Blog Post 11

Resiliency

Resiliency is a complex topic when focusing in on disasters. When we look to the political right, we see thinkers like Aaron Renn who believes that in order to be resilient one must first fail or be disrupted. Renn speaks of resilient individuals and resilient systems, rather than resilient cities. When we look to the left we see organizations like 100 Resilient Cities, which works towards taking the resiliency process one step further than sustainability in city policy, planning, and practice.

From our class readings, resiliency can be interpreted as the “bounce back” from stress or the mitigation of the stressor in the first place. Both of which have common ground in returning to a normal- whether that be a new normal or a former state.

First and foremost, the risk landscape needs to be addressed so that it no longer targets at-risk populations. To help create tangible resiliencies you can focus on improving infrastructure directly related to disasters. More specifically for San Francisco, it is critical we look at things like sea level rise when decided where to develop and understand the impact of climate change and our coasts. We can look to the SF better streets plan that created streets that are functional for transit and people, and also resilient to disasters. An example of this is utilizing urban forestry, storm water collection, and permeable materials during street planning and design. We also see examples of “sponge cities” in China designed to absorb and manage unexpected floods and water. When cities have the opportunity, redesigning with disasters in mind can minimize risk on population and create tangible opportunities for resilience.

Second it is critical to look at how neoliberalism and disaster capitalism play a role in how we currently create resiliency. Exposing at-risk communities to stressors will not make them more resilient if we continue to foster a profit driven disaster relief system. Compression time must also be taken to account in disaster planning to estimate how to provide quick and quality service to the diverse needs of at-risk populations.

Lastly, addressing the issue of disaster capitalism would allow us to create and define the system of “bouncing back”. We need to take a critical look at Disaster Capitalism and Chronic Disaster Syndrome perpetuated by neoliberalism. Chronic disaster syndrome is defined as long-term stress relating to unsettled circumstances and we continue to see this prevalent in cases like Katrina. Governments need to take a more aggressive role in service providing rather than relying on a ‘culture’ of resilience. It is critical to work with communities to create more dynamic systems to bounce back to when planning for disasters.

 

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Additional Readings: Resilience and conservative views, Manhattan Institute.pdf

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Blog Post 10

Mega Projects

Professor Karen Frick Discussed the 7 “C”s of Megaprojects:

  1. Colossal
  2. Captivating
  3. Costly
  4. Controversial
  5. Complex
  6. Control (lack of)
  7. Communications

Example of a mega project would be the One World Trade Center in New York City. This building took 7 years and 3.8 billion to construct the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Colossal, Captivating, and Complex are 3 C’s that I would use to describe this project.

  • Colossal: This megaproject being a freestanding building, it is colossal with its size and scale being the fourth tallest skyscraper in the world.
  • Captivating: The building gives the sense it has the responsibility to represent the post-9/11 rebirth and resilience.
  • Complex: Building wise, this large steel structure has a concrete core for additional security and strength. Being an extremely expensive and modern building, there were several back and forth with the design and complexity to build it.

I believe because of the sheer historical relevance of this building, it was deserving of mega project status. Despite some controversy in design, the overall budget was not heavily underestimated (about 9 million over budget). I think it fulfills its own technological sublime and sits well in the NYC skyline. I would consider this project a successful mega project.

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Looking at the McKinsey Reading we see that three main reasons for project failure are:

  1. Overoptimism and Overcomplexity
  2. Poor execution
  3. Weakness in organization design and capabilities

As per the McKinsey reading, I believe the One World Trade Center fulfills the promise of the mega project as it:

  1. Do the engineering and risk analysis before starting construction
  2. Streamline permitting and land acquisition
  3. Build a project team wit the right mix of abilities

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Blog Post 9

CityLab Myths

9. There’s no downside to cheap gas

It was hardly a painful year for Americans at the pump. Gas prices started 2015 incredibly low and they ended it even lower, with average fuel costs in the U.S. dipping below $2 this month. That’s great for middle-class bank accounts, but it’s bad for all the hidden social costs of driving, which have been estimated at some $3.3 trillion (with a “T”) a year. Of that total, at least $1 trillion represents time lost to congestion both at home and at work.

With lower costs of gasoline of comes increase willingness to consume. When I am home in Los Angeles and have access to a car,  I am always more willing to drive places and farther distances when gas is cheaper. I am deterred from such activities when price is higher. For example, when I first learned to drive in 2011 gas was close to $5 a gallon which would require me to strategically plan out routes and carpools to split costs. Despite being an environmentalist and being aware of social costs of driving, I am always first inclined by costs. Therefore, I think if gas were appropriately priced, it would better reflect the economic impact it has in other facets.

This can be remedied through increasing the cost of gas through a gas tax. This relates to Karen Frick’s 4/6 lecture in which we discussed the different transportation funds. Considering the federal gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993, we must heavily rely on alternative modes of funding like sales taxes and non-user fees to fund transportation. In addition to social costs, there are several negative environmental externalities with cheap gas. This contributes to things like climate change, public health, pollution, etc. Gas can be appropriately priced through raising the gas tax on the federal and state level to support public transit funds and discourage excessive use.
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