Posts Tagged ‘san francisco’

The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers (The Nation)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

[Editor's note: Somewhat depressing article from The Nation examines how many major cities across the US face the prospect of loosing their daily newspapers and what that could mean for journalism and democracy in America. Thanks Todd!]

Republished from The Nation.
by JOHN NICHOLS & ROBERT W. MCCHESNEY
March 18, 2009 (April 6, 2009 print edition)

RELATED: Former Washington Post executive editor Len Downie discusses the future of newspapers on CSPAN.

Communities across America are suffering through a crisis that could leave a dramatically diminished version of democracy in its wake. It is not the economic meltdown, although the crisis is related to the broader day of reckoning that appears to have arrived. The crisis of which we speak involves more than mere economics. Journalism is collapsing, and with it comes the most serious threat in our lifetimes to self-government and the rule of law as it has been understood here in the United States.

After years of neglecting signs of trouble, elite opinion-makers have begun in recent months to recognize that things have gone horribly awry. Journals ranging from TimeThe New YorkerThe Atlantic and The New Republic to the New York Times and theLos Angeles Times concur on the diagnosis: newspapers, as we have known them, are disintegrating and are possibly on the verge of extinction. Time‘s Walter Isaacson describes the situation as having “reached meltdown proportions” and concludes, “It is now possible to contemplate a time in the near future when major towns will no longer have a newspaper and when magazines and network news operations will employ no more than a handful of reporters.” A newspaper industry that still employs roughly 50,000 journalists–the vast majority of the remaining practitioners of the craft–is teetering on the brink.

Blame has been laid first and foremost on the Internet, for luring away advertisers and readers, and on the economic meltdown, which has demolished revenues and hammered debt-laden media firms. But for all the ink spilled addressing the dire circumstance of the ink-stained wretch, the understanding of what we can do about the crisis has been woefully inadequate. Unless we rethink alternatives and reforms, the media will continue to flail until journalism is all but extinguished.

Let’s begin with the crisis. In a nutshell, media corporations, after running journalism into the ground, have determined that news gathering and reporting are not profit-making propositions. So they’re jumping ship. The country’s great regional dailies–the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, theMinneapolis Star Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer–are in bankruptcy. Denver’s Rocky Mountain Newsrecently closed down, ending daily newspaper competition in that city. The owners of the San Francisco Chronicle, reportedly losing $1 million a week, are threatening to shutter the paper, leaving a major city without a major daily newspaper. Big dailies in Seattle (the Times), Chicago (the Sun-Times) and Newark (the Star-Ledger) are reportedly near the point of folding, and smaller dailies like the Baltimore Examiner have already closed. The 101-year-old Christian Science Monitor, in recent years an essential source of international news and analysis, is folding its daily print edition. The Seattle Post-Intelligenceris scuttling its print edition and downsizing from a news staff of 165 to about twenty for its online-only incarnation. Whole newspaper chains–such as Lee Enterprises, the owner of large and medium-size publications that for decades have defined debates in Montana, Iowa and Wisconsin–are struggling as the value of stock shares falls below the price of a single daily paper. And the New York Times needed an emergency injection of hundreds of millions of dollars by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in order to stay afloat.

Continue reading at The Nation . . .

Transit Time Maps from Walk Score (via Google Maps Mania)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

[Editor's note: Detailed maps help understand transportation time between point A and B. Network topology routing provided by open source software and then pushed out as a Google Maps mashup. WalkScore was previously featured here for their "walkability" maps which both help people figure out where to live.]

Republished from Google Maps Mania and Walk Score.

WalkScore have produced a Google Map mashup that can show you how far you can travel in San Francisco, Portland or Seattle on public transport in 15, 30 and 45 minutes. The map can show you how far you can travel on public transit from a given location and at any time of day.

How it Works

Transit schedules are downloaded in GTFS format and the XML street data is fetched from OpenStreetMap. These are compiled into a graph for use by the Graphserver trip planner. Street intersections are graph vertices and streets are graph edges.

