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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Don't Get to Know Your Farmer.

I've been meaning to write something like this for a while. Being at Better World x Design over the weekend (x said like "by") I heard a lot of people at various panels say that what we need is a more personal relationship with our farmers. This was met with nods of assent. The Better World x Design conference pushed me towards finally writing something on this issue of "knowing your farmer".
 
I don't think getting to know our farmers is really that important, and I would go as far as to say that knowing our farmers is a sign of dysfunction.
 
Take farmers' markets. I go to the farmers' market almost every week. I love the farmers' market, by the way. But think about the logistics of a farmers' market: they're kind of absurd. A farmer, who works all week doing very difficult and financially precarious work has to come personally to the farm stand so that you can get to know him/her? That makes sense? And then, at the end of the farmers' market, when some of the stuff is inevitably not bought, the farmer has to take all his/her stuff back to the farm? That makes sense? Didn't we invent stores so that farm goods could be transferred once, instead of back and forth on the same day? Didn't we develop careers in train, truck, and boat transportation so that farmers could focus on farming?
 
We go through these rituals because we lack information that is reliable about what is good to eat. The best of many bad ways for us to figure out that our food is local is to literally talk with a farmer. That's ridiculous. The farmer has better things to do. I know this not only because I've thought it through in my own head, but also because people I know who farm have said as much to me. Farmers' markets are a pain in the ass.
 
Skits like this one on Portlandia are not a sign that we care too much about
the environment, but a sign that we have no information with which to make good choices.
 
This pattern of people using proxies for good information when better information isn't available is present throughout all sorts of decisions we make. It's one of the reasons we grab onto brand names. They carry messages that we assume mean something. The physical presence of a farmer really doesn't actually mean anything. That farmer might keep his field hands in shacks and spray DDT everywhere, for all we know. The brand recognition we're buying into is that if we see a farmer in person, that means quality. But does it?
 
If you care about food, you should care about transportation. You should support tolls on deliveries, because when deliveries are tolled, the things closest to us will cost the least, and will be the natural things we buy. We'll still be able to buy things from farther away, but we won't do so unless someone closer is completely unable to provide those things.
 
If you care about food, you should care about transportation: You should support increased, frequent, reliable transit, because cities without transit would take up to 37% more space (i.e., potential farmland) if everyone needed to drive.
 
We want all sorts of labels. Is this from the U.S. we want to know? But some food from far away is better for us to eat from a sustainability perspective if the shipping methods used use less fuel (e.g., shipping things by boat). The lettuce from the middle of the country might take more fuel to arrive here than the apples from Argentina. What if we had a carbon tax, so that the price was apparent?
 
We are a society of individuals. We think of ourselves as taking personal effort upon ourselves to change our own habits in the pursuit of a better world. And no doubt, this is a partially true perspective on the world as it really works. But we also need to think about how systems that rely on personal effort always fail. I wake up in the morning at apply personal effort to riding a bike or taking a bus to work, despite many signals pushing me the opposite way. In a country where those decisions are made to be normal, people just wake up and do those things. There's no effort. The same should be true of food. This idea that the pathway to food change is "getting to know your farmer" is one of those things that makes me cringe every time I hear it, but for so many people it seems to be a key talking point. We need to align incentives in such a way that the person with a last dollar in their pocket buys decent, organic, local food because that food is what appeals to their pocketbook.
 
Hoping that food is going to change by getting a consciousness shift to me is much like hoping that transportation choices are going to change by "encouraging" biking, or putting out a hip new transit ad. The real choices that people make are always on a bell curve tracking their personalities, agency, and priorities. There just is never going to be a supermajority of people who both have the interest, the power, and the organizational skill to maintain all the information they'd have to maintain to choose the right thing each time. Even for those of us who try to do this, we're swinging wildly. Is something I buy at Whole Foods better, or just more expensive? Who knows.
 
