"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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Opportunity Urbanism




Much of urban thinking today centers on the physical form of the city: its resources, infrastructure, and built space. Cities are told how to become “more sustainable” by expanding transit, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and adopting restrictions and planning approaches that mandate higher densities, and, increasingly, bar the expansion of single-family home-dominated areas.This mindset creates a narrow and distorting view of a city, one that ignores or oversimplifies the role and agency of a city’s most important component: its middle class, especially families.


To us, cities emerge because they provide opportunity to people, and are sustainable only so long as they continue to do so.

For a city to sustain itself, it must provide a wide range of opportunities – not just for the affluent. And the city, better seen as a metropolitan area, needs to address the diverse interests and preferences of its residents. And given that those interests and preferences are constantly evolving, the “overplanning” mindset is untenable, even dangerous, to the future of cities that embrace it. Another paradigm is needed; one that concentrates more on human capital than physical capital. Such a paradigm would stress issues of upward mobility, human capital development, small business expansion, governance, and middle-wage job growth. It would not ignore the physical environment, but acknowledge that physical assets should adapt to serve human beings, not the other way around. It would also change the way we think about physical assets, giving higher priority to those that actually boost opportunity, particularly for working and middle-class residents.


Given the current concern about economic inequality, this alternative perspective is desperately needed. In many cities, notably New York, there is already a growing focus among the political class away from economic growth, and towards a redistribution of income to the poorer members of society. But in many cases the focus is not only on the poor, but also in servicing the needs of well-organized rent-seekers, from speculators and some developers to public employee unions. Although these interests often express an admirable concern for social welfare, we believe that sparking broader-based economic growth represents the best way to achieve upward mobility for metropolitan area residents. Houston and other growing cities, we maintain, best represent this more people-oriented approach.

The Center will closely examine these issues, with particular interest in how planning and zoning decisions can hamper or spark economic growth. It will also highlight key demographic concerns, notably around the critical issue of families, who generally seek out housing that is both affordable and spacious enough to raise children. And governance – the question of who makes decisions about the commons – will also be a key area of exploration. An approach that focuses on good schools, good parks, decent jobs and strong neighborhoods may not thrill many architects, pundits and planners – who almost invariably favor ever-denser development – but they do matter to most people who live in urban areas.

The Center for Opportunity Urbanism will promulgate a perspective on urban development that is applicable to most American cities, and indeed to cities around the world. Initially the Center will be seeking to define this new model with comparative studies of different regions in terms of how they most efficiently address issues ranging from promoting upward mobility and reducing poverty, including among minorities, and spark broad-based economic growth. This involves such things as comparing regions based on their actual costs, relative to others, and how they create family-sustaining jobs across a broad spectrum of workers.


It will be the primary task of the Center to spell out how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens. Initially, at least, this will be primarily a virtual, media-centered effort. This is necessary given the very weak profile of key opportunity cities, including Houston, particularly in comparison with the key media centers located either in the Northeast or coastal California. A major reason why the current planning mindset so dominates policy discussion, in part, reflects that there is no coherent alternative vision. Our intention is through conferences, articles and studies to provide an alternative “pole” in the now very stilted and predictable trajectory of urban studies. It will help rediscover the essence of great cities, what Descartes called “an inventory of the possible.”


The primary organizing principle of cities should be the creation of opportunity and social mobility.

People should have a range of neighborhood choices (including suburban), rather than being socially engineered into high-density, transit-oriented developments beloved by overly prescriptive planners.

Restricting housing supply unreasonably through regulation drives up costs and harms the middle class.

Education impacts housing choices, forcing parents to overpay in the few good school districts or move further out of the core city. Making educational alternatives available for working and middle class families is essential to upward mobility and long-term urban growth.

Supporting the needs of middle-class families should be just as important, if not more, than the needs of the childless creative class. Children, afterall, represent the future of society.

Successful economies need a broad spectrum of industries. Solid middle-class and blue-collar jobs are just as important as the much celebrated high-tech industries aimed at white-collar professionals. Educational choices should be made to address these varied needs.

