"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.

I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: www.thinkwalks.com

There was a time when Thinkwalks was nothing but tours and talks. Now we’re setting up a community education board on Divisadero and more projects are in the works!

November 2003: The first Water Walking Tour! (Vulcan Stairway)

Originally, Joel conducted tours mostly for visitors, but in late 2009, by popular demand, he retooled Thinkwalks as “Nerdy Tours for San Franciscans,” to great effect. There are so many people in SF with deep knowledge or curiosity about the city, and many newcomers who share that.

Since then, we’ve also welcomed travelers, newcomers and visitors. If you know the difference between the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park, you’re San Franciscan enough for a Thinkwalk. Many of the people on these tours are deeply knowledgeable locals including scientists and curators, some of whom know the city amazingly well.

Joel, your guide, had been exploring and writing about the history of SF creeks and fresh water for years, and occasionally giving a public talk. He also helped create a number of public murals, the Wiggle bike route and various essential maps. You can find out more about him on the FAQ page.

Topics we explore and why
In general, we cover topics few others cover. Lots of people research (or spread myths) about the Gold Rush, Emperor Norton, The Barbary Coast and so on. But who else talks about how nature transformed into a city and how that unfolded?

Few guides research their own material from original source documents to find out how SF’s juicily-hidden neighborhoods got to be how they are now. At Thinkwalks, we tie an exploration of history, nature and art to the economic and population shifts, in the hope that the knowledge of the past empowers you to be a full participant in your world.

Sadly, many SF tour companies just spread rumors and silly myths!

San Francisco’s past is a quaint, colorful tale of eye-rolling stories and weird behaviors to be entertained by, right? Wrong. Hollywood would have it that way, and so would most local politicians. But the truth, when you dig it out of its commercially arranged grave, looks more like a parade of deeply concerned and idealistic innovators, trying things that help average people live more empowered and creative lives. Of course this causes trouble for the controlling economic interests, so they are elbowed out of “respectable” history and tucked behind the carefully sculpted stories of Emperor Norton (whose real story is that he was a creative capital speculator who went insane from being a loser in SF’s typical boom-bust economic games).
In a better world, those idealistic people are honored and studied as inspirational examples. At Thinkwalks, we like to hang out with creative people who feel the same.

We invite you to our tours to scrutinize the exhumed info with amazement—as a collaborative, deliberative effort! That’s right. That’s something very special to Thinkwalks: group discussions and evaluation of the evidence.

Yes, we love living in one of the most dynamic places in the world. Why would we want to dismiss it as a fairy tale?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Location: Nationwide

Websie: www.seed-network.org

SEED maintains the belief that design can play a vital role in the most critical issues that face communities and individuals, in crisis and in every day challenges. To accomplish this, SEED provides tools—the SEED Network and SEED Certification—that guide design professionals toward community-based engagement with design practice. These tools support a public-interest methodology that is increasingly recognized as an effective way to sustain the health and longevity of a place or a community as it develops over time.

For designers and others looking for resources and a community of practice where like-minded people share an interest in the results of design and care about fundamental ideals of practice.

For designers, project developers, community leaders and others who desire a common standard to guide, measure, evaluate and certify the social, economic and environmental impact of design projects.

For those who want to learn more about SEED, read case studies of SEED Certified projects, search for projects based on issue or location, read recent press or support SEED.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.tclf.org

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is the only not-for-profit (501c3) foundation in America dedicated to increasing the public's awareness and understanding of the importance and irreplaceable legacy of its cultural landscapes.

Through education, technical assistance, and outreach, we broaden awareness of and support for historic landscapes nationwide in hopes of saving this diverse and priceless heritage for future generations. While TCLF seeks donations to support its efforts, it is not a membership organization.

Founded in 1998 by Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, TCLF achieves its mission by
Collaborating with individuals and local, regional, and national groups to understand and protect our landscape heritage and to reach the broadest possible audience. For example, TCLF is one of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ “partners in education”;

Training professionals, students, teachers, and the general public to recognize, document and safeguard America's cultural landscapes;
Serving as the nation’s largest and most valuable non-profit source of information about our nation’s historic landscapes and those pioneering individuals who have contributed (through design, planning and advocacy) to this legacy;

Raising awareness of and support for individual landscapes-at-risk; and

Recognizing and celebrating the efforts of owners, supporters and stewards of significant American places.

