Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Once Again Cities Are At The Forefront

http://www.citylab.com; October 20, 2017


Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Today in the forum is  how cities re standing up for women's health.  Blogger felt this was a timely topic since women's issues have become a white hot issue in the state and federal halls of government.  If you have been following the main stream and social media pages, you probably have been reading a lot about an upcoming special election in the state of Alabama.  

On December 12, 2017, voters will go to the polls to elect a someone to permenantly fill the seat vacated by (for) now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  On the ballot are former United States Deputy Attorney Democrat Doug Jones and Reublican former Judge Roy Moore.  Rather than focus on issues that Alabamans truly care about, the spotlight has to turned to Judge Moore's history of inappropriate sexual relationships with underage girls.  Yours Truly cannot decide what is more infuriating: his repeated denials of any wrong doing and hiding behind religion, the Republican party's tepid (at best) response to the accusations, or the fact that Mr. Moore might actually get elected to the Senate.  Actually, it is all infuriating and repugnant.  Even more infuriating is the way the accusers are shamed and diminished by co-workers.  Women, the typical accuser, have been historically dismissed as hysterical and irrational; gaslighted-"are you sure it happened that way?  Maybe you misunderstood.  Maybe you shouldn't have dressed that way."  Rubbish.  The only thing the accusers can do is stay silent.  Make no mistake, paedophilia should always be condemned.  No adult should be allowed to have sexual contact with anyone under the age of eighteen.  Period, end of discussion.  No one should be allowed to have any non-consenual sexual contact with anyone.  Since Mr. Moore refuses to do the right thing and step down, Blogger can only implore voters in Alabama to turn out en masse on December 12 and do the right thing.  On to which cities are standing up for women's health.

Congressional Republicans and Republican state houses are doing their very best to eliminate well-funded women's health and sexually transmitted disease.  Jacksonville, Florida is probably one place you will not any of these services.  The city landed close to the bottom of a new report, Local Reproductive Freedom Index (localreports.org; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) by the National Insititute for Reproductive Health, which graded America's 40 most populous cities according to their scope of reproductive health, rights, and Justice policies.

Alastair Boone writes in her CityLab article "Here Are the Cities Standing Up for Women's Health," Jacksonville's one-star rating reflects the city's lack of numerous reproductive health protections, such as funding for abortion clinics, STI prevention campaigns, and community-based sexual education programming."  However, NIRH Andrea Miller sees a ray of hope: "In February, Jacksonville passed historic legislation [jacksonville.com; Feb. 15, 2017date accessed Nov. 15, 2017] that prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender people.  It's last city of its size secure such protections."

Ms. Miller told CityLab,

Jacksonville has take this historic step of protecting LGBTQ people...That is a remarkable move.  Because they've proven that the kind of organizing and engagement between the community and elected officials can move us forward.  That's really what we hope people will take from this.

Ms. Boone reports, "No city received a perfect score of five stars-meaning no city has matched each of the 37 policies tracked by the NIRH, a New York-based advocacy organization that promotes reproductive freedom."  The report offers a roadmap for the positive steps cities are already taking and how they can increase access reproductive healthcare for their residents, especially for residents in rural communities.

Andrea Miller continued, 

Our urban centers are the linchpin for healthcare delivery for so many people...Not just for their own residents but for those who live tens if not hundreds of miles away.  

Here is a very real fact, in many Midwestern rural counties, "the average woman has to drive more than 180 miles to get an abortion [citylab.com; Oct. 5, 2017 date accessed Nov. 15, 2017].  compare this to a woman living closer to a major urban urban who has to drive fifteen miles to the nearest Planned Parenthood or comparable clinic.

National Institute for Reproductive Health ranking comes at a time when anxiety over the future of reproductive healthcare is growing under the current administration.  Ms. Boone reports, "In January, the president appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch who's expect to be a foe of abortion rights [theguardian.com; Sept. 22, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017], and reinstated the 'global gag rule, which halts U.S. funding to international NGOs that provide or promote abortion services."  This past July, the Trump administration slashed Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program two year short (citylab.com; Aug. 15, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) into a five-year funding period that promoted community-based strategies to halting teen pregnancy.  Last month, Mr. Trump announced a new rule (mother jones.com; Oct. 6, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) that permits employers to opt out of birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plans.

No surprise that coastal cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City occupy the top of the ranking with 4.5 stars.  These cities have enacted numerous protections for women and families, like funding for abortion, reproductive health education, support for anti-discrimination polices, and a $15 minimum wage (the city of Los Angeles plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2020).  Ms. Boone observes, "On the whole, larger coastal cities with long histories of investment in social justice causes score the highest."

The average rating of the surveyed cites was two stars, even the highly rated coastal cities have room for improvements.  For example, San Francisco lacks zoning ordinances outside abortion clinics.  New York City still has not defunded alleged crisis pregnancy centers (prochoiceamericaorg; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017), which are nothing more than fronts for anti-abortion clinics.

Some cities are working to maintain access to controversial reproductive health services, even as Republican-dominated state legislatures work to eliminate them. Ms. Boone reports, "Columbus, Ohio, for example, passed [columbus.legistar.com; June 22, 2016; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017] the 'Healthcare Workers and Patient Protection Ordinance' in 2016 to establish 15-foot buffer zones around clinics, within which certain behaviors are strictly penalized."  In 2015, Cook County, Illinois ensured abortion coverage (nirhealth.org; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) for low-income women as part of a joint intiative by the National Institute for Reproductive Health, the Chicago Abortion Fund, and the Illinois American Civil Liberities Union.  In each case, efforts have resulted after state or federal actions threatened these protections.

Local Reproductive Freedom Index offers solutions to pro-choice lawmakers in cities like St.Louis, that have a harder struggle against conservative state legislatures, or local cultures, to further reproductive rights.  Alastair Boone reports, "To get higher minimum wages and more paid family, for example, city officials can insist that tax incentives for companies are linked to living wage and comprehensive benefits requirements."  Municipalities can ensure that healthcare for its employees include reproductive health options and counseling, including abortion.

Andrea Miller told CityLab,

Every city has a budget.  Every city makes decisions about how they use their budgetary power...Municipal elected officials have a really important bully pulpit.  Standing up not only sends a powerful message, but it's also the beginning.  That's why we did this.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Making Rural America More Mobile

http://www.citylab.com; October 10, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Blogger is coming to you from her usual workspace, on a sparkling autumn afternoon.  Yours Truly loves afternoons like this, perfect for strolling along the sidewalks watching the stores deck themselves  for the upcoming holidays.  Almost makes Yours Truly want not to write.  However, Blogger's allergies say stay indoors and write.  Since this is the situation, shall we talk about rural transit instead?

