Also: Making air travel obsolete, and Seattle puts a snazzy spin on electrical substations.

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.


What We’re Following

Iowa raucous: Schemes to increase density and bring housing costs down by loosening restrictions on building multi-family housing—a planning gambit known as upzoning—have been sprouting up in many U.S. cities. In the past few months, ambitious upzoning laws have been approved in Minneapolis, Austin, and Seattle. Given that trend, it might look like downzoning (changing codes to encourage single-family homes and sprawlier development) is on its way out. If that’s true, Des Moines never got the memo.

The Iowa capital’s proposed zoning plan would do the opposite of upzoning. The rules approved last night by the city’s zoning commission set a high bar for building appearance and minimum requirements for construction. The plan includes strict preservationist standards—not for historic homes, but for new construction. New Des Moines homes are required to have garages, basements, and generous yards; lower-cost building materials like vinyl siding are discouraged. The city says the new zoning rules will save money by simplifying permitting, but local home builders warn that the raft of restrictions will make buying a new home harder for residents. “Anybody making under $90,000 annual income will not be able to afford these homes,” one tells CityLab’s Kriston Capps. Read the story: A Different Kind of Downzoning: Banning Lower-Cost Homes

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

A Modest Proposal to Make Air Travel Obsolete

To reduce emissions from air travel, Germany’s Green Party wants to eliminate the need for domestic flights by making big investments in trains.

Feargus O'Sullivan

This Dashcam App Can Map Traffic in Near-Real-Time

The traffic safety app Nexar’s new “Live Map” feature lets anyone peek in on near-real-time video footage of city streets.

Laura Bliss

Meet Seattle’s Snazzy New … Electrical Substation?

Rather than the usual mess of metal, Seattle’s Denny Substation is a work of architecture and a public space—with a controversial price tag.

Benjamin Schneider

The Whiter, Richer School District Right Next Door

Public schools’ dependence on local property taxes means some districts get isolated from the financial resources in their communities.

Adam Harris

Are Shared Scooters Good for the Planet? Only If They Replace Car Trips

Companies say their rides are “Earth-friendly” and “carbon free,” but lots of cars are used to keep the scooters charged.

Jeremiah Johnson

London Calling

(In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

What can the history of temple design tell us about the history of London’s Hindu community? Today, over half of the United Kingdom’s more than 800,000 Hindus live in London. “Walking or taking the bus around my neighborhood,” Erica Eisen writes, “it’s not uncommon to come upon a temple unexpectedly. They range from plain brick buildings to lofty-towered structures in traditional Indian architectural idioms.” The history of these temples, she writes, reflects the generational history of Hindus in the U.K. On CityLab: How Temple Facades Tell the Story of Hindus in London

What We’re Reading

Lizarding to lingering: How humans really behave in public spaces (The Guardian)

The future of the mall might be on your college campus (BuzzFeed News)

Whatever you call the neighborhood around Philadelphia’s new Rail Park, it needs improvement (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Detailed maps of donors powering the 2020 Democratic campaigns—including metro areas (New York Times)

How Lyft lost the trust of #DeleteUber women who thought it was “woke” (Washington Post)

Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  2. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  3. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

  4. Fishing boats, with high rises on the banks and a mosque in the distance.

    Will Sea-Level Rise Claim Egypt’s Second-Largest City?

    Al-Max village in Alexandria was ruined by floods in 2015. Yet, despite climate change’s growing threat to the city, critics say it has scarcely been addressed.

  5. A photo of a scooter rider in Los Angeles.

    Does L.A.’s Scooter Data Program Violate State Privacy Laws?

    As more cities adopt a controversial scooter tracking system pioneered by Los Angeles, concerns about rider data privacy are spreading.