It's not an elite activity to care about the world. When you buy organic food, you're not just protecting yourself, or spotted owls, you're taking an affirmative step for the people who have to pick the food you eat, so that they aren't exposed to poison everyday. It's not an elite activity to care about transportation, and to choose a life that is less reliant on cars. But when we have the wrong signals, and when we have to take up all this personal effort to do the right things, it feels like doing the right thing is an elitist act.
 
~~~~~

Late to My Own Funeral


In order to give us time to reach out to a  broader community of people for the 6/10 Funeral, I'm postponing it until the spring (an exact date will be announced later). I'll be periodically announcing art/music days for people to come together and make their interpretations of a 6/10 Funeral.

In order to allow a greater breadth of styles and interpretations according to people's varied cultural and person connections to funerals, wakes, shivas, days of the dead, etc., I'm also encouraging people to bring a wider interpretation to the project in their submissions. Please feel free to use a motif that suits you.

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PDX vs. PVD: No Contest.

Portland, Oregon is well-known in the U.S. for cycling leadership, though its cycling rates are much lower than those in many European cities. But what many fail to understand is that it is Providence, not Portland, that has many of the key land-use features that signal an ability to lead in cycling.

While Portland Oregon has a density under 5,000 per square mile, Providence's density is almost 10,000 per square mile.

More importantly, Providence's total land area (25 square miles) is much smaller than Portland's: PDX proper is more than five times larger by area (133 square miles) than Providence city-proper. 

To test the idea of land use, I cobbled together figures for surrounding communities near Providence, assuming that commute statistics in the Capital City would have to rely partly on the city's relationship to its suburbs and satellite cities. If Central Falls, Pawtucket, Cranston, East Providence, and Providence formed a giant metro blob of potential commuting habits, that blob would still be less than 60% of the land area size of Portland, Oregon proper. The East Cranstofallucketence mass would also be denser than Portland proper--above 5,000 per square mile, while Portland falls a bit under 5,000 per square mile.


Density matters to biking, though not in the ways one might expect. Transit density is nodal, looking like a string of beads. The ideal density for transit is right around stops, with as little settlement as possible in between. A bus line or train line could operate with ideal ridership conditions even (perhaps, especially) if that string of beads were relatively long, so long as riders and the places they wanted to go were near stops.

Bike densities rely on less stringent demands. Because cyclists don't coordinate themselves as a group as riders of a bus do, a general blob of dense development can work. The overall length of many journeys through the blob may matter more than the specific density of development around nodes (although nodal development certainly is a plus, regardless). A village with three residents as well as a thriving metropolis of millions could equally support biking, so long as the distances of travel were reasonably short--density is a second-hand proxy of this, for the purposes of biking.

The Plum Pudding Model of atomic theory turned out to be wrong, but gives an idea of what this means. At the turn of the 20th Century, English scientist J. J. Thompson proposed a mish-mash of protons, electrons, and neutrons without any kind of nucleus as how atoms might be formed. Such a model would work horrible for getting good commutes going by bus--buses work need nuclei--but bikers would find this very acceptable.

The City of Groningen, in the Netherlands, holds the world record for journeys by bike. While that city is larger and less dense than Providence, the overall length of most possible trips is fairly short. Alongside policies of filtered permeability and separated bike infrastructure, it's estimated that over 50% of trips are made in that city by bike*, with appreciable trips also going into modes like transit.

As Portland reclaims its top-dog position for U.S. cities from challenger Minneapolis--a city larger and less dense than Providence, which spends five months of the year under blizzards, and the other months in hot, tornado-prone summers--the question that should be on everyone's minds is why Providence has yet to even step into the radar of people paying attention to this race.

~~~~

*English-born Dutch biking blogger David Hembrow, who writes the blog The View from the Cyclepath, takes issue with the 50-60% statistic, saying that it's about self-promotion rather than reality. One breakdown he gives on why he disagrees with the statistic points out that many walking trips are undercounted--and perhaps make up half of trips, before biking, transit, and driving are considered--and to my mind this only reinforces that Groningen has things together, rather than detracting from its success.

