"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.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Future Cities

Location: International

Website: www.ubmfuturecities.com

Our world is in a rapid and unprecedented state of urbanization.

As a result, cities have become a hot, buzz-worthy topic. Do a Web search for "smart cities" and you'll find no shortage of sources discussing the latest in sensor technology, future transportation systems like straddling buses and solar-powered trains, advanced communications infrastructure… The list goes on.

And while we're as fascinated and excited by the latest technology as anyone else, we also know that the conversation needs to go much deeper than that.

The development of new cities and the overcrowding of old ones place strains on infrastructure, government, education, healthcare, finance, and the environment.

Many of the globe's greatest problems – pollution, homelessness, crime, climate change – are the direct result of a world that is urbanizing more quickly than anyone can absorb. These problems threaten the quality of life for people all over the planet.

As people crowd into cities and megacities over the next decade, we need to define what makes an urban environment habitable and sustainable, and present solutions to the mounting impediments to livability. That involves answering some very difficult questions.

For example, how will inhabitants of developing cities in emerging economies who've never been served by financial institutions gain access to credit or bank accounts? How do we survive in a world that is getting increasingly hotter, when the coolants released by our air conditioning systems are contributing to global warming? How will we live in cities that don't have the capacity to house us?

At UBM's Future Cities, we are certain that finding the answers to these questions (and many, many more) is crucial to our ability to survive and thrive in an urbanized world.

The good news is we are in the best possible position to lead this discussion.

For starters, we've invited more than 100 of the world's leading experts in urbanization to come on board as contributing bloggers and share their approaches to civic problems. This is the only destination on the Web where on any given day you can read content from the world's most forward-thinking mayors, city planners, business leaders, analysts, and educators – and chat with them directly on the message boards.

We also know that global urbanization is a global problem, which is why our community of expert bloggers embraces individuals from all over the world who are best positioned to talk about the urban environments they are directly developing, supporting, and living in.

Who better to speak to sustainable transportation systems in Asia than the Chief Engineer of Transportation in Singapore? And who better to address India's sustainable challenges than the President of India's Smart Grid Forum?

You'll find these individuals and more than 100 others on our remarkable list of bloggers. These are all urbanization leaders who value the importance of being a part of this community and recognize the urgent need to elevate the conversation about future, livable cities.

Finally, here at UBM's Future Cities, we've made it our mission to not only recruit the brightest minds in global urbanization to share their expertise and insights, but to maintain a commitment to quality. That's why we're insisting that every piece of content we run comprises four critical elements that are too often missing in discussions of sustainable cities: technology, business, feasibility, and people.

With that in mind, there are certain things you won't find here – things like excessive hype about solutions that aren't pragmatic or feasible.

And we're happy to have you hold us to that standard. Have you got feedback for our contributors or thoughts about our site? Send an email anytime to editors@ubmfuturecities.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Santa Monica Coalition for a Liveable City

Location: Santa Monica, CA

Website: www.smclc.net

Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City ("SMCLC") is a nonprofit, all volunteer group of Santa Monica residents concerned about unsustainable commercial development in our city, the effects it has on traffic and our quality of life, and the influence developer money has on our local elections.

Through education, advocacy, and organizing, SMCLC works to ensure that residents have meaningful input into the development decisions that affect their lives.

With traffic gridlock threatening to become the new norm in our city, intensified commercial development continues at an alarming rate. New projects are discussed in isolation, without fully accounting for other projects that are either on-line or will be coming online in the future. "Development Agreements", which enable projects to be built beyond what zoning codes allow in exchange for some promised community benefit, are almost never denied.

Then, as has been disclosed, developers often don't even live up to the meager community benefits that were promised, and the city doesn't enforce those so-called requirements. Developers are allowed to build beyond zoning requirements, while the community receives little in return but additional traffic.

SMCLC was formed in 2005 when the owners of Santa Monica Place, the city's only mall, proposed adding over one million square feet of office, residential and retail space to that site. This would have resulted in the square footage equivalent to placing all nine of Santa Monica's largest hotels on this one site.

The proposal would have had huge, irreversible impacts on traffic, open space and Santa Monicans' quality of life. Widespread community opposition caused this proposal to be scrapped and a new one to be put forward, one that did not add any significant square footage to the site. It was a win-win for both residents AND the developer.

We believe new development in our community should serve the people who live here, not the other way around.

We believe residents are entitled to participate meaningfully, and at an early stage, in development proposals.

We believe residents should be given full access to public records about proposed developments, as well as full and accurate information about their impacts and long-range consequences.

We believe Santa Monicans are also entitled to know who is funding Santa Monica City Council races, and that the sources of money spent on behalf of candidates, whether directly or through independent expenditures, should be disclosed to residents.

We believe big developer money does influence Santa Monica City Council and it is our role to shine a light on that relationship.

Keeping Santa Monica livable, requiring new growth to be on a scale that is both sane and sustainable, and ensuring transparency in local government are all key goals of SMCLC.

SMCLC is a California 501(c)(4) organization.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Community Planit

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.communityplanit.org

Community PlanIt is a project of the Engagement Game Lab at Emerson College. It is a local engagement game designed to make community-planning fun, while providing a context for learning and action. It is also part of an ongoing design research project on games and civic engagement.

All the data generated in the game is community property and can and should be used by the community. Community planning is a collective process and all decisions made on behalf of the community should be collective.

When you play Community PlanIt your voice matters. Weigh in on important
issues whenever you can,
from anywhere, however you choose.

Community PlanIt is funded by the Knight Foundation and supported by Emerson College.


Location: Washington, D.C.

Website: www.nbm.org/families-kids/teens-young-adults/cityvision.html

Now in its seventeenth year, CityVision is an award-winning outreach program that uses design as a framework to teach District of Columbia public school students how to become active participants in shaping their communities. Through extensive fieldwork and careful mentoring at the National Building Museum, students identify needs and propose solutions designed to help local neighborhoods.

In CityVision, participants:

- Develop problem solving and critical thinking skills,

- Learn technical skills, including sketching and architectural drawing, photography, scale, and model building,

- Practice negotiation and collaboration while working as a team,

- Sharpen public speaking and communication skills, and

- Explore careers in architecture, engineering, construction and design.

CityVision takes place during the fall and spring of the academic year, and is made possible by a close collaboration between the National Building Museum and D.C. Public Schools and Public Charter Schools.

Each year, junior high and middle schools integrate CityVision as part of their curriculum and offer participating students with academic credit. For the spring 2010 semester, the Museum partnered with John Burroughs Education Campus and Stuart-Hobson Middle School.

Up to 12 students are selected from each school to attend the CityVision program during the fall or spring semester. Participants meet for a full school day, once per week for 12 weeks, to work with Museum staff, educators, and design professionals, on fun, challenging, hands-on activities.

Early CityVision sessions are devoted to teaching participants about the basic elements of the design process. Next, participants work in teams to explore selected neighborhoods where they observe and collect information about the community’s most urgent needs.

Each team then develops a creative solution that addresses those needs, creating architectural drawings and models of their design. The program culminates in a final public presentation, in which team members defend their work to a panel of professionals.

If you are a design professional or student in the fields of architecture, urban planning, or education who would be interested in helping inner-city youth learn about design and the built environment, consider volunteering at the Museum. Volunteers must be able to commit to a minimum of two Thursdays per month, but are strongly encouraged to attend each session. Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older.

Students or recent graduates who are interested in a greater commitment to CityVision are invited to apply for an intern position in the Outreach Department. Interns act as volunteer instructors and assist with the administration of the program. Learn more about internships at the Museum.

If your school is interested in becoming a partner, please contact the Outreach Programs Coordinator. Your school must be a part of the D.C. Public Schools system or D.C. Charter Schools System, and must also recruit a staff member to accompany the students to the program each week.

Spring 2010:

CityVision participants explored three sites along both sides of the Anacostia River on the Southeast Waterfront. Students from John Burroughs Education Campus and Stuart-Hobson Middle School worked with professionals from the National Capital Planning Commission, and other local organizations, to design plans for this emerging area.

Highlights from the three plans include: an underwater library in the Anacostia River near the Florida Rock site, an arts and recreation center surrounded by gardens on Poplar Point, and a large entertainment complex, boardwalk and ferris wheel on the Navy Yards site. All of the plans included wetlands to help improve the Anacostia River.

Fall 2009:

During the fall 2009 CityVision, the Museum partnered with the National Capital Planning Commission to work with local youth on designing a new White House Visitor Center. Students from Browne Education Campus and Columbia Heights Education Campus were challenged to explore three sites around the White House, interview tourists and government officials, and think creatively about design. For their final public presentation, students developed proposals for improving the quality of the experience for people who visit, live, or work in or near the White House.

