Support your city the culinary way – Restaurant Week

The season of Restaurant Week is upon us.  What better way to support your local community than by patronizing local restaurants, enjoying their culinary specialties and all this, at greatly reduced prices.

What could be better?!

Up first, Sweet Home Chicago, their restaurants week starts today and ends February 12, 2014.  Fourteen days of food fun, learn more here.



Quick Question Column

Quick Question – a monthly column about life where you live

This month features:

John Swiecki, AICP
Community Development Director

Quick Question:
What thrills you about your neighborhood, San Mateo Highlands in California?

Quick Answer:
The sense of community.  The whole neighborhood is situated around a community center, pool and elementary school, the sense of community that is fosters, seeing your neighbors.  Joseph Eichler designed many of the homes and the area has rediscovered and appreciated this Eichler heritage.


Homeless Housing + Billboards = Project Gregory

On any given day, when walking down the street of a large urban city, one is very likely to encounter a homeless person, couple or family.  Do you look or avert your eyes?  Do you give a few coins or food? Do you wish things could be better without knowing how?

Three ambitious architects from Slovakia, Michal Polacek, Matej Nedorolik and Martin Lee Keniz of Project Gregory, have come up with a viable solution.  They propose using roadside advertising billboards as the framework for modern, temporary accommodations.  “Our plan is based on a massive advertisement, thanks to which we can spread project Gregory into the whole world. We only need to build first 10 houses, then [our project will be] self-sufficient and can develop on his own… The advantage is also that this facility is minimalist, but it is equipped with everything necessary for a quality life.”

project gregory interiors

Photo Credit – Project Gregory                                 

Interior has two rooms (approximately 18 square meters)

In the first room, there is a table with a storage space, two chairs and a bed with storage space. The second room has a toilet, a basin, a shower and additional storage space.

project gregory rendering

Rendering Credit – Project Gregory

Outdoor advertising is prevalent in every major city.  These billboards take large sums to construct and maintain.  Project Gregory has taken an existing resource and given it an additional use – temporary housing.  The electricity costs of the unit would be covered by the rental space of the ad itself, which must be illuminated at night.  These architects think that “if we take the electricity cost needed for the billboard to keep it lit during night and we try to optimize it by x%, we find that this saved energy could fully cover all those interior usage needs.”

Typically, the challenge of homelessness falls on communities, states, and the federal government.  This rethinks that paradigm and shifts the funding source to come from already established private outdoor planning media budgets.  There is a great need to invest in temporary housing so people can start the path to rebuilding their lives.

Learn more

Where you grow up, “the neighborhood effect”

Until now, urban economists have studied the economic realities within cities, but this new research (Princeton University and Martin Prosperity Institute) takes a more detailed look inside neighborhoods.  This more defined and closer analysis can help us to understand the success and failures of certain areas and the role that gentrification or segregation can play within the urban fabric.

Richard Florida at The Atlantic City Lab presents “what social scientists have dubbed the neighborhood effect, and two recent studies give us a better understanding of exactly how it works.”

Read more here

Photo Credit:


Why Guerilla Garden?

Ron Finley asks, “How would you feel if you had no access to fresh food”? He decided to create this access by taking over abandoned lots. He uses these lots to grow fruits and vegetables throughout South Central LA.

He has taken over 20 gardens and counting.  His movement of volunteers LA Green Grounds (and as of this year transformed into a new entity, The Ron Finley Project) plows, plants, weeds, and harvests.  Then the group shares the fruits of its labor with many “food desert” communities.  He observes, “The drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

Now, that’s food for thought!

Watch his Ted Talk and see if it inspires you to become a guerilla gardener in your city.





Photo Credit: LA Green Grounds

interVIEW|Italian Urban Planner, Paolo Avarello


Paul Avarello is a professor of urban planning at the Universita’ degli studi Roma Tre, in Rome, Italy.  Since 1995, he has been a leading faculty member in its Architecture Department. He is the director of the graduate course “New Urban Policies.” Previously he was an urban planning professor at the Università degli Studi “G. d’Annunzio” Chieti in Pescara, Italy.

Throughout his career he has researched the relationship between housing production and planning, as well as overseen the implementation of formal planning and public action in housing in Italy and Europe.  From 1992 to 1998 he was national head of INU, Instituto Nazionale di Urbanistico (the National Italian Urban Planning Institute).  During his tenure, he curated national and international events as well as conducted in depth research.  Avarello collaborates with the magazines “Building and Territory” and “Guide to Local Entities” for the group Sole24ore.

Avarello Photo“To give urban planning an effective meaning it takes first a great patience and then a certain amount of stubbornness: if the architect can create, or pretend to do so, the planner must instead necessarily clash with a reality much more complex and difficult…”
Arch. Prof. Paolo Avarello


What led you to choose a career in Urban Planning and what have you enjoyed about it the most?
Cosa ti ha portato a scegliere una carriera in Pianificazione Urbana e che cosa, di essa, ti gratifica di più?