Aponte Quote Says It All

Quoting from the official Providence City Council website, as updated Sept. 17th.:
Council President Luis A. Aponte, who co-sponsored the ordinance, said that the legislation will help ensure student housing does not encroach on single-family residential neighborhoods. “R-1 zones are separate and distinct from R-2 and R-3 zones for a reason. R-1 and R-1A zones are made up predominantly of single-family properties that are designed for individual households. These properties were not designed as rooming houses, or for use as group quarters, and the recent examples of properties in R-1 zones being marketed to college students is a cause for concern,” said Aponte. “Additionally, we as a city want to ensure that we maintain our single-family housing stock for families who want to live here.”
Let's step aside from the specific matter of students. I know that the biggest contrary feedback I've heard so far from people has been that the students at Providence College are nasty, brutish, horrible people (and some of them are. . . ). Let's talk about the general principle that Aponte is outlining.

Aponte is not just speaking to problems of students. He's outlining a view that zoning is a tool to be used to limit growth and housing change in the neighborhood. He's also framing the issue as if families only live in single-family homes. And furthermore, he's using zoning as a way not just to control building types, but what types of people can live in building types.

Zoned exclusion is not about "preserving" anything. No one was going to tear down or destroy homes (we can debate on the margins about how well the students were likely to take care of housing, but that's a side issue). The issue at hand is excluding types of groups of people, and types of new housing.

This is a statement against "boarding houses", meaning places for people to live who don't live in the nuclear family ideal. It's city government legislating family types. It's not overdramatic at all to say that so long as there is such a thing as R-1 and R-1A, Providence residents will not be free. 

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Why Are Students So Inconsequential to Providence Politics?

Tonight, City Council will likely pass exclusionary zoning (link to last week's vote; I'll update after tonight's second vote) against college students. Not only will City Council likely approve the measure, but Mayor Jorge Elorza has been clear that he will not veto it. There are all sorts of environmental, social, and legal reasons that I think this is problematic, and I won't rehash that here. A remaining question of interest, though, is why Providence politicians feel so immune from the wrath of college students. It seems odd, if not for moral reasons, then certainly for Realpolitik reasons, that no one is concerned that they'll lose their seat to a student challenger, or even to someone in their thirties or forties speaking to a student-oriented base.

Barack Obama visiting Temple University (NY Times), from the 2012 election
that also brought urbanist-leaning and anti-death penalty Tom Wolf to the
governor's mansion.
I did a little sleuthing, because it goes without saying that Providence is a fairly college-oriented town, but I wasn't really sure how to quantify that. The Wikipedia page on Providence colleges and universities states that there are close to 45,000 enrolled post-secondary students in our city*. It's not clear from this information what the percentage of students are who actually live in the city proper. Certainly, many Brown or RISD students bleed into East Providence or Pawtucket, and some of the other campuses are known for dispersed student bodies. There's also the factor of students who don't go to school in Providence (like Bryant students) who may live in Providence.

Considering that Providence has a population around 170,000, the figure of 45,000 is nothing at all the sneeze at That's more than a quarter of the population (and, of course, the population as a whole includes children and other non-voters). Even if that figure is double the residency rate (i.e., half the students are commuting from elsewhere to Providence) that would still make students a very large electoral base.

I went to Temple University, in Philadelphia. The Citylab article I looked up on top college residency towns lists Philadelphia as high up there with 450,000 students, though those figures are listed for the metro. Philadelphia itself is about the size of the 'Gansett Bay and has 1.6 million people, but the metro is around 5-7 million, depending upon how you measure your figures. Providence isn't listed within the article, but arguably 45,000 students make a much larger impact on such a small city and metro area than they might in Philadelphia, which is one of the nation's largest.
Groningen's famed traffic circulation plan isn't unusual for Europe today. 
Though the city is less dense than Providence car use is much less a factor there, 
as in many European college towns and cities. But at the time of its implementation,
students were striking out into new territory.