Fall 2008 and Spring 2009:

Partnering for the 2008-2009 CityVision program, the National Building Museum and the District of Columbia Office of Planning challenged CityVision students to examine and deck over a section of Interstate 395 between E Street & Massachussetts Avenue. The Interstate 395 project reconnected the neighborhoods of Penn Quarter and Union Station. Students were asked to identify what type of development meets the needs of both communities and then presented their final projects to the public. This experience enriched their education and gave them the foundation to express their ideas and opinions about their city and its development.

2006 - 2007

The National Building Museum and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) partnered for the CityVision programs which focused on the design of museum and monument designs for sites identified by the National Capital Planning Commission’s Memorials and Museums Master Plan.

Spring 2006:

LeDroit Park CityVision participants explored the neighborhood’s physical surroundings and examined the area’s historic relationship with Howard University. Students also documented the distinct architectural features of LeDroit Park through photographs and free-hand sketching. As participants met with residents and identified the existing land use in the neighborhood, they noted a lack of support services for the community.

The team’s design proposes to rehabilitate a vacant building into a community center. The proposed 3-story u-shaped building contains spaces for recreation, a library and computer room, child care center, grocery store, and a health clinic.

Students thought deeply about the relationships of these varying services, grouping similar functions such as the health clinic and child care center next to each other. Students also addressed the building’s exterior by creating an elevated pedestrian bridge between the two building wings, and proposing new plantings in the interior courtyard.

Fall 2005:

All eyes are on the Navy Yard neighborhood, these days. An area rich in history, it is currently the site of dramatic development and construction. Students on the Navy Yard team observed that, while promising economic growth for the community, the transformation has forced many residents to move, leaving behind scores of vacant homes and lots.

The team’s design for "Canal Yards," a mixed-use project, responds to the need for more convenient and quality housing for the residents that remain, and those that hope to eventually return. The building includes seven stories of mixed-income apartments, and restaurants, shops and other businesses at the street level.

CityVision is generously supported by The William Randolph Hearst Foundation; the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; and MARPAT Foundation, Inc.. Additional support for teen outreach programs is provided by Bloomberg, Clark Charitable Foundation, McGraw-Hill, Prince Charitable Trusts, The Tower Companies, and an anonymous donor. Geppetto Catering, Inc. is the official Meal Provider for Teen Outreach Programs at the National Building Museum.

Intelligent Cities

Location: Nationwide


What makes a city Intelligent? You Do.

For as long as we have lived in cities we have reflected on their form, feel, and function. From the launch of the first hot air balloon to the creation of geospatial information software, we have developed technologies that enable us to assess what we have done, what we are doing, and what we wish to do.

Today, the scale and complexity of neighborhoods, towns, and cities are unprecedented, and so are our tools for understanding them. Intelligent Cities, an initiative of the National Building Museum, supported by its partners TIME and IBM and funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, explores the intersection of information technology and urban design to understand where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there.

With contributions from experts in research, design, and technology, the Intelligent Cities book offers an interdisciplinary look at the complex relationship between city form and technology. This wide-ranging and readable book summarizes the National Building Museum’s year-long Intelligent Cities initiative, which was an exploration of how data and information technology impact the way cities look, feel, and function.

Award-winning, original infographics commissioned by the museum and thought-provoking essays enrich the discussion of new—and not so new—issues of technology and urban form. Intelligent Cities looks at the most ubiquitous of today’s technologies, such as the telephone and the computer, and offers new insight into their impacts on human settlement and society.

Reach out and call someone!

Researchers at MIT Senseable City Lab, AT&T Labs-Research and IBM Research have analyzed billions of anonymous connections from AT&T cell phone networks across the country—where people were calling from.

How did you choose your home?

Information surrounds us. With satellite global positioning technology we can see hot roofs, storm water run-off and where traffic is crawling. But there’s more. There’s a relationship between the health of our waterways and how we travel to work. There’s a connection between the size of our homes and how much energy we use. Intelligent Cities aims to reveal these connections, to make them visible and actionable...because informed people make better decisions.

What do you like best about your neighborhood?

Walking and biking to elementary school used to be common. Now, they're rare. What happened? We started building fewer, bigger schools between neighborhoods. We built new wide roads to reduce congestion on the way to school. We thought schools would be safer away from Main Street, with its sidewalks of commerce and distractions. We can see the consequences now, making connections between those decisions and rising health problems. With better information, can we make our neighborhoods intelligent? We can.

What connects you to your community?

People love to be with people. Fifty years ago people met at the corner diner, local church, or at a neighborhood block party. We still create networks at social clubs, places of worship, and neighborhood potlucks but we have now added virtual communities to that list as over 500 million people are on Facebook.

Even as electronic forums gain popularity, real places to gather remain important. How can we begin to visualize and cultivate these networks to make better cities? Connections define community: our physical and virtual networks connect us to each other and the places where we live.

What makes a city a city?

According to AAA, Americans spend on average $8,485 each year on their cars. Seems like a lot of money, doesn't it? And most of that money leaves your local economy. What if you were able to get rid of a car and spend-or invest-that money in your community and city?

Where does your water go?

Where does all the water go when it rains? Simple question, complex answer. We spend billions of dollars to construct ever larger sewer systems. And in a time of increasing droughts across the U.S. we flush more of our stormwater straight out into the ocean instead of capturing it. It turns out that how and where we build plays a key role.


Community Solutions

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.cmtysolutions.org

Community Solutions (CS), led by President Rosanne Haggerty, is a newly established, national not-for-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities to end homelessness.

Based in New York city, CS partners with community leaders, public agencies, non-profits, property developers and health and human services organizations to create practical, scalable, cost effective solutions to homelessness.

Our approach has been featured on “60 Minutes,” in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other media, and recognized with the Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation, the World Habitat Award, and the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, among other honors.

As the national spinoff of Common Ground, a pioneer and leader in the field, our perspective is based on twenty years of experience ending street homelessness, developing and operating permanent supportive housing, and bringing a range of community stakeholders together to create and share cost-effective solutions to support our most vulnerable neighbors.

We’ve proven, time and again, that investing in effective housing strategies costs taxpayers far less than maintaining the status quo, where isolated, often sick people shuttle between the streets and shelters, hospitals and jails.

What others might see as the toughest problems, we see as the highest-leverage opportunities. We focus our efforts where homelessness is most complex, developing effective solutions with the widest possible impact on health and housing outcomes, practices and policies.

Our goal is to accelerate change by bringing proven, replicable innovations that end homelessness to a national scale, working with what we call “tipping point” communities, as well as to advance new models of homelessness prevention and community development.

CS’s cornerstone initiatives include:
The 100,000 Homes Campaign, an unprecedented effort to support and coordinate a multitude of national organizations and local communities to collectively house 100,000 homeless individuals and families by July of 2014;

The first supportive housing projects in post-Katrina New Orleans, where homelessness rose by 70 percent in the wake of the storm; and
Community partnerships with neighborhoods struggling with high rates of homelessness, including Brownsville, Brooklyn, and Northeast Hartford, CT.
Rosanne Haggerty, who leads a multi-disciplinary team of 30 professionals, is an internationally recognized leader in the arena of resolving homelessness.

She founded Common Ground in 1990, and presided over its growth into the largest developer of permanent supportive housing in the country for more than 20 years. Haggerty is a 2007 Ashoka Senior Fellow, a Hunt Alternatives Fund Prime Mover, and a 2001 recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Genius Fellowship.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Untapped Cities

Location: International

Website: www.untappedcities.com

Rediscover your city. Untapped Cities is a guide, a magazine, a community. We uncover the best of your city, and the ones you’re traveling to. The lens is photography, the writing powered by inquisitive city dwellers like you along with experts in architecture, culture, food and travel.

The Laws That Shaped L.A.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Website: www.kcet.org/socal/departures/landofsunshine/laws-that-shaped-la/

For more than a year now, the Laws That Shaped L.A. column has been chronicling a running list of laws that a range of experts say have made a significant impact on the people and places of this region -- and oftentimes, far beyond.

As regular readers of the column know, the columns are automatically archived. That automatic archive appears chronologically by the date each column was published.

For readers who are interested in more subject-matter groupings, we present just such an index. Please note that many columns are cross-listed and appear in multiple subject sections.


The Roots of Sprawl: Why We Don't Live Where We Work

Why is the Los Angeles Skyline So Bland?

How Bunker Hill Lost Its Victorians

Sprawl: What Happens When You Legislate Against Vibrant Streets

How Downtown L.A. Became a Place to Live (Without Parking)

The Law That Killed The L.A. River

Survey Says: How Thomas Jefferson Made the Streets of L.A.