Concentrations of power – whether through political or economic structures – undermine social mobility and the creation and pursuit of new opportunities. Decision-making power, therefore, should be as widely dispersed as practical.

Transit investments should be based in large part on serving cost-effectively those who most need it, to provide a reasonable alternative for those (the disabled, elderly, students) for whom auto transit is difficult. It should not be primarily a vehicle for real estate speculation or indirect land use control. The use of bus transport, including rapid bus lanes, as well as new technologies, including firms like Uber and driverless cars, need to be considered as potential answers to the issue of urban mobility.

In general, cities are better off with more market-oriented land-use policies than prescriptive central planning.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

CREATE Streets

Location: Great Britain

Website: createsteets.com

What we do:

We are a RESEARCH INSTITUTE. We conduct and collate high quality research into what people actually want and what therefore drives long term value generation.

We ARGUE FOR CHANGE. We argue for specific changes to policy to make it easier to build the homes and streets that people actually want. We want homes for people not stakeholders.

We ADVISE. We are making our research available to landowners, developers, councils and Registered Social Landlords. We use our StreetScore tool to help investors, developers, councils and RSLs understand the correlations between what they own or build and happy, mixed communities for the long term.

We help DEVELOP. We are starting to identify actual sites for potential building and redevelopment and working with communities, housing associations and landowners and developers with the right long term values to help facilitate street-based development.

We ENGAGE. We encourage and help local communities to take control of their own neighbourhoods via neighbourhood plans and the communal preparation of specific schemes via schemes such as Community Right to Build.

We are non-partisan. Most of our members are not party political though we have members from all three main parties.

We wish to create streets which are:

Capable of matching high rise densities 

Realistic, long term commercially viable 

Environmentally friendly 

Aesthetically beautiful and local 

Tailored to what people actually want 

Encouraging of mixed communities


Location: Great Britain


The BIMBY Housing Toolkit is a simple and practical online tool which enables communities, organisations, Local Authorities and developers to collectively or indiividually create a regional BIMBY Housing Manual. It is specifically designed to give both certainty to house builders, who can be sure of their housing's popularity, whilst also granting security to the community and local authority that new building projects will tie in with local preferences and needs.

Using the BIMBY Toolkit, you will be able to directly influence the quality and beauty of new housing by developing a BIMBY Housing Manual for your area.

You will feel empowered to engage in the siting and design of new homes, by influencing the planning process in a positive, rather than negative way.

You will feel empowered to demand that any new homes planned in your area are well located and well designed, by influencing the planning process in a positive, rather than negative, way.

The finished Manual is designed to:

Welcome developers into a community

Be clear about the placemaking principles, elevational proportions, materials and standards that the local community expect

Smooth the planning process so that there is more planning certainty for the right kind of development up front.

Prince's Foundation

Location: Great Britain


The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community evolved from The Institute of Architecture, established by HRH The Prince of Wales.

We believe that sustainably planned, built and maintained communities improve the quality of life of everyone who is part of them. They help us live better at a local level, and start dealing with the broader global challenges of urbanisation and climate change.

By 2050, the world’s urban population will almost double to nearly 6.5 billion people. We operate across the globe, building the capacity of the planners, architects, engineers, and communities that will be tasked with supporting a rapidly urbanising world. Our work puts people at the heart of creating resilient places – through community engagement and working with people who know their area best. Through educating future generations of practitioners, pioneering practises, and building places, we endeavour to create sustainable, vibrant communities that leave a legacy for future generations.


“I wanted to create an organisation both to champion and to show what it means to build harmoniously and in an environmentally friendly manner. It simply cannot be a coincidence that creating places where people actually want to live – that are built with an eye to enduring appeal and versatility and where people can walk from their house to the shop to the local school – leads to more durable, contented and productive communities. And as you will not be surprised to hear, I have always believed that if you want to effect change it is not enough merely to champion an idea, but absolutely vital to make the effort to create tangible examples on the ground that prove this philosophy, and then inspire other communities to do the same.