I enrolled in Architecture at the university, when I was younger.  Before I had completed the two urban planning courses (fourth and fifth year), I used to audit the classes of urban planning 1 and 2, fascinated by the complexity of the subject. It is very different from architecture itself; I did not know that I would eventually be an urban planner, and working as a university professor afterward.

Fin da quando mi sono iscritto ad Architettura e non avevo ancora fatto i due esami di urbanistica (quarto e quinto anno), seguivo le lezioni di urbanistica 1 e 2,affascinato dalla complessità della materia, molto diversa da quella dell’architettura vera e propria, ma non sapevo ancora che avrei fatto l’urbanista, prima nel lavoro e poi nell’università.

What would you describe as the biggest challenges faced today in this field in Rome, in Italy and globally?
Quali sono le più grandi sfide affrontate oggi in questo campo a Roma, in Italia e globalmente? 

Urban planning in Rome and in Italy has never had a lot of success among builders, who saw it as a limitation to economic expansion when there was a healthy market.  But when the market stalled, the thrust of the public entity became a salvation (ie. in the postwar period Ina Casa).  [Editor’s note: Ina Casa is public residential housing]

Today, these trends are slowing down, despite immigration from poorer countries, but there is still a gap in the field of restoration and renovation. This is because in Italy more than 84% percent of the apartments are owned (and not rented), while in other countries (ie. France, England, etc.) it is reported to be just 50%, which favors change.

L’urbanistica a Roma e in Italia non è mai piaciuta molto ai costruttori, che la consideravano un limite all’espansione economica, quando c’era mercato, ma quando questo stagnava la spinta dell’intervento pubblico diventava una salvezza (es. nel dopoguerra l’Ina Casa).

Oggi questi andamenti si vanno rallentando, nonostante le immigrazioni dai paesi più poveri, ma esiste ancora un gap nel  settore del recupero e della riqualificazione.  E ciò perché in Italia più dell’84% cento degli appartamenti sono di proprietà, mentre in altri paesi (es. Francia, Inghilterra, etc.) il rapporto arriva appena al 50%, il che favorisce i cambiamenti.

In what project or endeavor have you found the greatest success in affecting positive change on the urban landscape?
Quale suo progetto o impegno ha avuto maggior successo nell’influenzare un cambiamento positivo sul paesaggio urbano? 

In this case it is not a “project”, but an (exhaustive) collective work, done with my colleagues from the National Institute of Urban Planning (INU), of which I was President.

Italy, the first country in Europe, had for some time issued a law to protect cultural heritage and landscape locations. With Legislative Decree 1089, Cultural Heritage and Legislative Decree 1497 specifically, these laws were for the protection of the landscape (Legislative Decree 42, 2004 and its Regulations, Legislative Decree. 1497). With this foundation, two new decrees were established: the Code for cultural heritage and landscape, 2006, and the Environmental Regulations 2006 (Decree 152).  As often happens, however, the weakness of the management and the rigidity of the bureaucracy have often negated much of this protection.

In questo caso non si tratta di un “progetto”, ma di un (faticoso) lavoro collettivo, svolto con i miei colleghi dell’Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica (INU), di cui allora ero Presidente).

 L’Italia, prima in Europa, aveva già da tempo tutelato i beni culturali e del paesaggio con Lg. 1089, Beni culturali e Lg. 1497, specificamente per la tutela del paesaggio (D.lgs 42, 2004 e il relativo Regolamento, L. 1497). Si ottennero cosi due nuovi decreti: ilCodice dei beni culturali e del paesaggio, 2006 e le Norme in materia ambientale 2006 ,(D.lgs 152).  Come spesso succede, tuttavia, la debolezza delle gestioni e la rigidità della burocrazia hanno spesso vanificato gran parte di questa tutela.

What advice do you have for young urban planners?
Che consigli hai per i giovani urbanisti? 

To give urban planning an effective meaning it takes first a great patience and then a certain amount of stubbornness: if the architect can create, or pretend to do so, the planner must instead necessarily clash with a reality much more complex and difficult.  Essentially, you have to put together, and possibly in an effective way, the various “pieces”, starting from the configuration of places, situations, types, infrastructure, costs, to the various constraints, the existing structures, possible inhabitants, etc. etc.

Being able to assemble all these things is exhausting, but if it succeeds, it can give great satisfaction, even when the client does not pay the entire bill (which is quite often).

Per dare un senso effettivo all’urbanistica occorre anzitutto una grande pazienza e poi una certa quantità di testardaggine: se l’architetto può creare, o illudersi di poterlo fare, l’urbanista deve invece scontrarsi per forza con una realtà molto più complessa e difficile: in sostanza, si devono mettere insieme, e possibilmente in modo efficace, i vari “pezzi”, a partire dalla configurazione dei luoghi, alle situazioni, alle tipologie, alle infrastrutture, ai costi, ai diversi vincoli, alle preesistenze, ai possibili abitanti, ecc. ecc.

Riuscire a montare tutte queste cose è piuttosto faticoso, ma se ci si riesce, può dare grandi soddisfazioni,a volte anche quando il committente non paga tutta la parcella (il che è piuttosto frequente).

What is your favorite city and why?
Qual’ è tua città preferita e perché’? 