The Under-Appreciated 1990 Immigration Law That Changed Koreatown

Teddy Roosevelt's Signature Let Los Angeles Grow

How The Westside Became So Crowded

The End of the Road: The Idea That Took A Toll on How We Travel

Why Buildings Turn Their Backs on the L.A. River

Prop 13's Hidden Effects on the Built Environment

How Prop 84 Helped the Homeless and Added Affordable Housing

My Way or the Highway: Why Mega-Roads Rule The City

The Birth of Sprawl: How Ending the Great Depression Meant Inventing the Suburbs

How CEQA Allows Anyone to Thwart Development

In Defense of CEQA, the 'Bill of Rights' for Environmental Democracy

How Rancho Owners Lost Their Land and Why That Matters Today


Why is the Los Angeles Skyline So Bland?

Why Automobiles Look The Way They Do

Why Buildings Turn Their Backs on the L.A. River

Street Food is Not A Crime

Prop 13's Hidden Effects on the Built Environment

How Downtown L.A. Became a Place to Live (Without Parking)

The Under-Appreciated 1990 Immigration Law That Changed Koreatown

How Bunker Hill Lost Its Victorians


How Los Angeles Began to Put its Soggy Days Behind

Don't Bury Your Head in the Sand: Why The Clean Water Act Matters

When It Comes To Water, Why L.a. is Better Off Than Texas

When the Eco Zeitgeist Changed

Power Play: California, Electricity and Climate Change

How Yellowstone Led to Los Angeles

Teddy Roosevelt's Signature Let Los Angeles Grow

Why California's Beaches are Open to Everyone

How CEQA Allows Anyone to Thwart Development

In Defense of CEQA, the 'Bill of Rights' for Environmental Democracy


Proposition 13: The Sacred Cow That Won't GO Away

Prop 13's Hidden Effects on the Built Environment

The Birth of Sprawl: How Ending the Great Depression Meant Inventing the Suburbs

Street Food is Not A Crime

Why California's Beaches are Open to Everyone

How Prop 84 Helped the Homeless and Added Affordable Housing

In Defense of CEQA, the 'Bill of Rights' for Environmental Democracy

The Under-Appreciated 1990 Immigration Law That Changed Koreatown

How Bunker Hill Lost Its Victorians


Dr. Strangevote, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ballot Initiatives


Power Play: California, Electricity and Climate Change


Title IX: Why So Many More Women and Girls Play and Win at Sports

When California Decided Who Could Have Kids and Who Could Not

How World War II Era Internment Camps Changed Little Tokyo, Los Angeles and America

In Defense of CEQA, the 'Bill of Rights' for Environmental Democracy

How Rancho Owners Lost Their Land and Why That Matters Today

Skid Row's Toilet Woes: Where Going to the Bathroom is Illegal


Street Food is Not A Crime

When This Law Ended, What Happened to Mexican Immigration?

How Rancho Owners Lost Their Land and Why That Matters Today


Los Angeles and the First Amendment

Why is Civic Activism and Journalism Legal and Who was Jerry Schneiderman?


How Prop 84 Helped the Homeless and Added Affordable Housing

Skid Row's Toilet Woes: Where Going to the Bathroom is Illegal


When This Law Ended, What Happened to Mexican Immigration?

The Under-Appreciated 1990 Immigration Law That Changed Koreatown

The Immigration Law That Changed Postwar Chinatown

Street Food is Not A Crime

How Rancho Owners Lost Their Land and Why That Matters Today

How World War II Era Internment Camps Changed Little Tokyo, Los Angeles and America

The Immigration Law That Shaped Postwar Chinatown


When This Law Ended, What Happened to Mexican Immigration?


How Los Angeles Began to Put its Soggy Days Behind

Why Automobiles Look The Way They Do

Street Food is Not A Crime

The Law That Killed The L.A. River

Don't Bury Your Head in the Ground: Why The Clean Water Act Matters

When the Eco Zeitgeist Changed

Behind California's Ban on Assault Weapons

When California Decided Who Could Have Kids and Who Could Not

When The Olympics and L.A. Youth Sports Changed Forever

Why California's Beaches are Open to Everyone

How Prop 84 Helped the Homeless and Added Affordable Housing


Why Los Angeles Isn't A Beach Town

Behind California's Ban on Assault Weapons

Why is the Los Angeles Skyline So Bland?

Skid Row's Toilet Woes: Where Going to the Bathroom is Illegal


When The Olympics and L.A. Youth Sports Changed Forever

Title IX: Why So Many More Women and Girls Play and Win at Sports


Proposition 13: The Sacred Cow That Won't Go Away

Prop 13's Hidden Effects on the Built Environment


My Way or the Highway: Why Mega-Roads Rule The City

Why Automobiles Look The Way They Do

Free The Jitney! When Buses, Bicycles, Light Rail and Feet Aren't Enough

The End of the Road: The Idea That Took A Toll on How We Travel

How Downtown L.A. Became a Place to Live (Without Parking)

How The Westside Became So Crowded

Survey Says: How Thomas Jefferson Made the Streets of LA

Bland 1976 Downtown skyline. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library


Why Los Angeles Isn't A Beach Town

The Roots of Sprawl: Why We Don't Live Where We Work

The Birth and Growth of City Planning

Why is the Los Angeles Skyline So Bland?

Does Zoning Matter in Los Angeles?

Sprawl: What Happens When You Legislate Against Vibrant Streets

How Bunker Hill Lost Its Victorians

How Downtown L.A. Became a Place to Live (Without Parking)

The Law That Killed The L.A. River

Survey Says: How Thomas Jefferson Made the Streets of LA

How Yellowstone Led to Los Angeles

How The Westside Became So Crowded

The End of the Road: The Idea That Took A Toll on How We Travel

Why Buildings Turn Their Backs on the L.A. River

Proposition 13: The Sacred Cow That Won't Go Away

Prop 13's Hidden Effects on the Built Environment

How Rancho Owners Lost Their Land and Why That Matters Today

My Way or the Highway: Why Mega-Roads Rule The City

The Birth of Sprawl: How Ending the Great Depression Meant Inventing the Suburbs

Free The Jitney! When Buses, Bicycles, Light Rail and Feet Aren't Enough

How Prop 84 Helped the Homeless and Added Affordable Housing

How CEQA Allows Anyone to Thwart Development

In Defense of CEQA, the 'Bill of Rights' for Environmental Democracy

Channelizing the L.A. River. Image courtesy USC Digital Archives


Why Los Angeles Isn't a Beach Town

The Law That Killed The L.A. River

Don't Bury Your Head in the Ground: Why The Clean Water Act Matters

Why California's Beaches are Open to Everyone

When the Eco Zeitgeist Changed

Teddy Roosevelt's Signature Let Los Angeles Grow

Why Buildings Turn Their Backs on the L.A. River

When It Comes To Water, Why L.A. is Better Off Than Texas

Positively Paseo

Location: Oklahoma City, OK


Positively Paseo is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit community housing development organization, or CHDO, working to revitalize the Paseo Historic District and Classen Ten Penn neighborhoods in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Our mission is to increase homeownership by providing families and individuals with low-to-moderate income levels the opportunity to purchase a rehabilitated, restored, or newly constructed home that is affordable and of good quality.

Like other inner-city Oklahoma City neighborhoods, Paseo and Classen Ten Penn suffered in the 1970′s and 80′s when development began in the suburbs and drew families away from the center of the city.

This suburban flight led to urban blight – leaving behind large swaths of vacant, boarded up blocks. Homes deteriorated and crime moved in. The economic recession of the 1980′s led to further deterioration with the end result being a nearly abandoned inner city.

With some of the homes dating back to the Land Run of 1889 and neighborhoods designed by G.A. Nichols in the early 1900′s, it is important to save these historic buildings and make these neighborhoods safe again for families.

So began the work of Positively Paseo…
In the mid 1980′s residents of Paseo and surrounding historic neighborhoods joined forces with area church officials, non-profit community associations, local bankers, and commercial property owners to set in place a plan to revitalize the Paseo neighborhood.

Backed by an endorsement from a study by the Urban Land Institute in Washington D.C., Positively Paseo was formed to lead the way in housing rehabilitation. With a focus on owner-occupancy, staff and volunteers began to renovate deteriorated single-family homes and build new homes on long vacant lots. Initial funding sources included bank loans and federal grants administered by the City of Oklahoma City.

This work began more than 20 years ago and because of patience and perseverance, the Paseo Historic District (as it is now known) has undergone a renaissance. Property values have stabilized, criminal activity has all but vanished, and a strong neighborhood association continues to unite neighbors.