I am incredibly proud of its commitment to investing in education and sharing knowledge and best practise, which has always been at the core of its work and mission. For over twenty years now, my Foundation has offered broad and much-needed education that is sadly unavailable elsewhere, giving people the kind of integrated, holistic skills they need to create sustainable and beautiful places through programmes such as the Summer School and Graduate Fellowship.

My Foundation now combines this education work with championing community-building worldwide, engaging with all sorts of people across the globe and bringing talented people together to create long-term, practical solutions.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

Democracy Collaborative

Location: Nationwide

Website: democracycollaborative.org

Through our cutting edge research and our many diverse programs, The Democracy Collaborative works to carry out a vision of a new economic system where shared ownership and control creates more equitable and inclusive outcomes, fosters ecological sustainability, and promotes flourishing democratic and community life.

We are a national leader in equitable, inclusive and sustainable development through our Community Wealth Building Initiative. This initiative sustains a wide range of Advisory, Research and Field Building activities designed to transform the practice of community/economic development in the United States. We also host the Next System Project, ongoing intellectual work designed to connect Community Wealth Building to the larger context of systemic economic transformation.

Our staff and associates are involved in a wide range of projects involving research, training, policy development, and community-focused work designed to promote an asset-based paradigm of economic development and increase support for transformative strategies among community stakeholders, anchor institutions, and key policymakers. As the premier innovator and leading national voice in the field of Community Wealth Building, we are known for our research and advisory services, as well as informing public policy, promoting new models and strategies, and establishing metrics to advance the field.

Throughout this work, our mission is to catalyze the transformation of our economy, working to build community wealth and create a next system anchored in democratic ownership and based on:

Broadening ownership and stewardship over capital Democracy at the workplace Stabilizing community and emphasizing locality Equitable and inclusive growth Environmental, social, and institutional sustainability

Monday, December 12, 2016


Location: Nationwide

Website: stablecommunities.org/ncst

The U.S. housing market remains extremely uneven. While some areas have rebounded significantly from the recession and have a robust housing market, others – especially communities of color, lower-income areas, and cities where economic activity remains depressed – continue to grapple with high rates of vacant, abandoned and distressed properties that weaken nearby home values, create health and safety risks, lower local tax revenues, and thwart neighborhood revitalization efforts.

The National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST) is a non-profit organization that works to restore vacant and abandoned properties to productive use and protect neighborhoods from blight. Our programs facilitate the rehabilitation of vacant but structurally sound homes, enable safe, targeted demolition when necessary, and support creative and productive re-use of vacant land.

Established in 2008 by the sponsors listed to the left, NCST offers a unique blend of policy expertise and on-the-ground experience working with local partners to eliminate the blight caused by vacant and foreclosed properties and severely delinquent mortgages in distressed communities.

NCST supports neighborhoods and fights blight through these key activities:

Provide community-based buyers an opportunity to acquire vacant, abandoned and distressed properties as part of a neighborhood revitalization strategy. Our First Look REO acquisition program gives local affordable housing and community development organizations the opportunity to obtain properties in their market areas before they are marketed more broadly. In many cases, REO properties can be acquired at discounts that help make it financially feasible for nonprofit buyers to rehabilitate these properties for new occupants.

Partner with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in their Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative.

This partnership offers Fannie and Freddie REO properties to local affordable housing and community development organizations through a special First Look program in 18 strategic markets around the country, mostly east of the Mississippi river.

In collaboration with the Housing Partnership Network (HPN), NCST manages a portfolio of highly distressed mortgages to resolve delinquencies, assist homeowners, and prepare vacant properties for productive disposition. Financial institutions donate these mortgages to NCST and HPN to assist with asset resolution.

Along with many national and local partners, including our six sponsors, we research solutions and advocate for policies to help communities address blight and high rates of vacant, abandoned, and distressed properties.

Offer financing to support local housing work.