The city that I prefer is the one where I was born, Rome.  I still live happily, despite its several flaws, I live and work here, now only for the university. But I am not “provincial”.  In fact my wife, who was not born in Rome, but near Parma, enthusiastically endorses this position of mine.  She even yells at me when I complain, or get angry, about the major flaws which exist here.

La città che preferisco è quella dove sono nato, Roma, dove ancora vivo volentieri, nonostante i suoi diversi difetti, ci abito e ci lavoro, ora solo per l’università. Non sono però “campanilista” e per altro mia moglie, che non è nata a Roma, ma vicino Parma, condivide entusiasticamente questa mia posizione, e anzi mi sgrida quando mi lamento, o mi arrabbio, dei grandi difetti che pure ci sono.  


Photo Credit: diario di borderline

5 Ideas for Cities in 2015 – by 100 Resilient Cities

The 100 Resilient Cities organization has compiled a list of 5 Ideas for Cities in 2015, ideas to help cities shape a brighter future— they are calling it Resilience Resolutions for the year ahead.

Emerging.City loves this list as it encompasses key aspects of our mission statement.  And topping the list:

1. Get Women Involved In City Planning And Disaster Response

We could not agree more!

Read their 5 Ideas for Cities in 2015

Photo Credit: DFID, Flickr

Spur Launches in Oakland

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Oakland Launch Party

Bruce Beasley Sculpture Studio
323 Lewis Street, Oakland

Join the official Oakland launch party, featuring food, fun and fellow urbanists.

SPUR will provide a place where the different voices in Oakland can come together to craft a shared vision for the future.

Read about Oakland SPUR
Further event details here


Love Note to Hyde Park, Chicago

Love Note to Hyde Park

I love the neighborhood where I was born and raised. Hyde Park was and still is a champion of integration and harmony, of people from various income and education levels, all living together in one area, in a city that is famous for its segregation.  An anomaly, quite special.

Hyde Park, for my sister and I, held so many wonders.  We began our educations in Montessori school, and then later we entered William H. Ray Elementary.  We lived in Madison Park and then on Blackstone, near 55th Street.  Our mom, an Alumni of the University of Chicago, gave us access to the Regenstein library.  We used the beautiful campus grounds as our second backyard.

Hyde Park illustrated map                                   Illustrated Map Credit:

Our actual backyard had grape vines growing on the back fence. We played so many games back there.  We even buried Chicu, our first pet, a parakeet bird in our backyard. We played outside with our friends until the streetlights came on.  After we moved to 52nd Street near Dorchester, very little changed. We went shopping at the local pharmacy for treats. We were vegetarians so the famous Ribs and Bibs Take-Out was off limits to us.  However, that did not stop us from walking by and enjoying the smells, as we babysat for a family that lived right across the street from there. We learned to swim, tap dance, gymnastics and archery in classes from the YMCA, until it was torn down and replaced by commercial shops.  As we continued to grow, we went to Harper Court movie theatre for group and eventual one-on-one dates.  The streets were safe; the streets were tree lined.

I have not lived in Hyde Park since the 1990s but have been back to visit.  There is a great feeling of not only being back home, but being proud of the community in which I learned a little something about myself and a whole lot about my little world.  It set the standard for the type of neighborhood where my husband and I want to raise our daughter – in a place full of diversity, some nature, lots of culture and endless spirit.

Photo Credit: Adam Jones

“Good Eggs” Comes to Town

When local farmers and food-makers wed via the internet, you get a culinary love affair. And with Good Eggs as the officiant, amazing local, fresh foods can be delivered to your door, any day of the week.

Good Eggs is simple and genius. They take the current craze for sustainable eating into a new paradigm. This new food model connects local farmers/ranchers/fisherman/ who work diligently to produce/raise/catch organically to growing numbers of customers seeking more options and increased frequency of availability for locally grown organic, sustainable foods.

Good Eggs come to town 2

Perhaps most importantly, their business encourages them to delve even deeper, by creating direct opportunities to unite farmers to consumers. Good Eggs hosts events in their growing list of locations that includes Brooklyn, Los Angeles, New Orleans and San Francisco. From potluck lunches to tours, they create opportunities for all to “shake the hand that feeds you” (Michael Pollan).

Growing numbers of conscientious eaters get to:

Eat great quality food,
Help local foodmakers &
Build up your local food system.

Good Eggs - How it works

So how does Good Eggs work? Here is the 1,2,3:

1. You shop direct
Order exactly what you want—no commitments or surprises
See who grew or made your food and buy direct from them

2. Farmers harvest, foodmakers make
Locally-grown produce is picked riper and arrives tastier
Farmers & foodmakers reduce waste by knowing exactly how much to pick/make.

3. Delivery
Home delivery is FREE for orders over $30!

Eating locally helps to ensure better health, which makes a better world and sustains this love affair of fresh food.

Watch more about Good Egg’s mission here

Order and start eating amazing food (in Brooklyn, San Francisco Bay Area, New Orleans, Los Angeles)

Photo, Illustration and Video Credit: Good Eggs

Elevating City Life