It is because of this success that Positively Paseo has joined forces with Classen Ten Penn residents in order to model the work that has been done in Paseo in another deteriorated inner-city Oklahoma City neighborhood.

The Classen Ten Penn neighborhood has a long history and, by some accounts, served as a home for at least one famous writer – Ralph Ellison. Today, the neighborhood boasts another famous resident, Wayne Coyne, of the band The Flaming Lips, and his wife and photographer, Michelle Martin-Coyne. A thriving commercial and arts district – The Plaza District – serves as the heart of the neighborhood.

All locally-owned, the district is home to four restaurants, a winery, a beauty salon, art galleries, a dance studio, an interior design studio, a floral designer, a tattoo parlor, retro and vintage shops, and The Lyric Theatre, Oklahoma’s only professional year-round musical theatre company. On the second Friday of each month, LIVE on the Plaza hosts a family-friendly event.

Classen Ten Penn is undoubtedly an ethnically and economically diverse hub of Oklahoma City and certainly a neighborhood to watch – maybe even a place to call your next home…

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SF: Urban Prototyping

Location: San Francisco, CA


UP: San Francisco is a festival centered around Placemaking Through Prototyping: How Citizen Experiments Reimagine the Public Realm. The festival fosters a wide array of new creative projects which blend the digital and physical to explore new possibilities in public space. Every project produced is open source, publicly documented, and replicable in any city in the world.

The project teams behind these works represent exciting new collaborations between the creative technology, participatory art, and urban design communities. The UP Festival 2012 series of events – centered around an open call for proposals, a weekend makeathon, and a public street exposition – brought together thousands of participants and attendees, building a community around civic engagement through creative work.

The UP exposition in October 2012 served as a high-visibility public venue for showcasing San Francisco’s leadership in the fields of technology, design, civic participation, and maker culture.

Urban Prototyping is a global movement exploring how participatory design, art, and technology can improve cities. Each UP Festival uses its own strategy to uniquely address that city’s specific circumstances – soliciting, testing, and deploying digital and physical projects with high potential for impact.

UP is an initiative of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), the San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to building social consciousness through digital culture, in partnership with Rebar, IDEO, and strong local partners in cities around the globe.

UP: San Francisco is produced in partnership with Intersection for the Arts and the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, with many other organizations contributing to the effort. For more information, see our Partners page.

San Francisco is the second city to host an UP Festival, with Singapore hosting the inaugural festival in conjunction with the World Cities Summit in June-July 2012. Produced in partnership with Newton Circus and Re:Imagine Group, UP Singapore focused on how public and private data could be leveraged to build new web and mobile applications promoting health and sustainability.

Citizens for City

Location: India


Our Indian cities, which have the potential to contribute enormously to the nation, are paradoxically victimized by their own growth!

Hyderabad is no exception. Our City, with transnational and Indian giants, world’s best research establishments, institutions of higher learning dotting its cityscape, has grown exponentially. However, the city administration is yet to reinvent itself to match the pace of city’s growth - needless to say that bad roads, traffic travails, garbage, poor sanitation, air and water pollution have become dining and board room discussions.

We, at Foundation for Futuristic Cities (FFC) – www.futurecities.org believe that every Indian city needs Citizen Architects urgently – citizens who can collectively transform the city.

Hyderabad city has 8.8 million Creative and Caring Citizens - Professionals with Panache and Pride, Smart and Savvy Students, Women with Wisdom and Verve, Sanguine Senior Citizens, Tolerant and Tech savvy Teenagers, Ambitious Artists and Real, Real Romantics...

A first in this genre, FFC’s CITIZENS FOR CITY initiative was specially crafted to capitalize on these very attributes of Hyderabadis, employing the “Crowd Sourcing” protocol.

It was run as a contest that invited strategies and solutions which were locked up in the minds of the citizens for transforming Hyderabad into a livable and world class city. It was designed to propel Hyderabad into a new orbit.

We believe that a city that has the support of its stakeholders creates a good brand and helps in its multifaceted growth.

Initiatives cocieved, steered & owned by citizens themselves for the problems hurting the city, will infuse a sense of urgency and accountability into the government agencies.

Through CITIZENS FOR CITY Contest a knowledge bank of innovative strategies was created to draw from and fall back on if the city needs them. ( Read more about this in “Sculpt Your City”)

How does the city gain?

· Profits from the wisdom of diverse stakeholders of Hyderabad for some of the nagging issues plaguing the city,

· Heightened awareness amongst citizens on what they can do for the city leading to collective action,

· Attract the attention of government agencies to spur proactive actions, and

· Inspire creation of formal / informal citizen forums at various levels to carry forward the agenda of Citizens for City.

What are participant pay offs?

· Gain insights and contribute to challenges needing urgent attention,

· Hone research, analytical, documentation and persuasive skills,

· Hands on experience in getting a project off the ground,

· Stay in the minds of everyone as a Citizen Architect,

· Earn respect if other cities decide to adopt their stratergies, and

· Create opportunities for Social Entrepenuership.

FFC developed a model for large scale stakeholder participation and involvement in the governance process through the CITIZENS FOR CITY Contest, inviting strategies from the citizens for a World Class Hyderabad. The response to this initiative was tremendous - MNCs like ADP, Deloitte, Infosys, Honeywell, CB Richard Ellis, premier educational and research institutions like Indian School of Business, IIIT-H, NRSC-ISRO, NIN (ICMR), ICFAI Business School, and Institute for Public Enterprises, etc being some amongst the participants.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sunlight Foundation

Location: Washington, DC


The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.

We are committed to improving access to government information by making it available online, indeed redefining “public” information as meaning “online,” and by creating new tools and websites to enable individuals and communities to better access that information and put it to use.

We want to catalyze greater government transparency by engaging individual citizens and communities -- technologists, policy wonks, open government advocates and ordinary citizens –- demanding policies that will enable all of us to hold government accountable.

Sunlight develops and encourages new government policies to make it more open and transparent, facilitates searchable, sortable and machine readable databases, builds tools and websites to enable easy access to information, fosters distributed research projects as a community building tool, engages in advocacy for 21st century laws to require that government make data available in real time and trains thousands of journalists and citizens in using data and the web to watchdog Washington.

Major elements of our work include the Sunlight Labs, Sunlight Reporting Group, Sunlight Live and the Open House Project.

The Sunlight Foundation uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and open.

Friday, March 22, 2013

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Location: Nationwide


The County Health Rankings rank the health of nearly every county in the nation and show that much of what affects health occurs outside of the doctor’s office.

The County Health Rankings confirm the critical role that factors such as education, jobs, income, and environment play in how healthy people are and how long they live.

Published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rankings help counties understand what influences how healthy residents are and how long they will live.

The Rankings look at a variety of measures that affect health such as the rate of people dying before age 75, high school graduation rates, access to healthier foods, air pollution levels, income, and rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.

The Rankings, based on the latest data publically available for each county, are unique in their ability to measure the overall health of each county in all 50 states on the multiple factors that influence health.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reconcile New Orleans

Location: New Orleans, LA


We are a community of concerned people committed to addressing the system of generational poverty, violence and neglect in the New Orleans area. Our innovative life skills and job training program assists young people (ages 16–22) from severely at-risk communities who desire to make a positive change in their lives.

Reconcile’s students arrive facing a vast array of challenges, from extreme poverty and high school attrition to homelessness, violence, and participation in the juvenile justice system. Nonetheless, these young people possess a deep desire to break the cycle and become productive, contributing members of society.

As our name suggests, we believe in the power of reconciliation to help us overcome poverty, prejudice and fear. We work to make things whole, and to celebrate and pursue a shared vision of hope and prosperity for all people.

At Reconcile New Orleans, we believe:

- People of all races, cultures, and experiences can come together to pursue and achieve the common goals of spiritual, social, and economic enrichment and success for all people.

- Community members working together can effectively combat poverty, prejudice and fear through programs inspired by love, compassion, and the principle of self-help.

- Young people can have a voice in constructive change rather than being displaced by change.

- Together we can be a model for inner city renewal, education, and shared success.

These beliefs are guided by a set of core principles that includes:

- Reconciliation: overcoming poverty, prejudice and fear,

- Spirituality: teaching life’s lessons through love,

- Hope: providing educational and economic opportunities for youth,

- Self-Respect: developing self-worth through holistic development,

- Education:learning through hands-on work,

- Collaboration: working through partnerships and

- Self-Efficacy: transformation through experiencing success.

The International Coalition of Art Deco Societies

Location: International


The International Coalition of Art Deco Societies (ICADS) is a voluntary alliance of societies from around the world which strive to inform and educate the public on the important contributions made by artists, designers and architects of this period.

