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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Geography

UC Berkeley

Open Access Policy Deposits

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UC Berkeley Department of Geography researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Cover page of Corporate landlords and market power: What does the single-family rental boom mean for our housing future?

Corporate landlords and market power: What does the single-family rental boom mean for our housing future?

(2022)

The single-family rental (SFR) industry became a new site of institutional investment in the aftermath of the 2008 foreclosure crisis and the wider macroeconomic and policy shifts that ensued. Together with these political economic conditions, rapid advances in digital technologies, data, and analytics have been a crucial factor in the corporate transformation of SFR and the housing landscape more broadly. The four largest public and private SFR operators together control over 200,000 homes, and the SFR asset class has boomed in the pandemic, drawing interest from a wide range of investors and spawning new business models and partnerships. In this report we examine SEC filings and quarterly investor calls for Invitation Homes, American Homes 4 Rent, Tricon American Homes, and Front Yard Residential to trace how institutional narratives and market strategies have evolved in the SFR asset class. As the pool of foreclosed properties has largely dried up, SFR companies are developing new strategies to increase growth and returns for shareholders, including build-for rent and partnerships with builders. During the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate SFR landlords pushed major rent increases and devoted energy to increasing revenues through ancillary fees that further add to tenants’ housing costs. Corporate landlords are actively finding ways to cut down costs, particularly through technology and the built environment of homes, as well as appealing property tax assessments. What does it mean for the rest of us when a handful of landlords have so much power? For regular people, the structural advantage enjoyed by corporate landlords amplifies the inequalities endemic to capitalist housing systems. Amid the new round of investor-led growth, corporate landlords are poised to expand their portfolios further. As they take on an outsized role in the markets where their footprint is the largest, access to billions in investment capital seeking returns in the hot housing market and troves of data from their in-house operations put corporate landlords in a position of structural power in the market.

Cover page of Automated landlord: Digital technologies and post-crisis financial accumulation

Automated landlord: Digital technologies and post-crisis financial accumulation

(2022)

This article centers the role of digital technologies in extending financial accumulation into new sectors of the US housing market in the wake of the global financial crisis. I argue that while post-crisis market conditions provided an opportunity for large investors to acquire foreclosed single-family homes, convert them to rental housing, and roll out an new asset class based on bundled rent checks, these conditions were insufficient on their own. Digital innovations coming to prominence since the 2008 crisis were required to automate core functions, such as rent collection and maintenance, in order to efficiently manage large, geographically dispersed property portfolios. New information technologies enabled investors to aggregate ownership of resources, extract income flows, and securely convey these flows to capital markets. Such advances have, therefore, given rise to the “automated landlord”, whereby the management of tenants and properties is increasingly not only mediated, but governed, by smartphones, digital platforms, and apps, and the data and analytics these devices and infrastructures gather and enable. This article shows how technological transformations actively participate in the ongoing, dynamic process of financial accumulation strategies, and contends that digital technologies, therefore, also comprise a crucial terrain of struggles over housing’s place in contemporary capitalism.

Application of copper(II)-based chemicals induces CH3Br and CH3Cl emissions from soil and seawater.

(2022)

Methyl bromide (CH3Br) and methyl chloride (CH3Cl) are major carriers of atmospheric bromine and chlorine, respectively, which can catalyze stratospheric ozone depletion. However, in our current understanding, there are missing sources associated with these two species. Here we investigate the effect of copper(II) on CH3Br and CH3Cl production from soil, seawater and model organic compounds: catechol (benzene-1,2-diol) and guaiacol (2-methoxyphenol). We show that copper sulfate (CuSO4) enhances CH3Br and CH3Cl production from soil and seawater, and it may be further amplified in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) or solar radiation. This represents an abiotic production pathway of CH3Br and CH3Cl perturbed by anthropogenic application of copper(II)-based chemicals. Hence, we suggest that the widespread application of copper(II) pesticides in agriculture and the discharge of anthropogenic copper(II) to the oceans may account for part of the missing sources of CH3Br and CH3Cl, and thereby contribute to stratospheric halogen load.

