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CityLab 2014: The sharing economy takes center stage in LA



From left to right: Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director, Atlantic Media; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre speak on a panel about immigration at CityLab 2014.
From left to right: Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director, Atlantic Media; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre speak on a panel about immigration at CityLab 2014.
Ben Bergman/KPCC

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Over the last three days, hundreds of leaders from cities around the world have converged in Los Angeles to share ideas at the CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges conference.

The event attracted mayors from as far away as Israel and Greece and as nearby as Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

Atlanta’s Mayor, Kasim Reed, spoke about how his city has opened its doors to immigrants. Like most speakers at the program, he believes cities are where all the action is these days.

“I tell people if you don’t want to spend your whole life changing the world, come work in cities,” Reed told a lunchtime audience Tuesday. “We know our country’s GDP, 70 percent-plus is in cities and we know our population centers, 70 percent plus are in metros.”

It has been just a year since the first CityLab conference was held in New York, but much has changed since then, said April Rinne, whose title is Sharable Cities Advisor.

“I was at that time the only person waving that flag,”  Rinne remembered.

But this year, she had plenty of company discussing the sharing economy. In fact, it was hard to find a panel that didn't mention sharing economy start-ups like Airbnb, Lyft, or Uber.

“To see it go from the periphery to center stage in one year is really exciting,” she said.

Rinne called Seoul, South Korea, the most hospitable city to the sharing economy. 

From Skyline to Waistline

Richard Florida, bestselling author and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, moderated a panel Tuesday morning called:  “From Skyline to Waistline: Can Smarter City Planning Make Citizens More Active?”

Florida said he’s found in his research city residents place a high value on shared open spaces.

“That’s what makes people happy and that’s what attaches them to a place,” said Florida. “Everyone can have a house with a backyard and they stay there. What makes a great city is the civic commons. The civic commons is the shared bike lanes, the transit, and the pedestrians where you’re bumping into people who are quite different than you.  And it doesn’t have to be Central Park. It can be quite small and shareable.”

Panelist Pam O’Connor, mayor of Santa Monica, said one of the best things cities can do to make citizens more active is to give them a place to sit down. She said building benches makes senior citizens more likely to walk around.

“Keeping people active as they age is important,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor pointed out that Santa Monica’s residents are known for being very active and healthy, though she said she's concerned by the recent arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts in her town.

“There’s a line out the door, so I don’t know what that is an indicator of,” O’Connor laughed.