When I went to Temple, people would stumble at me four at a time to register me to vote. Philadelphia is a major liberal hub in a purple state, and though Pennsylvania has gone for the Democrats several contests in a row, sometimes with margins as blue as Texas has gone red, it's still the huge turnout of black, Latino, and student votes that makes that a reality. The suburban fringe around Pittsburgh and Philly and a couple of smaller cities like Allentown have some effect, but Philly proper and Pittsburgh proper are the grand prizes: what Clinton strategists referred to as the liberal hubs on the edges of "Pennsyltucky". 

I've never encountered anyone trying to register me to vote. And I do walk through Brown and RISD's campuses quite a lot, despite not being a student there. This has always struck me as strange, but then again, on a national stage Rhode Island is both very homogenous and very small, so that figures.

I think Rachel would have a different memory of life in Philly, because she was a photojournalist at the time and spent a lot of effort paying close attention to the city council and mayoral strife in the Street and Nutter years, but for me most of the politics I paid attention to as a college student happened at the state level or above. I was concerned about the war, about things like climate change, and so on. I wonder whether students in Providence have the same overall disinterest in local politics that I once had.

But whatever the reasons for students' disengagement, I don't think it's a permanent problem. I have spoken before to other like-minded political people about their attempts to organize students on their campuses, because as an outsider to Rhode Island campus culture I'm curious to get their views. The impression I've gotten is that a lot of the people I associate with, like me, spent their college years concerned about big issues that were on a national or international stage, and that they often were trying to convince their fellow students (some of them quite privileged) to care about the plight of people who, unfortunately, the students didn't care about. But I haven't heard much about why students don't organize themselves here for things that matter to their own lives: Why have I written and spoken many times as a non-student resident to Brown and RISD officials about the need for their universities to take a larger role in pushing for protected bike lanes and such, but still see hapless Brown kids biking nervously in mixed traffic? Why is public transportation so bad? Why is there no strong push for affordable student housing, and indeed, for affordable housing that would allow students to stay here once they graduate? These are the kinds of issues that we ought to be organizing about, because if we want to stop the next oil war or prevent climate change, we have to get these things done too.

Protest in Amsterdam, near what would one day become the
I AMsterdam landmark. Students, young people, parents, and
others joined a protest movement that took to the streets and
the polls to change things. And the changes came quickly.

The Wikipedia on Groningen lists 53,000 students living in that city. Groningen is a city of about Providence's population size, though it's actually significantly less dense. So students play a slightly larger role in the population of the "World's Cycling City" (video), but not far out of proportion to what's here. Accounts of the changes in transportation in Groningen recall a massive student movement to take control of the municipal government. It was with this power that Groningen first got its traffic circulation plan, which barred through-traffic of cars through the city, and only allowed them access locally in individual quarters. Without knowing deeply about the institutions of Dutch collegiate life, I can't be sure what other factors allowed this to happen, though the pattern is also present in other countries' college towns, like Cambridge, UK (and the UK, as a whole, is no more a cycling city than the U.S.). But I think the time is now for people who care about Providence's future to start finding out those answers. We need to register student voters, and form voting blocks around issues like fair housing and transportation, and join in coalition with the people who also care about those issues (I guess that would mean me, since I'm not a student...). 

I think we can transform this city with this strategy. The aims of students for fair housing and transportation are the same aims that many other constituencies in this city have. Just imagine the force of change that low-income and student-based organizing could have if it connected on these limited issues.

~~~~
For those of you who are shaking fingers at me for using Wikipedia, I used it the right way. The citations list the various school campuses' webpages and numerate specific counts for each. I've contacted some sources to see if there is reliable information on residency rates. I don't have those now, but if I get them I'll update.

NPR Coverage of Exclusionary Zoning

RI NPR did a reasonably decent job covering the student housing issue before City Council.

A few quibbles, though:

The piece describes a disagreement between "students" and "residents". But students are residents. They're a type of resident.

