What's Behind the Backlash Over Sidewalk Labs' Smart City? - CityLab

On a Tuesday night in August, Jesse Shapins, the director of public realm and culture at Sidewalk Labs, flipped through a set of colorful slides before a public audience in downtown Toronto.

On view were design ideas for Quayside, the 12-acre mixed-use neighborhood that Alphabet’s city-building subsidiary has planned for the city’s waterfront. “How might we create a people-first city in the digital age?” asked Shapins, who wore a heavy beard and round red spectacles.

The slides showed an alluring urban scene, full of organic-looking outdoor spaces with lush palm fronds and multi-story outdoor terraces. Quayside’s multi-story structures, Sidewalk Labs reps explained, would be made from composite timber, a construction style touted for its lower environmental impact and aesthetic warmth. Powered by a zero-emissions microgrid, buildings would be modular, with small private units and all-year common spaces adaptable to different uses. On the street, pedestrians and cyclists would get highest priority amid shared, low-speed autonomous vehicles roving about. Tiles capable of melting snow, absorbing stormwater, and directing traffic with LED lights would form the pavement underfoot.

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