05 May 2010

OC Green Solutions Festival

Where: The Great Park, Irvine, CAJune 5-6, 2010

The Green Solutions Expo is the main source for everything green and eco-friendly. New to the green movement? This is the perfect place for all members of the movement, novices and experienced. We share great tips, ideas, information, product information and much more.
One of our most unique offerings is an interactive green community, the Green Solutions Expo Social Network! The Green Solutions Expo is an avid believer in reducing waste in any way possible, and being paperless is one of the many ways to do just that. In order to reduce our carbon footprint we offer anything you might need right here on our website.
Among our many features you will find are; news, information, comments, and special promotions for the Green Solutions Expo show. Looking for other ways to communicate, find out about being green, and staying on top of the emerging trends? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and stay connected.
Looking for new and innovative ways to stay green while you travel? The Green Solutions Expo has all the information you need.
Are you trying to raise your kids to be eco friendly and green? The Green Solutions Expo has the resources, tips and information you need to help make this happen including how to cook organically for you family. In addition to the above-mentioned features, the Green Solutions Expo additionally has "Green TV" where you can view products and informercials relevant to the green movement.
Whether you are looking for upcoming green events, tips on how to be more environmentally friendly, how to raise your kids accustomed to the green movement, or whatever it may be, the Green Solutions Expo is the perfect place.

28 April 2010

Coming soon to a cul-de-sac near you: Farming!

Let's hope suburban sprawl's forward march can now be stopped--the bursting of the housing bubble no doubt helped with that. But existing sprawl isn't going away. It's our built environment--a brute fact that won't be wished away by my desire to see walkable, bikeable, flourishing neighborhoods everywhere.
The question becomes, what to do with this existing, admittedly awful infrastructure? Here's one answer, from
Good Magazine:
In cities, agriculture might be able to take the place of vacant lots. And in suburbia? Well, in 2008, the New Urbanism evangelist Andrés Duany, of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), architects and town planners, proclaimed that "agriculture is the new golf," a prescient and deliberately provocative claim that is helping frame the conversation about suburbia's future. "Only 17 percent of people living in golf-course communities play golf more than once a year. Why not grow food?"
Admittedly, the article deals mainly with new development: planning housing communities around farms.
Here's an example:
[In Solano, Calif. , the architecture and land-planning firm Hart Howerton created a plan for a clustered rural community that marries innovation with deeply rooted farming patterns. The big idea here is that they've retrofitted not buildings but the typical pattern of development: The existing agricultural land is clustered into a 1,400-acre plot, while the rest of the community is preserved open lands, habitat preservation, and a village of 400 homes at the center. A land conservancy, partially funded by a percentage of home sales, would provide a mechanism with which to manage and monitor the land. As MacPhee explains, "Agriculture is an amenity. You can't just wish for it, you have to support it."
The article is actually pessimistic about retrofitting existing suburbs. I'm more sanguine. Projects like Durham's
Bountiful Backyards are expert at turning home lawns into dramatically productive gardens. And that is one possible vision for the future of suburbia.
Text courtesy of Tom Philpott & Allison Arieff

12 April 2010

Is REDEVELOPMENT the future for Mission Viejo?

In a recent article titled: Urban Core Growing Faster Than Outer 'Burbs, By Jenny Sullivan on Builder Online the EPA study finds that permits in central cities and first-ring suburban neighborhoods are outpacing greenfield developments.
Smart growth proponents have long predicted that the ever-greater expansion of suburbia would one day reach its limit, prompting a renewed interest in central city living. “Residential Construction Trends in America’s Metropolitan Regions," a new report from the EPA, suggests that this trend is well underway, with residential permits in downtown areas and close-in suburbs more than doubling since 2000 in 26 of the nation's largest metro regions.

The shift has been especially pronounced in some big cities, such as New York, which saw its share of regional permits increase from 15% in the early 1990s to 48% by 2008. In Chicago, housing permits inside city limits rose from 7% to 27% over the same time period.

Rapid revitalization is sweeping many smaller cities as well. In Portland’s downtown neighborhoods and close-in 'burbs, permit activity jumped from 9% to 26% over the last two decades. Home building in Atlanta’s core neighborhoods grew similarly, from 4% to 14%, according to the analysis, which examined Census residential permit data for the nation’s 50 largest metro regions over 19 years. In this examination, researchers compared the number of permits issued by central cities and core suburban communities with the number issued in suburban and exurban communities.

