[permaculture] (Sub)urban Permaculture Elements

Bob Waldrop bwaldrop at cox.net
Tue May 31 21:34:05 EDT 2011


Thanks for your kind words about my work, it's always glad to find out when 
someone is paying attention  ;).

I think of the hub system as a variation on the traditional permaculture 
zones. In urban and suburban areas, just as a zone 1 area of activity is the 
"most intense" on the individual plot, a village hub is the most intense 
social/economic interaction for a neighborhood, people might visit that 
village hub every day, or at least several times a week.  Mail could be 
delivered to village hubs, and people could pick it up there, instead of the 
cost and effort involved of bringing it to individual houses.  My 
grandparents maintained a post office box for years, not because they really 
needed one, but because my grandfather liked to stand around at the post 
office and talk with other people who were also at the post office (this was 
in a small rural town where nearly everybody knew everybody).  The village 
hub would likely be the place for education through middle school.  A 
regional center could provide more, and larger, economic opportunities, 
maybe be the location of the high school and a community college.  People 
who didn't work in such a place or attend school there might only go there 
three or four times a month, if that.  In a large area with at least a 
million people, there might also be a major city hub "downtown". Most people 
would only go there maybe 3 or 4 times a year, for big cultural events, a 
major entertainment excursion, etc.

A key point in the design would be lateral connections between regional hubs 
and villages.  The most common urban transit design in the United States is 
a series of routes radiating out from a central downtown station.  If you 
were going to look for a failure pattern for urban transit, this would be 
it. To get anywhere, you typically have to go all the way downtown, and then 
back out, and retrace your route to get home.  One recent study found that 
only 4% of the jobs in the United States can be reached by a commute of 30 
minutes or less on mass transit, about 25% of the jobs are accessible by a 
90 minute, one way commute, but that means THREE HOURS/day on the bus going 
to and from work, and that's not something most people will want to do. 
That poor performance is one of the consequences of the downtown orientation 
of transit systems.

I agree the place to start is with the individual back yard, and that from 
there you go into voluntary relationships in neighborhoods.  Continguous 
properties are "everything" in such things.  I could take you to a place 
here in Oklahoma City, where there is a group of people who practically 
occupy an entire block.  They have taken down their back fences, and created 
a large common areas. There are chickens and ducks and pigeons and a 
composting toilet, water harvesting, a very large compost pile, and even 
grazing goats, most of this activity is completely illegal in OKC, BUT, they 
are able to get away with it because all of the neighbors on the block are 
in on the "conspiracy", and they have carefully arranged their fences and 
hedges so it is impossible to see within this area from any place that a 
code inspector can access (i.e. the street and sidewalk and front yards). 
So, out of site, means out of mind, and it's incredible what they have done. 
I have one neighbor, right behind me, who is part of the permaculture 
movement, but he just occupies a garage apartment and has no back yard, so I 
gave him some of my yard to garden on.  I would like to buy that property, 
but (a) it isn't for sale and (b) I don't have the money anyway. . . but I 
am looking for someone to buy it if it does come up for sale because it is a 
duplex plus the garage apartment.

These days, the differences between urban and suburban are most semantics. 
My neighborhood was actually one of OKC's first suburbs, it was built 
between 1910 - 1929, and was made possible by a street car line which was 
built to the neighborhood.  Now it is considered inner city, since it is 
only 24 blocks or so to downtown OKC.  But it has the hallmarks of suburbia, 
being dominated by single family homes on lots of typically 1/8 to 1/4 acre 
ALTHOUGH it was built before the current fascination with single family 
occupancy so the area is sprinkled with a considerable number of duplexes, 
fourplexes and lots of garage apartments.  It is ethnically extremely mixed, 
and while business isn't allowed in the neighborhood, it is surrounded by 
retail, so it is a very livable space except of course for the problems with 
neighborhood code enforcement.

The area where I work, 11 miles away, has been entirely built up since the 
1970s, and they are still building out there.  I am in the eastern cross 
timbers ecological zone, my job is on the Great Plains, with my residence 
being right at the interface of those two ecological areas.  There is a 
large lake in the middle of that area, and lots of interconnected ponds in 
the subdivisions that are connected by ditches to the lake, thus having 
something to do with the drainage of the area presumably.

Keep thinking outside of the suburban/urban box!  We need more permaculture 
theory and design for urban sites.

Bob Waldrop, Oklahoma City


-----Original Message----- 
From: harry byrne wykman
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 6:30 AM
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [permaculture] (Sub)urban Permaculture Elements


Hi Bob,

Thanks so much for your consistently thoughtful responses in this forum
and for this response in particular.  I'm a big fan of your work.

Thanks for the suggestion of more attention of invible structures.  I
have certainly neglected that.

I am hoping that there is enough similarity between suburban / urban
environments to make these patterns useful (perhaps they are not:).
Perhaps this regulatory environment will be one of the most distinctive
things in each area.

I like your vision of urban and suburban spaces and their
interconnection.  I have something like this in mind.  I would like to
begin in the place that many people would like to begin - in their own
backyard.  I hope that by showing the limits of this (while optimising
it) that it will assist people to think of cooperative options for
gaining other needs.

Thanks again for your work and comments,

Harry

On Mon, 30 May 2011 20:02:21 -0500
"Bob Waldrop" <bwaldrop at cox.net> wrote:

> This is an interesting list and article at the link.  The main thing
> I would add is more attention to the invisible structures. The way
> most cities and suburbs are constituted these days, a lot on that
> list would be illegal. Cities and their suburbs are full of traps
> like the one our Oklahoma City code enforcement just sprang on me
> which caused me to have to cut down five mature fruit trees, two of
> which were in full bloom when felled.
>
> One of the biggest invisible structure issues with the suburbs is the
> mandated single family occupancy neighborhood. In such places,
> duplexes/triplexes, four-plexes are illegal, as are garage, attic,
> backyard and basement apartments. In general it is also illegal to
> operate a business in a suburban neighborhood.
>
> I think that suburbs have a lot of potential, because of the lowered
> density of the settlement.  So there's lots of green space with food
> production potential, and also room to increase the population
> density without overpowering the food production capability -- IF the
> single family occupancy zoning designation is relegated to the dust
> bin of history.  One of the best apartments I ever had was in an old
> house which had been carved into five small apartments. It was
> perfect for me at the time, one room with a bath and kitchen
> attached, complete with a murphy bed that disappeared into the wall
> during the day.
>
> I've always felt that as we reverse-engineer large cities and their
> suburbs to be more sustainable, what we end up with is a pattern of
> regional centers connected with transit options, each regional hub
> the center of several smaller village hubs, each in turn surrounded
> by neighborhoods of mixed use and varying density. Overall, the
> effect is a greater complexification and diversification of a
> territory.
>
> Bob Waldrop, Oklahoma City
>
>
> -----Original Message----- 
> From: harry byrne wykman
> Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 7:32 PM
> To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: [permaculture] (Sub)urban Permaculture Elements
>
>
> Hello Folks,
>
> A while ago I posted here some ideas for suburban permaculture
> elements.  There were a few suggestions which I added to my list which
> I have made available as a link from the link below.  In addition to
> that file (which is now kind of relegated to 'draft' status) I have
> been thinking about how to develop a richer framework for suburban
> economy.  I would really appreciate people's thoughts.
>
> Suburban Permaculture: towards a pattern language | Perennial Ideas
> http://bit.ly/kz66nd
>
> I would really appreciate people comments, ideas suggestions.  I am
> also looking for someone to give me some advice on how to actually
> depict some of the relationships involved in linking these elements.
>
> Harry
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