Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism.
"In Paso Robles, Vineyards' Thirst Pits Growers Against Residents," David Pierson, Los Angeles Times
While the world clamors for more Paso Robles wine, rural residents like Denise Smith yearn for something far more precious: local water. The retired teacher is one of dozens of homeowners in parched northern San Luis Obispo county whose wells have run dry.
Unable to afford a deeper well at a cost of $30,000, she trucks in water every few weeks. Meals are eaten on paper plates. Showers last 45 seconds. Toilets are seldom flushed. Where did the water go? Smith and other residents say it's flowing freely into the area's signature industry — wine.
"How Small Debt Becomes a Big Problem," Michael Sallah, Debbie Cenziper and Steven Rich, The Washington Post
On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.
Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.
All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.
"Where No One Thought Gentrification Would Go," Ben Adler, Next City
In February, the New York City Housing Authority announced a plan to lease space in the footprint of eight Manhattan housing projects to real estate developers. That high-income renters would seek apartments not only next to, but inside places like the Lower East Side’s Alfred E. Smith Houses was unthinkable two decades ago. But the squeeze of New York gentrification, not to mention the failures of the towers-in-the-park design model for public housing, has made NYCHA’s open space the next logical target for market-rate housing. Proponents point to the NYCHA’s need for operating capital, the city’s need for more housing and the potential to create mixed-income neighborhoods as reasons for building. NYCHA tenants, however, have fears ranging from ruined views to outright displacement. New York-based journalist Ben Adler sets out to examine the consequences of developing the projects and understand what the move could mean for affordable housing in the city.
"Syria: Which Way to Kurdistan"? Hugh Eakin, New York Review of Books
On August 15, photographs began flooding the Internet of what looked like an endless column of people, many carrying small children, some clutching dusty suitcases. As has now been widely reported, the people in this startling scene were Syrian Kurds, fleeing to Iraqi Kurdistan—one of the single largest waves of refugees since the Syrian conflict began three years ago. And as it has received some 40,000 Syrians in less than two weeks, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which rules over this autonomous region, has been praised for taking a strong humanitarian stand at a time when other countries are closing their borders.
“Here, refugees are welcomed, even encouraged,” proclaimed a report in The New York Times on Saturday. Echoing a frequent refrain of the KRG government—which is striving to position itself as a leading force behind a new greater Kurdistan—the report went on to describe this as a moment of hope for “a better future for the region’s Kurds.” Indeed, Masoud Barzani, the powerful president of the KRG, has suggested that Iraqi Kurdistan can serve as a model for the Syrian Kurds to follow. In September, he will host a pan-Kurdish conference in Erbil, the capital of Northern Iraq, that aims to bring together for the first time the Kurds of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran.
"Detroit, Bankrupt, Looks to Colleges as Part of the Recovery," Don Troop, Chronicle of Higher Education
In a city hungry for jobs and job training, the town-gown relationship takes on a new urgency, along with a new creativity.