Two significant developments over the past week:
1) The $500 million question. A story broken by @alexbozikovic at the Globe and Mail estimated last week that Sidewalk Labs' "proposed deal asks governments to give up $500-million in real-estate value to make it work." According to real estate industry sources consulted in the article, this represents an estimated markdown of more than 50% in the value of this prime, publicly owned waterfront land. And more than half of this land (Villiers West), the article notes, is not currently on the market.
2) Final reports on public consultations. The final report from the first round of public consultations on Sidewalk Labs' Master Plan was released late last week. Our hot take: few participants expressed unreserved support for the plan in its current form, while many expressed significant reservations or distrust, particularly where the over-reach of Sidewalk Labs' proposals was concerned. Most breakout groups raised concerns about Alphabet's/Google's/Sidewalk Labs' track record, market power and/or trustworthiness; some noted that other vendors could deliver (or were already delivering) comparable innovations.
The distrustful tone of the public consultations echoed a Forum poll in July that found a majority of respondents neither wanted to live in the development, nor trusted Google with residents' data.
Waterfront Toronto has set a deadline of October 31st for the company to address "certain foundational issues that need to be resolved before we invest in a full evaluation."
Communities are organizing around the impact of big tech developments across the world. When Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff gave a Times Talk in New York last week about the company's plans in Toronto, allies in New York were able to share some of Torontonians' concerns with audience members through an informational leaflet. We reached out to the reporter interviewing Doctoroff to suggest potential questions, and she raised two (including the question about Sidewalk Labs' bid for "discounted" land) in their discussion.
#BlockSidewalk supporters are continuing to meet with their elected officials and community groups about concerns with the project. Contact us if you want to participate or arrange a meeting: blocksidewalk.ca/contact.
Wednesday, September 25: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting are hosting a panel discussion exploring the impact of big tech on our democracy - including Google/Sidewalk Labs, Airbnb and Facebook - featuring Lilian Radovac, Bahar Shadpour and Nicole Cohen, following a screening of "Digital Disconnect,". 7-9 PM, Revue Cinema. Register HERE.
Save the date:
Tuesday, October 1: Good Jobs for All forum/panel: "Update on Google’s plan for our waterfront … and what it means for the future of our city." 5:30-8:30, 25 Cecil St. (Steelworkers Hall). Speakers will include: Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 14), Jack Poulson (Tech Inquiry), Kumsa Baker (Toronto Community Benefits Network), Alejandra Ruiz Vargas (Acorn), Nigel Bariffe (Urban Alliance on Race Relations). Hope to see you there!
Thursday, October 3: Amazon Web Services Summit in Toronto - opportunity for solidarity with U.S. campaigns. *stay tuned.*
Friday, October 4: Not My Utopia, co-presented by @EthicsAILab at U of T and Ryerson @RyersonIMA. Will screen three "Public Service Announcements" on Toronto's Smart City project by #BlockSidewalk supporter Zeesy Powers.
If you have initiatives you'd like us to share, let us know: blocksidewalk.ca/contact
Jane Wakefield, "Google's "smart city" plans "tech for tech's sake,"" BBC News, September 12, 2019.
Bianca Wylie, "The missing dimension in the Sidewalk Toronto vision," Azure Magazine, September 2019.
Luke Mullins, "Big Tech is about to spend a ton of money fighting these people." The Washingtonian, September 15, 2019.
Alex Bozikovic, "The $500 million discount at the heart of Sidewalk Labs' smart city proposal," The Globe and Mail, September 15, 2019.
Ellen P. Goodman, "Sidewalk Toronto tech and the master plan: it's as bad as we thought." Medium, September 16, 2019.
Catherine MacIntyre, "Drones, AI and "progressive" regulations: How the federal government tried to sell Amazon on investing in Canada." The Logic, September 16, 2019.
Facebook advertisers can add their own headlines for shared news stories," CBC News, September 16, 2019."
Mariana Valverde and Alex Flynn, "Google's Smart City project for Toronto," The Metropole, September 18, 2019.
Blayne Haggart, "Federal leaders should face tough questions about Toronto's smart city project," The Conversation, September 18, 2019.
Donovan Vincent, "Public feedback on Sidewalk Labs' master plan ranges from "conditionally receptive" to "distrustful."" Toronto Star, September 20, 2019.
Jim Balsille, "Canada is pushing its tech sector into a race to the bottom." Globe and Mail, September 21, 2019.