Graphserver calculates the shortest path tree for a given location. The time of arrival at all street intersections is cross-referenced with a table of street intersection locations to create the contours for different travel times.

Go to Walk Score to try out the Transit Time map . . .

LimeWire Creator Brings Open-Source Approach to Urban Planning (Wired Mag)

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

[Editor's note: Open Planning Project leverages P2P networking to make urban transportation safer, faster and more sustainable.]

Republished from Wired.
By Eliot Van Buskirk
Email

Originally published January 30, 2009

Mark_gorton

Entrepreneur Mark Gorton wants to do for people what he already helped do for files: move them from here to there in the most efficient way possible using open-source tools.

Gorton, whose LimeWire file sharing software for the open-source gnutella network was at the forefront of the P2P revolution nearly a decade ago, is taking profits earned as a software mogul and spinning them into projects to make urban transportation safer, faster and more sustainable.

You might call it a “P2P-to-people” initiative — these efforts to make cities more people-friendly are partly funded by people sharing files.

That’s not the only connection between open-source software and Gorton’s vision for livable cities. The top-down culture of public planning stands to benefit by employing methods he’s lifting from the world of open-source software: crowdsourced development, freely-accessible data libraries, and web forums, as well as actual open-source software with which city planners can map transportation designs to people’s needs. Such modeling software and data existed in the past, but it was closed to citizens.

Gorton’s open-source model would have a positive impact on urban planning by opening up the process to a wider audience, says Thomas K. Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association, an organization that deals with urban planning issues in the New York metropolitan area.

“99 percent of planning in the United States is volunteer citizens on Tuesday nights in a high school gym,” Wright says. “Creating a software that can reach into that dynamic would be very profound, and open it up, and shine light on the decision-making. Right now, it becomes competing experts trying to out-credential each other in front of these citizen and volunteer boards… [Gorton] could actually change the whole playing field.”

Portland, Oregon has already used his open-source software to plan its bus routes. San Francisco, whose MUNI bus system is a frequent target of criticism, could be next to get the treatment. Gorton says he’s in talks with the city to supply transit routing software for MUNI that will do a much better job of keeping track of where people are going and figuring out how best to get them there. San Francisco “overpaid greatly” for a badly-supported proprietary closed-source system that barely works, according to Gorton, putting the city under the thumb of a private company that provides sub-par support.

“They’re frustrated and thinking about replacing it completely, and see the value of open-source because then they won’t have any of these support problems,” he said. “And they won’t be constantly at the mercy of the private companies that have these little mini-monopolies.”

Streetblog_sf_ill_4

The Open Planning Project (TOPP) was Gorton’s first foray into urban planning, in 1999. It initially involved an ambitious plan to use open-source software to model public transportation and traffic systems in large cities.

“I was much more naive at the time,” he said. “I thought, ‘I can make software. I’ll go build an open-source traffic and transportation model, which will show how much better things can be, and then go magically adopt those solutions.”

But humans can be harder to program than machines, and sometimes a human-to-human interface works best. “We’ve actually been incredibly successful transforming policy in New York City without any models at all,” he added, though some residents complained about parking spaces morphing into bike lanes.

The quest to bring open-source software to real-world urban planning continued, following the clearance of a key hurdle: Before you can build a transportation model, you need to know where the roads are.

While public, that data was locked by private software used by public organizations and suffered from an overall lack of standards. Thus was born GeoServer, an open-source, Java-based software server that lets anyone view and edit geo-spatial data. Road information can now be painstakingly imported once from proprietary systems or entered from scratch, double-checked by other users, and rolled out to anyone who needs the data.

“It didn’t really exist before,” said Gorton. “Most of the data was run on software from a company called ESRI. Government agencies have this data, but it’s all running on proprietary systems and you couldn’t get access to it, or it was very hard to get access to it.” GeoServer now runs in thousands of places around the world for all sorts of reasons, according to Gorton, whenever an online app needs to know where roads are.

