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No, Urban Tech Startups Aren’t Transforming All American Cities

October 4, 2017

By David Zipper : citylab – excerpt

If you live in a mid-sized city like Akron, the battles over Airbnb and Uber have likely had little impact on your life.

Few issues in urban tech today are as controversial as the impact of short-term rental startups like AirBnB and VRBO on neighborhood housing. The battle lines are clear: Do these startups help residents earn much-needed extra dollars on the side, or are they so constricting housing supply and raising rents so high that locals are forced to move out?

Billions of dollars—and the livelihoods of vibrant communities—are at stake in this debate, and regulatory battles royale have already been waged in cities like Washington, D.C., and Austin. Of course, urban housing isn’t the only bedrock element of city life undergoing rapid and controversial change: Public officials have wrestled for years with how to handle ride-hailing’s destabilizing effect on taxi service, and potentially on public transit as well…

In fact, urban tech innovations—as well as the narrative surrounding the field—disproportionately focus on a handful of cities that are already winning the competition for mobile workers and tourists. Urban tech’s relevance and impact are much more limited in the many mid-sized cities that are spread across the country. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, urban tech startups are often launched by the well-educated young people clustered in thriving “unicorn cities” like New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Austin. They also happen to be the places where venture capital firms concentrate, ready to finance growth (such firms tend to fund startups near their headquarters to keep a close eye on investments and minimize travel)…

There is no single culprit for urban tech’s myopic focus on the unicorn cities. Regional wealth, labor force migration, venture capital preferences, and media biases all play a part. And there is unlikely to be a silver bullet to fix it. But the 21st to 100th largest metro areas in the United States are collectively home to 92 million people, no small market. An enterprising venture capital firm or community fund could finance solutions specifically developed for cities of that scale. Or a collective of mid-sized city leaders could commit to ensuring a technology solution that proves to be effective in one such city can scale easily to the others.

But until something changes, those of us working in urban tech should harbor no false illusions that our innovations are helping urban America writ large. They’re not. In fact, they’re focused on a subset of places that are already magnets for talent. Urban tech has much less to offer mid-sized cities that have their own urgent challenges to cope with…(more)

It would be hood to know whether or not the non-tech companies are experiencing the amount of homelessness that the high tech centers are seeing. Are the rents rising at the same pace?


Bold Environmental Plan Docks at Shipyard – Development’s Grand Strategy Fights Climate Change, Pays Off for Residents  – By GlobeNewswire

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 02, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FivePoint Holdings, LLC (NYSE:FPH) visionary waterfront development The SF Shipyard is creating a new model for the real estate industry in protecting the environment while providing affordable, self-sustaining essential services to customers… (more)

This is one of the worst fluff PR pieces I have read in a long time. The description of this “mega-project” is over the top. The claims and assumptions come close to resembling a science fiction novella about a visionary future virtual reality game. Futuristic mini cities such as this, belong outside the confines of large complex modern cities. Local government entities and agencies should avoid getting involved in these kinds of experiments.

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