Posts tagged ‘community’

Imagine a Car-Free Suburb.

Here’s the result of visionary city planning: the streets of an upscale neighbourhood in Vauban, Germany are designed for pedestrians and cyclists, rather than cars.

The neighbourhood is car-free except the main road, where public transit runs. It does not have street parking, driveways, or garages attached to the homes. No more ugly snout-houses. Residents are allowed to have cars, but they have to buy a parking space at the edge of the development. Most families buy cars together or rent communal cars from Vauban’s car-sharing club when they need a car to move large purchases or to take vacations. [For the record, there are car-sharing organizations in Canada.] Sounds crazy, right? Of course it does, in a city like London, Ontario, that doesn’t have a decent grocery store downtown. But imagine what a sense of community a neighbourhood can have when people aren’t just moving between their cars and their houses. I love hanging out in my front yard and talking to the people who walk by.

The trick is actual urban design, which locates stores within walking distance.

“Development comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people,” said PPG 13, the British government’s revolutionary 2001 planning document.

The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for “car-reduced” communities in the USA, and a change in legislature may help. A six-year transportation bill to be approved this year is expected to consider public transportation service to suburbs. This is a big shift, since by law 80 percent of funding has gone to highways vs 20% for all other transport.
Still, zoning laws in the USA generally require two parking spaces per residence, and mortgage lenders can’t get behind the idea that someone would want to buy a house without space for cars. “People in the U.S. are incredibly suspicious of any idea where people are not going to own cars, or are going to own fewer,” according to David Ceaser, the co-founder of CarFree City USA.

It’s perfectly reasonable to demand enlightened thinking from your city government.

There’s a lot more to read about the topic in this New York Times article.


May 14, 2009 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Architecture of Urban Farming

The City of Vancouver, so much more than a “city that could be,” has developed Climate Change Action Plans and an EcoDensity Charter to do something to make things better. The city recently partnered with The Architectural Institute of British Columbia to present Form Shift: an architectural ideas design competition to support their goal of becoming “the greenest city in the world”.

Urban agriculture ideas were big in the competition. The Harvest Green Project By Romses Architect recieved an honorable mention in the competition, which saw urban farming as a way to help the city eat more sustainably:

To a certain extent, we have seen 20th century town planning disregard the importance of food and farming, and urban development has virtually eliminated agriculture in our cities….Incorporating urban farming prominently into the fabric of the city, and in a synergistic mixed-use development integrated with transit, is a way to re-assert the cultural and environmental importance of locally produced food to the health and sustainability of the city and its residents.

Harvest Green Project

The Community Catalyst submission by Garon Sebastien and Chris Foyd also received honorable mention. Their approach was simple:

Community gardens have proven hugely successful in fostering neighbourhood exchanges and building a sense of community.

Community Catalyst

That’s what we’re hoping for with the River Forks Community Garden, which has taken more than 3 years of fighting to push into existance. Now we’re just waiting for the city to do their thing, so we can do ours. The suspense is killing me!

via City Farmer.

May 11, 2009 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

Eco-Pirates Seize Raven’s Ait

Back in February, an activist who goes by Nick Revolving, 28, was taking a leisurely boat ride in the Thames and realized that an island that once served as a venue for weddings and conferences was lying vacant as a result of the economic downturn. So he decided to do something productive with it. So he invited his friends, and with an aim to “to give it back to the people,” they’ve been squatting on it in a sustainable model commune, complete with a tree-house and raised-bed permaculture gardens.

The goal of the group is to “transform the island into an eco conference centre, aimed at showcasing green ideas and promote sustainable development” In the hopes of making it official, they’ve submitted formal plans for their “sustainable island” to the local council, but the council members are unwilling to negotiate while the squatters are still on the land.

In fact, they’ve issued an eviction notice, so my understanding of squatters rights in England is obviously flawed. It seemed to work for the Geurrilla Gardeners. Interesting though, that although the island has been vacant since November, council urgently wants them off because “there are companies interested” in the land. The community’s behind these eco-pirates, saying that “They’re serving the community”, but the group says it will leave in eight weeks time. Shame. I wonder what the consequences of ignoring an eviction notice are?

Read the article in Yahoo News. Or better yet, visit the Raven’s Ait website to read about their plans and show your support.


from the Ravens Ait Facebook page:

The island was evicted by a large armed police operation in the early hours of Friday May 1st 2009.

The council are now paying for 24 hour security with a continous rolling presence of around 10 guards (at an estimated cost of £2000 a day of taxpayers money) while they try to sell off the island.

We think this is a gross waste of taxpayers money that could have been spent supporting our proposal for a community centre. Of course the island is no longer accessible to the public either, so effectively taxpayers are paying vast sums of money to keep themselves off the island while the council prepares to sell this historic piece of common land to a hotel or property developer

What a terrible lack of vision. The group hasn’t given up, though. They’re appealing to the media to help them raise £1.5 million “to save this island as a community facility for all generations to enjoy into the future.” I’ve asked them if they have a paypal account, and will post the link if they have one, for anyone who wishes to make a donation.

May 6, 2009 at 4:31 am Leave a comment

Friday Night at the Museum

Museum Underground is reclaiming Museum London for a new generation. Like this Friday at 9:30-1:30, with Friday Night at the Museum. Check it out!

Friday May 1


April 29, 2009 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

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