A few weeks ago, the Reykjavík Grapevine published a note written by one of their readers on their Facebook site. The post, A Dozen Reykjavík Problems and How to Solve Them, was written by Reykjavík citizen Samuel Levesque and deals with some of the issues the capital is facing these days.
I read this brilliant article and was giddy with excitement: Samuel is absolutely right! I wish I had written this note...
Below is a slightly edited version of the letter:
"A Dozen Reykjavik Problems and How to Solve Them
1: The Airport: Build a helipad at the National Hospital. Move domestic flights to Keflavík. Done.*
2: The Litter: Forget fines. Anyone caught littering (via photograph or video) spends a month of weekends in an orange suit picking up litter. Done.
3: The Terrible Parking: Forget fines. Tow that luxus jeppa at the owner’s expense. Done.
4. The Conversion of 101 from a Vibrant Neighborhood to a Tourist Trap: Pass an ordinance limiting the number of guesthouses and hotels in any one postal-code in Reykjavik. Enforce that sh**. Done.
5. The Lack of Local Amenities and Services in the Suburbs: Loosen the zoning laws for small-medium sized service industry. Not every store needs a square mile of parking. Encourage the development of local “high streets” possibly around the new hotels via #4.
6. The Horrible Traffic: #5 would help. Also monorails, buses that actually run on a coherent schedule in a coherent pattern, and a city-wide ride-share system, with possibly a dash of passenger-only high-speed ferries.**
7. The Mosque: This is not an actual problem. Get over it you xenophobic asshats. Done.
8. The Lack of Public Amenities: Hire people to look after the parks and public spaces, including public restrooms and emptying trash bins. Make it a full-time, year round job. One-two people per park, deputized to cited people for littering/vandalism. Save money on upkeep. Done.***
9. Increasing Urban Density to Decrease Sprawl and The Problems That Go With It: Pull a Portland. Draw a line around Rvk. Pass a law saying that outside of that line the land is for “rural, agricultural, forestry, or recreational” use only. Enforce it. Done.
10. Sky-rocketing Rent: It’s called Rent Control. Also, imminent domain laws can be used (for once) on banks. No more holding unto 100s of properties to artificially inflate prices. If it’s vacant, it’s rented out at a reasonable rate.. Done.****
11. Immigration: This is not an actual problem. Get over it you xenophobic asshats. Done.*****
12. The “Lack” of Housing: This is an actual problem that shouldn’t be an actual problem. There is plenty of housing, it’s just either designed for large, rich families and hence doesn’t work for single renters, or is in buildings not zoned for residential use. So, loosen the damned regs a bit and allow for retrofitting commercial properties to residential/mixed, and encourage retrofitting the suburban McMansions into flats. The architects will still have copyright to their original drawings. They should get over it******. Do not build a bunch of badly-planned ghettos just because you can’t handle the idea of someone living in Skeifan.
*I mean for f***’s sake people!
** Between Akranes and Rvk and between Hafnarfjörður and Rvk... hell, even possibly between Mossó [Mosfellsbær] and Rvk...
***Removing/shuttering public services because “junkies might use them” or “homeless people might stay warm in them” or “teenagers might hang out there” is not only a completely invalid argument, but also makes you look like a right stingy judgmental sh**.
****Either that or pass a Squatters’ Rights law. Which you totally won’t do but you should.
*****Immigration services, like translation and integration programs would be nice, though.
******No, seriously. You own the rights to the design. That is all. The person who owns the house OWNS THE HOUSE and can make any changes they like. You don’t see car manufacturers suing people for pimping their rides, do you?”
About No. 2: I’ve commented about recycling in Iceland before: here in the capital, it could be made much easier and therefore prevent littering by putting up more rubbish bins and generally more communal recycling bins around the city. Recycling glass bottles, for instance, is still a pain as one still has to travel to the other end of town in order to do so.
Some more thoughts about No. 3: parking here in the downtown area is terrible. Oftentimes cars are parked entirely or partly on the side walk or block entrances of houses or shops. People have no shame in parking on the handicapped spots although they aren’t handicapped. Those driver don’t only suffer from poor judgment but also endanger other people. A very popular Icelandic Facebook site these days is Verst lagði bilinn (“The worst parked car”), so you can see for yourself.
And the fines for illegal parking are really ridiculously low here. In my opinion, the fines for parking on a handicapped spot without disabled parking permit should hurt. In Switzerland, this would cost you ISK 15,000 (USD 134, EUR 98).
About No. 4: This is becoming a real problem. In the city center, guesthouses and hotels are spreading like a disease. Soon downtown Reykjavík will be some kind of theme park for tourists and we, the habitants, will have to move to Hafnarfjörður or Garðabær. Seriously, where will this end?
I could go on and on about this, but I must restrain myself and I think Samuel is dead-on. His note speaks for itself.
Food for thought!
Katharina Hauptmann - firstname.lastname@example.org