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

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

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

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


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

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Location: International

Website: urbandesignmentalhealth.com

The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH) is a start-up think tank focused on answering one question: how can we design better mental health into our cities?

More people are living and working in urban environments than ever before - and these environments affect how we feel. Urban design by architects, transport designers, city planners, developers, interior designers, urban gardeners, street artists, and many more impact our mental health as we move around our built environments.

The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health: Reviews the breadth of research on urban design and mental health, summarizes, and identifies gaps.

Catalyzes interdisciplinary dialogue on urban design and mental health in cities around the world.

Showcases successful projects and innovative ideas,

Develops practical, evidence-based recommendations to improve mental health and reduce mental illness through urban design.


To help inform, motivate and empower policymakers, designers, planners, and public health professionals to build better mental health into their cities through smarter urban design.


To be a central repository and global go-to resource for policymakers, architects, transport planners, urban planners, developers, designers, engineers, geographers, and others who want to design better mental health into cities, and drive integration of mental health into urban design as standard.


Share knowledge -

UD/MH brings together useful research, ideas, experiences and intelligence from across the world and shares it on our platforms to increase its reach and make it more accessible to academics and diverse city makers. We also publish external op-eds and participate in conferences and other events to share knowledge and inspire new audiences into action.

Increase knowledge -

There is still much we need to learn about how urban design can improve mental health. UD/MH encourages research and sharing of ideas and experience by providing global platforms for publication - the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health, and our Sanity and Urbanity blog.

We also encourage investment in research focused on this field.

Improve cross-sector communication -

We convene cross-sector dialogues in cities around the world, bringing together experts from architecture, urban planning, transport, geography, public health, psychiatry, and many more to identify opportunities and discuss potential collaborations.

Empower practical action

UD/MH works closely with those involved in policy-making and on-the-ground citymaking to understand the barriers to integrating better mental health into urban design, and tries to help address these barriers by inputting to consultations and producing practical, evidence-based advice.

UD/MH launched in July 2015.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Location: Ventura County, California


SOAR is a series of voter initiatives that require a vote of the people before agricultural land or open space areas can be rezoned for development.

The first SOAR initiative was approved by the voters in the City of Ventura in 1995. Since 1995, nine SOAR initiatives have been enacted protecting open space and agricultural land around all of the major cities in Ventura County as well as in the county’s unincorporated areas. The County SOAR initiative blocks the Ventura County Board of Supervisors from rezoning unincorporated open space, agricultural or rural land for development without a vote of the people. Eight city SOAR initiatives require city councils to obtain the approval of their citizens before allowing urban development beyond a City Urban Restriction Boundary (CURB), or, in the case of the City of Ventura, before rezoning agricultural land within the city’s sphere of influence.

No other county in the United States has more effective protections against urban sprawl.

Who is SOAR?

SOAR is a non-profit grassroots group of citizens in Ventura County, California who are dedicated to keeping Ventura County from following the same urban sprawl pattern that has plagued the rest of Southern California. SOAR has over one thousand active members with a presence in each city of the county.

Why do we need SOAR?

Sitting on Los Angeles County’s northwestern boundary, Ventura County is subject to tremendous sprawl development pressure. Ventura County’s rolling hillsides, rugged mountains, beautiful beaches and fertile plains and valleys present a spectacular setting that creates conflicting incentives to preserve and develop this landscape. With a population of approximately 900,000 and over 100,000 acres of agricultural land in production the county offers a highly attractive semi-rural respite from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles County, where one city’s strip malls and subdivisions merge indistinguishably with the next.

The history of wasteful sprawl development in Southern California over the last several decades, often over the strenuous and vocal objections of residents, is testament to the fact that local elected officials have been more responsive to development pressure than to the core values of their citizens. The fact that the largest source of campaign funds for local elected officials in Southern California is pro-development money was a primary reason that Ventura County citizens recognized the need an extra level of review for urban sprawl development proposals. Most of the SOAR initiatives were passed in 1998 and most of them will expire in 2020. Ventura County citizens need to renew SOAR protection against urban sprawl for another generation by passing new initiatives during the November 2016 election.