They found that a geographic shift in residential permits was indeed occurring, with the most notable spurts in urban redevelopment over the past five years. Data indicates that this trend is continuing in spite of the real estate slump, and the study's findings suggest that urban revitalization may be intensifying as local and regional jurisdictions implement smart growth measures. National policies also are likely to support this trend as the Obama administration’s Sustainable Communities Initiative begins to gain traction.

“When you look at the regions that are really embracing walkability, investing in transit, and thinking about natural resources protection, these are the regions that are weathering the downturn best,” Shelley Poticha, director of HUD’s newly-created Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, told BUILDER in a recent interview. “I think we’re going to see more and more regions reinvesting in their downtown areas, in suburban town centers, and in neighborhood centers,” she said.

In medium-sized cities, some of the most dramatic shifts have occurred in regions that have aggressively promoted growth boundaries and urban redevelopment, such as Portland, Denver, Sacramento, and Atlanta. In larger metro regions such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and Los Angeles, “market fundamentals are shifting toward redevelopment even in the absence of formal policies and programs,” the study's authors noted.

Some experts say economic and demographic factors such as constrained consumer finances, smaller households, and changing lifestyle preferences are driving increased demand for urban-style neighborhoods. “Consumers want ‘value retention’ and this portends a shift to closer-in communities and infill sites closer to transit,” says Ed McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

Still, the infill frenzy has yet to significantly alter America’s housing landscape. New residential construction projects continue to move forward on greenfields at the urban fringe in many markets, the study found. And even in cities with significant urban revitalization, this market segment continues to represent only a small slice of the housing pie; urban core neighborhoods still account for fewer than half of all new residential units in most regions.

Where exactly the pendulum is, and how far it could swing remains a point of debate. “If you believe the economist Richard Florida, every phase or epoch of capitalism has its own distinct geography, or what geographers call the ‘spatial fix’ for the era,” says McMahon. “Suburbanization was the spatial fix for the consumer/industrial age. The economy is different now. It no longer involves simply making and moving things. Instead, it depends on generating and transporting ideas. This occurs in cities and other places of density. Low-density sprawl is ill-fitted to a creative, post, industrial economy. We are seeing the beginning of the reshaping of the landscape to fit the post industrial economy.” end of article

So, it sounds like Mission Viejo should likely expect redevelopment to increase in the near future. With that being said, I think it is more important now than ever to encourage the City and local groups to embrace this new trend and participate in the shaping of its community. How can we get our voices heard???

Images courtesy of: SRF Consulting & Farm2

22 December 2009

Planning for Twenty10

Happy Holidays to all of you!

As 2009 draws to a close, it brings to mind the many successes and continuing challenges for the Placemaking movement throughout the year.
There is no doubt that Placemaking is expanding exponentially around the world. There is mounting interest from professionals and citizens who want to learn more about how they can make a difference in their communities on issues such as livability, sustainability and community well-being.
In both my personal and professional life
this year, I learned a great deal about how people envision their communities evolving for the future. This has spurred discussions about planning ides to be put to practice in 2010, which will highlight four principle agendas that are needed to transform cities and towns:

1) Toward an Architecture of Place - Public institutions such as museums, government buildings, libraries and others can become important anchors for civic activity in every city by assuming a broader role within the community and adapting and evolving their buildings to host a broader range of activities.

2) Building Community through Transportation - The planning and design of transportation networks and streets can be reshaped to encourage economic vitality, civic engagement, human health, and environmental sustainability, in addition to serving peoples' mobility needs.

3) Public Markets and Local Economies - Public markets and farmers markets not only create dynamic community gathering places, but they can spin off a myriad of other community benefits - from revitalizing downtowns, to bringing fresh, healthy food to low income neighborhoods, to creating new business opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs.

4) Creating Public Multi-use Destinations - In the competitive globalizing economy, great cities are becoming defined more and more by their great public destinations-user friendly, lively squares, waterfronts, great commercial streets, markets or combinations of all of these. Placemaking provides the way for cities to redefine their vision around creating or enhancing these destinations.

Seeing that Placemaking is the Talk of the Town, together we can begin to frame a discussion about creating a more effective planning process for public spaces. My goal is to create a more thorough process in which cities can foster not only successful public spaces but also a stronger leadership within communities to continually maintain and improve these spaces. Great public spaces require strong leadership groups that make the community vision a reality so that little by little, the public begins to "own" the space.

Photos courtesy of: Discovery Green Houston & Photos taken by author
Some text courtesy of: PPS

10 November 2009

How do we create PLACE and foster SUSTAINABLE chage?

