John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, an Indian town tries to prevent adultery by taking away women's phones and Washington, D.C., stops being so uptight about booze.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (past editions):
MORE INFERNAL PARKING LOTS, IN UTAH
Fearing that their hometown is becoming a lake of asphalt, Salt Lake City councilors have outlawed the practice of knocking down buildings to create surface parking lots. Right now, Salt Lake has about 55 acres of blacktop carpeting the downtown area, a hefty 20 percent of its surface area. The new ordinance, which affects a central commercial district, is meant to prevent more gray slabs of blah from masquerading as urban blocks, kind of like this one:
Councilman Stan Penfold said he hopes the regulation will prevent automotive blight from “sucking the life out of downtown,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune. However, developers are still allowed to construct more parking lots as long as they make them less visible – putting them 75 feet away from sidewalks, say, or tucking them behind buildings.
WOMEN TALKING ON PHONES, IN INDIA
Can you hear me now? Not if you're a woman living in the Indian town of Sunderbari, because the government has taken away your cellphone. Wise elders in this community of 8,000, located in the northeastern part of the country, have banned unmarried females from using phones because they fear they're making booty calls.
At least six wives have eloped in the past few months, said one official, who informed The New York Times that the "easy use of mobile phones has been the real game changer in all the incidents." Another member of the local council, an all-male group that did not invite the town's top elected female politician to a meeting about the ban, explained that phone-aided extramarital affairs were "eroding the moral fabric in our society." Ladies caught yakking face a fine of up to $180. In a generous concession, Sunderbari's patriarchs said married women could still use cellphones indoors, as long as they had a relative nearby to chaperone.
UNBANNED! BLASPHEMOUS LIQUOR SALES, IN D.C.
The District of Columbia has finally rid itself of a puritanical measure preventing the sale of hard liquor on Sundays. For decades, anybody wanting to mix a mean Manhattan on the Lord's Day had to trek to Maryland or Virginia for supplies, or else satisfy their craving with a lesser form of booze, like beer, wine or alcohol-filled “Crunkcakes.” But the D.C. council voted this week to throw open the doors of Barrel House, Big Ben and other esteemed local sauce venders on Sundays, saying that the measure would net $700,000 in yearly revenue.
Weirdly, protest over this laudatory reform came from the liquor venders themselves. According to DCist:
During a hearing, a number of retailers said that they enjoyed their government-mandated day off, and worried that if they were allowed to open on Sundays they would have to in order to stay competitive. (Stores can opt not to open, and they will still be subject to voluntary agreements.)
Displaying a wisdom rare to D.C.'s scandal-ridden government, the council recognized this argument for the foolishness it was and swiftly scuttled the musty old law.