Tag Archives: design

(1068) Subdivided. City Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity [Book review]

Subdivided. City Building In An Age of Hyper-Diversity
Jay Pitter & John Lorinc, editors
2016. Coach House Books, Toronto
279 pages. $20.95 CAN
This collection of essays was much tougher reading than we expected.  After nearly six years blogging about social difficulty in the suburbs we don’t expect to be unnerved by our topic.  Subdivided unnerved us.
The good old days of multiculturalism, in which eastern and southern Europeans (and maybe a few other groups), found Toronto adjusting to, and eventually welcoming, them are long gone.  In its place, we now see an ever bigger and richer Toronto home to newcomers in a living arrangement of hyper-diversity.  This infinitely more complex Toronto is by turns depressing, ugly, unjust and unequal despite recurrent commentary about its peacefulness, high socio-cultural potential and general awesomeness.
Subdivided delivers unto us many a less-than-comfortable truth.  There’s too many people here in isolated lives centred on a combination of shit jobs and lacklustre housing.  Reading Subdivided made us feel like Toronto’s diversity is the stuff of an Adam Curtis documentary, another nightmarish expression of the global economic machine and its operating system, neoliberalism.
Toughness of presentation is what makes this collection of essays so amazing, …so real.  It’s hard to think of any other such wellspring of direct, sustained observation of what it is really like to live here.  A chapter on Brampton, for example, brings forth a wave of nausea faster than a jar of expired mayonnaise.  ‘Browntown’ is next door to suburban-poverty.com’s backyard, we can attest to the truth of what is said about Brampton.  Same for another entry on Mississauga, which is literally our backyard.  You’d almost wonder why Canada bothers attracting new residents to its Sprawlvilles.  Except perhaps as a cynical ploy to increase domestic markets and the tax base and to fulfill some corporate/ideological role in the global economy.
What to do?  Good transit, a strong social safety net, higher wages, police reform, and affordable housing would help us toward a healthy, cross-connected society according to the essays in Subdivided.  None of these things will be achieved quickly or cheaply, though.
We better get busy before something really awful comes of the present lame and indifferent regime of city building in greater Toronto.  Stress is not good for the indivdual or the community.  Stress and reaction brought us Rob Ford, the scale model mock up of Donald Trump.  Who knows what the stresses of race and class we are leaving in place will inflict on us?  We aren’t Milwaukee yet but how much longer will we sleepwalk into this?
We suggest future editions of Subdivided include a stamped, pre-addressed thank younote readers can mail to the one percent.
Buy Subdivided for your unnerved urban affairs shelf.

(1020) Taking hits

4314290807_8b81b31eb1_z
Accidents involving walkers and bicycle riders struck by motor vehicles are a troubling, costly aspect of sprawl.  They appear to be  built right into the whole matter of community life structured around automobiles and the infrastructure provided for them.  This bodily damage really has to be stopped.
More than 1000 cyclists and pedestrians hit on Toronto streets since June 1. New statistics show vulnerable road users struck at rate of one every two and a half hours
thestar.com
The morbid and mortal toll of sprawl.  The ‘elephant in the living room’ of rising and preventable US traffic deaths is government funded roads in drive-only places
cnu.org/publicsquare

image: davidd via Flickr/CC

(1007) Bantustanada 2040

Vancouver MapCounterfactual propositions are most times best avoided.  We all are hungry for glimpses of the future, sure.  That part is okay.  There’s just too much risk of distraction in many a creative “what if” scenario, too much room for wild swings of positive or negative projection.  Let’s make an exception today for this dystopic reflection on an imagined socioeconomic existence for Vancouver, BC.  Yikes!  This can’t be a future anybody wants a part of.

How Vancouver’s housing segregation became policy: a 2040 look back. Decades from now, researchers reflect with shock, pity on what led to creation of regional, economically unequal ‘bantustans’
thetyee.ca

image: via basementgeographer.com – CC

 

 

(992) Building the poverty right in, or not

subway rendering 22
Earlier this year urban planning was said to be the hot new occupation.  Nice!  Especially if it means we’ll have more people paying attention to the built, spatial dimension of inequality and poverty?  Hope so.  No kids, it isn’t all groovy, inclusive charettes and pencil crayon renderings of LRTs.  Here’s a couple of recent pieces to help the young upstarts dig into the realities.

