Second Life planning, sham mortgages, subsidized gentrification, and 2.5 demension maps

Folks in Paris are using the online “community” Second Life to press their local government to develop a new garden for Les Halles in the center of the French capitol. Organizers say there’s not enough public input on the plans for Les Halles, so they’re “urging locals to come up with their own ideas for the area’s gardens and post them in the online world of Second Life.”

The Washington Post ties the, now deflating, housing boom to sham mortgages. “Many experts have concluded that the nation’s real estate boom of recent years was fueled in part by weakened lending standards that sparked excessive demand and drove up prices. Now, some are worried that the looser standards may have permitted a boom of another kind–a big expansion of mortgage fraud.”

Planetizen links to an article today titled “There Goes the ’Hood.” It details how long-term tax abatements for renovated properties–owned mostly by newcomers and the well-off–in Richmond, Virginia lead to pushing out long-time residents tied to high taxes. Sadly, 10 year tax abatements were used in Philadelphia–my home town–to spur growth as well, resulting in lost tax revenue for a city that desperately needs it.

Google Maps added 2.5D building outlines. Check out City Hall in Philadelphia.

Dot-matrix graffiti bike, don’t buy–rent, NYC buildings, and homeless in suburbia

There are four articles I found today.

1. You may remember the dot-matrix graffiti bike from its popularity before the 2004 Republican convention in NYC. Or not. Either way, it’s awesome. Joshua Kinberg created the bike that he was going to use to spray messages, in chalk, on streets and sidewalks near the convention. Users could go to Josh’s website and type in a message that would be sent to Josh’s cellphone that told the spray cans what to type out. It’s genius. However, the police arrested Josh before he could start peddeling around NYC during the convention. Read the full story on Wired.

2. The New York Times printed an article called “A Word of Advice During a Housing Slump: Rent” today about how renting during the current housing slump may be better than buying. “Prices may not yet have fallen far enough for buying to look better than renting today, except for people who plan to stay in a home for many years.”

3. Buildings, not cars, are responsible for the majority of New York’s carbon dioxide emissions. Here’s the full article: Buildings Called Key Source of City’s Greenhouse Gases.

4. Alternet posted an article today called “Suburbia: America’s Unseen Poverty.” The article explains that “from Las Vegas to Boise to Houston, suburban poverty has been growing over the past seven years, in some places slowly, in others by as much as 33 percent.” It’s well worth reading.

Dangerous cars and leased roads

Here are two articles for today.

1. Automakers are pissed about air quality regulations being passed by states. They even go so far as to say, “Fuel efficient cars could be dangerous, because they will be cheaper to drive and lead people to drive more and potentially have more accidents.” See “Challenge to Emissions Rule Is Set to Start” in the New York Times.

2. An article in the Seattle Times called “Paving The Way For Smarter Roads” discusses, “The ‘hot’ new idea [of] ‘monetizing’ toll roads and bridges–leasing them to a private operator in return for a big upfront payment or guaranteed year-by-year payback.” While it seems like leasing toll roads to a private company is a good idea, we’ll have to look into the drawbacks. Such as increased safety problems with unaccountable–and far away–corporations, and governments taking a lump sum of cash that’s less than what they could take in over the length of the lease.