If you are one 46.2 million Americans that live in the rural regions, getting from home to school, work, appointments, or doing errands can be an effort.  Unlike the urban or suburban regions, the rural regions have few transit options at low densities, finding an alternative to the car can mean having to forego crucial appointments or errands.

Laura Bliss points out in her CityLab article "How Transit Ue Could Rise in Rural America," "That's a problem.  Rural communities increasingly reflect a group of people who don't drive-they're older, less mobile, and poorer."  This is main point of a new report by the American Public Transportation Association entitled, Rural and Small Town Public Transit Ridership Increased Nearly 8% Since 2007 [apta.com; Oct. 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. 14, 2017].  Transit systems in large urban centers usually commends attention from transit supporters, however it ignores the growing demand for service in outlying towns, potentially shutting out some of the neediest riders.

The study found that rural ridership has increased since 2007, the first year the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began collecting information.  Ms. Bliss writes, "Between that year and 2015, total rural ridership increased by 7.8 percent compared to 2.3 percent in urban areas.  In both categories, ridership has fallen off in 2015 and 2016, likely due to the recent drop in gas prices."  According to the APTA, small-town ridership demonstrates signs of greater resiliency than their urban counterparts-"as workers and families have left rural America in search of opportunity, per capita ridership rate have kept growing."

Ms. Bliss observes, "It seems that's largely because as small towns shrink, those left behind are greater than average-older Americans make up 17 percent of rural populations, compared to 13 percent in cities and 14 percent nationwide."  That 17 percent of older rural Americans is steadily rowing; as it is overall.  Whether or not older Americans can successfully age in place depends on how mobile they are, especially one the car is taken out of the equation.  The number of driver license holders tends to drop off after the age of 70; as assorted health issues impede one's ability to control an automobile.

Another notable feature of small town demographics is the higher number of veterans: "Roughly 30 percent of enrollees in the Department of Veteran Affais Health Administration system live in rural ares and 44 percent of these veterans have at least one service connected health condition-" which can hinder a person's ability to drive.  As a demographic group, disabled individuals take "about 50 percent more trips on transit that those without."

Here is an interesting real fact, although car ownership rates have increased in rural America than in urban areas, so has the poverty rate.  You would think that higher car ownership rates would translate into a more mobile population-able to access work and educational opportunities-but not so.  Lower median incomes mean that the cost of owning a car takes up a larger share of personal income.  Roughly, "Rural households spend about seven percent points more of their budgets on transportation than those in cities."

This underscore the absolute necessity of a wider variety of transit options-be it traditional bus or nascent micro-transit service (citylab.com; Sept. 21, 2017; date accessed Nov. 14, 2017)-in America's least connected places.  Darnell Grisby, APTA's director of policy development and research told CityLab,  "Rather than promise to resurrect dying industries, lawmakers might serve their rural constituents better if they supported investments in mobility as a foundation of economic mobility..." (voanews.com; Oct. 9, 2017; date accessed Nov. 14, 2017).  There is also a moral calculus: "Low-income older Americans may need transit, but they tend not to vote for candidates that support it."  It sounds counterintuitive but according to Mr. Grisby,

These are the constituencies of the current president.

Laura Bliss writes, "The recent story transit ridership is all about how you slice and dice data.  Thanks to demographic forces, rural; areas are gaining a base of captive riders, for better or for worse."  However, rural transit has not been the exception to this trend.  Throughout the United States, transit ridership has increased since the pre-Great Recession days, however over the past two years, the drop in gas prices has slowed the ridership in rural and urban areas.  In the long-term, "establishing lasting ridership gains that aren't tied to fuel costs depends on quality of service."  This goes for small town towns and urban centers as well. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Late News On Local Ballot Initiatives

http://www.citylab.com; November 7, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Time for the off-year election edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  This election was marked by a large number of men and women of color running for office.  The state of Virginia saw the election of Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person, to the House of Delegates.  While the Democratic Party was celebrating these victories, it cast an eye to next year's midterm election.  If the Blue Team learned anything from this election, it is focus on the issues, not Mr. Donald Trump.  

A hearty congratulations to all the winners and good luck.  The easy part is over, now comes the hard part: governance.  Surround yourself with good people you trust, stay informed, and stay in touch with your constituents.  

Tuesday's election was also about city ballot measures.  Most of the ballot measures dealt with very specific issues: taxes, sidewalks, libraries, and zoos.  However, some of the city-specific ballot measures could have national repercussions.  Alastair Boone, Mimi Kirk, and Sarah Holder reported in their CityLab round up of these measures, "The City Policy Initiaitives on the Ballot Tuesday," "Bigger metros can serve as a legislative testing ground, paving the way for smaller ones to implement copycat regulations."  After all, it was the Seattle suburb of Seatac that led about 40 other cities and states to raise the minimum wage (huffpost.com; Dec. 27, 2016; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).

Below are some of the ballot initiatives that voters decided on:

Reversing the "heat island" effect

Denver, Colorado: The Denver Post reported that Denver is about five degrees hotter than the surrounding areas during the summer, thanks to its "heat island" effect (denverpost.com; March 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).  This phenomenon occurs when the concrete rooftops and pavements bake in the sun, increasing air conditioning use and fouling the air quality-Denver is third in the nation for severity.

To remedy this effect, a coalition of ecological-minded Denverites-the Denver Green Roof Intiative (denvergreenroof.org; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).  They collected the required 4,700 signatures to put on the ballot.   The intiative requires building 25,0000-square feet and over to cover a minimum 20 percent of their roofs with a green space or solar panels.

Mimi Kirk wrote, "The group based the initiative on similar rules in effect in San Francisco [sf-planning.org; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017] and Toronto [web.toronto.ca; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017] though the Denver mandate would be more stringent in that it would also apply to existing buildings expanding or replacing their roofs rather than just new development."

Realtors, contractors, and builders joined together to put up fierce opposition.  They cited an increasing in construction and housing cost as their primary concern.  Mayor Michael Hancock supported the opposition, saying (denverpost.com; Oct. 11, 2017) the intiative goes too far too fast.

However, the stalwart Green Roof Intiative supporters fought back, arguing that there are enormous long-term benefits-both financial and environmental-that the roof will garner.  True, there is an intial investment but the green roofs last longer, lower heating and cooling costs, improve storm water management, reduce air and noise pollution.

Eric Sondermann, a local political analyst, told the Denver Post (denverpost.com; Oct. 19, 2017) that it was tough to predict whether the intiative would pass.  However, he said, "if voters aren't aware of the arguments against it, they may go with their gut and vote yes:" 

[The intiative] just looks good, looks cutting-edge, feels good...

Happy to report Denver will be greener.  The Denver Green Roof Intiative passed.