TCLF’s overall success can be measured by the millions of people who have learned about cultural landscapes through its website, publications and events—as well as through the growing national awareness of the importance of America’s cultural landscapes and the increasing efforts to document and protect this heritage.

TCLF’s core efforts include:

Cultural Landscapes as Classrooms -
teaching people to "read" the landscapes that surround them, to understand how changes affect these special places, and to become better stewards of our significant cultural landscape heritage.

Stewardship Stories -
recognizing individuals who share our vision of "stewardship through education" by working to raise awareness of cultural landscapes in their community.

Landslide -
drawing immediate and lasting attention to threatened cultural landscapes, sparking debate and encouraging informed, community-based stewardship decisions.

Pioneers of American Landscape Design -
chronicling the lives and careers of those who have designed our gardens, parks, streets, campuses, cemeteries, suburbs, and the innumerable other environments in which we live.

What's Out There -
raising the public’s awareness of the rich diversity and interconnectedness of our shared designed landscape heritage by providing context about these sites through an easy-to-navigate, searchable database.

SF City Guides

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: www.sfcityguides.org

Do I need to make a reservation?
No. Just show up at the time and place indicated on the schedule. (NOTE: We ask groups of 8 or more to schedule a special tour several weeks in advance.)

How do I recognize the guide?
Your guide will be wearing a badge that displays the City Guides logo. If you don’t see the badge, just look for someone at the appointed place who seems ready to lead a tour.

What are the tours like?
Very fun and informative. We'll show you a combination of tried-and-true San Francisco landmarks and off-the-beaten-path sites.

What if it rains?
We walk rain or shine. We do have a few indoor tours: Palace Hotel, Fire Dept Museum, Coit Tower. But most of our tours are outdoors, and our policy is if guests are ready to walk, we lead the tour. We don’t have a snow policy, but the last major snowstorm in San Francisco was in the 1890s. So we’ll play that one by ear. (Note, however, that a very few tours take place where the terrain would raise safety issues or otherwise be particularly unsuited for walking in the rain. The individual tour descriptions will indicate, in such cases, that the tour will be cancelled in case of rain.)

What if the guide does not show up?
We would like to say that this just does not happen. However, guides can experience an emergency and not make it to the starting place. A no-show is a rare event.

Are tours strenuous?
Mostly no, although walking in San Francisco often involves hills. We try to indicate in the tour descriptions the somewhat strenuous tours. If you have mobility concerns, call the City Guides.

Can my (large) group join a City Guides tour?
City Guides does not allow groups of 8 or more to join our regularly scheduled walks. Large groups are a challenge and need to be pre-scheduled as private group tours.

Are pets allowed?
In consideration of the health, safety and comfort of our walkers, pets are not allowed on tours. Besides common fears and allergies, pets can cause distractions or safety hazards during a walking tour. Pets are prohibited by public law or private policy in some buildings included on tours. Licensed service animals are excepted.

Do you give tours on holidays?
City Guides runs a very limited schedule on these holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Please check our website on those dates to view an accurate limited schedule of our tours.

What do tours cost?
Regularly scheduled City Guides tours are free, although donations are always welcome. We can arrange special tours (see below), which do have a fee.

How do I arrange for a private group tour?
Private tours are available for groups or organizations for a suggested donation of $12 per person. Groups of 8 or more need to make arrangements in advance. A discounted rate of $10 per person applies for senior groups. Click here for more.

Tours for school groups (grades 4-12) are $5 per person.

Are donations accepted on regular tours?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Running an organization like this costs money even though the tours are given by volunteer guides. You can make a donation when you take a tour or you can become a sponsor (or both).

Who runs City Guides?
City Guides is a non-profit, primarily volunteer operation. Officially, we are a partner of the San Francisco Parks Alliance. There are more than 200 active guides. The guides annually elect, from among themselves, a management board. We have one full-time program director who runs the office.

What is your relationship to the San Francisco library?
City Guides has always had a special relationship with the San Francisco library. We got our start more than 30 years ago when a San Francisco mayor asked the city librarian to find volunteers to give tours in City Hall. In our early years, we were funded as a project of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. While no longer connected to the Friends, we still receive sponsorship from the library. City Guides provides fun yet educational services that are a logical extension of a free public library, which is the reason we continue to provide tours to the public without charge.