Members assist each other with support during battles for the preservation of architecture from the period. ICADS conducts a bi-annual World Congress on Art Deco in cities where a member society nominates itself as a host. The next World Congress will be held in Havana, the last two weeks of March 2013.

lCADS consists of not-for-profit, independent and member-based societies from cities and regions around the world, called ‘sponsors’. In addition, it includes ‘key contacts’ from other cities and regions where no Art Deco society exists.

ICADS meets formally every two years at the World Congress. Sponsor societies are eligible to vote on issues.

ICADS appoints a facilitator for a period of two years (generally the President of the Society that has hosted a previous World Congress).

The facilitator is responsible for coordinating the work of ICADS, chairing the meeting at the World Congress, ensuring the implementation of resolutions, disseminating information and preservation alerts, maintaining the ICADS mailing list and website, and encouraging the formation of new Art Deco societies.

A three-member Advisory Committee has been established to help and advise the facilitator.

Sponsor societies and key contacts pay an annual fee to belong to ICADS and accounts are managed by an appointed Treasurer. Due to the international nature of the organization,

ICADS is not incorporated. It operates under a Platform which describes the consensus upon which the Coalition currently exists. The Platform can be amended at the bi-annual formal ICADS meeting. Sponsors and key contacts agree to conform to the joining criteria and the rules that govern the operations of ICADS.

An organisation seeking to become a sponsor of ICADS completes an application which is submitted to the formal bi-annual meeting.

The mission of ICADS is :

• To encourage co-operation among Art Deco Societies and other organisations and individuals actively concerned with preservation of buildings from the Art Deco era;

• To offer mutual support through a variety of means;

• To explore new ways to work together to promote the understanding, appreciation and preservation of Art Deco.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sprockets St. Paul

Location: St. Paul, MN


The Center for Democracy and Citizenship collaborates with a variety of partners to promote active citizenship and public work by people of all ages. The center’s work is grounded in the belief that a healthy democracy requires everyone’s participation, and that each of us has something to contribute.


Sprockets is a partnership between the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the City of Saint Paul through the Second Shift Initiative with the Saint Paul Public School District, Saint Paul Federation of Teachers union, and many community-based organizations and individuals. Working together, we aim to ensure that young people in Saint Paul grow up in a culture of learning that spans the many learning environments that impact their academic achievement, skill development, and personal growth so that they successfully meet the demands and expectations for the 21st century.

The Center for Democracy and Citizenship uses the lens of public work, in which people from diverse backgrounds work across differences to solve public problems, create public goods, and build thriving, inclusive communities. A public work approach to education–building on rich traditions of formal and informal learning that emphasize young people’s capacities for productive contribution–focuses on how every young person can be successful as an individual and a citizen. Learning in Cities is also shaped by A New Day for Learning, a report by the Time, Learning and Afterschool Taskforce. The report argues that “the nation’s steady progress as an economy and as a society will end unless we…design a comprehensive learning system throughout the day, early to late, and year round so that young people have a seamless learning experience…with multiple ways of learning, anchored to high standards and aligned to educational resources throughout a community.”

Learning in Cities emphasizes the intellectual deepening of education as a kind of public work.

Through this effort, we are developing vital communities of practice that generate learning cultures, and making the lessons of Saint Paul visible to broader audiences. Saint Paul is well poised to become a national and international model of a city-wide effort to create a learning culture infused with productive citizenship and democracy-building work.

A 21st century definition of youth success

From October through January, 2011, the Learning in Cities partnership brought together 300 business people, parents, young people, teachers, and others across the city for listening sessions. These stakeholders contributed their ideas to define youth success in ways that go beyond grades and standardized test scores. This new definition of youth success will be used as the foundation of Learning in Cities work and will be a guide for future policy and decision-making.

Using data to create a holistic picture of learning and achievement

Recognizing that Saint Paul has rich community resources to extend learning beyond the school day, the city’s Second Shift Initiative is exploring the creation of a data management system that would connect community-based youth organizations and allow the city to map trends in out-of-school time programming and provide data for evaluating its impact on academic achievement.

Bringing licensed and community teachers together through professional development

Through the Learning in Cities effort, the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers has agreed to engage youth workers and licensed teachers throughout the city in developing opportunities for relationship building and reciprocal learning and teaching around K-12 education standards. Licensed and community teachers will come together for the first time at the federation’s annual conference on March 6, 2010.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Location: Greensboro, NC


synerG, under the umbrella of Action Greensboro, is an active organization of young adults who lead initiatives with the mission to attract, engage and connect young professionals to Greensboro, North Carolina.

Through our projects, synerG promotes social and professional networking, leadership opportunities and serves as a clearinghouse for information for young adults in the 21-39 year-old age demographic. synerG values the creation of opportunities and atmospheres that promote connectedness, diversity/inclusiveness and accessibility.

In 2001, Action Greensboro commissioned the McKinsey Report on the state of economic growth in Greensboro. One strong finding was that Greensboro had been seeing a decline in numbers of 18- to 34-year-olds in the past decade.

During the same time period, Raleigh and Charlotte had been able to attract young people from outside their county lines, increasing their absolute number of young residents and bucking the national trend toward an aging population. With this challenge, Action Greensboro created synerG.

Since 2001, synerG has evolved from developing projects like the installation of WIFI on South Elm Street and in Center City Park to program based initiatives with the goal of advancing leadership opportunities, voice, and quality of life for all young professionals in the Greensboro community.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Amsterdam Market

Location: New York, NY


New Amsterdam Market is held from 11am to 4pm on Sundays, at the old Fulton Fish Market in Lower Manhattan which is located on South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip.

New Amsterdam Market is a reinvention of the Public Market, once a prevalent institution in the City of New York. Revived for our present times and needs, New Amsterdam Market will incubate a new and growing economic sector: small businesses such as butchers, grocers, mongers, and other vendors who source, produce, distribute, and sell foods made with regional ingredients as well as carefully selected imports. We are also reintroducing and developing the concept of market fare prepared with regional, seasonal ingredients.

Our vision is to revive the historic Fulton Fish Market, a priceless public legacy that is owned by the people of New York and whose two market sheds have remained empty and unused since 2005. By bringing residents back to the Seaport, we are reviving the East River Market District --a rare fragment of our city's first port and oldest commercial neighborhood-- as a thriving, public destination for all New Yorkers.

New Amsterdam Market is currently held in the parking lot fronting the Fulton Fish Market New Market Building. This landmarked structure is the last riverfront market house built in the City of New York and was dedicated for public use by Mayor LaGuardia in 1939. The adjacent Tin Building has marked the site of the original Fulton Fish Market since 1831. Public markets have been held in this District since 1642.

In 1968, the Friends of South Street had the vision to preserve a priceless city landmark: the largely intact 19th century market district at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge whose origins can be traced to 1642. Known today as the "South Street Seaport" this neighborhood includes two unique and irreplaceable riverfront market halls --the Tin Building (2)and New Market Building (3)-- empty since 2005 when the Fulton Fish Market was moved to the Bronx. That same year, New Amsterdam Market was launched with a mission to preserve and rehabilitate these two city-owned facilities, which remained threatened by inappropriate development proposals.

We envision the Fulton Fish Market redeveloped as a permanent, year-round, wholesale & retail distribution center dedicated to responsible agriculture, regional sourcing, and fair trade.

New Amsterdam Market will anchor a resilient, 21st century market district inspired by the fabled Les Halles of Paris (1), London's Borough Market (4) and American precedents such as Pike Place Market in Seattle and Ferry Plaza Market in San Francisco.

Our mission is made all the more relevant by the flood of October 29, which severely impacted the Lower Manhattan waterfront. A public market whose mission is the public interest, and not a suburban shopping mall, will lead this neighborhood's economic, civic, and cultural revival.

The highest and best use of any place emerges from the character of that place itself. The New Amsterdam Market District will emerge as a thriving destination by fostering and supporting numerous, varied, independent local businesses, and by ensuring that infrastructure and building uses evolve in concert with climate change and its effects.

To this end we are working with local merchants, government officials, and funders to form a community development corporation that will revitalize the District, improve the quality of public space, and maximize revenues for infrastructure maintenance.

Metropolitan Policy Program

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.www.brookings.edu/about/programs/metro

The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings is redefining the challenges facing metropolitan America and identifying assets and promoting innovative solutions to help communities grow in more productive, inclusive, and sustainable ways.

Why metropolitan areas? They are the heart of the American economy. They are also our hubs of research and innovation, our centers of human capital, and our gateways of trade and immigration. Metropolitan areas drive the economy, and American competitiveness depends on their vitality.