Relaxing weed laws, one city at a time

Athens, Ohio: Toking up is getting easier in Athens, Ohio.  Yesterday, Athenians voted on a measure that would make the city the sixth in Ohio to decriminalize marijuana.  Alastair Boone writes, "While some states have passed bills to decriminalize or even legalize pot wholesale, Ohio's referendum to do failed in 2015 [washingtonpost.com; Nov. 4, 2015; date accessed Nov.8, 2017], so cities have since continued piecemeal to pass decriminalization bills in opposition to the existing state laws, which punished people possessing more than 100 grams of pot with fines or jail time."

Here is an important point to consider, "If passed, the intiative would not legalize the drug-that is, it would still be illegal to buy, grow, or sell.  However, it would de-penalize marijuana by lowering all fines and court costs for misdemeanor offense see to zero dollars."  The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, abbreviated as the munchie-inducing: TACO is designed to reduce the incentives to prosecute minor cannabis-related offenses.  Felony offens, like trafficking or possessing over 200 grams, would still be subject to the usual penalties.

Other Ohio cities have passed similar laws, which were met with mixed results.  In 2015, the city of Toledo successfully decriminalized pot, "but after a similar intiative passed in Newark, Ohio [newarkadvocate.com; Nov. 11, 2016; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017] last year, city official said they would continue to charge misdemeanor offenses using state law."

The Athens referendum comes immediately after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the Recovery Ohio plan (circlevilleherald.com; Nov. 1, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017), intended to address the state's opioid overdose crisis.  AG DeWine includes intervention measures and task force models that focus on sales.  The Recovery Ohio plan was released at a time when growing number of Americans consider marijuana an alternative method for chronic pain management.  Ohio legalized marijuana in 2016, but will not take effect until 2018.

Good news, TACO passed in a blaze of glory.

The city that wants Airbnb back

Gearhart, Oregon:  Gearhart, Oregon is tiny town (population: 1,500) on its scenic coast and popular tourist draw.  Many of its properties are vacation homes for Oregonians who live most of the year living along the Interstate-5 corridor.  In an effort to preserve the housing stock for its year-round residents and stem the tide of permenant homes from becoming vacation housing, the City Council voted last year to limit short-term rentals.  Property owners were concerned about changes to the character defining features of Gearhart, responded with a ballot measure of their own: repeal and rules of vacation rentals (nwnewsnetwork.org; Oct. 19, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).

Sarah Holder reports, "Gearhart is among the first to start experimenting with the kind of caps larger are considering, and already it is backfiring.  If Election Day brings a reversal of its plans to this tiny northwestern city, it may provide a worrying test case for larger cities considering similar policies."

Los Angeles is one of those larger cities dealing with an epidemic housing shortage.  Contributing to the crisis is a state law that allows property owners to opt out of the rent stabilization market.  In 1985, the California State Legislature passed the Ellis Act, which permitted landlords to evict tenants in order to opt out of the rental market, regardless of the wishes of municipal governments to compel them to continue to provide a place to live.  Tenants rights groups have argued that property owners have misused the Ellis Act to get out of the rent stabilization market: either sell to developers who demolish the building and put up luxury condominiums or, more recently, get into the short-term rental market, posting available units on websites like Airbnb. Neighbors of these former apartment building turned vacation rentals have complained about the noise, additional traffic, and changes to the fundamental character of the community.  The Gearhart is an attempt to curtail this activity.

Ms. Holder writes, "Gearhart's existing 2016 cap makes it harder for property owners to rent out units through home sharing websites like Airbnb, Vacasa, and VRBO."  Short-term rental permits (less than 30 days) dramatically dropped as a result of the cap.  Supporters of short-term rentals (and those who depend on Airbnb for a second income) complained about the money they were losing on the weekends, unable to rent out to vacationers, willing to pay the higher rent.

The new intiative would allow a property owner to provide an unlimited number of vacation rentals, "while making occupancy limits more generous and inspections more lenient."  If passed, opponents of the measure are deeply concerned that it would make easier of for commercial investors to buy out whole blocks of properties and convert them to short-term rentals.  Opposition campaign manager Jeanne Mark told NW News Network:

And then all of a sudden where is the fabric of your community?...It's almost like cancer. (nwnewsnetwork.org; Oct. 19, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017)

Sarah Holder observes, "As the population-1,500 Gearhart is torn asunder over repealing or maintainin it's cap, a city almost 500 times as big is struggling (and so far, failing) to implement its own.  And it may be watching the outcome."

The city, in this case, is Seattle, Washington.  On June 1, 2016, Mayor Ed Muarry and city councilmember Tim Burgess proposed an ordinance (seattle.gov; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017) that would prevent long-term rentals (rentals over 30 days) from being converted to short-term rentals, while giving residents flexibility to earn additional income from renting out their homes.  The ordinance would mandate that short-term rental operators have additional and additionally stringent licensing and limit the number of units that each owner can rent out.

Seattle, like Los Angeles, is facing an epidemic housing shortage, rising homelessness, and limited available rental units for those who can afford it.  When Mayor Muarry announced the proposal, he said, 

We must protect our existing rental housing supply at a time when it is becoming harder for residents to find affordable housing in Seattle.

Gearhart's short-term rental rule repeal was homeless.  Voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure.

The city that wants you to go home at 2 a.m.

Miami Beach, Florida: Miami Beach wants you to go to bed early.  Early for this popular vacation destination is 2 a.m.  On November 7, voters had the opportunity to decide on a measure that would end alcohol sales at 2 a.m. instead 5 a.m., when the bars and club usually shut down.  Alastair Boone writes, "On the surface, the vote reflects an age-old clash between supporting tourists and late-night businesses, and satisfying the qualms of locals.  But underneath is a story about racial tension, too."

The vote is an outgrowth of recent conversations (miamibeach.cbslocal.com; May 29, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017) about shutting down Urban Beach Week-"a popular hip hop festival that occurs on Ocean Drive-after two shootings occurred there this Memorial Day weekend."  Ms. Boone add, "In one of the shootings, a police officer shot and and killed a suspect on the run (local10.com; May 29, 2017; date accessed Nov 8, 2017).  Many of the tourists who frequent the bars and hotel on Ocean Drive are African American.  For some, the intiative comes across as another way Mayor Philip Levine is trying to make Miami Beach more family friendly-i.e. more white (miamiewtimes.com; Aug. 9, 2016; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).

Supporters of the intiative see a direct connection between alcohol consumption and crime, despite evidence that Miami's crime is dropping while the clubs continue to thrive.  Others claim that the boisterous atmosphere might deter potential beachgoers who do not want to party from neighboring South Beach.

