Point of View Holidays; Google and ‘Smart Cities’; Plus, it’s a ‘City’ – Just Get Over It
It’s two days before Halloween as I write this, and 100 degrees outside. It’s hard to think about a Christmas message. However, the stores are full of gifts; you can’t get into Costco without tripping over the “stuff” of Christmas.
Still, getting into the spirit isn’t easy.
Sure it’s a season about food, parties and gifts, but it’s also about the wonder in children’s eyes, the smiles on their faces, the magic that fills churches. It’s a time of fellowship, of friendly conversations over a coffee or drink, a time of welcoming.
In some churches, it’s not unusual to be sitting next to a Jewish person on Christmas Eve. And they are welcome.
Each of the great religions have their celebrations, a holy time. But for some reason, Christmas stands out. It may have to do with the mercantile, with the simple fact that — particularly in North America, Europe and Australia — the numbers of Christians far outweigh others.
But I think it also has to do with the message — a message of joy, peace and goodwill that permeates the season. Be ye Christian or Jew, Muslim or Buddhist, Agnostic or Atheist, Hindu or Sikh, please receive from all of us at Parking Today the joy, love and peace of the holiday season.
We ran an article on ParkNews.biz in late October that describes how Google is planning a “Smart City,” designed in, well, its image. The wizards at Google are testing their ideas in Toronto on a 12-acre strip. They have five goals:
• The rising cost of housing — Pre-made modular housing units could cut down construction costs by 30%.
• Long commutes — A system that enables all modes of transit — ridesharing, public transit, driverless cars, walking and cycling — could reduce congestion.
• Environmental sustainability — Implementing thermal transfer technologies could reduce costs and cut back on wasted energy.
• Ubiquitous connectivity — A solid, high-speed connectivity infrastructure that provides online access to residents is necessary to enable the city’s technology aims and provide data-driven services.
• Creating a new “public realm” — Introducing self-driving cars can help open up space for pedestrians and public parks, the types of spaces that define cities.
Let’s take them one by one.
The cost of housing. The law of supply and demand cannot be repealed. If you want lower cost housing, you need more housing. Up the supply, and assuming the demand remains the same, the cost will go down. Building cheap housing out of cardboard and sawdust might work in the short term, but over the long haul, up the supply.
Oh, to reduce congestion. I note that they didn’t mention one solution that would reduce congestion immediately at no cost. Carpooling. (Well, maybe ridesharing is the same, but I think they mean Uber, not carpooling.) If only 20% of the people during the commuting hours would carpool two in a car, we would reduce the traffic by a fifth and congestion would go the way of the dodo. Rather than spend hundreds of billions on public transit and expect driverless cars to suddenly appear, why not develop carpool apps that people could use to meet up and leave one car at home. That plus a guilt-inducing PR program, and congestion would be under control.
Ah, sustainability. Aren’t energy companies slinging everything they have at this already? The problem is that we are trying to heat and cool houses built 75 years ago. If you read the article mentioned above, you will find that Google wants to start with a blank sheet of paper and raw acreage. Build a Smart City from scratch. Super idea. But what about the billions who live in existing cities?
Connectivity. Do you know anyone who isn’t online? Sure, folks who live in poorer neighborhoods may not have fiber and super-high-speed internet, but all those smartphones are connected somehow. I know Google wants to put chips in all of us so we can be “connected,” but I’m so damn connected already that when a tree takes out the fiber, I have no clue what to do for the rest of the day.
Ah, yes. The Public Realm. Somehow self-driving cars are going to magically make parking unnecessary and then all those surface lots can become parks and all will be right with the world. I don’t have any stats, but by looking around LA, I think that the vast majority of parking is under buildings or in structures. Once again, our betters at Google are designing a city from the ground up.
I just love the parts of the city that aged wonderfully. Main Street in Santa Monica, or Larchmont, or Melrose or Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, to name a few in Greater LA. These areas have character. They have buildings that small businesses can afford and display the quirky feel that so many folks like.
I’m not sure you can recreate that in a test tube-generated city planned by (shudder) Google. Just sayin’.
My neighborhood was up in arms when six police cars, 12 police officers, and a chopper all descended on us last week. Seemed one of our local characters was walking around with a cap pistol and someone called the police. “Man with a gun.” They responded as they do whenever such a call comes in. In force.
Also, a petition is going around because Verizon is putting up a cell tower on the corner. People are irate that a new building is going up a block or two away — egads, it will be four stories tall. There are signs in every other merchant’s window to recall our city councilman. “Got Traffic — Recall Bonin.”
All anyone can talk about is the fact that Wilshire Boulevard is blocked (Metro underground going in). The schools are crowded, parking is problematic, and don’t get me started on the traffic.
Crime is everywhere (actually the rate is way down), as are the billboards. At least we stopped the video signs. (I kinda liked them.) Dogs bark. The guy next door plays his bass guitar in the evenings. And, of course, there are people who actually don’t look like us all over the place.
The rant above was a compilation of a few days’ conversation with my neighbors. I asked them all: “What do you expect, it’s a city.”
They responded that it wasn’t like that 40 or 50 years ago.
Whenever you have a lot of people living close together, you get conflict. It’s the nature of things.
People criticize New Yorkers for being standoffish and ignoring the world around them. Why not, it’s how they survive surrounded by millions and millions of people in a very small place.
You can look at your city like my neighbors above or you can see it as a wonderful blend of cultures, smells, sounds, and life. If you prefer not to live like most people in the world, so be it. You can always move to that small town in North Dakota or Idaho. But don’t complain when you find out the nearest Costco is 150 miles away.
Cities have plays, symphonies, universities, international airports, shopping, restaurants, clubs, street theater, food trucks, museums, sports and the rest. To get all that you have the “problems” mentioned above.
Personally, I didn’t mind seeing the police. They did their job professionally. They chatted with the folks who came out to see what was going on. We saw a side of the police we would seldom see. No shots were fired. No harm, no foul, no arrests.
When the cell tower was finished, you could barely see that the site was there. It was newly planted, looked great.
We have traffic. That means business. That means shops and restaurants within walking distance. Try that when you live on a farm in Iowa.
Living in the city is a trade-off. But, somehow, I still love it.
See you in 2018