More than ever, this is a national imperative as our global competitors move aggressively down this path — boosting exports, investing in innovation, scaling up clean technology, and embarking on large scale transformative projects.

In its fifteen years, the Metro Program has become the nation's go-to organization for chronicling the dynamic demographic, economic, and social forces sweeping our country and interpreting what these forces mean for metropolitan areas.

It has worked closely with states and metropolitan areas to design a new metropolitan agenda that matches the pace and intensity of demographic change and economic restructuring. It has partnered with corporate, civic, community, environmental, and political leaders to implement this agenda, either in whole or in part through the enactment of meaningful initiatives and fundamental change.

This includes work in a diverse array of states such as Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and a diverse array of metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

While the Metro Program conducts most of its work outside of the Beltway, it led a successful federally-focused initiative known as the Blueprint for American Prosperity, which promoted an economic agenda for the nation that built on the assets and centrality of its metropolitan areas.

The Blueprint’s research (MetroNation) and policy ideas (MetroPolicy and the Blueprint Policy Series) informed over ten federal initiatives since 2009.

Over the past few years, the Metro Program has continued to influence policy and practice across the country. Anticipating the toll that the Great Recession would take on metropolitan areas and states, as well as the shifts necessary to move from a consumption-oriented economy to a more productive and sustainable economic growth model, the program realigned its research, policy ideas, practice development, and network-building activities in service of the next economy.

This is an economy that is fueled by innovation, powered by low carbon, driven by exports, rich with opportunity, and fundamentally metropolitan in form and function.

It will also produce more jobs and better jobs, as well as more accessible jobs and opportunities for more metropolitan residents. It will also build smarter and more sustainable places that embrace demographic change, technological progress, and a better quality of life for all citizens.

Led by co-directors and founders Bruce Katz and Amy Liu, the Metro Program helps metropolitan leadership apply the next economy framework by:

- economically situating metropolitan areas through rigorous trend and empirical research on the top economic, social and demographic issues;,

- innovating locally through co-designing metropolitan economic development strategies that build on distinct assets,

- advocating nationally by producing state and federal policy ideas and platforms that are in service of metropolitan areas, and

- networking globally by linking decision makers to a global network of trading metropolitan areas.


Location: Peoria, Il


Reservoirs for filtered rainwater, a “gateway” traffic circle, the revitalization of historic riverfront structures…several graduate students from the University of Illinois School of Architecture recently showcased an intriguing mix of ideas for creating a vibrant warehouse district in downtown Peoria.

Developed after a semester of studying the history of the riverfront area under the tutelage of professors Paul Armstrong and Paul Kapp, the students’ recommendations earned an enthusiastic response from Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, the city’s planning commission, and several local developers and business owners.

Armstrong and Kapp selected Peoria’s Warehouse District as the focal point for the students’ research after noting the considerable progress made to date in redevelopment efforts, as well as the promise of revitalizing the district offered by the good building stock of several historic warehouse and industrial structures. The students conducted a design charrette and made their final presentations in the offices of the architectural and engineering firm of PSA-Dewberry at 401 Water Street, one of the buildings that served as inspiration for adaptive reuse opportunities.

PSA-Dewberry moved into the restored turn-of-the-century building in 2000 after designing its conversion into a successful mixed-use property for developer Kert oHuber.

“The students’ ideas showed a lot of vision and thoughtfulness,” said Pat Sullivan, a long-time resident, developer and business owner in the Warehouse District. “They were fresh ideas, and they addressed a lot of issues. I think it’s great to get the students’ ideas, without the limits of politics or other constraints. They understand New Urbanism, and that the Warehouse District has the potential to be a place where you can live and work.”

The student project, called SynergiCity, was the university’s second initiative to explore the redevelopment of Peoria’s Warehouse District. Thirteen students took part in this year’s effort, which involved extensive research, analysis of zoning and other municipal codes, demographic analyses, site tours, the design charrette, and the final presentation of ideas and recommendations in early May.

According to Paul Armstrong, the first group of students focused on the transformation of the nine-block Warehouse District into a “city within a city,” with a dynamic, pedestrian-oriented core. “They addressed the issue of critical mass,” he notes, “and how the area could become more densely populated with multiple uses, including civic and residential development.” The students presented their ideas last year to a group of local representatives, including elected officials, city staff, developers and planning commission members. Their concepts were so well received that the professors not only determined to lead the project again this year, but also decided to base a book on the initiative.

This year’s group of students built upon those ideas while also addressing several challenging issues, including flooding and transportation. “Protecting the watershed was a primary concern,” Armstrong says. “Currently, rainwater runs off the city streets and drains into the Illinois River. There is also a concern with the river flooding. The students focused on trying to find a way to control that, and showing the city how it could become a steward of the river.”

Proposed solutions included a series of rain gardens and strips of vegetation that would filter stormwater into several reservoirs near the river. “Infrastructure is an important aspect of future development and the students viewed it as an opportunity to begin to build a ‘living machine,’” Armstrong says. “The riverfront would essentially become a recreational wetland.”

This year’s SynergiCity project not only incorporated forward-thinking design concepts, but also took into account the need to attract new businesses and residents to the area. “We considered the ‘creative capital,'” says Armstrong, “including human, social and economic resources.

How can we entice new entrepreneurial enterprises to come into the area? How can we attract residents, and perhaps cultural or civic entities?”
“The second time around, the students introduced the idea of bringing in an institutional presence, such as a higher education campus, to serve as a catalyst,” says Paul Kapp. “They really did their homework, looking at history, demographics and previous planning initiatives such as the Heart of Peoria Plan. What excited me was the idea of redeveloping and repurposing the warehouses.”

The group also considered the overall identity of the Warehouse District, including the importance of creating a sense of arrival. A traffic circle, or “roundabout,” located near the foot of the Bob Michel Bridge was among the ideas that caught the attention of planning commission members and business owners during the students’ presentation.

The circle would create a distinct, gateway effect as visitors entered the riverfront area from East Peoria.

Pat Sullivan, who has lived in the district for nearly a dozen years and remembers when the area was thriving with busy warehouses that supplied building materials to contractors and other industries, appreciates the students’ interest in the historic area.

"These are great old buildings with good bones,” he says. “The Warehouse District has an interesting history. I can still picture how it used to work—I remember picking up materials there. It would be great to see it busy again.”

Sullivan credits the students with generating several interesting approaches, and also points to tax credits and an overhaul of Washington Street as critical steps in spurring development in the area. “As development picks up, more and more people will want to move in here,” he says. “The students clearly understand the importance of creating a place that combines business, residential use and recreation.”

He and other local business leaders, as well as members of the planning commission, are quick to note that all of the analysis and design concepts presented by the university students over the past two years have come at no cost to the Peoria community, yet the process has provided a wealth of inspiration and ideas.

For Armstrong and Kapp, the next step is to complete the book, with Peoria’s Warehouse District a prime example of the potential for revitalization and redevelopment within the Rust Belt and throughout the U.S. “We’re clearly starting to see a trend,” says Kapp. “Cities like Portland, Milwaukee and Chattanooga are all exploring redevelopment, while also focusing on environmental stewardship. The focus of the book addresses the priorities: economic revitalization with a goal of highest and best use, and the need to increase the tax base and accelerate economic value. Hopefully the students’ efforts will serve as a case study not only for what could happen in Peoria, but in other cities as well.” iBi

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Location: New York, NY


SolidarityNYC connects, supports, and promotes New York City’s solidarity economy.

The solidarity economy meets human needs through economic activities–like the production and exchange of goods and services–that reinforce values of justice, ecological sustainability, cooperation, and democracy. From credit unions to worker cooperatives, Community Supported Agriculture to time banks, community land trusts to participatory budgeting, it’s an economy actually worth occupying.

Our vision is a vibrant and growing movement that provides greater economic security, improved physical and emotional health, and increased democracy for our communities and ecosystems.

We hope to:

- Make the strong solidarity economy practices that already exist in New York City more visible. (Check out our map and our films.)

- Bring the various sectors of the solidarity economy into conversation with each other for collaboration and mutual benefit.

- We want to build political power.

- Grow the solidarity economy by driving more traffic into existing initiatives and inspire and support the development of new ones.

- We’ve mapped what’s available and we’re ready to connect people and organizations who can help New Yorkers start their own economic alternatives.

- Create cultures of cooperation and direct democracy to replace those of competition and hierarchy which characterize corporate capitalism. It isn’t enough to just have a “green” business or “social” enterprise–we have to radically change the way we relate to each other and the purpose of economic activity.

