The Guardian

Predicting Crime, LAPD-Style

June 25, 2014
Cutting edge data-driven analysis directs Los Angeles patrol officers to likely future crime scenes – but critics worry that decision-making by machine will bring 'tyranny of the algorithm'

The Los Angeles Police Department, like many urban police forces today, is both heavily armed and thoroughly computerised. The Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response Division in downtown LA is its central processor. Rows of crime analysts and technologists sit before a wall covered in video screens stretching more than 10 metres wide. Multiple news broadcasts are playing simultaneously, and a real-time earthquake map is tracking the region’s seismic activity. Half-a-dozen security cameras are focused on the Hollywood sign, the city’s icon.

How To Use Jo'burg's Minibus Taxis

Using Johannesburg's unoffical transport system is an adventure in itself. Here's a beginner's guide

Carless in Johannesburg. It could be the title of a low-budget horror movie. A huge, sprawling greater metropolitan area of about 10 million people covering more than 600 square miles, the city is built for the car. If you're not in one, good luck – even though most drivers will be stuck in gridlock. I've been here for a few weeks and my main exposure to the city has been on foot. And I'm not alone. The overwhelming majority of Jo'burgers are carless.

Breathless in Bakersfield: Is the Worst Air Pollution in the US About to Get Worse?

February 14, 2017
In California’s Central Valley emissions from oil refineries and agriculture make Bakersfield America’s most air-polluted city. Activists fear the Trump administration could undo small but steady improvements.

The bluffs on Panorama Road offer a wide view of the northern half of Bakersfield, which is one of the few major population centres in California’s Central Valley – perhaps the US’ leading agricultural motherlode.

It’s a rare bird’s eye vantage point of this low-slung farm city of roughly 375,000 people, nestled in a bowl created by the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east and part of the California Coast Ranges to the west. On a clear day, the state’s dominant topographical features put the landscape, and one’s place in it, in sobering perspective.

How a Design Competition Changed the US Approach to Disaster Response

January 18, 2017
the story of Rebuild By Design, a competition – and now its own organisation – based on taking a more proactive approach to disaster response in cities; but how far can you prepare for the effects of climate change?

Ten years ago, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg released a plan to create what he called “the first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city”. The blueprint, known as PlaNYC and released on Earth Day, outlined more than 100 projects and policies to create that sustainable city by 2030.

It set a precedent for local action on climate change; cities around the world began drafting their own sustainability plans. But then in October 2012, it got a harsh reality check.

Lots to Lose: How Cities Around the World are Eliminating Car Parks

September 27, 2016
It’s a traditional complaint about urban life: there’s never anywhere to park. But in the 21st century, do cities actually need less parking space, not more?

With space for roughly 20,000 cars, the parking lot that surrounds the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, is recognised as the largest car park in the world.

Spread across vast expanses of asphalt and multi-storey concrete structures, these parking spots take up about half the mall’s 5.2m sq ft, on what was once the edge of the city of Edmonton. A few blocks away, a similar amount of space is taken up by a neighbourhood of nearly 500 homes.

The Cincinnati Experiment: Can 'Citizen Philanthropy' Improve a City?

August 30, 2016
‘Philanthropy lab’ People’s Liberty is funding individuals with smart ideas to benefit Cincinnati, in the hope of finding a new generation of local civic leaders.

When Brandon Black and his wife were trying to fix up the old two-unit house they’d recently bought in Cincinnati, they discovered they needed some help from people who actually knew what they were doing. His old wrestling coach and her father – two baby boomers with construction experience – proved to be invaluable home improvement mentors, who happily guided them through the process.

After Fort McMurray: Where are the World's Most Fire-Prone Cities?

May 16, 2016
Images of the devastated Canadian city show just how destructive fire can be to urban populations. But the risk is greatest in informal settlements, where high population density and low-grade construction can be a deadly combination

With patches of lawn on fire in the front yards of his neighbourhood’s suburban homes and flames rising up the trees at the back, Jared Sabovitch frantically got into his car and began driving away from his home in Fort McMurray, Alberta, the Canadian city recently overtaken by wildfires.

“Hasty exit,” he said as he drove, the phone in his hand recording a video he would later post to Instagram. “That might have been the last time I ever saw my house, right there.”

Oakland's Housing Crisis: 'I’m the Last One Here. I Don't Know if I Can Stay or Go'

April 21, 2016
Paula Beal is a housing advocate who has lived in Oakland for 45 years. She has seen her entire family forced out of the city by rising rents. Now, as the council imposes a moratorium on evictions, she too is desperately seeking a new home

Paula Beal, a 45-year resident of Oakland, California, has watched the city’s housing crisis unfold before her eyes. As housing values and rents rise throughout the Bay Area, she has seen her community gradually get pushed out of Oakland – including her own family.

“I have seven children, 27 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren,” she says. “They have all, over the past few years, been displaced from Oakland. All of them.” And now she may be next.

When the Big One Comes: the Woman Preparing LA for Life After a Major Quake

January 20, 2016
Marissa Aho recently became Los Angeles’ chief resilience officer. In a city prone to earthquakes, reliant on imported water and suffering a housing shortage, how could the city survive and recover after a catastrophe?

On the list of existential threats to Los Angeles, earthquakes rank highest. With dozens of fault lines running beneath and around the metropolitan area, the ever-looming threat of the Big One is a not-so-quiet concern in the back of most people’s heads. The last major earthquake to hit the region was the 6.7-magnitude Northridge earthquake in 1994, which killed 57 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. Many predict that an even stronger earthquake is increasingly likely to strike by mid-century.

Photo: From Theaster Gates to Assemble: Is There an Art to Urban Regeneration?

November 3, 2015
The Chicago planner-turned-artist’s transformation of Stony Island bank is the latest high-profile example of how the arts can drive a city’s redevelopment. But is this always a good thing?

Stony Island Arts Bank
© Nate Berg