Where do you get your funding?
The majority of our funding comes from the voluntary donations made by those who take our tours and from individual sponsorships. We also receive modest grants from Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund and other organizations.

How can I become a City Guide?
We periodically hold a six-month course for new guides at an enrollment cost of $200. You’ll attend a series of Saturday talks by authorities on San Francisco history and receive coaching on tour presentation.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Liveable City

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: www.liveablecity.org

Mission -

To create a balanced transportation system and promote complementary land use that supports a safer, healthier and more accessible San Francisco for everyone.

Goals -

Promote policies which shift travel from automobiles to more appropriate means.

Safety, livability, and economic vitality in a growing city are dependent on a reduction in our dependence on the automobile. To accomplish this goal, Livable City will promote the alternatives to the public, work with public agencies at their request to improve the provision of alternatives, and assist the various alternative transportation advocacy groups.

Improve the pedestrian environment...

Livable cities are built for walking, with bicycling and public transit as complementary modes. Livable City is working to integrate pedestrian improvements into neighborhood plans and street and corridor projects, advocate for completion of pedestrian projects citywide, support revitalization of the City's plazas and public open spaces, and support the efforts of neighborhood groups to improve the walkability of their neighborhoods through technical support and advocacy.

Livable City works with other pedestrian advocacy groups, including Walk San Francisco and Senior Action Network, to advocate for better planning, design, traffic management, education, and enforcement to improve pedestrian safety and promote walking in San Francisco.

Improve conditions for bicycling...

Support the Bicycle Coalition's charitable and educational efforts to promote the bicycle for everyday transportation. Livable City's goals include creating a bold and thorough bicylce plan for the city that will facilitate an increase in the percentage of trips made by bicycle from 3-5% today to 10% by 2015.

Improve public transit...

Muni will need continued public support to secure needed funding for operations, maintenance, and capital improvements and to establish transit priority in important corridors. Livable City worked to secure funding for Muni improvements in Propostion K, San Francisco's successful transportation sales tax, and is working to implement a citywide network of rapid transit and transit-priority routes that will improve Muni's speed and reliability, lower its operating costs, and attract new riders. Livable City also supports upgrading Caltrain to rapid transit-type service and extending it to the Transbay Terminal, and improving the accessibility and connectivity of the BART system.

Build an effective coalition for broad-based transportation reform.

Projects include our organization of a sustainable transportation summit, our participation in the Housing Action Coalition, greater participation by Livable City in the regional coalitions that already exist, and a new project to gain consensus support for the construction of significant amounts of affordable housing in walking-, biking-, and transit-accessible locations.

Integrate ecological design into the transportation system...

Transportation has an enormous impact on the local and global environment. 27% of the energy generated in the US goes to transportation, and transportation accounts for two-thirds of the petroleum consumed in the US. The waste and inefficiency built in to our automobile-based transportation system also threatens to consume greater and greater amounts of government and private resources; parking expert Donald Shoup estimates that the amount of money spent in the US each year subsidizing parking alone is equal to the amount spent on Medicare or national defense.

Livable City is dedicated to lessening the impact of transportation on the environment by encouraging human-powered transportation (walking and bicycling), discouraging automobile use, promoting compact and mixed-use development that minimizes the distance and cost of transport, and greening public transport by encouraging electrification of diesel bus and rail lines and improving the energy and resource efficiency of lighting, buildings, and vehicles. Livable City also supports integrating more "green infrastructure"—street trees, landscaping, permeable paving, parks and squares, "green streets", greenways, and greenbelts—into the city's transportation system.

Create a long-term, comprehensive traffic-calming plan for the City...

Livable City has worked over the past few years to change city standards and policies to include greater emphasis on pedestrian accessibility and safety in street design. We are working to make the city's upcoming streetscape master plan an opportunity to institute traffic calming measures on a citywide scale, as well as create detailed neighborhood-scale transportation and streetscape plans.

Built Environment Forum Scotland

Location: Scotland

Website: www.befs.org.uk

The Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) is the strategic intermediary body for Scotland’s built environment sector, bringing together voluntary and professional non-governmental organisations that operate at the national level.

As an umbrella organisation, BEFS informs, mediates and advocates on strategic issues and policies affecting the built environment, historic and contemporary. Adopting a holistic approach, our aim is to put people at the heart of places that are both valued and of the highest possible quality.