Mapping the city. How transit can fix access to jobs in Toronto
utoronto.ca

How urban design perpetuates racial inequality – and what we can do about it. Our cities weren’t created equal. But they don’t have to stay that way
fastcodesign.com

image: Chicago Transit Authority archives via Flickr/CC

(979) Welcome to your IBC

SurreyBCMississauga is tough for us to figure out at times, even though the suburban-poverty.com office complex has been located in this sprawlalicious place for some five full years now.  Surrey, BC?  Never been.  Both places are mentioned right away in this sensible article asking that we consider framing where most of us find ourselves living a little differently.

Forget downtowns and suburbs: the “in-between cities” are where it’s at
cbc.ca The 180 with Jim Brown

Reconnecting the in-between city
newgeography.com (2010)

image: Surrey, BC by Waferboard via Flickr/CC

(978) Sprawl & poverty: by design

parking lot
Two strong features from the US that show us car-dependent sprawl is configured quite deeply against those with low incomes.
No Driver’s License, No Job? Conservative policymakers urge those in need to get work. But for those without driver’s licenses—who are by and large people of color—that’s not such an easy task
citylab.com
Poor people pay for parking even when they can’t afford a car
washingtonpost.com

Image: alden Jewell via Flickr/CC

(975) 1980s social housing [Excerpt from Subdivided]

socialhusingTruth for smug Canadians via moments of return from writer Jay Pitter as she walks the Toronto social housing complex she lived in during the 1980s.  Excerpted from Subdivided, City-Building In An Age of Hyperdiversity, a new release from Coach House Press.
A visit to the social housing community of my childhood
nowtoronto.com

(963) Calgary looking up, not out

Calgary construction site
” …the risk, if you don’t produce a more compact form, is bankruptcy. Other North American cities have gotten themselves into hot water by not doing that.”
Those are words from a planning coordinator in Calgary, Alberta.  If they can get their heads around the blessings of smarter, less wasteful development there’s definitely good hope for the rest of Canada.
Calgary looks to incentivize higher-density development
globeandmail.com

image: Grant Hutchinson via Flickr/CC

(949) More fun with cars: cardboard NY license plate

NewYorkplate
And always there’s the cars.  Workers are screwed by them and screwed without them.
A semi-disposable Internet moment caught suburban-poverty.com’s attention yesterday.  It illustrates succinctly one of the themes we’ve come back to often.
Seems a young woman in Western New York ran afoul of the sheriff for having to resort to making her own license plate.  Her cardboard plate looks like something a kid would do in art class.  Even has the little New York state map in the middle of a crooked row of letters and numbers.  It’s kinda cute.
Mainstream media networks picked up the story.  This “going viral” prompted Erie County resident, Amanda Schwieckert, to come forward and tell The Buffalo News her side of the story.  Looks like she struggles a bit to get by.  Insurance, registration fees and a parking ticket had whacked Amanda financially.  Yet, she could not keep her hotel industry job without her car.  The state took her plates.  Amanda made her own.
This kind of moment is straight from the pen of Barbara Ehrenreich or Linda Tirado, two popular writers chronicling how tough it is for working people to get by in America these days.  Amanda exemplifies the dual nature of working class motoring.  The expenses for a set of wheels often take things from bad to worse, can be unpredictable and enormously consequential.  Amanda is facing some steep charges including felony counterfeiting.  Ouch.
We can’t help but think that a little Jane Jacobs would go a long way in the life of Amanda and the millions of workers like her.  Community design, or the general lack thereof, reinforces poverty.  So much of North America is so totally car dependent its inhabitants cannot function in their native landscape without cars.  Many cannot even intellectually conceive of life organized at any other level than that of total mediation by automobile.
Hopefully Amanda’s resourcefulness is a sign she’ll be okay.
Single mother gives real reason for fake license plate that went viral

See also: (689) Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America [Book review]