Continue reading at Wired magazine . . .

JOB: Developer Evangelist at CloudMade (SF Bay)

Monday, February 16th, 2009

[Editor's note: If you're in the market for a mapping GIScience programmer, developers relations type job in the San Francisco Bay area, check out this job listing via LinkedIn posting. They just released some mapping APIs that are worth checking out. This position would promote the APIs and refine them. Thanks Kirstin!]

Location: Menlo Park, California (San Francisco Bay Area)
URL: http://cloudmade.com
Type: Full-time
Experience: Mid-Senior level
Functions: Product Management, Business Development, Marketing
Posted: February 16, 2009

Job Description
Do you have what it takes to build a passionate developer community from the ground up? Does your life revolve around technology? Do you have a passion for mapping and location technologies? If you have big
ideas along with the courage and dedication to follow them through, we’d like to talk to you. We’re hiring a Developer Evangelist who will join us in building a community of developers who will create the next
generation of mapping tools and services.

The position requires enthusiasm, dedication and a genuine desire to change the world for ever. In return we offer a competitive salary, an environment in which you will grow professionally – and the chance to be part of something really big.

The Developer Evangelist will be responsible for promoting and evangelizing CloudMade’s platform – which includes a range of APIs, libraries and SDKs. You will be joining an early stage start-up and will be working for the head of Product Management. As the position grows and as you develop you will play an important role in expanding our Developer Outreach program working both 1:1 with key developers, 1:Few with key influential individuals and 1:Many with the whole community of developers.

Skills

  • Build a strong and fast growing developer community around CloudMade’s platform
  • Establish processes for the CloudMade developer outreach program, setting targets for recruiting developers, developing, tracking and refining outreach activities
  • Evangelizing CloudMade’s tools to developer communities in the US and EU.
  • Engaging with target groups of developers in multiple locations, discovering their “needs and wants” and communicating their requests to CloudMade Product Management
  • Working with the CloudMade team to create outreach material that clearly communicates the opportunities and advantages of our tools
  • Actively seeking opportunities to engage with a wide range of developers – from small companies to start-ups to medium sized and large operations
  • Developing sample applications and code that demonstrate the depth and breadth of the CloudMade platform
  • Tirelessly promoting and evangelizing CloudMade’s mission to create a world class location based application development platform


Company Description

CloudMade is a fast paced start-up that is changing the way people use maps and location. Our tools allow developers to build powerful location based applications on top of a rich, crowd-sourced global mapping database. We launched our first sets of tools and APIs in February 2009 and now we’re looking for passionate, committed people to evangelize CloudMade’s message into developer communities around
the world.

Additional Information

Applicants with recommendations are preferred.
Referrals through network preferred.

Continue to LinkedIn posting . . .

Clueless in Cleveland? Use Your Thumb [iPhone] (NY Times)

Monday, September 8th, 2008

SURE, you can turn your iPhone into a Star Wars-like light saber, a virtual pet or an interactive mug of beer. But did you know that those newfangled applications can also tell you the nearest sushi bar in London, the wait time at La Guardia’s security checkpoints or how to say “Where’s the toilet?” in Cantonese?

As Apple’s iTunes App Store continues to grow with hundreds of titles, the iPhone is proving to be a useful travel tool — and not just for when you’re bored on that 18-hour flight to Singapore. The best programs take advantage of the iPhone’s location-aware feature, tailoring the information to your whereabouts. Say you land in Baltimore and you have a sudden craving for crab cakes. With a few taps, iPhone apps with names like Yelp, Urbanspoon and iWant can quickly guide you to Faidley Seafood or Obrycki’s Crab House. Other apps can point you to the cheapest gas station, book a hotel and even call a cab.