- Challenge the social justice movement to take up grassroots economic community development. When our communities organize to meet their own needs–which all have some economic element–we create new bonds of interdependence (some might call it solidarity!) and open additional opportunities for transformation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cities Today

Location: International

Website: www.cities-today.com

Cities Today is the leading magazine on sustainable development of cities. PFD Media launched the magazine as United Cities in 2010 at the Third UCLG World Congress of Mayors and Local Governments in Mexico City and at the Mayors’ World Summit on Climate.

Having worked on publications focusing on urban development for the World Bank, UN-HABITAT, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank, PFD’s editorial team saw the opportunity to launch the first global publication dedicated to city leaders.

Bringing together the experience of the multilateral sector with that of the private sector and the local governments themselves, the magazine focuses on the challenges and solutions for city leaders and local governments.

Analysis, case studies and features cover transport, energy, construction, public safety, infrastructure, planning, finance, and the use of Information and Communication Technology in urban development and management.

The magazine was rebranded as Cities Today in 2012 to reflect that the magazine was being produced with a new and diverse editorial board that includes not only members of UCLG but also all of the key intergovernmental agencies and city associations active in urban development. Cities Today’s editorial advisory board includes experts from the World Bank, UNEP, UN-HABITAT, ICLEI, C40, FLACMA, ISOCARP and UCLG ASPAC.

Urban Decay

Location: International

Website: www.urban-decay.livejournal.com

This is a community for people who find beauty in decay. If you love abandoned buildings, historical places, things that are falling apart--anything of the sort, then this is the place. Here you can post photos of things you have seen and share them with others who will appreciate it.

For the purposes of this community, Urban Decay is defined as any form of decay or degeneration [other than that specifically banned in rule 2] found within an urban environment. This includes graffiti, machinery and trash. "Urban" is defined as anywhere within a built-up area - city or town: the standard dictionary definition.

Community rules:

1 - This is a moderated community. Posts must be approved by a moderator, which may take up to 24 hours, possibly more. Until a post is approved, it will not be visible in this community.

2 - This community is for urban imagery. Similar communities which may also be of interest include (but are not limited to) rural ruin, rundown town, abandoned places, dead machinery and deathly decayed.

3 - Due to the image intensive nature of this community, we ask that all photos posted outside a lj-cut tag be no more than 800 pixels wide, and that there be no more than two photos outside a lj-cut per post.

4 - Please include a location (city/town) and description of your photo(s) if possible.

5 - Images in which a person is represented as the decay [that is, where the "Urban Decay" concept is being implicitly applied to the human subject, such as a street dweller] are banned and will be deleted/rejected.

In addition, images that feature a person as the focus, but the emphasis of the "decay" is the setting surrounding the person, are discouraged (though not banned). A couple of people-shots in a set might be tolerated but please don't overdo it. Approval of posts containing images with people in them is up to the discretion of the moderators.

6 - Do not post photos belonging to other individuals without permission/credit. Also, do not use images posted in this community without permission/credit.

Unauthorized use or theft of other people's images will be referred to the LiveJournal Abuse Team for investigation and further action.

7 - Posting links to sites or other LiveJournal communities that are appropriate to the topic of this community is acceptable and encouraged. However, it is the responsibility of anyone posting such links to ensure that the link has not already been posted. Entries pointing to links that have already been posted may be deleted without warning.

American Urbex

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.americanurbex.com

The main goal of American Urbex is to mashup three categories of research material: rich visual media, geolocation, and information. This website began as a project for a Library Media Sciences course at UW-Whitewater. The site is operated by Ken Fager – grad student, Wisconsin licensed instructor, photographer and adventurer.

America has a rich tapestry of historical places throughout the nation. Some are pretty difficult to find, but most are hidden in plain sight.

Every day people walk past them without bothering to ask questions. Why are they there? What function did they serve? Who were the people that dwelled here? Why did they leave? Beyond the main goal this website advocates the exploration of urbex locations in the interest of education, adventure, and preservation.

All legitimate requests can be sent to the administrator. American Urbex reserves the right not to divulge location information.

Detroit Urbex

Location: Detroit, MI

Website: www.detroiturbex.com


- Because people need to see what is happening to the people and city of Detroit.

What's happening to Detroit?

- This is a good place to start.

What's the point of this site?

- To raise awareness of the social and economic challenges the city of Detroit faces through photography.

What is urban exploration / urbex?

- The exploring or photographing abandoned buildings and places. You can read an introduction on Wikipedia.

Is what you're doing legal?

- No.

Will you show me around X location?

- Email me.

Where is X location?

- With a few exceptions, I don't make any effort to conceal the whereabouts of a location. Most of them are already well-known, and can be found easily enough with a little detective work.

Your photos suck, you hack hipster douchebag.

- Mom, seriously, leave me alone.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Location: International

Website: (see detroiturbex.com as an example)
Urban exploration (often shortened as urbex or UE) is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment.

Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and, although it may sometimes involve trespass onto private property, this is not always the case and is of innocent intention.

Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as infiltration, although some people consider infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or inhabited sites. It may also be referred to as draining (when exploring drains), urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, or building hacking.

The nature of this activity presents various risks, including both physical danger and the possibility of arrest and punishment. Many,[citation needed] but not all, of the activities associated with urban exploration could violate local or regional laws and certain broadly-interpreted anti-terrorism laws or be considered trespassing or invasion of privacy.

(from Wikipedia)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Transportation Alternatives

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.transalt.org

Transportation Alternatives is New York City's leading transportation advocacy organization, with a citywide network of 100,000 active supporters committed to reclaiming New York City’s streets for people by ensuring that every New Yorker has safe space to walk and bike and access to public transportation. Every day, all over the city, we're working to make New York City’s neighborhoods safer and restore a vibrant culture of street life.

Transportation Alternatives is involved in every aspect of traveling around New York City. From bike routes and bus lanes to pedestrian crossings and play streets, we’re fighting for safer, smarter transportation and a healthier city.

Since our founding in 1973 T.A. has helped New York City’s bicycling population grow exponentially and worked to dramatically reduce the number of pedestrians killed each year by dangerous drivers. In the early 2000s, T.A. introduced New York’s policymakers to the idea of bus-only lanes, laying the foundation for the swift new Select Bus Service in 2007. With the help of our network of tens of thousands of supporters, Transportation Alternatives has won improvements all over the city.

Transportation Alternatives is supported by thousands of members. Join the movement for a better New York City by becoming a member today.

Transportation Alternatives volunteers are the energy behind a rapidly shifting New York City. Learn how you can make New York City a better place to move through.

Transportation Alternatives is a 501(c)(3) organization. To learn more about who we are and what we’ve won, check out our annual report.

We need your help to make a difference.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Center for Community Progress

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.communityprogress.net

Community Progress exists to help meet the growing need in America's cities and towns for effective, sustainable solutions to turn vacant, abandoned and problem properties into vibrant places. Download a brochure to find out more.

Community Progress operates three offices - one in Washington, DC; one in Flint, Michigan; and one in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The DC office analyzes national trends and connects our work to national policymakers and allied organizations around the country.

The Flint office serves as the base of our technical assistance and capacity development division of the organization as well as a living laboratory on best practices.

The New Orleans office is home to the New Orleans Vacant Properties Initiative.

We continue to explore other models for national, state and local partnerships.

Stay connected with CommunityProgress.net for more information about our current campaigns; local, state, and federal work and policy development; research; and advocacy efforts.

Community Progress launched in January 2010, building from the work of a number of the nation's leading vacant property revitalization advocates, including the National Vacant Properties Campaign and the Genesee Institute.

Initial funding to launch Community Progress has come from the generous support of the Ford Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. We are also grateful for support from Enterprise Community Partners, Fannie Mae, LISC - the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Surdna Foundation, as well as to the Rockefeller Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, which have supported our work in the past.

{FAVEL issues}

Location: International

Website: www.favelissues.com

FAVELissues is a collaborative blog analyzing urban informality on a global scale. With such an interdisciplinary team composed of sociologists, architects, planners, economists, political scientists, academics and practitioners, and such an international body (US, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, India, South Africa and Egypt amongst others).

FAVELissues is sure to bring multiple perspectives – bridging both theory and practice- to discussions of city growth, development, and sustainability.

New economic processes and forms of urbanization are apparent in today’s society. With over half of the world’s population now urban, and a great percentage of the urbanization happening informally, the discourse of globalization and the global city can no longer exclude and is no longer separate from the informal one.

How should we manage urban growth, acknowledging that a large percentage of it lies in the realm of the favela? How should we balance the growing urban population, the rights for shelter and rights to the city, with the aims of environmental management and a more inclusive and equitable urbanism and development?