~~~~

The article interviews a number of people concerned with the proposed zoning, some for and some against. If you listen to what the people who are for the exclusionary zoning say, try bracketing the word [student] in your head and replacing it with your favorite ethnic, religious, or gender descriptor. Or even with another occupation. It really lays bare the silliness of the proposal.


Here are a few of my favorite bracketed gems. I hate to go for the pun here, but this would make a great drinking game (just leave the red Solo cups at home, please):



There, landlords have aggressively [aggressively!] bought up two and three-family homes, and rented them to [              ].
                                                                         *** 


“There were [         ] that were throwing beer cans at the cars off of a third floor balcony,” said Kinney. “And it smashed right in front of my car, and had beer all over my car and I stopped and yelled at the [       ], and they laughed.”
It may be funny to [             ], but Kinney’s not laughing. Because those [        ] are now moving into single family homes on her block. She says residents live in fear each time a “for sale” sign pops up in the area. Just down the street a property about to hit the market.

“Has it been looked at by the different landlords? Oh yes it has, and I’m like ‘oh my lord they could put 15 [          ] in that home, and there we go, it’s a [          ],” said Kinney.
                                                                        *** 

That’s why she and other residents, championed by Ryan are pushing for a new zoning ordinance that would limit the number of [             ] renting a single family rental house to just three. If passed, the ordinance wouldn’t affect current leases, like the one a group of women from Johnson and Wales University signed for Victorian cottage across the street from Kinney. 
“We met one of them, very nice, welcome to the neighborhood, this is a neighborhood. We hope you respect us,” said Kinney.

                                                                        ***
Most [              ] may be respectful. But residents say it just takes a few to cause problems, and the number of [               ] is growing.
                                                                       ***

It hasn’t always been this way. Elmhurst has long been a college neighborhood, but in the past it was mainly populated by professors and other school employees. Since the recession, the relatively affordability of the area has made it an attractive spot for investors, who see an opportunity to capitalize on the need for [                ] housing.
                                                                         ***

The fact that you can blank out students and put in another group is because students are just the tip of the iceberg on exclusionary zoning.  It might seem like melodrama to even draw the comparison, at first (though the students most affected will, of course, be the ones who belong to those ethno-racial and class groups that all exclusionary zoning is most meant to affect). But the fact is that zones 1 and 1A are themselves designed to exclude many more people than students. They were set up to be exclusive areas free of working class people. Only the collapse of housing prices, as described in the NPR report, has led the neighborhood to a point where middle class people and students can replace the elite (professors, etc.) that once lived in the neighborhood.

~~~~

The other thing I noticed that was curious about this piece was that one (rather asinine) student explained exactly what would stop the disruptions, yet Councilwoman Ryan hasn't proposed any of what would clearly work.
James, a junior who asked that his last name not be used, says he thinks PC is definitely a party school. He says police do try to tamp down on partying. Students can get slapped with a $500-fine, but that’s only after the police get two calls of complaint. 
“So we get a free one right now. We may as well keep going until the free one,” said James. 
James and others have found a way around the fine too. He says they’ll charge entrance fees for a party. If they can attract enough people James and his roommates will make enough money pay off the fine, and then some. 
“So we’re hoping between 100-150 kids, you know 750, 200 bucks for beer,” said James. “We’ll make 550, you know, 50 bucks each, that’s not bad for partying.”
What a jerk! But wouldn't the simple solution to this problem be to increase the fines for disruptions? The city could flexibly raise the price of being noisy past 11 PM until the number of violations balances with the level of punishment, and comes to an acceptable level.

The college could actually set up community relations trainings for every new student, laying out clear rules about when music is allowed to be above x, y, or z decibel level. Fines for littering could be quite steep as well.

Truthfully, there shouldn't be a problem with students partying until 2 AM, so long as they calm it down to a certain loudness that can't be heard, and don't mess up the neighborhood. Some students are doing that. This jerk student explained exactly what incentive systems would change his behavior. Targeting disrespectful students with fines would be a more ethical and effective way of approaching this issue.