Our REO Capital Fund aggregates capital from philanthropic and social investment sources to provide flexible financing for local organizations to acquire and rehabilitate single family homes.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Property Panel LA

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Website: propertpanel.la
The City of Los Angeles -- on behalf of its residents and taxpayers -- owns a vast portfolio of real estate, encompassing nearly 9,000 distinct parcels located within the County of Los Angeles. These include parks; libraries; municipal facilities; parking lots, and commercial, industrial, retail, office and residential buildings and vacant land. Some are small; some are very large. L.A.’s real estate holdings also include land at and around our airports, the Port of L.A. and properties owned by our nation’s largest municipally owned utility, the Dept. of Water & Power. The City has additional holdings in other California counties and outside the State.

Properties owned by the City serve many community needs and benefits. There are, however, many properties that are underutilized, and which could better serve the public -- be it as public space, revenue-producing income property, low-income housing … and much more. Some properties might benefit from being re-purposed by the City, while others could generate more value for Angelenos by being leased, sold or developed by the City, or in public/private partnerships. PropertyPanel.LA is intended as an informational tool, as a resource and as a call to action for the City to undertake a more organized, professional and strategic approach to our valuable shared public assets.

“Now everyone can know what we all own a piece of,” said Controller Galperin. “The extent of the holdings revealed by this map shows that we as a City have the opportunity to engage in widespread economic and community development, as well as to generate revenue for much-needed City services.

Silicon Valley Rising

Location: Silicon Valley, CA

Website: siliconvalleyrising.org

Silicon Valley Rising is a coordinated campaign driven by an unprecedented coalition of labor, faith leaders, community-based organizations and workers.

We aspire to a new vision for Silicon Valley where all workers, their families and communities are valued. We have high expectations for this Valley and for our communities:

We want to be a part of creating a new economic model that rebuilds the middle class.

We want to raise wages and standards for all workers so they can live and thrive here.

And we want to build housing that is affordable and accessible so that our families don't have to live in garages, in their cars, or near a creekbed.

Our campaign is about bringing everyone in this Valley together to solve the biggest challenges of our time.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Location: Southeast Florida


Who Should Use the DataCommon, and How is it Useful?

Easily visualize relevant and meaningful information about your community and constituents to enhance understanding of important issues and inform policymaking.

Planners & Academics -

Find needed data and information at your fingertips to support local and regional planning, grant application development, and community collaborations.


Quickly access the important information that you need about your community in a user friendly way

The Southeast Florida DataCommon is a unique tool that can be used to promote better communication, more informed policymaking, and broad-based collaboration around issues of shared importance. It is a resource for grant writers; providing data and analyses of relevant community and regional trends. Information provided in the context of larger issues can further community participation and engagement to bring about positive community change. It provides a portal through which users can easily access and visualize data about Southeast Florida’s communities.

A critical component the DataCommon is the importance and relevance of the information being presented to professional users, academics, policymakers, business leaders, and members of the general public. This platform was developed to encourage and facilitate meaningful dialogue within and amongst these groups. The continued development and expansion of the DataCommon will be instrumental in advancing a shared understanding of the Region and the opportunities and challenges facing our communities and fellow residents. As we explore issues that connect us to one another, better data and collaborative efforts will contribute to the development of public policy and cooperative action plans to support a better future for South Florida. The DataCommon will promote more effective inter-agency data sharing and will serve as a common platform to view pertinent issues in Southeast Florida.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Lowell Plan

Location: Lowell, MA

Website: lowellplan.org

The Lowell Plan, Inc. was established as a nonprofit economic development organization in 1980. For 30 years, the Lowell Plan has sustained constructive and productive dialogue among the city’s key leaders in business, government, education, and community development. Visitors from around the country and the world have asked how the city has become a model of urban revitalization. They want to know the formula. In its simplest terms, the answer is that Lowell’s public and private leaders have maintained an ongoing dialogue that has yielded practical responses to the challenges and opportunities facing the city.

The formula sounds simple, but it was revolutionary at the outset. The Lowell Plan created a neutral ground where public and private sector officials could speak candidly and collaborate on priority issues. Through the years the names and faces have changed, but the board’s structure and reputation for getting results ensure that the pieces keep coming together month after month.