Below are some of the handiest apps for travel. Many are free, though some cost from 99 cents to $24.99. Warning: Some apps require data downloads that may incur roaming fees if you’re overseas. To avoid such fees, turn off “Data Roaming” and look for Wi-Fi hot spots.

Getting There A number of airlines are creating mobile-friendly versions of their Web sites, allowing iPhone users to shop for flights, buy tickets, check in, select seats and modify reservations. Now, at least one, British Airways, has a free downloadable iPhone app that makes finding the next red eye to London as easy as flicking your thumb.

Frequent fliers might want to download Flight Status ($3.99). It gives the status of thousands of flights, as well as the arrival gates and baggage carousels. Another app that can be useful for today’s delay-plagued skies is AirportStatus (free). It displays a list of airports in North America with delays or closings.

Travelocity (free) takes an all-in-one approach, letting you check flight schedules, gate numbers, security wait times and — if you booked through Travelocity — your itinerary. The app also lets you search for “Hotels Nearby Me” — a feature that could come in handy in travel emergencies (or, perhaps, for some other purpose).

Where to Eat Looking for a place to nosh on the road? Urbanspoon (free) recommends restaurants in more than 50 cities using the iPhone’s location-aware capability and offers reviews from newspapers, blogs and fellow users. While suggestions (and prices) can be out of date, the fun and easy-to-use app looks like a slot machine and is activated by shaking the phone.

Foodies, however, might prefer Local Eats (99 cents), an iPhone version of the guidebook series “Where the Locals Eat,” which ranks what it considers the top 100 restaurants in 50 American cities. Tapping “Near Me” finds places nearby from that list, along with reservation numbers and directions.
 
What to Do Need an A.T.M.? Thirsty for a sakitini? Shopping for a Marni purse? Several location-aware apps are vying to be your mobile concierge. Among the best are Yelp (free), which has a fanatical base of reviewers who weigh in on everything from dry cleaners to karaoke bars. Where (free) lets you scroll through different services (like Starbucks, gas stations and restaurants) and plots them on a Google Map, along with your location. And iWant (free) offers a similar service, but in a streamlined interface with clean black-and-white icons: a martini for bars, a projector for movies, a hanger for clothing stores, and so on.

Traditional travel guides are getting into the action, with mixed results. Frommer’s has turned several of its guides, including New York, Paris and London, into iPhone apps ($9.99 each). The e-guides offer many of the same maps, reviews and suggested itineraries as the bulky book. But unlike Yelp, Frommer’s doesn’t take advantage of location-aware technology; you still must look up the suggestions manually, as with a book.Washingtonpost.com’s City Guide app (free) is smarter; it lets users easily navigate through 2,000 bars and restaurants, many with well-written reviews. Unfortunately, it is limited to the Washington area.

How to say it A handful of apps seek to lower the language barrier. Lonely Planet ($9.99) offers phrasebook apps in 10 languages including Czech, Italian and Vietnamese. In addition to translating phrases like “I’ll buy you a drink,” in written text, the app also translates it verbally (“Te invito a una copa,” it says in Spanish, in a suave male voice).

A different approach is taken by Babelingo ($5.99), which may appeal to those afraid of mangling pronunciations. After choosing a phrase like “Please take me to the airport,” it displays the translation in big bold type, making it easier to show to someone, like a taxi driver. Babelingo offers 300 phrases in seven languages, including Italian, German and Japanese.

How to Get Around Numerous subway and mass-transit apps are available for major cities, with the best offering clean design, location-based station finders and service advisories. Worthwhile apps include CityTransit (for New York City, $2.99), Tube London City ($9.99) and iBart (for the San Francisco area, free).

Taxi! (free) has a yellow cab-inspired design and finds taxi services throughout the United States based on your location. Just tap one of the companies, and the iPhone dials it for you. It also offers user ratings, whether the company accepts credit cards and, according to the App Store’s description, a prescreened list based on hotel referrals.