FAVELissues began as a reflection of Adriana’s observations and research during her 2010 travel fellowship. Today, the blog has transformed into an open forum for discussions addressing urban informality, urban upgrading and city development.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Architecture Foundation

Location: Great Britain

Website: www.architecturefoundation.org.uk

The Architecture Foundation is a non-profit agency that advances architecture and urbanism to enrich life now and in future. We are independent, agile and influential.

We bring together the public and professionals to cultivate new ideas and talent, stimulate discussion, and improve the quality of the built environment.

Established in 1991 as the UK's first independent architecture centre, The Architecture Foundation has organised hundreds of design initiatives, events, exhibitions and education programmes in public venues across Britain and internationally.

The Architecture Foundation is a registered charity, with a Board of Trustees composed of individuals from a wide cross-section of interests and professions including architecture, art, business, policy, media, engineering and law. The AF is proud to be an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

Before moving to its current Carmody Groarke-designed headquarters in Southwark (including the David Kohn-designed Skyroom), The Architecture Foundation has occupied high-profile and publicly-accessible venues across London including the Yard Gallery in Clerkenwell, and its original premises in the Economist Building, St James's.

The Architecture Foundation's diverse and cross-disciplinary programme includes:

- Events from film screenings to lectures and debates,

- Exhibitions that experiment with representations of architecture,

- Competitions and commissions for buildings and public spaces,

- Awards that celebrate excellence in contemporary architecture and urbanism,

- Education projects, focusing on young people considering further built environment study, and

- A wide range of other Projects including the New Architects international exchange programme and the London Festival of Architecture.

Public Advocates

Location: California

Website: www.publicadvocates.org

Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing and transit equity.

We spur change through collaboration with grassroots groups representing low-income communities, people of color and immigrants, combined with strategic policy reform, media advocacy and litigation, “making rights real” across California since 1971.

Communities that were once excluded and marginalized are energized by their collective power to shape public decisions and achieve justice. As a result of that engagement, all Californians have the building blocks to thrive and to create vibrant communities – excellent public schools, affordable housing, reliable public transportation, quality health care, good job opportunities, and economic security.

We believe that by engaging in strategic partnerships, policy and media advocacy and litigation, we will increase the capacity of grassroots organizations to shape public policy and discourse, and that we can also positively influence public opinion, the media, policy makers and courts to hold business and government accountable.

We do this to promote the expansion of civil rights and resource equity and create a mobilized community base to ensure that all Californians have the fundamental rights and equitable allocation of resources they need to build vibrant communities.

We choose to address areas such as education, housing, transportation and health that are fundamental to enabling individuals and communities to fulfill their potential, and we choose to challenge systemic problems in ways that will achieve maximum impact.

One of the oldest public interest law firms in the nation, Public Advocates Inc. was incorporated in fall 1970 and opened its doors in September 1971. Its purpose: challenge the persistent, fundamental causes and effects of poverty and discrimination that limited the opportunities of the poor and people of color. The firm, funded initially with generous support from the Ford Foundation, was conceived in part as a reaction to the rigid restrictions on the scope of California Rural Legal Assistance representation.

The need for a broad-based public interest law firm to address civil rights issues affecting the daily lives of low income communities was evident as soon as we opened our doors. The new Public Advocates engaged in a wide range of cutting edge legal issues – many of them still at the core of our practice – from school finance, urban development, transportation policy, food and nutrition issues, military base redevelopment, and language access, to employment discrimination in banks and universities, health services disparities, infant formula advocacy, telecommunications and discriminatory bar exam criteria.

Priorities and tactics were set to not only meet the challenges of the time, but also to have a broad and long-lasting impact.

Very early on more than a dozen actions were filed on behalf of clients such as La Raza Unida, the National Organization for Women, Officers for Justice, Self-Help for the Elderly, League of Women Voters, and the Sierra Club. Working at the national, state and regional level, the firm was initially best known for its litigation expertise and success in pursuing innovative legal strategies to protect low-income communities and civil rights.

From the beginning Public Advocates recognized the importance of collaboration with clients, communities and ally organizations, staking out the goal in 1971 that its work would be “with, not just for, their constituents,” and that commitment deepened over time. Outside the organization, more public interest groups arose, and the courtroom became a less hospitable place for progressive activism.

As Public Advocates evolved and matured, we developed a distinctive multipronged approach to civil rights advocacy incorporating policy advocacy, coalition building, communication and legal strategies.

We also recognized that we could be most effective when we created a long term strategy for engagement with a significant policy arena, and generated a legal strategy incorporating alliances, subject area expertise, and implementation and communication plans.

Public Advocates is proud of having served as an incubator for the launch of numerous significant issue advocacy organizations, as part of its role in building capacity for communities to engage in public policy advocacy and creation of broad based coalitions, including:

- Latino Coalition for a Healthy California: Statewide organization aiming to be the leading organized voice for policies, services and conditions to improve the health of Latinos.

- The Greenlining Coalition (now the Greenlining Institute): Broad coalition of fifteen multi-ethnic, business, consumer and disabled persons’ organizations committed to persuading corporate America to promote interests of inner-city communities and recognize the economic value of equal opportunity.

- HomeBase: Advancing regional strategies for addressing homelessness.

- Health Access: Statewide coalition
dedicated to insuring universal access to health care in California.

The firm has also contributed to the development of generations of public interest, bar, non-profit and other leaders who have served on staff and board, and in the well-respected fellow and intern programs. Public Advocates alumni, whom we call Pillars, have gone on to be leaders in a remarkable range of organizations.

Starting with a grant from the Zellerbach Family Foundation in 1971, Public Advocates has always put a high priority on its fellowship and intern programs, with significant responsibility and intensive mentoring to develop the next generation of public interest advocates.

Public Advocates has always had a strong personality. Over the years we have aimed to retain our independence, feistiness, cutting edge work and innovative legal approaches while building a reputation for genuine and effective collaboration.

We have also achieved a degree of financial stability, based on a combination of revenue from individual and firm contributions, foundation grants, state legal services funding, litigation fees, and interest on reserves.

We added a Sacramento office staffed with policy advocacy and community relations experts to deepen our influence on state policy and coalitions.

Throughout its history Public Advocates’ Board of Governors has had the benefit of the service of civil rights, bar, academic and community leaders motivated to sustain the organization’s bold approach to achieving social justice.

Now in our fifth decade, we continue to challenge the status quo by seeking legal victories and strengthening the voices of low-income communities, pursuing the civil rights that lie at the heart of everyday life.


Location: India

Website: www.sparcindia.org

The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) is one of the largest Indian NGOs working on these issues. SPARC supports two people's movements, the National Slum Dwellers Federation and Mahila Milan, in organizing the urban poor to come together, articulate their concerns and collectively produce solutions to the problems they face.

Together, these organizationsknown as the Allianceare active in over seventy cities across India and in global networks spanning over twenty countries, working to improve the lives of slum dwellers in India and around the world.

The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) was formed in 1984 and began working with the most vulnerable and invisible of Mumbai's urban poor - the pavement dwellers. SPARC's philosophy is that if we can develop solutions that work for the poorest and most marginalised in the city, then these solutions can be scaled up to work for other groups of the urban poor across the country and internationally.

SPARC began work in Mumbai’s pavement slums, where they formed a network of women’s collectives called Mahila Milan (“Women Together”).

In 1986, SPARC and MM entered into a partnership with the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF), a broad-based organization of the urban poor founded in the mid-1970s. Together we are known as the SPARC-NSDF-Mahila Milan Alliance.

The ultimate aim of the Alliance is to produce urban and development practices and policies that are inclusive of the poor.

Our mission is to build the capacity of organized communities of the urban poor, especially women, in informal settlements to stop forced evictions and develop the skills and confidence to negotiate with the government and other resource providers around issues of housing, land, basic infrastructure and their “right to the city.”

SPARC today provides professional support to its grassroots partners in order to build their capacity to play a proactive role in developing solutions to urban poverty and creates links between the CBOs and formal institutions and resources.

SPARC is not a manager or welfare provider, but a platform and catalyst for community-driven processes.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

California ReLeaf

Location: California

Website: www.californiareleaf.org

California ReLeaf works statewide to promote alliances among community-based groups, individuals, industry, and government agencies, encouraging each to contribute to the livability of our cities and the protection of our environment by planting and caring for trees.

California ReLeaf also serves as the State’s volunteer coordinator for urban forestry in partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Our Mission:

- Expanding delivery of services and resources to California ReLeaf Network groups.

- Broadening funding opportunities for urban and community forestry projects.

- Fostering involvement within the urban forestry movement throughout California’s diverse communities.

- Improving legislative outreach and efforts on a state and federal level.

California ReLeaf’s programs are possible because of generous support from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the USDA Forest Service.