Through its membership, working groups and workshops, BEFS provides a forum for debate and discussion on matters relating to the built environment. Issues are discussed and views presented to key decision makers in national and local government.

Strategic Objectives:

COLLECTIVE EXPERTISE – to be recognised as the organisation that offers collective informed independent opinion on issues affecting the historic and contemporary built environment.

COMMUNICATION – to communicate information, opinion and good practice about the historic and built environment effectively with members, their constituents and across the sector.

MEMBERSHIP SUPPORT – to support member organisations to build their capacity and operate more strategically and efficiently.

ORGANISATIONAL DEVELOPMENT – to develop a viable organisation by ensuring there is a responsive structure with appropriate skills and resources to deliver the outputs required to realise the vision.

OUTREACH – to work with members to develop and promote better understanding of how the historic and built environment contributes to public benefit.

Urban Times

Location: International

Website: www.urbantimes.org

Citizen journalism curated for the people by the people -

Welcome to the go to place for optimists and forward-thinkers.

We launched Urban Times to tackle the sensationalism and hearsay that permeates the news and media culture of today. Our content is entirely user-generated as citizen journalists and thought-leaders from across the globe submit their content to be edited for free. By mixing the scale and impact of a mega content generator with the positive values and culture of a small startup, we will rewire the global worldview towards solutions-oriented thinking.

Urban Times is the sustainable future of online publishing.

Our doors are open to all potential contributors, whether you’re a writer, editor, designer, developer or something else entirely: GET INVOLVED!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Public Architecture

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: www.publicarchitecture.org

Public Architecture is a new model for architectural practice. Supported by the generosity of foundation, corporate, and individuals grants and donations, Public Architecture works outside the economic constraints of conventional architectural practice, providing a venue where architects can work for the public good.

Rather than waiting for commissions that represent well-understood needs and desires, we take a leadership role, identifying significant problems of wide relevance that require innovative research and design. We seek needs and desires that are palpable but poorly defined, in circumstances where both client and financing must be imagined in new ways.

We don't just do our own projects; we encourage architecture firms nationwide to formalize their commitment to the public good. While many--perhaps most--architects give of their expertise from time to time, the profession as a whole has not structured its pro bono endeavors as clearly as has, say, the legal profession. "The 1%" program, through which firms pledge one percent of their billable hours to pro bono service, aims to institutionalize and celebrate pro bono practice in architecture.

Can't sophisticated design serve social justice? It can, and it should. The distinction between progressive design and popular design is a class prejudice—and a red herring. Public Architecture brings the values of design—formal innovation, intellectual currency, critical appraisal of the status quo—to bear on real problems in our communities.

Architecture doesn't just function; it expresses the human condition. It's about human dignity. It's about respect. It communicates identity and enables people to speak, to participate, to act. If you want to see what design has to do with identity, look at people's clothes, their cars. Architecture does the same things; it just lasts longer.

Beauty dignifies, but architectural beauty isn't just in the look of things. It's the expression of who we are and what we value as a community. It's also in the sound of footfalls on a plaza, the smell of rain on pavement, the warmth of a brick wall in the sun. It's in the sequence of spaces we pass through—tall and narrow, broad and open, bright, dark, loud, quiet. Public Architecture advocates for places for people with minds and bodies, not just eyes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Location: International

Website: archive.cyark.org

CyArk is a 501c3 non profit organization with the mission of: digitally preserving cultural heritage sites through collecting, archiving and providing open access to data created by laser scanning, digital modeling, and other state-of-the-art technologies.

Unlike cultural artifacts safely housed in museums, cultural heritage sites are constantly at-risk. They are exposed to the daily effects of the natural environment, from the seemingly benign: sun, wind, and rain; to the dramatic: earthquakes, fire, and human s.

To better understand the threats facing cultural heritage, CyArk has also developed an interactive Hazard Map to help visualize individual site risk.

Digitally preserving these sites provides heritage professionals with tools they can use to help physically preserve their sites.

Digital capture of the world's significant heritage sites ensures these places will be available for the future, while uniquely telling their story today.

CyArk uses the data captured in the creation of educational and cultural tourism media which is then broadly disseminated via the CyArk website. Education of visitors and potential visitors can have a positive impact on the cultural resource and the community through the promotion of responsible cultural tourism.

