* You are viewing Posts Tagged ‘localism’

Agricultural Urbanism

Where you eat = what you eat. Thank to Janne Moren on Flickr for the captivating Creative Commons photo from Osaka, Japan

Urban agriculture is a beloved topic in Vancouver, but Mark Holland’s lecture today at the Gaining Ground Summit considered food through physical, social and spiritual lenses. In this light, the case  for agricultural urbanism is an issue of not just individual health but city health.

A brief list of the topics covered in Mark Holland’s lecture are as follows:


  • Sufficient food: having access to food
  • Landscape of unreal food: so enticing but there are diminishing returns with each bite
  • Health:  obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure
  • Where you eat = what you eat: When you can’t sit down, you eat on-the-go food
  • Public benches: So few … Continue Reading

Weekly Video: Preservation on Main Street

While it might be nice if our cities and towns were built around squares as is the case in much of Europe, most places in North America developed around a main street. As such, Main Street programs have developed all across the United States, with average returns of $25 to the local economy for every $1 invested. Still, beyond its economic force, the program’s greatest strength is the sense of ownership is grants community members in celebrating their hometowns.

The following slideshow covers the Maryland Main Street Program, which is but one of many… Read more

Book Review: World Made by Hand (2008)

World Made By HandUnique among planning literature reviewed so far in the Planning Pool, World Made by Hand is a fictional novel. Its author, James Howard Kunstler is best known for his non-fiction books like The Geography of Nowhere. Here he describes the workings of fragmented social groups deep in the “long emergency“, in and around the small town of Union Grove, New York. 

“Small is beautiful” is one of the many planning lessons that Kunstler has woven into his story. Despite enduring hardships, Union Grove proves more resilient than larger cities like Albany, which has degenerated into a lawless dystopia. Likewise, only human-scale and efficient infrastructure like the town’s early twentieth century gravity-powered water system can be maintained with the limited resources of post-oil, post-globalism America.

A second planning lesson … Continue Reading

Jane’s Walk 2009 happening this weekend – See your hometown in a new light!

Urbanist-cum-superhero Jane Jacobs left quite a legacy. Starting in the 60s as a journalist, she took a keen interest in the huge changes she saw happening to North American cities. To commemorate her life, a group of keen Jacobites started Jane’s Walk – a series of walking tours led -for free- by community members like you.

EveryBlock – Muni info now as iPhone app

EveryBlock is “a news feed for your block,” a mashup of municipal public information and maps. It keeps track of what’s happening on your block, in your neighborhood and all over your city. At the moment, EveryBlock is covering 11 American cities: Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, DC.

So why is this useful? Every day, loads of new information is created about the place where you live: people inspect restaurants, newspapers cover accidents, and people post photographs. Not only is this information spread out on many sites, but no one would have enough time to sort through it themselves.

EveryBlock has three main types of news:

  1. Civic information — building permits, crimes, restaurant inspections and more. In many cases, this information is already on the Web but is buried in hard-to-find government … Continue Reading

Portland Mayor Sam Adams on Neighbourhood Grocery Stores

The mayor of Portland has helped me to better appreciate my neighbourhood grocery store.
Vancouver's Sunshine Market on Oak St.
At his lecture yesterday evening on “Active Transportation in Portland,” Portland mayor and former transportation commissioner Sam Adams described his vision of a “20-minute neighbourhood”. It includes grocery stores, laundromats, and pretty much all the services that people need in a typical day. These need to be located close enough together to be reasonably accessible by active (non-motorized) transportation. Since two thirds of the average household’s daily trips are not the “journey-to-work” trips most frequently studied by transportation planners, substantial reductions in car-dependency can be achieved by cutting down on the number of automobile trips that neighbourhood residents make to “pick stuff up”.

Mr. Adams made the surprising suggestion that … Continue Reading

Participatory Comprehensive Plan for New Orleans

nola_czoOn March 20th, the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) released a working draft for its new citywide Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) to the public. The CPC anticipates that the final plan will be posted to the website for public access in June. The city hopes that the plan will be a “roadmap” for the next two decades, emphasizing sustainability, community infrastructure, transportation, arts development, future land use, and citizen participation in planning decisions. The development of a new CZO is especially interesting, because the last one was created almost 40 years ago. The city anticipates that the new CZO will be clearly written and organized. It will also contain illustrations to help users understand the regulations. The overall goal of the CZO will be to give clear direction … Continue Reading

SeeClickFix: Community empowerment for infastructure maintenance

SeeClickFix Interface

SeeClickFix Interface

SeeClickFix.com is a new social networking service located in New Haven, Connecticut, that is using the wisdom of crowds to highlight municipal infrastructure problems.

The website is hoping to engage the community by providing tools that increase transparency and communication between residents, governments and organizations. Overall, SeeClickFix.com’s goal is to make it easier for residents to improve their community, using Google Maps.

The best thing about SeeClickFix.com is that it is so easy to use:
See – see a non-emergency issue in your neighborhood
Click – open a ticket describing the issue and what can be done to resolve it
Fix – publicly report the issue to everyone for resolution
The website was started by a group of nerdy software and design entrepreneurs in New Haven who saw the British FixMyStreet.com … Continue Reading

Hard times and value shifts

Twisted as it may sound, there are clear gains to be made from this Great Recession, especially in the eyes of a regionalist like myself.  Planners are all too aware of the massive infrastructure projects that will be given the go-ahead for their stimulative economic properties (meaning more need for planning staff), but that’s not really what I’m talking about.  Instead, this is really about values.

I’m a fan of structural change.  In fact, though it probably earns me a reputation as a boundless idealist, I find concentrated alteration of the systems and infrastructure which frame society more reasonable than any deliberate effort to shift public consciousness.  As planners, we can only empower people to make prudent decisions, but must accept that social values are uneasily moved.  This said, a pharmacist in Alabama has given me a little hope.

NBC … Continue Reading