, and can open so many doors and lead to long-term friendships.  Everywhere I've traveled, I've met fascinating people who knew me because of my decision to describe all the ins and outs (and ins and outs) of my sex life on the Internet, and it's led to all kinds of great experiences.

I've got regrets, but only the regular kind.  I trusted some creeps, and alienated some actually-okay people.  I said and wrote some stuff I shouldn't have.  I got overly passionate about some teapot tempests.  I didn't always take the best care of my body, but in a "that'll be sore" way, not a "ruined forever" way.  I turned in some really mediocre articles and presentations because I'm terrible at working on a deadline.  You know, the wages of sin.

There's no question that I got lucky on certain things, and I have to shy clear of outright advising people to follow this life path.  (Mostly because it has to find you, maaan.  Also, I dunno, liability?)  But if you're looking for a story of contrition, you're not going to find it here.  I'm all grown up and looking back on my promiscuous past, and my main reflection was "fuck, that was so much fun."

(I said "was," and this is all written in past tense because it's kind of a retrospective four years after I last wrote on this blog, but I'm not done with kink or sexuality or general exploration, God no.  I'm just in more of a middle-aged pervert stage now.)

I went through a wild-child phase, and man, it sure beat the hell out of being a domesticated child.
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sarcozona
3 days ago
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The Democratic Center is Scared

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After Tammy Duckworth’s bizarre shot at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier this week, I realized that the mainstream Democratic Party is scared of her. They are scared of the grassroots taking over. They are scared of a left version of the Tea Party. They are scared of their now nearly two generations of received wisdom in the aftermath of McGovern’s loss (and then the disastrous campaigns of Mondale and Dukakis) being thrown out the window, long past their sell-by date. They are scared of bold policy proposals that challenge their carefully considered moderate stance that appeals to potential Wall Street donors. This explains people like Chait, who find themselves increasingly adrift in a leftist dominated party and thus speaking out against great ideas like the federal job guarantee, seemingly intentionally misunderstanding that even in an age of low unemployment, the reason for this is to give workers power over their lives and place pressure on private employers to compete the government. I felt the same reading this editorial by Obama’s Homeland Security secretary Jeh Charles Johnson against the Abolish ICE movement.

Johnson’s argument is fundamentally ridiculous. ICE is not necessary for federal law enforcement. It’s only been around for 15 years and it’s not as if we didn’t have a semi-militarized border before that. He says elections have consequences, but that’s precisely what the Abolish ICE movement is working for–getting politicians to say that we need to abolish the agency and make that policy a consequence of the 2020 elections and a rallying point in 2018. Johnson talks about how Abolish ICE is destroying the chance for bipartisan immigration reform. What planet is he on? How is that possibly going to happen? What is the constituency for that in the Republican Party? The prospects for a bipartisan immigration bill is not Democrats outraged that ICE is separating babies from their parents. It died many times before on the shoals of Republican racism an now that ethnic cleansing is the official policy of the administration and congressional Republicans, there is no room for compromise. The realization that compromise on this issue is dead is why Abolish ICE is a powerful movement. When you are facing fascists, there is no room for compromise. But for Johnson–and for so many Clinton and Obama-era officials–this is not something that computes. For them, compromising with reasonable Republicans and shunning the left is always the right answer.

These are people are now behind the times. There is no room for old-school centrist Democrats in setting the policy agenda anymore. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. That doesn’t mean a primary challenge to Tammy Duckworth is in order or anything–she did her centrist party mission by dismissing AOC but she’s been a perfectly fine vote so far. She will learn in the next 5 years. The only road ahead for the Democrats is as an anti-fascist party with a bold agenda that combines racial, economic, and gendered justice. For those who fret about that, understand that actual fascism is descending upon America, that the Supreme Court is in the first of a multi-year process that will likely repeal a century of progressive law, and that the future of democracy in this nation is in doubt. There is no room for mealy-mouthed DLC compromise any longer, if there ever really was. It makes about as much sense today as centrist politics did as the fascists took power in Europe.

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sarcozona
3 days ago
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😒 Tammy Duckwoth let me down
rocketo
5 days ago
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seattle, wa
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How tree trunks are cut to produce lumber with different shapes, grains, and uses

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Trees Wood Cut

At ArchDaily, José Tomás Franco walks us through the cut patterns that are most used to saw wood into different shapes & sizes.

The lumber we use to build is extracted from the trunks of more than 2000 tree species worldwide, each with different densities and humidity levels. In addition to these factors, the way in which the trunk is cut establishes the functionality and final characteristics of each wood section. Let’s review the most-used cuts.

Each cut pattern produces wood with grain patterns and composition that makes it more or less suited to particular uses. For instance, the “interlocked cut” produces thin boards that are “quite resistant to deformation”.

Trees Wood Cut Example

Tags: architecture   Jose Tomas Franco
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sarcozona
3 days ago
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rocketo
7 days ago
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seattle, wa
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1 public comment
kbrint
10 days ago
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Learned something.

Vancouver’s Density In a Picture

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The majority of Vancouver’s land is zoned for residential use, but forbids apartment buildings.  (click to enlarge)

Thanks to @GRIDSVancouver for this rendering of the opportunity in Vancouver to change zoning and provide more housing for more people.

My question: how will this play out in the upcoming civic election? A split across traditional left-right dimensions? Emergence of new poles of opinion  density increase, or status quo; rezone or not; rezone much, or a little; rezone on arterials only; rezone only mansion-oriented pockets; rip out bike lanes?

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sarcozona
3 days ago
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Apartment buildings should be allowed everywhere _except_ arterials. We shouldn't put the highest density of people in places with worst health effects from roads.
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