The local communities will also benefit directly from the digital media created for education. This content can be used to educate the local children about their own history and culture, both online and in the classroom.

In order to meet the challenges facing cultural heritage, CyArk has developed the Total Process for Digital Preservation. This four-step process is performed by CyArk and its world-wide partners.

A representation of the CyArk Method:

1. A site is chosen based off many factors, specifically individual site need, and its significance to human culture.

2. Upon arrival at a project site, the CyArk team uses a variety of methods to thoroughly collect and document the site. These include traditional survey techniques, new photographic processes, and 3D laser scanning.

3. Collecting data in such a manner allows CyArk to create a multitude of "deliverables" including CAD drawings, High Dynamic Range photographs, accurate 3D Point Clouds, and multimedia for educational and cultural tourism.

4. Once these files have been created they are securely stored in the CyArk archives and made available to site managers and the public in the Heritage Sites section of our website.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Envision Utah

Location: Utah

Website: www.envisionutah.org

In 1997, Envision Utah launched an unprecedented public effort aimed to keep Utah beautiful, prosperous, and neighborly for future generations. As a neutral facilitator, Envision Utah brought together residents, elected officials, developers, conservationists, business leaders, and other interested parties to make informed decisions about how we should grow. Empowering people to create the communities they want is still our goal.

To understand our neighbors’ hopes for the future, Envision Utah conducted public values research, held over 200 workshops, and listened to more than 20,000 residents between 1997 and 1999. We heard a common dream: safe, close-knit communities; opportunities for our children; time to do what matters most; and the security of a good job. To achieve the public’s aspirations, in 1999 we created the Quality Growth Strategy, which provides voluntary, locally-implemented, market-based solutions.

Simply said, it’s a strategy developed by the people of Utah to make our lives better – that provides more choices for how we, and the next generation, would like to live.

Since facilitating the Quality Growth Strategy, Envision Utah has partnered with more than 100 communities in Utah. The Envision Utah approach of civic engagement has been replicated by dozens of regions around the country. How we grow will affect how we and our children will live. At Envision Utah, we don’t believe in sitting back and seeing where growth will take us. We seek to be visionary and actively secure our future.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Save The Bay

Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA


Save The Bay is the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay. As its leading champion since 1961, Save The Bay protects the Bay from pollution and inappropriate shoreline development, making it cleaner and healthier for people and wildlife.

We restore habitat and secure strong policies to re-establish 100,000 acres of wetlands that are essential for a healthy Bay. We engage more than 40,000 supporters, advocates and volunteers to protect the Bay, and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders by educating thousands of students annually.

The Architectural League of New York

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.architecturalleague.org

The mission of the Architectural League is to advance the art of architecture.

The League carries out its mission by promoting excellence and innovation, and by fostering community and discussion in an independent forum for creative and intellectual work in architecture, urbanism, and related disciplines. We present the work and ideas of the world’s most interesting and influential architects and designers to New York, national and international audiences, through lectures, exhibitions, publications, and the worldwide web. We identify and encourage talented young architects, through competitions, grants, exhibitions, and publications. And we help shape the future of our built environment by stimulating debate and provoking design thinking about the critical issues of our time.

The Architectural League’s governing documents, conflict of interest policy, and most recent financial report are available upon request to the League office, 212-753-1722, ext. 10.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

First Friday Art Walks

Location: Nationwide

Website: (see specific cities)

Portland, ME -

Join us for a free self-guided tour of local art galleries, art studios, museums, and alternative art venues on the First Friday of every month from 5-8 pm.

Our mission is to open the doors of Portland's visual arts community by joining together and introducing a wider audience to the unique vitality of the artists and venues of Portland. Promoting interest with non-exclusivity and easy access, thereby strengthening the arts and community through diversity and celebration.

Richmond, VA -

Richmond's First Fridays Art Walk showcases over 40 diverse creative venues in Downtown's growing arts and cultural district. Visitors are invited to enjoy and support a variety of art galleries, cultural venues, accommodations, restaurants, and shops along Historic Broad Street, east of Belvidere Street and west of 9th
Street as well as in Historic Jackson Ward and Monroe Ward.

Phoenix, AZ -

Open studio tours are a good way to experience art and artists. Every first Friday evening of each month you can take a free self-guided tour of downtown Phoenix galleries, studios and art spaces. It's called First Friday. First Friday is organized by Artlink, a nonprofit organization "...dedicated to bringing together artists, the public, and businesses for a greater understanding, appreciation, and promotion of the arts and the development of a strong and vital downtown Phoenix arts community."

