Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Males a Neighborhood Click

When Pulitzer Prize writer Tina Rosenberg recently wrote a short piece for the NY Times on the elements that can make an urban or suburban neighborhood come together for it's residents, it stimulated a range of comments that provide much food for thought:
"America is synonymous with big business and the success of neighborhood is highly relevant to small economies. Small economies with many small enterprises, would obviously make an ideal answer for an excellent neighborhood.... 
I have lived in several cities in the U.S. and abroad, but the best for neighborhoods that I have found is definitely Seattle. Its neighborhoods are walkable and center around shopping streets that are seldom more than a few blocks from where most people live. This tends to be more characteristic of the middle class neighborhoods than working class neighborhoods in the southern part of the city, but in most parts of town it is easy to live without a car. Developers and city planners would do well to follow Seattle's example..... 
Our most recent Streetfilm on The Better Block has been an enormous hit. Watch them celebrate their 4th anniversary with innovative crosswalks, music, art and pop=up shops! .... 
The most effective change is from the ground up. I remember years ago as a graduate student working in Bushwick, the pride some local residents showed in a vest pocket park they built with their own hands -- at a time when NYC had no money to support this kind of work.... 
Great article. This seems like a real trend in America - medium size cities like Memphis becoming much more walkable, more lively, more desirable. The next generation has little interest in car ownership because they realize the obvious: your quality of life is far, far better when you live in a place where you don't need a car. The number of those places is only going to keep growing..... 
A wonderful idea! When I was a Civic Club President in a neighborhood near Sharpstown in Houston, a bunch of us brought telescopes out to a vacant lot. We set them up and kids could look at the moon and stars. It was a great event and, counting snacks, we pulled it off for less than $50..... 
Surprised the author didn't provide a list of resources or links to more placemaking organizations who are a catalyst and support for exactly these types of initiatives, such as Build a Better Block, Parking Day,, and Projects for Public Spaces,, among many, many others...... 
Did anyone else notice the actions are non partisan? I strongly suspect that the groups have members of all parties that reach compromises as well. The problem is the inherent threat it poses to elected partisan politicians whose power is being challenged. Too bad local residents don't try to use the same methods to influence the governance and instead fall back on political bickering. It is one reason I enjoy our small rural community. Local projects of all kinds are completed by people who leave their politics at the door.... 
he people who participate can create an ambiance in which with a minimum of effort or monies transform dysfuntion areas into a viable and productive community. Youthful passion can either be posiive or negative; destructive or can create a viable attitude which helps most get out of these tragic circumstances. This could lead to a change to positve cultural values. Why not ry these approaches where possible?..... 
These are all good points, but if cities weren't plagued by such unattractive education options (lousy/mediocre public schools vs astronomically expensive private schools), then I wonder if many people would want to live in the suburbs in the first place."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Celebrating and Reflecting on Home Ownership

National Homeownership Month actually started as a week-long celebration of homeownership during the Clinton administration in 1995. In 2002, President George W. Bush proclaimed June as the National Homeownership Month. Here is an excerpt from his proclamation:
“Homeownership is an important part of the American Dream…A home provides shelter and a safe place where families can prosper and children can thrive. For many Americans, their home is an important financial investment, and it can be a source of great personal pride and an important part of community stability.” 
“Homeownership encourages personal responsibility and the values necessary for strong families. Where homeownership flourishes, neighborhoods are more stable, residents are more civic-minded, schools are better, and crime rates decline.” 
“During National Homeownership Month, I encourage all Americans to learn more about financial management and to explore homeownership opportunities in their communities. By taking this important step, individuals and families help safeguard their financial futures and contribute to the strength of our Nation.”

Sunday, June 08, 2014

What to do With Those Clippings? Nothing!

...or almost nothing. Scotts has a vested interest in selling you lawn and garden fertilizers and nutrients, but even Scotts goes out of it's way to make the case for leaving your lawn clippings on your lawn.
"It's a question we all face when mowing: Should I bag my clippings or leave them on the lawn? In most cases, the answer is easy: Leave the clippings on the lawn! Leaving the clippings will save you time and energy, and it will return valuable nutrients to the lawn."

If you have leftover clippings, another good option is to mulch your garden with same. Says Scotts:
"Grass clippings can also be collected for use in a compost pile or as mulch, unless you recently applied a weed control product to the lawn."

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Future is Now for 3D Home Construction

LLoyd Alter (via FACIT) makes the case that we're much further along in using 3D printers in home construction than futurists have projected:
The 3D printed, digitally fabricated home is here and it is beautiful. It will also change the way architecture is done...While purists have complained that this is not strictly 3D printing in that it is not "additive", I respond that they are missing the point, which is that it is another way of taking computer generated designs and giving them 3D form, straight from computer to tool, and it doesn't use plastic or concrete, two materials that we are trying to use less of in green building.
Other experts debate and deconstruct his arguments in Treehugger's comments, but he includes a fascinating architectural slide show to back up his thesis.'s commentsit-takes-digitally-fabricated-house-next-level/

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Vertical Farming Plans Taking Shape in West

The concept of Vertical Farming is starting to spread it's ambitious wings in prominent locations from the far east to the south west.
Live Share Grow is a proposal by Brandon Martella for a combo residential tower and vertical farm for downtown San Diego. The multi-story tower is dual purpose – one side is holds residential apartments in varying sizes, while the other is a large-scale hydroponic vertical farm. Located in a popular area amidst other residential towers, offices, tourist attractions and very close to the bay, Live Share Grow would be sited to contribute to the larger community.

We hope that other cities with dreams of high rising sustainability will look into this.