Cover page of Atmospheric river lifecycle characteristics shaped by synoptic conditions at genesis

Atmospheric river lifecycle characteristics shaped by synoptic conditions at genesis

(2022)

The range of synoptic patterns that North Pacific landfalling atmospheric rivers form under are objectively identified using genesis day 500 hPa geopotential height anomalies in a self-organizing map (SOM). The SOM arranges the synoptic patterns to differentiate between two groups of climate modes—the first group with ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation), PNA (Pacific North American) and NP (North Pacific index) and the second group with AO (Arctic Oscillation), EPO (East Pacific Oscillation), and WPO (West Pacific Oscillation). These two groups have their positive and negative modes organized in opposite corners of the SOM. The ARs produced in each of the synoptic patterns have distinct lifecycle characteristics (such as genesis and landfall location, duration, velocity, meridional/zonal movement) and precipitation impacts (magnitude and spatial distribution). The conditions that favour AR trajectories closer to the tropics tend to produce higher amounts of precipitation. The large-scale circulation associated with AR genesis shows a close relationship between the genesis location and the location and intensity of the upper-level jet in the west/central pacific as well as anomalous, low-level southwesterly winds in the east pacific.

Cover page of Black insurgent aesthetics and the public imaginary

Black insurgent aesthetics and the public imaginary

(2022)

This article analyzes the spontaneous production of graffiti art and murals covering the entrances of businesses in the central business district of Oakland, CA, in the wake of the global protest movements, in 2020, against state violence and systemic racism. I argue that the art made legible what gets hidden through the violent processes of gentrification, neoliberal urbanism, and displacement/dispossession. The paper rethinks what borders, policing, and reclamation mean in a time of economic instability and a global health crisis, through the placement of these vernacular expressions in Downtown Oakland. What is revealed through the art is the convergence of two co-constitutive publics–a segregated, decaying city mostly inhabited by poor and working-class Black and Latinx residents and laborers, and a modern, prosperous, neoliberal city that caters to a privileged class of white residents and tourists–especially as the city grappled with the management and regulation of public space in the midst of a global pandemic. The article thus theorizes public space as layered and always contested, and not simply a space of conflict but also collective engagement.

Cover page of Racialized geographies of housing financialization

Racialized geographies of housing financialization

(2021)

Financial violence is racial violence: geographies of housing financialization spatialize hierarchies of death-dealing racial difference. However, research concerned with housing financialization rarely addresses the inextricable relationship between racism and capitalism. Racial division and subordination have always been necessary to producing value in real estate; financialization materially reproduces racial capitalism by reconfiguring the death-dealing abstraction of racism from systems of individual bias and racialized bodies into automated systems. Rather than reducing racially subordinated communities to experiences of oppression and domination, producing life-giving geographies of housing requires bringing collective resistance for emancipatory social change into the analytic frame.

Cover page of Multi-cyclone analysis and machine learning model implications of cyclone effects on forests

Multi-cyclone analysis and machine learning model implications of cyclone effects on forests

(2021)

Past studies of cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones) disturbance showed that meteorological, topographical, and biological factors affect the patterns of forest disturbance intensity but left open the extent to which these findings were representative across different global cyclone regions. Using remote sensing data and machine learning models, we examined how these factors change over spatial scales and assessed their consistency across four major cyclones: Katrina (August 2005), Rita (September 2005), Yasi (February 2011), and María (September 2017). Our results revealed that the factors which best explained forest disturbance intensity pattern varied across these regions. Wind speed and precipitation were the dominant factors contributing to the variation in impacts of Katrina; terrain features, especially elevation, explained most of the variation in disturbance intensity of Rita; pre-disturbance vegetation condition was significant predictors of effects of Yasi; these factors played equal roles in explaining the disturbance intensity variation of María. A 40 m/s (144 km/h) wind speed threshold was proposed to split low- and high-level forest disturbance intensity. Other than wind speed, few generalizations can be made on features across multiple regions. We built several generalized hurricane impact models, which worked well with the test data from cyclones used for model development (R2 = 0.89). However, these models did not have good predictions on other cyclones, such as Michael (October 2018) and Laura (August 2020). This study showed that each cyclone interacted with the landscape in a unique way and the challenges remained in building a generalized cyclone impact model.

