Weekly Urban News Update
May 24, 2019
In This Update: 
Mexico City Declares Air Pollution Emergency
Can Large Tech Companies Support Property Rights and Secure Tenure?
Sidewalk Labs Continues to Spark Controversy over Smart City Plans in Toronto
Who is at Fault for Manila's Water Crisis?
Report Says Racial Disparities in Asthma are an Urban Planning Issue
Netflix Street Food Documentary Highlights Need to Formalize Workers in Informal Urban Economy
Planning Public Space for Teen Girls in Cities
In the News and Around the Web
Mexico City Declares Air Pollution Emergency 
Last Tuesday, Mexico City declared an air pollution emergency after levels of small particulate matter in the city surpassed six times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization. The government has determined that the combination of forest fires, dry heat, and vehicle and industrial emissions in Mexico now presents a serious respiratory health risk. Consequently, they have cancelled primary school classes, limited public work projects, decreased the number of vehicles allowed to drive in the city, and rescheduled large-scale sporting events.
Find photos here.
Can Large Tech Companies Support Property Rights and Secure Tenure?
New research suggests that Facebook photos and data gathered by food delivery services may help billions of people worldwide prove property ownership. Large numbers of people do not have documented proof of home ownership or right of occupancy, leaving them  unable to access services, receive loans, or reclaim their property after conflict or natural disaster. But, Yuliya Panfil, Director of think tank New America's property rights program says that user data gathered by tech firms like Google Maps GPS history or Facebook social media postings can provide a "tapestry of evidence" to demonstrate occupancy when official documentation is lacking. Panfil anticipates this would be especially useful in rapidly urbanizing and middle-income countries like Colombia or Georgia.

Read more  here
Sidewalk Labs Continues to Face Opposition Over Smart City Plans in Toronto
In 2017, Google sister company Sidewalk Labs partnered with the Toronto Waterfront agency in Canada to develop a smart city from the bottom-up, but the project continues to face strong opposition. Sidewalk Labs envisions its new digital city will improve urban efficiency through fast wi-fi availability, millions of sensors, sustainable energy, and autonomous cars. For some, however, the project is marred by a lack of transparency over how Sidewalk Labs came to receive discounts on property taxes, development fees, and city land in exchange for its investment. Furthermore, they assert Toronto did not reach out for public opinion about large-scale data collection.  " Protester Bianca Wylie says: "We have not been talking about the fact that it is normalizing massive data collection or even asking whether anyone wants this thing at all. No one here has asked for a sensor-laden neighborhood."

Read more here.
Who is at Fault for Manila's Water Crisis?
In Manila, a major water crisis that began in mid-March left 7 million residents of the city's East Zone without water access following a 60% decline in rainfall. In April, the government fined Manila Water, the private company responsible for the area, $10 million for mismanagement and stipulated the company invest another $12 million in improving water infrastructure. But, Manila Water contends that the Philippine government must also invest in the development of new water sources to prevent a future crisis. Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewage System (MWSS), the government agency responsible for water privatization in Manila and the Philippines agrees: MWSS  has advised President Rodrigo Duterte issue an executive order to fast-track Manila's 20-year water infrastructure plan.

Read more here.
Report Says Racial Disparities in Asthma Rates are An Urban Planning Issue
African Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma than white Americans, reports Next City and Broke in Philly. In Philadelphia, high rates of asthma may be linked to socioeconomic disadvantages and the associated deprivation of adequate living standards that face some black residents living in poverty. Allergens in homes, neighborhood air pollution, and vulnerability to evictions are contributing factors to racial disparity in asthma rates.  Such a study demonstrates the need of mindful urban planning: disaggregating data about urban asthma cases by race highlights the need for preventative health policy that prioritizes access to safe and secure housing in addition to treating existing cases.

Read more here.
Netflix Street Food Documentary Features Informal Employment in Urban Economies
Netflix's "Street Food" documentary series underscores the importance of formalizing street vendors as legitimate business owners in global cities, says Sarah Orleans Reed , associate at Women in Informal Employment: Global and Organizing (WIEGO) in City Lab. Reed praises the timely release of the series, noting that WIEGO research demonstrates a growing hostility to street vendors and the informal working economy across major cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. By effectively calling attention to the global debate about who has the right to work in cities, Reed says t he series demonstrates the value brought to cities when they integrate informal businesses into the urban tax base and reduce their need for costly evictions and enforcement. 

Read more  here  .
Planning Public Space for Teen Girls in Cities
Last week at the London Festival of Architecture, Swedish architecture firm White Arkitekter staged an event on the city experience from the perspective of a teen girl. "Places of Girls" underscores how urban policy that doesn't plan for women's concerns around mobility, access, and safety, can unintentionally exclude young girls or discourage them from accessing public space. Originally produced in Sweden, the London Festival welcomed the production believing the project "speaks to the crisis of public space in this city."

Read more  here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative Announces Second Round of Funding: On May 14th, the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative announced second funding allocations expected to mobilize approximately a billion dollars to benefit 70,000 women-led businesses in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Smart Cities and Communities Act : U.S. Federal lawmakers have reintroduced the Smart Cities and Communities Act, stalled in committee in 2017, to promote the advancement of smart cities.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development Calls for Public Input on Opportunity Zone Initiative: The Department of Housing and Urban Development is asking for public input on how to use its authority to maximize beneficial impact of Opportunity Zones. The Request for Information which offers the ability to submit comments electronically or by mail is open now and will close on June 17, 2019. Information on the Opportunity Zones and how to offer comments can be found here.
The air pollution emergency in Mexico City has affected the daily routines of its residents.
(Photo Credit: (Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images in  Pacific Standard Magazine)

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