If the measure is approved, many are concerned that it could signal a greater effort to curtail Miami Beach's fabled nightlife.

As of writing, last call in Miami Beach is still 5 a.m.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Density And Obesity

http://www.citylab.com; October 11, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Big day in Virginia, New Jersey, and other states holding elections.  If you have any questions about where to vote or need information about registering to vote for next year's mid-term elections, please check out vote.org.  Thanks. On to today's subject: obesity in the suburbs.

Here is a fact about urban life: "Living in a more densely built area significantly lowers your risk of obesity."  This statement is how Feargus O'Sullivan opens his CityLab article "Obesity Thrives in the Suburbs."  This inevitable conclusion is supported in a new survey of British cities which compares the obesity rates with housing density.  The study, Association between adiposity outcomes and residential density: a full-data, cross-sectional analysis of 419562 UK Biobank adult participants co-authored by Dr. Chimney Sarkar, PhD; Prof. Chris Webster, DSc; Prof. John Gallacher, PhD, published in the British medical journal The Lancet (thelancet.org; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017), sponsored by the University of Hong Kong, UK Biobank, and the U.K. Economic & Social Research Council, concluded that "obesity rates were markedly lower in areas where homes were more tightly clustered."

Mr. O'Sullivan concedes the obvious health benefits of walkable communities (citylab.com; Dec.11, 2014; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017).  However, what makes The Lancet article, first reported by Reuters (uk.reuters.com; Oct. 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. , 2017), truly landmark is its sheer scale, assembling data from 419,562 respondents in 22 British metropolitan areas over a four year period.  Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "While it would be mistaken to assume that observations made in the U.K. could apply everywhere, they make one thing clear: Residents' health is highly likely to improve when sprawling suburbs are made more dense."  Mr. O'Sullivan reproduced a graph, reprinted from The Lancet Planetary Health (sciencedirect.com; October 2017; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017) charts the levels of obesity in relation to specific rates of housing density.

The graph's three tables track: Body Mass Index, waist circumference, and whole body fat compared to housing density for a particular neighborhood.  The co-authors controlled for age and gender, thus, for example, young women living in less dense and dense areas were directly compared instead of being measured against people from other areas.

Feargus O'Sullivan reports, "The worst obesity rates, the study finds, are among British people who live with 1,800 homes per square kilometer (4,662 dwellings per square mile)."  This pencils out to nearly "the typical density for London's more sprawling,low-density outer boroughs, whose average density of 1,590 dwellings per square kilometer (data.london.gov.uk; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017) is brought down by the large areas of parkland and small areas of farmland still within the city limits."  The below this density rate, obesity rates start to drop, "the study finding that the lack of walkability for British people living in sparsely populated areas was compensated for by a relatively active lifestyle."

But people who live in very sparsely populated communities still exhibited greater rates of obesity than people who lived in more dense cities.  The cut-off point is around 3,200 dwellings per square kilometer, greater than that, residents presented consistently lower levels of obesity than their  counterparts in less dense communities (in an aside, Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "The U.K. currently recommends this level of density for all newly built districts.").

Further up the density scale, people residing in higher densities, typically inner London ("which has an average of 4,500 dwellings per square kilometer"), have markedly lower average BMI, whole body fate, and waist measurements, a clear indication of a health advantage over residents living in more sprawling lay developments in Great Britain.

This begs the question, "...why is obesity less common in densely built areas?"  The obvious reason is greater walkability than less dense areas.  Think about for a minute. Look around where you live and see how close or far the nearest coffee place is to you where you live.  If you live in a densely built area, chances are the nearest coffee place (places) is within short walking distance.  Also, highly dense areas have de-incentivize driving to reduce congestion and free up more pedestrian thoroughfares.  The city of Oslo, Norway announced that it was banning all cars from its city center by 2019 (businessinsider.com; Aug. 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017).  The study co-authors offer another reason.

A highly compact dense residential environment might act as a proxy for enhanced community social capital and support...The intangible stress-relieving potential centrality, accessibility, and social capital needs to be further examined in view of their protective effects on obesity.

The co-authors can start by reading contemporary urban planning and design godmother Jane Jacobs' book Death and Life of Great American Cities, which sang the praises of walkability.  However, you do not have to be an urban designer or a university researcher to understand that being at the center of things, being able to easily get around, having more opportunities to create a wider social network-without using the social network-might make you less stressful, encourage to shut down your device and leave the house.  Imagine that!

Feargus O'Sullivan marvels at the study's size and findings, "Despite its impressive size, the study's findings have some potential limits to their relevance that the authors themselves acknowledge."  One of the limits of the study's relevance is people how prefer a sedentary life.  Individuals who prefer a slower pace lifestyle choose to move to a less dense area.  Mr. O'Sullivan reports, "The study counterbalanced this hypothesis by comparing obesity levels among newly arrived suburbanites and long-term residents.  They found found no difference between the two groups, implying (but, vitally, not proving) that the suburbs were not attracting people more prone to obesity."

Another limit is the fascinating question left unanswered: "Is there an upward limit after which home density becomes so great that it actually encourages obesity?"  It sounds like a strange question but the study found no upward limit, however the it only used data from the United Kingdom where densities never reach the extremely numbers of some cities in South and East Asia.  This would be a good way to expand the study: look at density and obesity in South and East Asia, as well as other cities in Africa, Europe, and North America.

Association between adiposity outcomes and residential density: a full-data, cross-sectional analysis of 419562 UK Biobank adult participants makes important assertions.  "If obesity drops as homes cluster more closely together, there is a clear public health argument for densifying the suburbs, providing that densification is mixed-used and thus also comes with a denser cluster of shopping,entertainment, and other amenities that make walking desirable."

Presently, the "recommended density for new development of housing in the U.K. of 3,200 homes per square kilometer might ensure that future neighborhoods will have a layout somewhat less conducive to high obesity,..."  The majority of British suburbanites, nevertheless, continue to live in areas where considerably lower density is encased in amber by local planning ordinances and resistance from local residents who fear drops in property values or congestion.  Another possibility is the understanding "that these environments are not especially healthy permeates through society,..." Britain's low-density neighborhoods might prove a more hospitable target for future residential development the nation so desperately needs.  

Perhaps, American residential developers could take a few lessons from Association between adiposity outcomes and residential density: a full-data, cross-sectional analysis of 419562 UK Biobank adult participants.



Monday, November 6, 2017

Inclusivity and Economic Growth: Stronger Together

http://www.citylab.com; September 28, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to another week on the blog.  First thing first, tomorrow is an off-year election in a few states, including a consequential gubernatorial election in Virigina.  Go vote.  Every vote matters, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit.  Need more information?  Please go to vote.org.

