[Continued from Friday’s Part 1.]
By: David A. Smith
Although half of January’s post concerned themselves with the unhappy past, the other half looked at the emerging, even disrupted, future, starting with the visible-yet-covert dissolution of urban zoning by Airbnb and its local ‘hosts,’ who are multiplying invisibly, as revealed in Aiding and a-bedding? Part 1, A boon for tourists:
Elizabeth Driscoll: I have seen these flowers all over. They are growing like parasites on other plants. All of a sudden. Where are they coming from?
Nancy Bellicec: Outer space?
The fabric of our cities is under an existential threat by an invasion of apartment-snatchers that spreads invisibly, through the ether, infests individual properties and then infects their occupants. And the authorities seem powerless to stop it.
It started in San Francisco?
That, at any rate, is the conclusion one reaches about the invasion of Airbnb into cities around the world as it spread out from its San Francisco launching pad (landing pad?) to the globe’s hot spots, such as Paris, spotlighted in this God-ain’t-it-awful story from BBC News (December 26, 2014:
The Airbnb internet phenomenon is a boon for tourists, who find accommodation in popular destinations at a fraction of the cost of a hotel.
Airbnb and all the ‘sharing-economy’ models like it – Uber/ Lyft, Zipcar, and even the ubiquitous urban-bike rentals – are a new disruptive business model made possible by a disruptive technology (broadband wifi) and the resulting homegrown global network of connectivity.
Sources used in this port
(and previous AHI posts on Airbnb and flat-renting)
Prohibition and the rent-easy (August 13, 2010)
Chez Reductio ad Gotham (August 5, 2013)
New York Post (October 16, 2014; brick-red font)
BBC News (December 26, 2014; black font)
Boston Herald (January 17, 2015; olive-green font)
All such disruptive innovations – whether sailing ships, railroads, automobiles, or the telegraph – both rapidly accelerate the flow of information and explode prior business or even social models that were built and sustained because until the new innovation they were the least-bad solution.
You’re next! You’re next!
Species (like Airbnb) can be domesticated (by cities) in mutualism arrangements (regulatory and tax structures) if they meet seven criteria:
1. Serves both the master and the animals. Notwithstanding shortsighted or sectoral people who see only the invasive species, not its benefits, Short Stay Rentals improve cities because they boost the economy (bringing in tourists, jobs, and businesses) at the same time that they increase the effective utilization rate of the built residential environment. Thus there’s a clear mutualist case for enabling SSRs so long as they are domesticated. And for the companies like Airbnb, cities are prime territory – essential territory – where there’s a vast and reliable volume of newcomers seeking accommodation, and a large enough built environment of properties to provide continuing supply of flats to rent.
2. Cannot be picky eaters. Airbnb tolerates a wide range of possible hosting sites and landlords.
3. Reach maturity quickly. The web has enabled Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft, to get to critical mass within a city before elected officials can create to them.
“We should not deny thousands of New Yorkers the chance to share their homes, pay their bills and stay in the city they love,” Airbnb said in a statement.
4. Willing to breed in captivity. The companies need to ‘take the bridle’ and accept the structure of regulation as a basis for further expansion within a city and to other cities.
6. Cannot have a strong tendency to panic and flee. Once a company has dominant position and market capitalization, it will want to remain on good terms with its host city.
“We need to work together on some sensible rules that stop bad actors and protect regular people who simply want to share the home in which they live,” said Airbnb’s statement.
7. Conform to a social hierarchy. The companies have a corporate structure, including CEO and board of directors, so there is a governance system already in place.
In the case of the Short Stay Rentals (invasive species) versus their cities’ zoning (host organism), mutualism must be the outcome, something along the following lines:
She betta now. Much betta now
Yet, even as there may be a mutualist endgame for the Short Stay Rentals, cities must beware: Invasive creatures come in many species.
Is that iPad or iPod or just Pod?
Though a new year doesn’t mean a new spring – around here in Boston, it means the beginning of whomping snow fall –
Shoveling in Somerville … I’ve been doing my share of that too
at least one is able to dream of spring, and I did in a stroll through the mental countryside in Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society: Part 1, A good walk spoiled, Part 2, One vast golf course, Part 3, The infallible test, Part 4, Total consciousness, and Part 5, Play like a gentleman, and win:
Golf is a good walk spoiled.
When scanning Google Earth to research my lengthy posts of bucolic Belmont and meadowy Milton, I was struck how among the few landmarks readily identifiable from even very high altitudes were golf courses; though largely invisible from commuters’ streets, from above they stood out. Examining those two towns for locations where affordable housing could be built, I thought, That’s a lot of undeveloped acreage.
And while golf is a game, a golf course is a real estate investment, and that has always been both its blessing and its curse.
Though I’ve never played real golf – mini-golf doesn’t count, and even pitch-and-putt is only a fraction of the real thing – I’ve long found it soothing to watch, and golf courses are beautifully groomed places.
Pitch-and-putt: All of golf’s emotions in a third the acreage
Spiritually, golf appeals to aspirational middle-class men because it romanticizes the pre-urban landscape and gives them a place to be men socializing among men – but those very attributes contain within golf the seeds of its eventual demise as societies urbanize further, putting urban space and leisure time under pressure that eventually makes the golf course no longer sustainable as a social model for leisure time or an economic model for urban leisure space.
Golf romanticizes the pre-urban shaped and landscaped environment
From the time people first invented towns and cities, cultivated green space has always been a mark of culture.
Kings had hunting preserves; or royal parks laid out for the stately perambulation of lords and ladies.
Only royalty should be allowed to walk in nature … don’t you agree, court gardener?
With the earliest industrial revolution, large parkland estates were how the nouveau riche displayed their cultural achievements.
Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, 1749
Golf is part of that, for from its beginnings along the coast of St. Andrews, golf has celebrated the romantic outdoors:
The use of natural creeks and ponds is generally desirable when designing a golf course for their aesthetics and inherent difficulty, but such areas also typically include wetlands within the flood plain that are unsuitable for golfing.
Wetlands are likewise unsuitable for housing … unless drained or filled.