Honolulu, HI -

The mission of firstfridayhawaii.com is to enrich the downtown/Chinatown neighborhood by providing a easy, fun, and interactive resource to celebrate community events, activities, restaurants, galleries and local happenings. By using a variety of creative Internet-based technical solutions we provide the pubic with resources to enhance community connections.

Chicago Architecture Foundation

Location: Chicago, IL

Website: www.architecture.org

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) is a nonprofit organization that inspires people to discover why design matters. CAF offers tours, exhibitions, adult and youth education programs and a retail shop.

Admission to our exhibitions is free. Most of our adult programs and family programs are free and open to the public. Tour prices vary.

Unless otherwise stated in the program or exhibition details, all programs and exhibitions are held at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 South Michigan Avenue. See a map of our facilities for specific locations within the building.

Most of our adult programs and family programs are free and open to the public. Please refer to the adult programs or family programs section of our main website for detailed information.

Discounted parking is available for Chicago Architecture Foundation members at the Millennium Park parking garage or Grant Park South parking garage. Show your membership card at the Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop & Tour Center between 9:30am and 6pm to request your discount voucher.

Discounted parking for all Architecture River Cruise participants is available at Systems Parking, 111 East Wacker Drive. To receive the discount, validate the parking ticket at both the Chicago’s First Lady dock ticket window and the Systems Parking ticket offices before using the automated machine in the parking facility. Discount applies only to stays in the garage under 4 hours.

There are 3 ways to become a member: submit an online form, complete a form at the Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop & Tour Center, or call 312.322.1140

Membership benefits include annual buy-one-get-one-free Architecture River Cruise tickets, more than 65 free tours, invitations to exclusive members-only behind-the-scenes tours, Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop discounts, parking discounts and more. See the membership section of our main website for complete details.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Urban Omnibus

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.urbanomnibus.org.

Urban Omnibus is an online publication dedicated to defining and enriching the culture of citymaking. We explore projects and perspectives in architecture, art, policy, and activism – tried and tested in New York City – that offer new ways of understanding, representing, and improving urban life and landscape worldwide.

The publication consists of three principal streams of online content. Each of our weekly features showcases and contextualizes original and exemplary ideas for interpreting or intervening in the built environment of New York. Regular posts to our forum offer recaps and reviews of lectures, exhibitions, and symposia as well as a weekly roundup of news, updates on feature topics, and suggestions of upcoming events of interest to our readers. Quarterly special projects include longer-term multimedia productions, often in collaboration with other organizations or in coordination with Architectural League programs, exhibitions, or design studies.

In broader terms, we provide a platform for the presentation of innovative projects and the insights of individual thinkers and practitioners, among them journalists, architects, planners, designers, artists, activists, scholars, and citizens. Regular visitors can expect to find the presentation of contemporary visual art alongside urban policy polemics, ecological initiatives, interviews with urbanists or architectural proposals. Crucial to our work is the steadfast belief that each of these types of work is an equally valid way of advancing public understanding of cities, promoting a more sustainable and equitable built environment, and fostering a more stimulating and participatory urban culture. Please help us to realize this vision by supporting Urban Omnibus or becoming a member of the Architectural League.

Urban Omnibus launched in January of 2009, a time of economic uncertainty, political opportunity, and profound optimism about the sheer range of projects that sought to make the built environment of New York City a little bit smarter, fairer, or greener. The quantity, diversity, and inter-disciplinarity of these projects, however, hadn’t managed to bubble up into a citywide conversation. So, we sought to create a space for that conversation by encouraging greater intimacy with the intentional choices that shape the city’s physical form and social experience. To learn more, read “Why Urban Omnibus?“, a forum post by Rosalie Genevro, the League’s executive director, published when the site first launched.

We post a new feature each Wednesday, with posts to our forum throughout the week. So please check back often. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. For anything else, you can reach us via email at info (at) urbanomnibus (dot) net.

Unless otherwise specified, all material on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license.


Act Local spotlights innovative projects and organizations whose field of action is a particular patch of New York. The series collects perspectives on how locally-based initiatives affect design and building at the urban scale.

Make it Visible showcases innovative strategies in communicating and explicating complex or hidden urban conditions and processes.