Cool Tools Until Skype creates an iPhone app, Truphone may be the closest thing. It allows you to make cheap international phone calls over Wi-Fi (about 6 cents a minute to landlines and 30 cents to mobile phones), especially when compared with roaming rates. Some kinks need to be worked out — voice quality can be poor and calls didn’t always go through.

How much is that Chinese wardrobe in dollars? Currency (free) is a frequently updated converter for more than 50 currencies. Easier to use is MOMPF Currency Converter (free), which has a funny-looking cartoon for a mascot, and allows you to easily switch among currencies and to store favorites.

The End of White Flight (Wall Street Journal)

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

[Editor's note: Rates per location expressed as bar charts, no need for choropleth map. Before and after photos. Reprinted from Wall Street Journal. Original article here.] 

For the First Time in Decades, Cities’ Black Populations Lose Ground, Stirring Clashes Over Class, Culture and Even Ice Cream

By CONOR DOUGHERTYJuly 19, 2008; Page A1

 Decades of white flight transformed America’s cities. That era is drawing to a close.

In Washington, a historically black church is trying to attract white members to survive. Atlanta’s next mayoral race is expected to feature the first competitive white candidate since the 1980s. San Francisco has lost so many African-Americans that Mayor Gavin Newsom created an “African-American Out-Migration Task Force and Advisory Committee” to help retain black residents.

“The city is experiencing growth, yet we’re losing African-American families disproportionately,” Mr. Newsom says. When that happens, “we lose part of our soul.”

[Bens Chili Bowl]
From the Collection of the Ali family
Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington has become a melting pot as the area’s racial mix changes.

For much of the 20th century, the proportion of whites shrank in most U.S. cities. In recent years the decline has slowed considerably — and in some significant cases has reversed. Between 2000 and 2006, eight of the 50 largest cities, including Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, saw the proportion of whites increase, according to Census figures. The previous decade, only three cities saw increases.

The changing racial mix is stirring up quarrels over class and culture. Beloved institutions in traditionally black communities — minority-owned restaurants, book stores — are losing the customers who supported them for decades. As neighborhoods grow more multicultural, conflicts over home prices, taxes and education are opening a new chapter in American race relations.

Part of the demographic shift is simple math: So many whites had abandoned cities over the past half-century, there weren’t as many left to lose. Whites make up 66% of the general U.S. population, but only about 40% of large cities. Sooner or later, the pendulum was bound to swing back, and that appears to be starting.

[Bens Chili Bowl]
From the Collection of the Ali family
Ben’s exterior in 1958

The Census data “suggests that white flight from large cities may have bottomed out in the 1990s,” says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

For instance, while most of the 50 largest cities continue to see declines in the share of whites, it is at much-reduced rates. In Los Angeles the share of the white population declined only about a half a percentage point between 2000 and 2006, compared to a 7.5-point decline the previous decade. Cities including New York, Fort Worth and Chicago show a similar pattern.

‘Natural Decrease’

Demographic readjustments can take decades to play out. But if current trends continue, Washington and Atlanta (both with black majorities) will in the next decade see African-Americans fall below 50% for the first time in about a half-century.

Meantime, in San Francisco, African-American deaths now outnumber births. Once a “natural decrease” such as this begins, it’s tough for the population to bounce back, since there are fewer residents left to produce the next generation. “The cycle tends to be self-perpetuating,” says Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

There are myriad factors driving the change. In recent years, minority middle-class families, particularly African-Americans, have been moving to the suburbs in greater numbers. At the same time, Hispanic immigrants (who poured into cities from the 1970s through the 1990s) are now increasingly bypassing cities for suburbs and rural areas, seeking jobs on farms and in meat-packing plants.

Cities have spent a decade tidying up parks and converting decaying factories into retail and living space. That has attracted young professionals and empty-nesters, many of them white.

The shift has put the future at odds with the past. New York City’s borough of Brooklyn has seen its proportion of whites grow to 36.1% in 2006 from 35.9% in 2000 — the first increase in white share in about a century.

