Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.
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“New York Is a Livable Place—Who Knew?” Ann Friedman, Los Angeles Times
After months of fruitless job-hunting in Los Angeles, Kerensa Cadenas landed her dream job. There was just one catch: It was in New York, that East Coast city often stereotyped as a taco-less wasteland without height restrictions. “I'm excited for my new job,” says Cadenas, a writer who is moving across the country this month after spending the past several years in L.A. She's nervous about the lifestyle change, but, she says, “If I can find a gourmet grocery store where attractive strangers hang out at 2 p.m. on a weekday, that might help.” She landed an apartment in Brooklyn, which she's heard is similar to the Eastside of Los Angeles.
Unlikely though it may seem, Cadenas is part of a trend: Angelenos have always loved visiting New York, but lately they have embraced the city as a place to live. According to Census data, between 2008 and 2012 almost as many Angelenos moved to New York as New Yorkers moved to Los Angeles.
“Changing the Narrative in Detroit,” Jane Greenway Carr, Pacific Standard Magazine
"Make your own voice. Tell your own story. Be a rebel and kick some ass."
These words are the voiceover spoken by fashion designer John Varvatos in a now-viral video celebrating the opening of his store in Detroit. “Coming back to Detroit and opening the store here,” reflects the native son, “is a magical thing for me.”
Laid over black-and-white images of the Motor City’s near-mythic history of automobiles, urban decay, and rock and roll, Varvatos’ voice isn’t the only one offering lyrical tributes. “I love the fact that Detroit’s an underdog,” music legend Alice Cooper declares. “You wait. Detroit always comes back.”
Many find this narrative of demise and re-birth in the city best known as the scene of the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history to be irresistible. But the Varvatos video and the panel discussion it introduced at New America’s annual conference both testify to a new bottom line: Unless you know this city, it doesn’t matter whether you’re ready to write Detroit’s eulogy or lionize its incipient renaissance. It’s time for Detroit to tell its own stories.
“Why Can’t Cleveland Be More Like a Bicycle?” G.M. Donley, BELT Magazine
The road racing bicycle is one of history’s great design achievements: it multiplies the potential of the human body, allowing a person to travel much greater distances and at much greater speeds than a human walking or running. And it needs only a tiny fraction of the energy expenditure of even the most fuel-efficient motorized vehicle. A cyclist can easily cover 50 miles on 2,000 calories worth of oatmeal and Snickers bars; meanwhile, just one gallon of regular gasoline contains more than 30,000 calories; if the average US passenger vehicle gets 25 mpg, it consumes 60,000 calories for 50 miles. That’s roughly a 30-to-1 advantage in energy expenditure for one person riding a bike vs. one person driving a typical car. If you put 4 people into the car, the bike still has a better than 7-to-1 advantage. Plus, a bike is beautiful too.
Talk to some of the folks who lived through the bombing of 62nd and Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia 30 years ago, and you'll notice that they refer to the event by its full date. May 13, 1985.
That's how Gerald Renfrow refers to it when we talk about the inferno. His house is about 30 yards from the compound on which the bomb was dropped — practically ground zero. He'd been living there since long before the bombing, and now he's the block captain, trying to hold on to the home where he grew up and raised his own family.
That's how Perry Moody refers to it, too. His house is on the north side of Pine Street. On that day three decades ago, he had been evacuated from the block but watched as the houses on the other side of the street were swallowed up by flames.
“The Real Mayors of ‘SimCity’,” Jason Koebler, MOTHERBOARD
Victoria Lederberg served as the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island for only one day. During her term, she bulldozed a church and a nice, well-functioning neighborhood. She built new police stations on every block of other neighborhoods, and she condemned the local power plant, replacing it with a nuclear reactor.
How'd she do all of this in a day? By playing SimCity, of course. Lederberg was only a virtual mayor—she'd never have the chance to take the reins of the real city.
In the lead up to the 1990 Democratic primary election in Providence, five mayoral candidates competed against each other in the then-brand-new game. The experiment was set up by Joseph Braude, a freelancer for the Providence Journal who was only 15 years old at the time. Little did Lederberg know that the article Braude would write, which included details about her simulated incompetence, would hurt her with real voters.