I. Mission Statement
We need to create value of a place in terms of its physical, social, and economical value. We must be engaged in what place really is? What can we do to address and accomplish creating physical, social, and economical value to place.

II. What is Place?

A) Major themes/Ideas of the Council: • Creating a sense of place through connectivity and culture. Connect to places without relying on the car. Change our values! • Think of place in terms of a social, physical, and economical model. Socially, connectivity and culture. Having a clean and safe space. Physical, create a space that is aesthetic and green with good energy. • Push for public transit; change the idea and infrastructure of suburban sprawl.

B) “Culture of Change” • Bring back the edge to Southern California. Create demand. Tackle what is going to create demand. Bring California to the forefront. • People not place anymore. Place is about people and how people connect to place not vice versa. Connectivity to the existing sprawl. • We must plan for the future, change the Southern California mindset • We are having massive cultural shift, our mindsets are changing in terms of our habits. I.e., having a lot of cars on the driveway isn’t important anymore. • Moreover, create a partnership with the government, people, and community • We are in a generational SHIFT which will facilitate change • We need to tap into this new generation, work with the society we have now to change this suburban mindset from post WWII into a modern “metrosuburbian” place • We must identify what is important for people; it is vital to address these components. What do communities want?

The slowing of construction in the USA has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for driving significant, positive environmental change. Although I hesitate to even use the word because it has so little currency in the USA, an opening exists for a nation-wide consideration of sustainable development.

C) What Can We Do to Remedy Sprawl in Southern California? • Tackle what is going to create demand in California. • Bring back the edge to Southern California in order to attract stakeholders. • Create diversity in housing • New “trend” is having higher density, create a new urban place to model. • California must reinvent itself create **DEMAND** • We need to figure out how to compete in today’s economy and bring jobs to SOCAL. • Create a competitive advantage (i.e., silicon valley) • As a result of the Recession we must Reset, Revolve, Revaluate, and Relook

D) Where Do We Start? How to We Address the Problem? • To begin start at the county level, Orange County is very disconnected (driven by politics). We must bring leaders of each city together and ask them what we can do about the disconnect and sprawl of our community. • Next look at the region in terms of the environment look at legislation SB 375, AB 32 (land use and transportation are vital) to change out culture, mindset, and our future. Speak with the author of SB 375 Daryl Steinberg.

1) Regionalism • Cities must collaborate locally to compete with cities worldwide.• Integrate SCAG • The goal is to effect positive change, create an Urban Development Story • OC is the model of suburban development therefore we must create a new model a new story to effect change for a new urban development model. • Ultimately, transportation drives how we create place! • We must answer questions like what will happen to the quality of life in SoCal if gas soars to $7.00?? What happens to growth? Since we live in such a car driven society this will affect our quality of life immensely. • Create a Public-Private Partnership • Utilize a Top-Down Approach state-county-region-city

E) Create a New Urban Development Model • We must create a sustainable model of development. That is attractive globally, that will bring people here. Create a compelling story that will bring the best and brightest to SoCal. • Create a new set of rules. What is the new way of life? • **Redefine what Suburbanization is** the goal is to work with what we have, redefine suburbanization over time. • Design a new model at the micro and macro level a new pattern of development

1) What are the Opportunities?For the future we must think differently.• Create Jobs • Create jobs through sustainability • Think of transportation for the future • Think about food and housing

F) What is the next Paradigm Shift? • DEVELOP A NEW MODEL FOR MODERN LIVING • Encourage redevelopment and utilize edge development • A goal should be setting new guidelines of a new development model

III. Think about our Fundamental Human Needs as a basis of a new model:
1) Transportation
2) Housing
3) Food
4) Jobs
5) Clean Place
6) Culture
**Our basic human needs is the new paradigm shift**

A) What is our End Product?
• A holistic approach (the new development paradigm) to urban development something interactive that should ultimately be spread to not only Orange County but globally.

B) Who is going to use our end product?
• The public (educate them by forums, conferences, lectures, especially through ULI, etc) • Government • The designer (and students)We must become part of ULI’s voice to spread the word about our new paradigm shift in urban development

C) What is hindering developing our new development paradigm?
• City regulations are too strict • Give “power to the people” • Think about how people really want to live vs. how “they” want us to live” • We must have a regulatory change (diversity of housing, density, etc) What problems affect the global, state, city, neighborhood, individual, national, and the region?? What are the solutions??