~~~~


Update: Mayor Elorza's Position on a Veto

It's not huge news, I'm afraid, but it's news.

Brett Smiley contacted me today to say that Mayor Elorza's administration continues to watch the unfolding legislative situation with Councilwoman Ryan's exclusionary zoning provision in zones 1 and 1A. If you've been reading about this, you may already know that the measure proposes allowing no more than three persons who are college students to cohabitate in those zones, even though many of the homes have more than three bedrooms.
Single-family only is an ugly policy, and must be stopped. Single-family only
with occupancy limits is even worse.

No news is good news, but not that good.

It's good to see that the mayor's staff considers it important, even on Labor Day, to write me personally to follow up on this issue, because it means that there's at least enough political tension on the issue that the administration isn't going to ignore us. But the fact remains that the mayor has not yet made a decision.

Call or email the mayor, and put this up on Facebook and Twitter.

The idea of zones 1 and 1A is itself offensive. These zones are designated for single-family homes only. These zones also have minimum lot sizes: for 1A the minimum lot size is quite large: 7,500 square feet (this is basically the designation for mansion districts within the city). A person who owned a home or a plot of land in this area could not build on a corner of the land that was undeveloped, even to add another single-family home, if that building reduced the lot size. Adding apartments, rowhouses, twins, duplexes, triple-deckers and whatnot would all be disallowed.

Ryan's proposal takes an offensive designation--single-family only--and makes it worse by putting sharp regulations on the number of people who can live in those types of buildings. Tell the mayor and your city councilperson that this is unacceptable in our city.

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An Abstinence-Only Policy for Providence Student Housing

Providence city councilors often hold the view that if a policy affects another councilor's ward, the City Council should vote to support that councilor's autonomy, as if the ward is an individual fiefdom to be ruled by one city councilor alone. This view was expressed in the recent Projo article covering exclusionary zoning provisions introduced by Ward 5 Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan: 
Ward 7 Councilman John J. Igliozzi said he didn't have many student tenants in his ward, but if Ryan said her ward needed the amendments, council members should extend her that courtesy. He said if enforcement became a problem the council should review the changes in the future and adjust them as necessary.
The most articulate City Council voice against the exclusionary zoning thus far has been Seth Yurdin, whose ward borders Brown and RISD. Yurdin has emphasized that similar problems in his ward were solved with less extreme means, and that limiting student housing would be an inequitable way of resolving student noise.

Yurdin has spoken in the past at events I've attended about the need for the City Council to consider the whole of the city's health, rather than giving too much authority to individual councilpersons.

Just Say Maybe.
I tend to agree with Yurdin, but why not propose a compromise? Abstain.

If you're a councilperson like Igliozzi, and you wish to show courtesy to your fellow councilor on an issue that you don't necessarily support one way or another, sit that vote out. Sitting out from voting does exactly what councilors say they want to do: it gives some room to the other councilor. But by abstaining, councilors can keep a vote open to veto from the mayor if an aspect of the policy affects the entire city in a negative way (as this proposal does). If there's nothing citywide to object to, the measure passes.

Just. Say. errr. .. um... Maybe.