Hoarding Computers

While the root of neighborhood conflicts is often money or class differences between white-collar and blue-collar workers, it often unfolds along racial lines. About two years ago Public School 84, in a largely Hispanic section of Brooklyn, meetings of the Parent Teacher Association started drawing a more professional, wealthier and whiter group of parents.

Soon, disagreements spilled into the open. Arguments concerned everything from how PTA money was spent, to accusations that some white parents were hoarding computers for their kids.

Even ice cream became a point of contention: In the past year, a group of mostly white parents took issue with a school tradition of selling ice cream to raise money. They felt the school shouldn’t be serving sugary foods to kids, but the break with tradition angered many minority parents who felt the sales were an important source of money and that ice cream is a harmless treat.

“It was a gigantic fight,” says Brooke Parker, who is white and whose daughter attended the school last year. “If the school is saying ‘It’s OK to give out ice cream’ while at the same time they’re holding workshops on how to deal with your kid’s Type 2 diabetes, maybe we should rethink the message we’re sending.”

Relations got testy enough that about 20 kids, most of whom were white, transferred to private schools or other public schools. “I don’t think the battleground against gentrification should take place in the schools,” says Ms. Parker, who withdrew her own daughter from P.S. 84 as tensions built. “It seemed nothing could get accomplished,” she said.

Cries of ‘Segregation’

[Reverend John Blanchard]
Patrice Gilbert for The Wall Street Journal
The Rev. John Blanchard (right) at his Washington church, which plans to woo whites.

A few months later, a small group of families, most of them white, proposed establishing a new public school, to be located inside the existing P.S. 84. Hundreds of minority parents reacted by putting out a press release calling it de facto segregation. The proposal is “clearly discriminatory,” the release said. “Children will suffer the effects of negative stigma as a result of this segregation which will send our City back 120 years!”

“I honestly felt like they didn’t want to mix our children with their children,” says Virginia Reyes, vice president of the PTA at P.S. 84 who has two foster children at the school. “It upset me a lot.”

A spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education says, “We obviously would not and could not open segregated schools.” The department says the new school didn’t get the go-ahead because it didn’t have broad enough community support.

Backers of the new school couldn’t be reached.

[Charts]

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, in a majority African-American section of the borough, Councilwoman Letitia James says a handful of predominantly white parents last year asked her if some of their local tax money could be steered to schools in a nearby neighborhood. The parents wanted their kids in schools with a more diverse racial mix, Ms. James says, rather than the majority-black schools in her district.

The parents felt “tax dollars should follow the children, and not the school,” Ms. James says. She denied their request.

There’s a century’s worth of history behind the ebb and flow of whites and minorities in urban America. Rural blacks began flocking to cities more than a century ago, lured by factory jobs. After World War II, whites headed for the suburbs as the great postwar building boom got rolling, while African-American families stayed in the cities, partly because they were often denied access to home loans that whites could get. In the 1970s Hispanic immigrants surged into cities, chasing service jobs and further diluting the share of whites. By the 1980s, as cities hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, blacks and whites both left — but whites at a higher rate.

Cities Get a Makeover

Today, cities are refashioning themselves as trendy centers devoid of suburban ills like strip malls and long commutes. In Atlanta, which has among the longest commute times of any U.S. city, the white population rose by 26,000 between 2000 and 2006, while the black population decreased by 8,900. Overall the white proportion has increased to 35% in 2006 from 31% in 2000.

In other cities, whites are still leaving, but more blacks are moving out. Boston lost about 6,000 black residents between 2000 and 2006, but only about 3,000 whites. In 2006, whites accounted for 50.2% of the city’s population, up from 49.5% in 2000. That’s the first increase in roughly a century.