Before we get started on today's subject, inclusive growth for a stronger economy, a word about the latest horrific shooting in Sutherland Texas.  Blogger would like to address the comment made by Mr. Donald Trump about this massacre being a mental health issue, not a gun control issue.  Allow Blogger to enlighten the current occupant of the Oval Office: the person responsible for the deaths of 25 church goers was the work of a male who was court martialed from the Air Force for domestic violence including breaking the skull of his infant stepson, and given a bad conduct discharge.  Further, the Air Force somehow forgot to make official note of this fact, which would have prevented this person from buying a gun.  Guns are often the weapon of choice for perpetrators of domestic violence.  This person texted threats to his mother-in-law before shooting up the church she attended.  Mr. Trump just rescinded an executive order, signed by President Barack Obama (naturally), that prevented people with a history of mental illness from buying guns and ammunition.  How do you not make a connection between perpetrators of domestic violence, mental illness, and gun use?  Further, Blogger just loves the way last week Mr. Trump was calling for the death penalty of that "degenerate animal" that plowed into the bike Hudson Greenway Bike Path, yet called for understanding for the shooter in Texas.  Yours Truly gets why.  Okay, shall we move on?

It is no secret that inequality in American cities is growing, yet amid this grim news item there have been more urgent calls for more inclusive economic growth.  In a statement of the obvious, Richard Florida writes in his CityLab article "For a Strong Economy, Focus on Inclusive Growth, "There's also growing recognition that with President Donald Trump and Republicans in charge of Congress and many states, this is an area where cities and local governments will have to lead."

Mr. Florida recently published an article, that we discussed, in the same publication (citylab.com; Sept. 21, 2017; date accessed Nov. 6, 2017), "What the New Urban Anchors Owe Their Cities," about how contemporary anchor institutions (i.e. universities, medical centers, real estate developer...) must become partners in inclusive prosperity.  Two new studies by the Brookings Institute's Metro Policy Program (brookings.edu; date accessed Nov. 6, 2017) takes a deeper look into the "widespread economic and social benefits of inclusive growth, and economic development organizations,..., can pivot their focus to reflect these new goals."

Richard Florida writes, "It's not just economic inequality we face, but the even more vexing problem of spatial inequality."  Over the past twenty years urban growth has become increasingly lopsided-something Mr. Florida refers to as "winner-take-all urbanism" (citylab.com: Apr. 18, 2017; date accessed Nov. 6, 2017).  He writes, "On the one hand, the divides between different cities have grown; on the other, inequality has grown the most severe in the most successful and knowledge-based cities and metro areas."

What are the arguments for more inclusive economic growth?

A more equitable economy is a stronger economy

The first study, Opportunity for growth (Ibid; Sept. 28, 2017), author Joseph Parilla makes the essential link between growth and inclusion.  Using empirical data at the national and metropolitan level, Mr. Parilla concluded: "inclusion is good for growth, and growth is good for inclusion."

However, it has to be the right type of growth.  In the past two decades, the crucial connection between inclusion and growth has by-and-large been severed.  Mr. Florida reports, "Each and every one of the 100 largest metros in the U.S. added jobs and increased their economic pout put between 2010 and 2015."  But only eleven-Denver, San Antonio, and Austin the largest metropolitans-experienced an increase in inclusive growth, gauged in terms of employment, earnings, and poverty.

Mr. Parilla charted the metropolitans with higher economic mobility demonstrating that metropolitans with higher economic mobility experience higher rates of growth (citylab.com; Sept. 28, 2017; date accessed Nov.6, 2017).  The graph, reproduced in Mr, Florida's article, illustrated that "...metro economies grow faster, stronger, and for longer spells when prosperity isn't limited to just a few segments of the population."  The reason for this phenomena is "...more inclusive metro can tap into deeper veins of talent, and draw from a more educated workforce with a broader range of skills."  these same metropolitans als trend toward higher rates of upward mobility, which contribute to productivity and economic growth.  Mr. Florida points out, "The study notes that if Atlanta-a low mobility metro, had the same economic mobility as Washington D.C.-a high mobility metro-it's metro GDP would increase by $18 billion, or about $3,000 per person."

The caveat in these positive sounding revealations is that growth is a two-way street.  "A more dynamic economy generates more jobs and economic opportunity for more people."  Further, higher levels of innovation generate more economic diversity, and build resilience to sudden economic shocks like the Great Recession.  And it goes without saying that faster growing economies begets more economic output higher tax revenues that can be reinvested in job training and a broad redistributive economies-which can create more inclusive places.

the takeaway is that it is erroneous to consider growth and inclusivity in opposition with each other-or develop policy that addresses one or the other-when really they are mutually beneficial to each other.  Richard Florida puts it this way, "Metro economies and national ones, are stronger when growth and inclusion go together."  What was that campaign slogan?  "Stronger together?"  Right?

The Role of Economic Development Organizations in spurring Inclusive Growth

The second study, Committing to inclusive growth (brookings.edu; Sept. 28, 2017) co-authored by Ryan Donohue, Brad McDearman, and Rachel Barker, which highlighted the central role of economic development organizations play in encouraging inclusive growth.  EDOs are "organizations that typically lead regional economic developments, like bids for Amazon's HQ2, for instance."  EDOs  throughout the nation have played important in supporting local business districts, spurring innovation, entrepreneurship, and high-tech development initiatives, attracting and retaining talent, strengthening and diversifying regional economies.  However, their statments of purpose have not typically extended to issues of quite and inclusion.  Those agendas have generally been left to other non-profits and community development organizations often functioning at the community level.

Richard Florida points out, "...this report argues that EDOS have key assets and strengths that can spur more inclusive growth that would work in concert the goals of neighborhood non-profits."  The study draws from the conclusions of the Brookings Metro Policy Program's Inclusive Economic Development Lab, "a six-month pilot project that worked with regional EDOS in three metro-Indianapolis, Nashville, and San Diegoto develop more effective strategies to frame inclusive growth as an economic imperative."

The main conclusion was "...the work of the Inclusive Economic Development Lab was broader than specific EDO policies, programs, and initiatives for equity and inclusion."  The most important first step for regionally based, business supported EDOS is the creation of a regional narrative that could help alter the way business and civic leaders, and the region more broadly consider inclusive growth.  The hope is that I'll lead to new partnerships and strategies in addressing these matters.

EDOS can bridge the gap between equity and economic development, which for far too long have been viewed as separate issues, requiring separate conversations.  They can accomplish this task by "emphasizing the development of human capital and skills across the board, especially by broadening the agenda to include upgrading low-wage service jobs."  EDOs can also concentrate on connecting potential employees to jobs in the workforce and much needed affordable housing, and "by ensuring that regional transit and transportation initiative connect neighbohood's to hubs of economic activity."

