Pooping birds, overflowing trash cans, radioactive poisoning, too much driving, and those goddamn hipsters again. Welcome to another edition of What's Ruining Our Cities.
The benches and sidewalks along the Tiber River in Rome are covered in bird shit from thousands of starlings migrating to Africa. Because the birds love to snack on local olives, this is some greasy, oily, gnarly poop—so deep, it's even causing scooter accidents. Why so much? Due to budget cuts, the city could not hire the 20 people it usually enlists to walk under the trees where the birds hang out, playing recordings of sounds distressed starlings make when predators approach. Luckily, the money to fund this audio warfare against the migrating birds has been found, and the avian invaders will no longer get to use the Tiber for their toilet. [The Guardian]
Meanwhile, on the other side of the beleaguered European Union, a strike by municipal sanitation workers has lasted for nearly two weeks, blanketing the Spanish capital with trash, fallen leaves, and broken glass. The deadline for negotiations expires this Saturday, but, instead of making headway with the unions that are protesting a salary cut, Mayor Ana Botella will likely be calling in federal workers to clean up the city over the weekend. [CNN]
Writer Thomas Chatterton Williams reports that hipsters have now infiltrated Paris—namely, the Parisian neighborhood called "South Pigalle," which, to his great disgust, has been nicknamed "SoPi." Instead of transsexual hookers and seedy bars, you'll now find signs of "hipster good taste, the same pleasant and invisible force that puts kale frittata, steel-cut oats and burrata salad on brunch tables from Stockholm to San Francisco." Besides these garish brunch offerings, the horrors also include "organic grocers, tasteful bistros and an influx of upscale American cocktail bars." Mon dieu![New York Times]
Radioactive "shards" have been discovered by the California Department of Public Health on the island in the San Francisco Bay, which was once a military base. According to the report: "One small octagonal object was so hot that holding onto it for an hour could cause radiation burns, hair loss and possible ulceration" About 2,000 people currently live on Treasure Island, and hundreds of families use Little League fields there each weekend. A large high-rise residential project is also proposed for the island when it gets turned back over to the city. [The Center for Investigative Reporting]
Director Stephen Bondor presents a fascinating theory: Los Angeles has more artists than any other city at any time in the history of civilization. So why isn't L.A. recognized as this massive cultural force? Because its artists are always stuck in traffic. If its artists—filmmakers, producers, actors, photographers, writers, visual artists—could take the amount of time and money they spend on cars and driving, and invest that back into their work, the city could see a booming economic and artistic revolution. [Medium]
And checking back in with our What's Ruining Our Cities All Stars: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has just been stripped of many of his powers by the city council.
Starlings in the sky over Rome by Ed Yourdon