Who thought I'd ever advocate for abstinence-only in matters of student housing?

~~~~
One abstaining vote this Thursday that had been a yes means that Mayor Elorza has the option to veto the exclusionary zoning provision. See if your councilperson needs a call.

Open Letter: Why City Council Should Defeat Councilwoman Ryan's Proposed Housing Limits




Hello Councilwoman Ryan et. al.,

I respectfully write to you to oppose your proposition of limiting student housing within your district. I am neither a student nor an Elmhurst resident, though I live in Mt. Hope which is also a student-dominated neighborhood. The concerns I bring through my blog Transport Providence have to do with land use and transportation issues, and I see your proposition as causing a lot of negative side effects.

Leave it to me to write a dry letter and accompany it with a
flamboyant picture, but this image just captures the sentiment
too (damn?) well.
With respect to the core problem, which as stated in the Projo article seems to be students having loud parties, I think that it's very reasonable for City Council to find arrangements to limit noise, and if existing noise ordinances are not working, to find creative measures to address that problem. I work early in the morning as a substitute teacher, and though I have not yet had any particular problems with partiers on my block, I know that if I had to deal with that problem, I would be very upset. The issue of binge drinking, whether real or perceived, is also a concern, and I would join you in trying to find active solutions to that problem.

Limiting student housing has a number of ill effects. It increases the cost of housing and potentially puts certain housing out of reach of students or other people. It causes students, who may or may not make noise, to face increased debt, as student debt is not only taken on for tuition but also for housing costs. At a transportation level, it spreads people out and makes it more likely that they will need a car, causing increased congestion, pollution, and parking difficulties. It also means that areas that may be very well built to accommodate transit, like Elmhurst, have a reduction in density (density, for instance, increases the viability of transit frequency not linearly, as one might expect, but exponentially, meaning a small downward adjustment in density can decimate the viability of useful transit in a neighborhood). That density is both what allows frequent transit, and is also a key component to business life and community life in the districts where it exists. Imagine, for instance, the difference in activity level on Thayer St. when students leave the East Side, and all the money that would be lost to that business district if students were dispersed.

On the flip side, having students face higher costs for housing also means that those students may outbid lower income families who need high density housing, worsening gentrification, without any of the ascendant benefits to the economy that tend to come from more natural patterns of gentrification. While many of us would probably welcome the revitalization of neighborhoods, this would actually have the opposite effect.

At a civil liberties level, I think it is a violation for the city to be creating definitions of "types" of residents. There may or may not be a clear way to define a student, but why should the city have the right to subject students to different treatment than anyone else? In buildings that may have five bedrooms, would council find it reasonable to kick a family out that has three children? Or even two? The answer is that if council were to treat students similarly to other groups of people, those families would have to move. There's no safety justification for that, so there can't be any safety justification for doing it for students either.

In addition, I think defining what counts as a student may be trickier than expected. Would City Council, for instance, push a family out of its home if it went over the occupancy limit but one parent decided to go back to school? If that doesn't fit the core idea of what people think of as students--I'm assuming, here, loud twenty-somethings--then would City Council set up an ordinance based on age? Would such an ordinance withstand legal challenge? The entire concept feels murky, and strikes me as putting the city at great risk of litigation.

As someone who is no longer student age, I nonetheless remember the burden of these types of laws every time I pay a student loan payment. I fear for the future economic and ecological viability of Providence as well. I will do my very best to mobilize people around me to oppose any limits on student housing. I urge you to approach the valid noise and drinking problems your residents have identified in another way.

Thank you.

James Kennedy

cc: City Council of Providence, Planning Dept. of Providence, Mayor's Office of Providence

~~~~

Check out the RI Future article outlining the ten councilpersons who voted for exclusionary zoning (Thank you to Dan McGowen for the data for that post, from Twitter). A second vote next Thursday is needed to pass this measure, and unless it stays at ten yes votes, the mayor will need to sign it into law.

I reached out to Brett Smiley and Evan England of the Mayor's office, and Brett wrote me this morning to say that he is talking within the administration to figure out what the mayor's position is. I will update further when I find out.


We need to change just one Council vote, and get a mayoral veto, but I'm hopeful we can change more than one Council vote.

~~~~