IV. Conclusions:

We must think differently in order to foster sustainable change. Our culture and thinking is evolving therefore we must create a new way of living. We must change our consumption habits. Utilize the new wave of the future by being holistic in all aspects of life. We must critically enforce the notion of transit in order to change the sprawl infrastructure. The automobile is a major cause of the disconnect in our society; it is handicapping us socially and economically. We must bring people back to place. Design a place for the people not just solely focusing on place. We must use to our advantage the current cultural shift we are in and evolve from the 1950’s consumption residue of materialism. California must reinvent itself to have a competitive advantage domestically and internationally. Create demand! Make people want to live in SoCal. Changing the idea of suburbanization will need much collaboration from the public and private sector. We must bring local leaders together to talk and discuss our current predicament. We must collaborate at all levels at the state, locally and regionally. Current policy and regulations are hindering a new development paradigm shift. We must remedy this by allowing citizens to choose how they want to live and reform draconian policies that are hindering growth socially and economically. We must develop a new model form of modern living. The goal is to create a place that will flourish and retain strong economical and social value. We must reintegrate our space to our culture, to our ways of life; reconnect the gap in our disconnective society. Create a place of value without relying on the car.
Text created as a collaborative effort at the ULI Initiative Council Group.
Photos Courtesy of Tree Hugger

11 September 2009

Community Oriented Small Business Solutions

Due to current economic times, many very talented individuals have been laid off and many those people are not satisfied or fortunate enough to sit at home collecting an un-employement check. To that end, there is a magnitude of new start-up businesses that are looking to make their mark in their industry. The co-work space solution is an excellent opportunity to place your business in a vibrant setting with a potential to be a great networking environment.

An Irish Company, Tepui who is focused on Sustainability Strategies and Design is developing a co-workspace 'Hub,' something definately worth considering. A pay-as you go shared work space with a creative and collaborative community buzz is just what so many of us are missing.

'The Dublin Hub' is a flexible, affordable, shared working environment for freelancers, small businesses, the self-employed, and home-workers looking for a desk, or a meeting space in town. Members book time in the Hub in advance - similar to buying mobile phone credit - they have the freedom to choose when to work and are charged solely for the time they spend in the Hub.

"We hope to attract inventive, innovative, socially committed, ethical and environmentally aware people, people who need to take their ideas out of the garden shed or away from the kitchen table, says Erik van Lennap of Tepui. We aim to provide a vibrant, dynamic, collaborative, exciting atmosphere, a place people will want to be in and be part of. We think this is an essential response to the challenges posed by changing work patterns in the new century."

Images provided by: csmonitor.com

17 August 2009

The Project Renovation Paradox

When times are good, property owners don't want to impact revenues by embarking on a renovation project; causing site disruptions which impact tenants, visitors and shoppers. Paradoxically, today, poorly performing properties in need of a facelift lack the necessary revenue to do anything about it.

Alas, a Catch-22: If your property is making money, you don't feel the need to renovate. But when sales and rents are down and you feel the need, you don't have the money to renovate.
So, when is a good time to renovate?

John F. Kennedy once said, "The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining." In terms of the economic climate, these are cloudy times at best (even stormy, in many locations). So, what can a property owner do today who is strapped for cash?

Find some money. Invest in capital expenditures and make decisions with an eye on ROI.

The most obvious advantage of renovating in this environment is cost savings. Now is the first time in the 30 years that construction costs have actually come down. Historically, they have gone up steadily, if not sharply. Today, in many parts of the world, costs are down by over 10% from just six months ago. According to statistics compiled by Rider Levett Buchnall (http://www.americas.rlb.com/documents/cost/reports/2009_q2_qcr.pdf), construction costs in cities like Denver and Seattle declined by as much as 8% in the first quarter of 2009 alone.

A second advantage: When business is slow and there are vacanies, there is less disruption to guests and less impact on cash flow from operations. On top of that, construction can proceed more quickly, and property owners and managers can get the word out that their property is newly renovated and open for business.

Properties that have been newly renovated will be in the best position to restore and/or raise rents and increase occupancies. Properties that defer needed maintenance and refurbishment and wait until times are better will miss being able to take full advantage of the inevitable upturn. When thinking about where to shop or go see a movie families most often go to the ones that are either new or newly renovated. Research data from a recent study conducted by STR shows that, over a five-year period, revenues for renovated properties increase at three-and-a-half times the rate of un-renovated properties.

Bottom line: Hard times are good times to prepare for better times.

Images courtesy of: Global Graphica, Mission Viejo Life
Some Text Courtesy of: WATG