Tracking population shifts is an inexact science. Changes in how Census data are tallied makes for imprecise comparisons across decades. Hispanics, for instance, were mostly lumped in with whites until 1980, potentially overstating the white population in earlier decades. Also, losses of African-Americans from cities are often disproportionate to other minorities because unlike, say, Hispanics or Asians, the inflow of black immigrants into the U.S. isn’t big enough to offset the loss of African-Americans to the suburbs.

Washington — where African-Americans have been in the majority for a half-century — has lost about 80,000 black residents between 1990 and 2006. Whites had been leaving, too, but recently they’ve started coming back. Between 2000 and 2006, Washington gained 24,000 whites and lost 21,000 blacks. Whites are now 32% of the population, up from 28% in 2000.

Churches Take a Hit

This is a problem for Washington’s African-American churches. The past few years, numerous black churches have relocated to suburban Prince George’s County, Md., to follow their parishioners. Later this year, Metropolitan Baptist Church (founded by freed slaves during the Lincoln administration) plans to leave town as well.

Some of the remaining black churches are now courting white members. On a recent Sunday, the Rev. John Blanchard, the 64-year-old pastor at Ebenezer United Methodist Church, preached to a thin crowd; several pews were empty. About half his parishioners now live in the suburbs and drive into the city for services. High gasoline prices aren’t helping attendance.

So Mr. Blanchard says he’s planning to add a white intern to preach with him, in hopes of filling more pews. “You’ve got to love the one you’re with,” he says, “but you also need to adjust to the environment you’re in.”

While his church flounders, the predominantly white Capitol Hill United Methodist Church just down the street is flourishing. There the average attendance on Sundays has doubled to about 120 people the past five years. “Demographics are in our favor. We’re attracting the folks that are moving in,” says the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, 38, who headed the church for five years before recently leaving for a position elsewhere.

In San Francisco, the African-American population has fallen by a third, or about 30,000 people, since 1990, largely due to surging housing costs and redevelopment that destroyed some public housing. Mayor Newsom’s African-American Out-Migration Task Force, set up last year, has a two-pronged strategy: keep African-Americans from leaving, and promote affordable housing and cultural institutions like a jazz center to try to lure blacks back. “The greatness of our city and region is in its diversity,” Mayor Newsom says.

So far, his efforts have focused on residents of public housing, about half of whom are black. The city is trying to prevent evictions by building new community centers where residents can get job training and help with the rent. The city is also giving residents displaced by redevelopment, many of whom are black, an inside track on affordable-housing units.

From Poor to Poorer

As middle-class African-Americans have left San Francisco, the remaining black population has gone from poor to poorer. In 1990, half of the city’s African-American population was very low-income; by 2005, that number swelled to about two-thirds. The number of black-owned businesses fell 25% between 1997 and 2002.

As blacks migrated to San Francisco’s suburbs, so too have many social activities centered on the community. The San Francisco Chapter of the National Black MBA Association has started hosting many of its events across the bay in Oakland.

The Western Addition, a historically black neighborhood in San Francisco once home to many jazz clubs, has lost much of that character. Powell’s Place, an iconic soul-food restaurant that had been located in or around the neighborhood since the 1970s, has moved to Bayview-Hunters Point. Charles Spencer, who owns a barbershop catering to black men, says he has lost many of his customers and is trying to diversify. His Web site has a picture of a white client to go with three black faces.

‘An Act of Faith’

The city has celebrated its traditional black culture by designating a stretch of Fillmore Street the “Fillmore Jazz Preservation District,” yet the businesses that defined the era are now gone or dying. Raye Richardson, owner of Marcus Book Stores — its motto is “Books by and about black people everywhere” — has been in the Fillmore district since 1946. She remembers the clubs, the black tailor shops and the many black residents who supported her shop. Today, Ms. Richardson says her store is losing money; much of her business comes from mail-order traffic.

“San Francisco has so few blacks now, that it’s just an act of faith to stay open,” says Ms. Richardson, 88.