Thus far, the response of larger anchor institutions (citylab.com; Sept. 21, 2017) has been encouraging, there is some skepticism-and some contradictory purposes still remain.  Richard Florida writes,"Not all businesses are convinced that EDOS should make this shift."  Smaller and medium-sized businesses find it difficult to increase wages and upgrade jobs in the prospect of financial hardship.  Some neighborhood and community organization are rightfully concerned that regional EDOs, which have not always acted on equity and inclusion concerns, are stepping onto their turf.  Mr. Florida reports, "To be effective, it's critical that EDOs address these concerns and develop truly broad-based partnerships with these groups and organizations."

The plain truth of the matter is that cities and metropolitan regions can no longer depend on state or federal government's to address inequality, affordable housing, economic disconnect, and social disadvantage.  The Economic Development Organizations can step into the void and spearhead local public-private sector partnerships that help rebuild and revitalize metropolitan economies in the wake of urban crisis.  It will fall to the EDOs to help facilitate the pivot to more inclusive growth.

Enought with the winner-take-all urbanism, the time has come for a more broadly inclusive urbanism for all.  Recently, an anonymous economic development officer told Richard Florida,

For too long we emphasized economic growth, and that has helped accentuate many of the problems our cities and regions now face.  Our profession is called economic development and that's what we should emphasize; not just growth but full development of our people, neighborhoods and communities.  

This, my friends and fans, is what inclusive growth looks like.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Interventions

http://www.citylab.com; November 1, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Today Blogger Candidate Forum is revisiting the subject of vehicular terrorism.  Normally, The Forum likes to use this space to address how politics impacts architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design. We first looked at this subject in the wake of the heinous attacks in Europe, beginning last year.  We also touched on it in the wake of Charlottesville.  Once again, we need to talk about it because it seems to be happening more frequently.  Given the rate of occurrence, vehicular terrorism seems to becoming an inevitable part of urban life.  In a way, today's post on how vehicular terrorism does not have been an inevitable part of urban life.  In her CityLab article "Vehicle Attacks Are Not Inevitable," Laura Bliss looks at what interventions can be made so that vehicular attacks, such as the one that took place yesterday evening in New York City, are not an inevitable part of urban life.  She begins with a serene portrait of bicycles.  She writes,

"When you ride a bike in a city, there's a great sense of safety in numbers."  This why CicLavia events in Los Angeles, were large swarms of bikes fill the streets so that no cars can fit, are so exhilarating.  Lost amid the sea of spokes and pedals you feel invincible.  Yesterday, we all got a jolting reminder of just how ephemeral that feeling is.

Around 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon, a driver, in a rented truck, plowed into a crowed bike path in lower Manhattan, killing eight riders and pedestrians; injuring eleven (nytimes.com; Oct. 31, 2017; date accessed Nov. 1, 2017).  He continued the deadly trajectory for 20 blocks, down the bike path lining the Hudson River.  The motorist struck a student-filled school bus, near Stuyvesant High School, before being taken into custody.  In his wake, a "...path strewn with mangled bodies and bikes parts.  Some of the children who witnessed the event were reportedly too traumatized to speak."

This latest vehicular terrorism episode is considered the "bloodiest to occur in New York City since September 11, and has been declared [rightly] an act of terror."  Is this the "new normal" in terrorism?  Vehicles being appropriated as instruments of death and mayhem.  It certainly seems that way.  Let us take a look at the recent past.  This past summer a white supremacist drove his car into a group of anti-racism protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather Heyer.  In Barcelona, a van rammed into Barcelona's fabled Las Ramblas, killing thirteen.  In 2016, a cargo truck killed dozens of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France (Ibid; July 14, 2017; date accessed Nov. 1, 2017).  London and Berlin have also been the scene of bloody vehicular attacks.  The perpetrator in yesterday's dastardly act was an Uzbekistan national, legally living in the United States, who left a handwritten note pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (washingtonpost.com; Nov. 1, 2017).  He was also carrying a paint gun and a pellet gun-"...an ironic visual underscore to the lethality of the truck itself."

As vehicles (i.e. trucks, cars, and vans) have increasingly become the weapon of choice for "lone wolf" acts of terror, the debate over how to protect vulnerable humans has become about what interventions should cities make?  Ms. Bliss report, "Barcelona is now under pressure to install protective blocks and stanchions throughout Las Ramblas..."  This is probably not a priority in Barcelona at the moment, with all the pro-Catalan independence activity going on.  Be that as it may, many cities have already taken protective measures.  For example, NYC's fabulous Times Square redesign was praised for using bollards and reorienting traffic flow, in particular after a car crashed into pedestrians earlier this year.  "That only one person was killed in that incident was attributed to those changes (citylab.com; May 18, 2017; date accessed Nov. 1, 2017)

In Tuesday's episode, the driver struck a roadway that provided a nominal buffer: a dedicated bike path.  The bike path-the Hudson River Greenway-usually "the nation's busiest bike" (nyc.streetblog.com; May 26, 2017; date accessed Nov. 1, 2017) is separated from automobile traffic by low-walled concrete planters and rows of trees.

Laura Bliss points that "motor vehicles, from police cars to garbage truck, frequently violate the division, for years, the bike community has called for additional protections."  For example, in December 2006 a cyclist named Eric Ng was struck and killed by a drunk driver who sailed into the greenway.  The advocacy group Transportation Alternatives surveyed the greenway users (transalt.org; Jan 3, 2008; date accessed Nov. 1, 2017) and "found that more than a third reported cars driving on to the greenway."  TransAlt called upon civic officials to close unsafe crossing points where cars ad bicycles mix, to narrow cross streets, and install bollard, which would block cars more effectively.  To date, none of these measures have been implemented.

Here is a real fact, "Physical changes to traffic landscapes save lives both in explicit acts of terror, and in the mundane carnage cars and truck inflict on urban residents every day."  Consider this real fact, in the Unted States, "pedestrian and cyclist fatalities (bicycling.com; Aug. 24, 2017; date accessed Nov 1, 2017)  are at the highest they've ever been since the 1990s, with vehicle miles traveled on the rise and distracted drivers [meaning you, on the phone] everywhere."  Since driver behavior is oblivious to any positive change, many cities, some under the banner of Vision Zero, are making an effort to reverse this disturbing trend through street engineering.  This includes New York (citylab.com; May 11, 2017; date accessed Nov. 1, 2017), where there cyclists are not nearly as shielded from cars as they are on the Hudson River Greenway.  Beyond the work in Times Square, NYC is developing predictive software to better comprehend what types of physical interventions can reduce injuries and fatalities.