The Lowell Plan has shown itself to be bold, versatile, and effective from funding the American City Corp.’s Downtown Master Plan and the Lowell Model for Educational Excellence in the early years to undertaking the feasibility study for the Tsongas Arena and the market analysis for a minor-league baseball team in the middle years—to recently funding the Urban Land Institute and Creative Economy Studies and administering the National Park’s trolley extension project. Click on past projects for a listing of the Lowell Plan’s involvement in Lowell since 1980.

Going forward, the Lowell Plan is committed to fostering a dialogue that will take Lowell well into the 21st century as a city with a productive and sustainable economy; lifelong educational opportunities; and vibrant and diverse cultural offerings. With a belief in the value of community service, the Lowell Plan make civic engagement a priority through its support of the leadership program “Public Matters.”

Lowell shines when the community’s best talent, backed by resources, is put to work to achieve common objectives. As we have done so often in our 30-year history, the Lowell Plan will work to achieve consensus on future courses of action to ensure the city’s ongoing revitalization.

Lowell will be the best city of its size in America. The Lowell Plan commits its resources to this goal, which will be achieved through partnership with the public sector in a renewed commitment to dialogue followed by action.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

L.A. Conservancy

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Website: laconservancy.org

Think about your favorite building in Greater Los Angeles. Chances are, it’s one of the fantastic historic places that help make the region unique. The Los Angeles Conservancy works every day – as we have since 1978 – to make sure these places survive and thrive for future generations.

A private, member-based nonprofit, the L.A. Conservancy was formed in 1978 as part of the effort to prevent demolition of the stunning Los Angeles Central Library. What started as a handful of concerned citizens is now the largest group of its kind in the U.S., with more than 6,000 member households, hundreds of volunteers, and a full-time staff of nearly twenty.

The Conservancy is based in downtown Los Angeles but works throughout L.A. County—which spans 88 cities plus the County’s unincorporated areas.We work through education and advocacy to raise awareness of historic places, prevent their needless demolition, empower people to save the places they love, and foster strong preservation laws and incentives.

Why Preserve Historic Places?

As people rely more on technology and virtual connections, and as cookie-cutter development makes cities look more and more alike, we have a growing need for authenticity, character, and distinction. We don’t want our communities to look like everyone else’s. Historic buildings, structures, landscapes, and neighborhoods help fill this critical need. They tell great stories, give us a sense of place, help us learn who we are and what we value as a culture, and embody our shared history.

The L.A. Conservancy has a vision of Los Angeles as a place that values our past and considers it an essential part of our present and future. The Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization that works through education and advocacy to recognize, preserve, and revitalize the historic architectural and cultural resources of Los Angeles County.

We raise awareness of the value of historic places in strengthening communities, fostering economic development, and enriching lives.

For more than thirty-five years, our walking tours, special events, and other programs have brought countless Los Angeles residents and visitors closer to the beautiful buildings and unique spaces that make Los Angeles County so special. Our educational programs have introduced many people to the history and value of Greater Los Angeles' built environment.

We also work on a vast range of preservation issues throughout Los Angeles County, both proactively and in response to specific threats to historic cultural and architectural resources.

We provide technical assistance and resources to help people enjoy and preserve the historic places they love.

The largest local preservation group in the United States, our large and active membership reflects an unprecedented level of support for L.A.'s historic resources and we continue to gain ground in making preservation part of public policy, urban planning, and public consciousness.

Pit Stop

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: sfpublicworks.org/pitstop

San Francisco Public Works operates the Pit Stop program, which provides clean and safe public toilets, sinks, used needle receptacles and dog waste stations in San Francisco's most impacted neighborhoods.

The program utilizes both portable toilets, which are trucked to and from the sites daily after overnight servicing at a remote location, and the semi-permanent JCDecaux self-cleaning toilets.

All the Pit Stop facilities are staffed by paid attendants who help ensure that the toilets are well maintained and used for their intended purpose. The program, which began in July 2014, now operates at 11 locations, providing an alternative to using our streets and sidewalks as a toilet. Not only do the people who need a bathroom benefit, but so do the neighborhoods.