Sherri Young, executive director at the African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco, is one of the few blacks at her theater company who still lives in San Francisco. “I’m a single woman in my late 30s,” Ms. Young says. “Culturally, it’s difficult.”

Recently, she says, her production of “The Comedy of Errors” drew a mostly white audience. It’s the first time that’s happened since she founded the company 14 years ago.

Write to Conor Dougherty at conor.dougherty@wsj.com 

Walk Score Launches Maps for Major US Cities (GGDC)

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Republished from David Alpert’s GreaterGreaterDC.org blog (original post):

Quick links to major metros: (Find by address)

Walk Score ranks 2,508 neighborhoods in the largest 40 U.S. cities to help you find a walkable place to live.

What makes a city walkable? See here for side-by-side comparisons. Methodology.

CityScoreMost Walkable Neighborhoods

1San Francisco86Chinatown, Financial District, Downtown

2New York83Tribeca, Little Italy, Soho

3Boston79Back Bay-Beacon Hill, South End, Fenway-Kenmore

4Chicago76Loop, Near North Side, Lincoln Park

5Philadelphia74City Center East, City Center West, Riverfront

6Seattle72Pioneer Square, Downtown, First Hill

7Washington D.C.70Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Downtown

8Long Beach69Downtown, Belmont Shore, Belmont Heights

9Los Angeles67Mid City West, Downtown, Hollywood

10Portland66Pearl District, Old Town-Chinatown, Downtown

11Denver66Lodo, Golden Triangle, Capitol Hill

12Baltimore65Federal Hill, Fells Point, Inner Harbor

13Milwaukee62Historic Third Ward, Lower East Side, Northpoint

14Cleveland60Downtown, Ohio City-West Side, Detroit Shoreway

15Louisville58Central Business District, Limerick, Phoenix Hill

16San Diego56Core, Horton Plaza, Cortez Hill

17San Jose55Buena Vista, Burbank, Rose Garden

18Las Vegas55Meadows Village, Downtown, Rancho Charleston

19Fresno54Central, Fresno-High, Hoover

20Sacramento54Richmond Grove, Downtown, Midtown

Begin republish of GGDC blog post:

Walk Score just launched walkability maps and rankings for the 40 largest U.S. cities. Washington, DC ranks 7th (between Seattle and… Long Beach?!?!) Baltimore is #12.

Dupont Circle, our highest scoring neighborhood, is 17th among all neighborhoods, though 12 of the higher ranking ones are all in Manhattan (the others are San Francisco’s Financial District and Chinatown, Portland’s streetcar-developed Pearl District, and Old Westport, Kansas City. Ten DC neighborhoods break a 90 and win the label “walkers’ paradises”: Dupont, Logan, Downtown, U Street, Foggy Bottom, Mt. Vernon Square, Adams Morgan, Kalorama, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown.

The map shows what we intuitively know: the row house part of the city is very walkable. To a lesser extent, so are the main retail concentrations elsewhere, like Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues, Takoma, and Brookland. We don’t do better in the overall rankings (just above Long Beach and Los Angeles) because of large swaths of unwalkability around the perimeter of the city, especially in Northeast and east of the river.

walk score dc

The algorithm still is far from perfect, but it does a pretty good job of quantifying what areas are more or less walkable. I’d quibble with the neighborhood breakdowns, especially outside the center; they label Crestwood and 16th Street Heights as “Petworth”, and Petworth (plus Park View and others) are lumped in with CUA-Brookland. Likewise, the area labeled Takoma Park is west of Georgia Avenue, making it more Shepherd Park, with the actual Takoma area in Fort Totten-Upper Northeast. And the entire area east of the river, except Deanwood, is “Anacostia”.

Getting decent neighborhood boundaries is remarkably difficult, as there are no official lists of neighborhoods (except in a few cities, like Chicago). I tried once in a pervious job, when building a service to find restaurants over the phone. We wanted to let users say a neighborhood, but it was nearly impossible to get a decent list of neighborhoods for even major cities nationwide.