Ecocity Mapping for Urban Villages


LOCATION: Oakland, California, USA

SUMMARY: EcoCity Builders and its two significant project partners in Oakland, the Oakland Community Action Network and Western Institute for Social Research, Berkeley, are working closely together with various departments within the City of Oakland, as well as community stakeholders, to develop Ecocity Mapping for Sustainable Urban Villages Action Plan for innovative long-term solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions regionally.

The Urban Village community plan will be anchored by a vitality and needs assessment and inventory supported by the City’s general plan policies and zoning, economic (re)development strategies, and in coordination with local and regional land use and transportation agencies. Complete integration of the Urban Villages concept would occur through each City’s adoption of proposed land use framework along with specific action plans for each Urban Village community within a particular City. For example, the Oakland Urban Villages Project plans will be crafted through a collaborative community process utilizing the City of Oakland’s resident-driven Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council and Neighborhood Watch infrastructure, already in place, augmented with outreach to faith communities, non profit organizations, labor and other neighborhood organizations. The Oakland Pilot will be launched in a highly-impacted area.

An award from the Buckminster Fuller Challenge would be used to launch a high profile campaign to promote and share the Ecocity Mapping for Urban Villages approach with cities around the world. We already have more requests for support, education and assistance than we can currently address. We are ready to get the word out, assist many more cities in launching their own Ecocity Mapping and Urban Villages plans, and share the knowledge and lessons learned from our Oakland pilot project.

PROBLEM SPACE: Cities are approaching an era of new challenges, including meeting energy and transportation needs in a time of growing energy constraints, reshaping the built environment to fit a renewable energy future, relocalizing the economy through sustainable business and industries, and increasing food security through community supported agriculture.

To be successful, the sustainable, less energy dependent and more ecologically healthy human settlement of the future will need to become less like a blanket of development accessed by cars and more like a network of walkable “urban villages”— linked by transit and connected to a strong downtown center, with more room for urban agriculture, creek corridors and greenways.

The Ecocity Mapping for Urban Villages approach combines science and technology with community education, outreach and input to describe, communicate, and achieve a shared vision for just and sustainable cities moving toward balance with natural systems.

SOLUTION: Richard Register has been writing extensively on the vision of the ecocity. His philosophy of urban design is heavily influenced by architect Paolo Soleri (eg. 1969). In Register's vision, existing public infrastructure is seen as an overlay over nature—the state before the city evolved. In order to create dense places where people live, work and play in compact nodes surrounded by green agricultural and recreational areas, the existing infrastructure is pulled up over a period of time. This creates strong centers of community, minimizes travel, provides for quick access to green space and sustainable agriculture and places an emphasis on urban form in a natural context (Register, 1987; 2002; 2006). Initially developed in the mid 1980s on paper, Ecocity Builders now is using geographic information and suitability modeling pioneered by Ian McHarg (1969) to identify urban fractals or activity centers for potential ecocity centers, or, as Ecocity Builders is phrasing this activity in their current pilot project work, ""Urban Villages."" Ecocity Builders outlines a step-by-step method of designing ecocities.

Seven Steps to Ecocity Mapping

1) Produce a local natural history map
2) Establish walkable centers
3) Adjust the circular zones and draw them in relation to nature corridors and agricultural areas
4) Show the limits of discontinuous boulevards and location of railroad right-of-ways
5) Prepare sample vertical cross sections – options for using the third dimension creatively
6) Provide key for map in the usual way
7) Add scenario maps

Ecocity Mapping for Urban Villages is now using geographic information systems to organize information about the community in its natural context, identify centers of activity and get a starting point on a vitality inventory. This resulting GIS can then be used as a visual road map to the future. Although the industry leader in GIS, Environment Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) produces software and business solutions for professional customers, they offer complimentary access to map viewers (ArcExplorer) for educational purpose. Furthermore, projects made on their software may be exported to GoogleEarth's .kml/.kmz format so that anyone with access to a computer, internet or handheld device may browse a simple GIS at their convenience.