Global warming-induced Asian hydrological climate transition across the Miocene-Pliocene boundary.

(2021)

Across the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (MPB; 5.3 million years ago, Ma), late Miocene cooling gave way to the early-to-middle Pliocene Warm Period. This transition, across which atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased to levels similar to present, holds potential for deciphering regional climate responses in Asia-currently home to more than half of the world's population- to global climate change. Here we find that CO2-induced MPB warming both increased summer monsoon moisture transport over East Asia, and enhanced aridification over large parts of Central Asia by increasing evaporation, based on integration of our ~1-2-thousand-year (kyr) resolution summer monsoon records from the Chinese Loess Plateau aeolian red clay with existing terrestrial records, land-sea correlations, and climate model simulations. Our results offer palaeoclimate-based support for 'wet-gets-wetter and dry-gets-drier' projections of future regional hydroclimate responses to sustained anthropogenic forcing. Moreover, our high-resolution monsoon records reveal a dynamic response to eccentricity modulation of solar insolation, with predominant 405-kyr and ~100-kyr periodicities between 8.1 and 3.4 Ma.

Cover page of Canopy Position Influences the Degree of Light Suppression of Leaf Respiration in Abundant Tree Genera in the Amazon Forest

Canopy Position Influences the Degree of Light Suppression of Leaf Respiration in Abundant Tree Genera in the Amazon Forest

(2021)

Leaf respiration in the dark (Rdark) and light (Rday) is poorly characterized in diverse tropical ecosystems, and little to no information exists on the degree of light suppression in common tree species within the Amazon basin, and their dependences upon plant functional traits and position within the canopy. We quantified Rdark and apparent Rday using the Kok method and measured key leaf traits in 26 tree individuals of different species distributed in three different canopy positions: canopy, lower canopy, and understory. To explore the relationships between the leaf traits we used the standardized major axis (SMA). We found that canopy trees had significantly higher rates of Rdark and Rday than trees in the understory. The difference between Rdark and Rday (the light suppression of respiration) was greatest in the understory (68 ± 9%, 95% CI) and lower canopy (49 ± 9%, 95% CI) when compared to the canopy (37 ± 10%, 95% CI). We also found that Rday was significantly and strongly correlated with Rdark (p < 0.001) for all the canopy positions. Also, leaf mass per area (LMA) and leaf Phosphorus concentration (P) had a significant relationship with Rdark (p < 0.001; p = 0.003), respectively. In addition, a significant relationship was found for LMA in the canopy and lower canopy positions (p = 0.009; p = 0.048) while P was only significant in the canopy (p = 0.044). Finally, no significant relationship was found between Rdark and nitrogen, sugars, and starch. Our results highlight the importance of including representation of the light suppression of leaf respiration in terrestrial biosphere models and also of accounting for vertical gradients within forest canopies and connections with functional traits.

Cover page of Chloroform (CHCl3) Emissions From Coastal Antarctic Tundra

Chloroform (CHCl3) Emissions From Coastal Antarctic Tundra

(2021)

In this study, the first in situ static-chamber measurements were conducted at coastal Antarctica tundra for CHCl3 fluxes, which showed that CHCl3 was naturally emitted from the Antarctic tundra at 35 ± 27 nmol m−2 d−1, comparable to other reported important natural sources. Significantly, enhanced CHCl3 emission rates (66 ± 20 nmol m−2 d−1) were observed from ornithogenic soil on the island populated with penguins, which was rich in organic matter and halides coming from penguin excrements. It is estimated that Antarctic tundra emits up to 0.1 Gg CHCl3 per year, which is an important source for regional atmospheric CHCl3. Laboratory-based incubations suggested that organic carbon and chlorine inputs by penguins may stimulate O2 dependent microbial-mediated CHCl3 emission from the Antarctic tundra, and all tundra soils showed the maximum CHCl3 emission at 4°C. The strength of this CHCl3 source is also expected to change in response to Antarctic warming.