Never mind "less is more," in this case, more is the answer.  David Burney, the former commissioner of NYC's Department of Design and Construction, speculated about Tuesday's attack via email,

If bollards had been placed at the entrance to the bikeway, space to allow bikes to go through but too narrow for vehicles, I think that would have worked.

New York magazine writer Justin Davidson echoed this sentiment,

We can't crazy-proof all of New York, but the city could do a far more thorough job of safeguarding places where cyclists and pedestrians cluster.  (nymag.com; Nov. 1, 2017)

Mr. Davidson is correct, we cannot crazy-proof New York or any other major city.  Bollards, stanchions, speed bumps, narrow lanes and so forth all have their life saving limits.  Walling off streets with concrete barriers in a crowded city, no matter how aesthetically pleasing you try to make them, is also not feasible.  If you stop and think about it, any vehicle can be weaponized.  Imagine what would have happened had Tuesday's attacker been driving a much larger vehicle?  Bicycle advocate Aaron Naparstek tweeted:

Every driver is rolling down the street with a loaded gun (@Naparstek; twitter.com; date accessed Nov. 1, 2017)

Obviously, there is a disconnect between the threat of vehicular terrorism and response.  At the beginning of the month, when a person in Las Vegas killed fifty-nine people and injured hundreds more,  the public focused, once again, on the impotent gun control debate-ie how to keep guns out of the hands of "crazy guys."  Laura Bliss suggests that we should take a similar approach to vehicular terrorism: "Cars and trucks should be kept out of places where they can this much harm."

Congestion pricing is an intiative supported by local law enforcement.  It was responsible for reducing crashes in London by 40 percent by cutting down on traffic.  New York has closed off small parts of its street grid to traffic, "but like bollards, this does not equate with comprehensive safety."

What would equate comprehensive safety.  In article by Ellie Anzilotti for Fast Company, titled "If Cars Are Weapons, Then Safe Streets Are The Best Counterterrorism," (fastcompany.com; Nov. 1, 2017), Ms. Anzilotti recommends that American urban planners look to European city centers for models of keeping pedestrians and cyclists safe.  Quoting TransAlt's Paul Steely White, she writes,

You have many European city centers where large trucks aren't ever allowed...The mere physics involved with having large vehicles in close proximity to cyclists and pedestrians points to the need to insulate there vulnerable road users from the potential deadliness of those vehicles. (Ibid)

Laura Bliss speculates, "Banning cars and trucks would not only make acts of vehicular terror far hard to execute, it would ease the quotidian bloodshed of fatal crashes."  Possible.  Blogger cannot help but think that even with the most careful urban design and safety measures in place, someone will always will find a way to cause terror.  We can plan cities but not what is in people's minds.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Twisted Anti-Gentrification

http://www.theguardian.com; October 18, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Happy Halloween and Day of The Dead to one and all.  Yours Truly thinks that real life is scary enough, so why not take the day and celebrate.  Okay, celebrate even more than you plan to.  If Halloween or Day of The Dead is not your thing, then feel free to indulge in as much candy and as many scary movies as you can handle.  Personally speaking, just pass the candy bowl and Blogger will be happy.  Alright, now on to something genuinely scary: gentrification.

Gentrification is scary because it means change.  Change is always scary, especially if it is your neighborhood.  Perhaps no place in Los Angeles is experiencing rapid change than Boyle Heights.  Rory Carroll reports in his The Guardian article "Are white hipsters hijacking an anti-gentrification fight in Los Angeles?" "The Los Angeles neighbourhood of Boyle Height has become a landmark battleground [Ibid; April 19, 2017; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017] against gentrification [Ibid; Oct. 2017], a contest widely seen as pitting working-class Latino activists against an influx of white-owned galleries."  However, what happens when the very people, the anti-gentrification movements are aimed at, hijack these movements for their own purposes?  This is the question that Mr. Carroll considers.

First, a little context to help us understand the situation.  The Boyle Heights defenders have used a wide array of tactics to harass and drive out the "art colonists."  Controversial strategies such as: rallies, threats, boycotts, breaking windows, and vulgar graffiti have been deployed with some success.  Protestors were able to drive out the Pssst Gallery and others have either cancelled or moved events.

For example, film maker and the writer of I Love Dick, Chris Kraus (Ibid; May 29, 2017; date accessed Oct 31, 2017) was recently forced to cancel a reading of her book at the 356 Mission gallery after activists threatened to disrupt the event (laweekly.com; Oct. 5, 2017; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017).

Managing editor of Ms. Kraus's publisher Semiotext(e), Hedi El Kholti, told the L.A. Weekly,

In this climate of harassment and online trolling, there'd be no point trying to have a conversation between Bruce Hainley and Chris Kraus about biography, fiction, and historiography...Defend Boyle Heights has promised to disrupt it (Ibid)...Bullying and intimidation are opposed to the very values of the work we publish. 

Boyle Heights, the birthplace of the Chicano movement, has become the case study model for anti-gentrification activists throughout the United States and Europe.  However, there is a twist to in Boyle Heights' anti-gentrification movement.

Rory Carroll reports, "There is, however, an overlooked twist: some of the most radical members of the Boyle Heights resistance are white artists, most of whom do not appear to live in the neighborhood."  Rather, these more radical members are using the "Defend Boyle Heights" banner "to attack former friend and colleagues in LA arts community."  Still others have targeted Latino artists and the not-for-profit organizations in the community, "accusing them of shills for invading capitalists."

These battle lnes have gone unnoticed, distorting the traditional anti-gentrification narrative and put the spotlight on a group of mostly Caucasian artist and other perceived outsides who have stitched political-and personal-agendas onto the anti-gentrification banner.

Joel Garcia, the program director of Self Help Graphics and Art (selfhelpgraphics.com; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017), told Mr. Carroll,

You have white guys telling a brown guy from the projects what to do in the community he grew up in"

Self Help Graphics and Art is a visual arts space that promotes Latino and Chicano artists however it has been accused of "collaboration with the galleries.

Irene Pena, who runs a community garden, said "outsiders infiltrated and took over her project.  They falsely claimed...that grant money from the University of Southern California (usc.edu) would lead to evictions..  Incredulous,

Who are they?  And why do they think that it's their right to come into Boyle Heights and attack people and organizations that serving the community?

Indeed.  There is more.

Steven Almazan, the former outreach chair of the Boyle Heights neighborhood council, was equally incredulous.  He said to Rory Carroll,"...outsiders were vocals in a campaign against a hipster cafe which has twice been vandalized.  Mr. Almazan said,

I found it kind of strange to hear people not from the neighbourhood speaking for the people of Boyle Heights."