Sites + Projects profiles exemplary and interdisciplinary architectural interventions in the city’s fabric.

Unseen Machine exposes the technologies that keep the city running day-to-day and introduces the characters and designs involved in maintaining, managing, and re-imagining the systems that make New York work.

Vanguard visualizes groundbreaking new technologies and ideas and examines their impact and the design process behind their development.

Walks and Talks introduces figures involved in the design, building and ‘thinking’ of the city — informally and in their own words — ranging from city commissioners to architects to community activists to artists. The series will profile both well-known and unrecognized voices in private practice, scholarship, public service, and local leadership.

Writing the City envisions New York City through written reflection and opinion.

At the League alerts you to Omnibus-relevant events, public programs, podcasts, and other goings-on at our parent organization, the Architectural League of New York, one of America’s premier forums for the presentation and discussion of creative and intellectual work in architecture and urbanism.

Live Events fills you in on upcoming field trips and recaps of past happenings presented by Urban Omnibus.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Planners Web

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.plannersweb.com

For 20 years, the Planning Commissioners Journal served as the nation’s principal publication designed for citizen planners, including (but certainly not limited to) members of local planning commissions and zoning boards. If you’re not familiar with the Planning Commissioners Journal, we’ve uploaded ten sample articles that you can download at no charge.

As we switch from a quarterly print format to an online publication and resource, our goals remain the same: to ensure that what we run is clear & understandable to non-professional “citizen planners.”

Our PlannersWeb site will provide you with articles and postings on a wide range of planning issues, as well as a focus on how citizen planners — especially members of planning commissions and boards — can work most effectively. Take a few minutes to browse through our Menu choices above and you’ll start to get a sense of the depth and diversity of information now at your fingertips.

General Manager Betsey Krumholz and Editor Wayne Senville have a combined 17 years’ experience serving as planning commissioners. A bit of background. I served for eleven years as a member of the Burlington, Vermont, Planning Commission (including three years as Chair). Prior to that I was director of regional & local planning assistance for the State of Vermont. I’ve experienced first hand many of the situations planning commissioners face. We’re committed to publishing concise articles, written and edited so that you don’t need an advanced degree to understand them.

During the summer of 2007 I spent over six weeks traveling across the U.S., meeting with over a hundred planners & planning commissioners — many subscribers to the Planning Commissioners Journal — to better understand the planning issues communities — large and small, urban and rural — face.

Our staff is also outstanding, led by our general manager Betsey Krumholz — who has also served for six years as a planning commissioner.

Our top priority is being of assistance to our subscribers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Center for an Urban Future

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.nycfuture.org

The Center for an Urban Future is a public policy organization dedicated to improving the overall health of New York City and serving its long-term interests by targeting problems facing low-income and working-class neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

A new kind of think tank, the Center brings a unique, community-oriented perspective to the public policy arena. Our staffers function more like beat reporters than like academics, going out into the field to observe and interview neighborhood residents, local businesspeople and community organizations. We also consult with academic experts, government officials and others, in order to get the broadest possible view of an issue or problem, and to hear from all those affected by it.

In other words, we start with the facts.

As a result, the Center produces groundbreaking research in fields including economic development, workforce development, public and higher education, vocational education, child welfare, and criminal justice. But we don't stop there. Once the Center has a picture of the problem, our rigorous information-gathering techniques become problem-solving and consensus-building tools, which allow us to translate our research into action agendas that win support from a broad range of constituents across the ideological spectrum. Instead of joining well-publicized, politically polarized forensics debates, we focus our efforts on effecting concrete change by bringing lower-profile problems to the table and identifying underused assets — before indelible battle lines are drawn — and then offering thoughtful recommendations for constructive action.

This means not only envisioning workable solutions, but also conveying them clearly and effectively to local advocates, policy makers, academics and the public. We see communication as a vital part of our job. We understand that the right words can generate interest, inspire action, and help frame discussions and recommendations in a positive, solution-oriented way. Our publications are written for people, not just policy experts, because they are meant to be used.

We believe the Center's inclusive, whole-city approach to planning and policy can not only improve life for all New Yorkers, but can also provide a model for other urban areas interested in moving away from politically expedient, piecemeal public policy and toward a sustainable, long-term, vision for managing urban life in the new millennium.

The Center for an Urban Future is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.