Can a Community Garden Outgrow Poverty in Southern Phoenix?

An example of the types of articles I’ve been publishing three times a week since August 2016, for my fellowship with Next City.

In South Phoenix, among suburban neighborhoods where liquor stores outnumber grocery stores, there’s a massive, untended plot of dirt as big as two and a half New York City blocks. Until recently, it was a void space between the housing tracts, collecting trash where it runs up against the streets. Residents really didn’t know what to make of it.

“Kids were mostly using it to dirt bike in,” says Quilian Riano, an architect with DSGN AGNC who’s been visiting the site on and off since August 2015. Nic de la Fuente, a Phoenix resident, says some knew it as the stomping grounds for local gangs.

But with nearly $600,000 from art project supporters the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and ArtSpace America, Riano is about to help turn the swath into a centerpiece of the neighborhood. And he’s hoping that the minority communities that make up the majority of South Phoenix will get an economic shot in the arm in the process.

Read the rest over at Next City.

 

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How Catastrophe Inspired Brilliant Home Design (Print)

The people of Constitución wanted a new city, something with a classic Chilean look and a skyline unburdened by high-rise buildings. Walking access to the river was paramount. But when it came to the housing itself, Elemental eschewed the idea of lumping together stacks of apartment-like buildings in the areas where favelas and shantytowns had been destroyed. That style of social housing has long been the go-to method for cities looking to quickly boost housing options for lower-income residents, and can be seen cutting into the skies in places like Chicago and Hong Kong.

Instead, Elemental wanted to give these victims real homes, designed for long-term comfort, stability, and safety in a traumatic time—even if the people living in them didn’t have a lot of cash to spare.

So Elemental built the people of Constitución half-houses. Really good half-houses, in a desirable part of the city, grouped around open space to encourage community get-togethers, and just big enough that a single family could live in one. Best of all? They were priced at only $20,000—the same amount that would buy a low-quality apartment on the fringe of the city.

Read this, and the rest of GOOD Magazine’s 10th anniversary edition, here.

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Can Quito Prove That Infrastructure Development Doesn’t Have to Mean Displacement?

As part of a folder of internal government memos City Council Member Daniela Chacón gave to Next City, Samia Peñaherrera, the city’s secretary general of planning, sent a brief technical assessment of the Solución Vial Guayasamín road expansion plan to Empresa Pública Metropolitana de Movilidad y Obras Públicas, a state-owned mobility and public works company, on March 10. It argues that the Solución will “reduce the levels of vehicle congestion and saturation, which will lead to a reduction in contaminant emissions and noise levels.”

But the concept of making room for more cars in order to reduce emission levels immediately struck Arias, who received the documents earlier this year, as odd. And there’s still nothing in these contracts that guarantees a new public transportation line, meaning Arias and other opponents are taking the Mayor’s public transit system proposal with a grain of salt.

“I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” she says. Her office is still pressuring Rodas to illuminate the project’s many vague elements, but she says the mayor’s approach “has just been to ignore these requests … and other requests for [additional] financial, legal or technical studies.”

Read the rest over at Next City.

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Tijuana’s Getting a $61 Million Transit Makeover

Tijuana’s poorest communities have used garbage from the United States for decades. Neighborhoods in Los Laureles, for example, are quilts of refuse: houses made out of garage doors from San Diego, propped up on hillsides by retainer walls built from discarded tires also from San Diego. Post-World War II bungalows from that Southern Californian city, facing demolition, are bought up by Mexican contractors and installed on steel frames in outskirt neighborhoods with just enough space beneath to host taco stands, car service centers and other stores.

But it’s not just migrant communities that have relied on the United States’ junk to make ends meet. The city’s public transport companies have built an entire system from it. Many of the city’s 3,600 buses were once U.S. school buses. Forty percent are more than 11 years old, mechanically unsound and have emissions rates that are off the charts. They’re loud, slow and prone to breakdowns, and if you stand too close to one as it takes off from a stop, you’ll get a blast of exhaust and a 10-second coughing fit.

Read the rest over at Next City.

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Chargers Make Unofficial Promises to Barrio Logan, Logan Heights

In an Aug. 9 letter obtained by Voice of San Diego, Chargers owner Dean Spanos told the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council that the team would help establish a community land trust for Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, Logan Heights and other neighborhoods that would most likely see increased property values that could displace current residents if the stadium was built.

The unofficial gesture – it is not mentioned anywhere in the Chargers’ 119-page master description of their initiative – comes after local residents bristled at their lack of involvement in the Chargers’ plans.

“The community was saying, ‘Why haven’t we been part of the conversation? Why have you not engaged with us?’” said David Alvarez, a City Council member whose district includes Barrio Logan and Sherman Heights. “There’s a lot of skepticism by San Diegans, period.”

Read the rest over at Voice of San Diego.

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The Rio Concert Hall Where Olympic Dissidents Rage On

On the surface, Occupy Ministry of Culture, which started this summer, is calling for the resignation of Brazil’s interim president, Michel Temer, a right-leaning politician standing in for elected President Dilma Rousseff until the Senate decides whether or not to impeach her over corruption charges. The movement also condemns the massive infrastructure projects that have displaced nearly 20,000 families in the run up to the 2016 Olympics and also the 2014 World Cup.

At the core of this unrest, however, is a pervasive fear that Brazil is losing some of its most prized public spaces and institutions to a grandiose, and far from inclusive, vision of the future. Federal and state governments, struggling to pull out of what’s being called the country’s worst recession since the 1980s, have begun disinvesting in public schools and government institutions; the militarization of favelas and public beaches, by groups like the Police Pacification Units, or Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPPs), continues beneath the banner of an investment in public safety.

Read the rest over at Next City.

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