However, there is a genuine sense of  urgency-"families are being evicted; other are facing big rent hikes-" silence criticism from local activists with tenuous connections to the area, but are perceived as energetic and savvy.

Rudy Espinoza the executive director of the Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (lurnetwork.org; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017, said,

A lot of them have contradictions that we know about but [we] chose not to say anything.

The non-profit organization has also been targeted by activists.  The reason was "...to avoid division and not undermine their effectiveness in raising awareness about the housing crisis."

Boyle Heights is a predominantly Latino community, situated across the L.A. River from the luxury lofts and skyscrapers populating the downtown.  Surging prices have resulted in displacement in Latino communities throughout East L.A., heightening fear that Boyle Heights could be next.  The arrival of the galleries and cafes established a sort of beachhead for developers to swoop in.  The mariachi musicians that congregated around Mariachi Plaza have already been priced out of home (latimes.com; Sept. 9, 2017; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017)

Nearly all the stakeholders agree that gentrification poses an existential threat to residents, in particular for renters.

the strategies and alleged motives of some of the activists have been problematic, raising the question "who speaks for Boyle Heights?"

'A racist critique'

Angel Luna, a local activist from Boyle Heights, dismisses any thoughts that outsiders hijacked the resistance.  He said,

That's a racist critique because it makes invisible the labour of people like myself.  To assume we're controlled by a group of white people is racist and offensive.

Mr. Luna added "The struggle was based on class, not race, and Defend Boyle Heights (@defendboyleheights), a coalition of radical groups, benefited from a wide from wide membership, including people not necessarily from the area:

The gentrifiers and alt-right agents are afaid of a diverse movement building.

Rory Carroll asked Angel Luna if some of the Caucasian artist brought their own agendas to the resistance.  Mr. Luna considered this,

That's a fair way to put it.  But I'm afraid of feeding this racist idea that white people are at the centre of this movement. 

Several of the well known protestors have or had connections to the gallery owners and artists caught in the crosshairs.

One such protestor is Kean O'Brien, an artist who taught a course on Decolonization and Deconstruction at California State University, Long Beach and a former close fiend of Jules Gimbrone and Barnett Cohen, the founders of the non-profit gallery Pssst.  When the friendship soured, he joined the campaign against the gallery.

In an email to Mr. Carroll, Mr. O'Brien wrote,

Those were my colleagues and friends that were making these big mistakes and causing displacement...It is very unfortunate that I lost my friendships with Jules and Barnett...however, I stand proudly in the position I have taken on art washing and will continue to challenge my colleagues, graduate school professors and friends as they participate in displacing people from their homes with their art careers.  Our art careers are not worth more than people's right to housing."

Messr. Gimbrone and Cohen shuttered the gallery in February, citing the "constant attacks" and "highly personal harassment" by the anti-gentrification activists as the primary reason (latimes.com; Feb. 22, 2017; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017).  Mr. Gimbrone declined to speak to Mr. Carroll, saying "he was 'still processing all that happened.'"

Rory Carroll reports, "Several artists and gallery owners, speaking anonymously, cited other cases of former friends and colleagues who now picketed their exhibitions and assailed them on social media."  One of the anonymous sources said,

It's all weirdly interconnected in their own art career.  It's about take-downs.

Sounds more like a severe case of professional animosity.

Guadalupe Rosales, a successful artist with close ties to Boyle Heights who exhibited her work at Pssst, had her car vandalized and was trolled on the social media.

Ms. Rosales declined to comment for the article on who targeted, saying only in a joint statement with Matt Wolf, the director of a film about her, "that the situation in Boyle Heights was much more nuanced and complex than the community versus the galleries."

Gallery sources provided documentation of individual artist who sought their representation before turning on them via anonymous social media accounts.  Essentially, galleries that declined to exhibit a particular artist or artist, for whatever reason, found themselves the object of a harassment campaign. when The Guardian confronted two of the alleged troll, one declined to respond, the other denied any wrong doing-i.e. both hiding behind the safety of their screen names.  Further, The Guardian could not verify their online participation in the campaigns so did not name them.

The anonymous Facebook page Defend Boyle Height from Boyle Heights (@DefendBoyleHeightsfromBoyleHeights), has focused on the role of Ultra-red, a small arts collective that promotes cultural and political struggle.

One poster, speaking on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retribution, told Mr. Carroll,

It's people who are looking for a pressure point to bring about revolutionary change.

Person X said "he attend Defend Boyle Heights meetings to help combat gentrification but recoiled at the influence of the Ultra-red 'quartet.'"

The "Ultra-red quartet" is a reference to Elizabeth Blaney, Dont Rhine, and Walt Senterfitt (all Caucasian), and Leonardo Vilchis, who is of Mexican ancestry.  The four are also active in Union de Vecinos (uniodevecinos.org; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017), the L.A. Tenants Union (latenantsunion.org; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017) and Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement (@BHAAADCoalition), offshoots of the Defend Boyle Heights supports base.

Dont Rhine is a faculty co-chair at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and not a resident of Boyle Heights.  Mr. Senterfitt is an AIDS research with a Yale Ph.D who recently moved to the community.  Ms. Blaney and Mr. Vilchis have been active in the community for decades.

The quartet have lectured and presented talks on gentrification, most recently at a Museum of Contemporary Art panel this past June (moca.org; June 1, 2017; date accessed Oct. 31, 2017).

Ms. Blaney was the only member of the quartet available to speak to Rory Carroll.  She told Mr. Carroll, "...the threat to Boyle Heights justified robust tactics.  Specifically,

People's basic need for shelter is being taken from them.  That's an act of violence.  It's a struggle of survival and self-defence.  All different kinds of strategy are open.  I'm not condoning smashing windows but I understand where it's coming from."

The quartet are not implicated in any act of vandalism.  Given Ms. Blaney's above statement, "All different kinds of strategy are open," it infers that they tacitly approve of smashing windows.

Elizabeth Blaney down played the role of white activists.

It's racist to imply that Latino members of the community can't think for themselves and are brainwashed by a group of white people.  It's ludicrous and insulting to all they're doing.

She continued, "...all those targeted by Defend Boyle Heights were gentrifiers or enablers."

What would you call white artist outsiders co-opting a Latino anti-gentrification movement to get back at galleries that refuse to exhibit their work?  Ms. Blaney is right, it is racist to infer that Latino members of a community are unable to think or organize for themselves.  

Joel Garcia of Self Help Graphics and Art denied being an enabler or gentrifiers accused the group of making false statements to enhance their legitimacy.  He said,

Our existence here threatens their validity to being social practice artists.  We embody community arts practice. These artists are trying to usurp that.  Attacking Self Help Graphics legitimises them-it has everything to do with their professional positioning.

Joel Garcia may have a point.