6 Cities That Are Great At Sharing

Hello, Cleveland (and Washington, D.C.; Austin; Chicago; New York; and San Francisco)! A new report cites you as tops in the sharing economy.


The “Sharing Economy” might be this decade’s “Creative Class”: a set of hot concepts in urban policy, from ridesharing to foodsharing, that are said to create jobs, attract young, educated residents, and boost a community’s livability and sustainability to boot. A new report just out from and the San Francisco-based Sustainable Economies Law Center provides a “policy primer” for urban leaders who want to bring the benefits of sharing home.


In a previous post, I wrote about the “shadow side” of the sharing economy, especially legal and regulatory gaps. This new report offers practical ways for cities to update their rules to catalyze more sharing.

Four Ways To Share

The report focuses on four core areas: transportation (including carsharing, ridesharing, and bikesharing); food (including urban agriculture, which is a form of landsharing, as well as farm shares); housing (including housing coops and tiny houses); and job creation, which the report defines as assisting small business startups within the sharing space as well as encouraging the formation of worker-owned cooperatives.

Based on citations within the report, the following cities came out tops in terms of the elements that make for a sustainable, shareable city. “Most of the recommendations in our report are uncontroversial, nonpartisan, and just simply practical steps cities can take to become more innovative, resilient, and democratic,” says Neal Gorenflo, editor of Shareable.

San Francisco

It’s not surprising that San Francisco–headquarters for Airbnb, Uber, and other tech-enabled sharing economy darlings–was highlighted six separate times in the report.

Among ideas that caught the authors’ attention: San Francisco’s Planning Code now requires that newly constructed buildings provide “permanent carshare parking spaces.”

In addition, San Francisco “created a new land-use category called “Neighborhood Agriculture” that “allows community gardens, community-supported agriculture, market gardens, and commercial farms of less than one acre to sell or donate their produce (foodsharing),” and “recently approved an ordinance to reduce minimum dwelling unit size from 290 square feet down to 220 square feet (tiny homes).” And San Francisco’s the only city in the country with an official City Hall “Sharing Economy Working Group” to incubate even more ideas.


New York

The big, dirty metropolis came in second, cited three times for innovations on the more economically progressive side of the sharing economy–encouraging worker-owned businesses and cooperatives.

Entrepreneur Space is a city-sponsored business incubator in Queens that helps food-related and general business start-ups across New York City,” the report’s authors pointed out as one example of the Big Apple’s achievements.

Washington, D.C.

Who knew? Our nation’s capital is a hub for shareable, sustainable transportation. It has, according to the report, “auctioned 84 curbside spots to three operators, generating almost $300,000 in revenue.”

D.C. has a long-standing tradition of “slugging,” or casual carpooling along commuter routes–and, of course, the $6 million Capital Bikeshare program.


The city-funded Neighbor Carts program helps get fresh produce into food deserts and creates new food vending jobs.


The report cited the Forest City for the “Evergreen Cooperatives” located in Cleveland’s low-income neighborhoods. These worker-owned businesses including a green laundry and a solar firm; the nation’s largest urban greenhouse serves local hospitals and universities.



One reason Austin caught the report authors’ attention: Clear regulations and low barriers to entry serve a bustling food truck scene (and lots of yummy breakfast tacos for everybody).

About the author

Anya Kamenetz is the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her 2011 ebook The Edupunks’ Guide was funded by the Gates Foundation