CNU blogs

Increasing Economic Access to Healthy Foods: Recap of a SPUR Forum

Increasing Economic Access to Healthy Foods: Recap of a SPUR ForumBy Kiyomi Honda Yamamoto, San Jose Special Projects Assistant August 30, 2016

Photo by Lance Cheung, courtesy of USDA via Flickr.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, is key to health and a high quality of life. But many Bay Area residents struggle to afford these healthy ingredients. In Santa Clara County, 31% of households struggle to purchase food, and more than 50% of Bay Area adults are overweight. As SPUR highlighted in the report Healthy Food Within Reach, many barriers prevent people from having healthy diets. One of those barriers is affordability -- and healthy food, including fruits and vegetables, are often more expensive than other less nutritious food. On July 27th, we hosted “Making Healthy Food More Affordable,” a conversation about how to expand access to healthy food by increasing low-income families’ purchasing power in grocery stores and at farmers’ markets.

CalFresh

CalFresh is a federal and state food assistance program that provides low-income families and individuals with supplemental funds to purchase food. In 2013, approximately 441,000 Bay Area residents were receiving CalFresh benefits. While that is a large number of Bay Area residents, it doesn’t represent the full picture of those who could receive benefits. Only 56% of people eligible for CalFresh are enrolled in the program. One way to improve access to healthy food is to increase enrollment of eligible individuals, something that numerous non-profits and public agencies are working toward.

Increasing the Food Budget

To increase economic access to healthy foods, SPUR and other nonprofits are working to increase food budgets. The oldest and most widespread initiatives in California are at farmers’ markets under the name Market Match. Begun in 2009, Market Match empowers those receiving federal nutrition benefits, by matching funds to increase their fresh fruit and vegetable purchases.

This fall, SPUR is launching a California pilot of Double Up Food Bucks, a healthy food incentive program that will give CalFresh holders $1 for every $1 spent in grocery stores on California-grown fruits and vegetables, up to $10. Currently, we are anticipating that the participating grocery stores will include Food Bowl 99 in San Jose and two Arteaga’s Food Center stores in San Jose and Gilroy. 

In addition to retail grocery stores, CalFresh is now accepted at many Bay Area farmers’ markets, including all markets run by the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Markets Association. CalFresh users simply swipe their CalFresh cards at the markets’ information booths, and receive scrip to purchase fresh produce. Shoppers can use the Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market Finder, to find the closest markets that accept CalFresh, WIC, and Market Match incentives.

Market Match provides incentives for CalFresh customers to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets. Even those that live far from farmers markets can use Market Match when Freshest Cargo, Fresh Approach’s food truck, stops in their community. Freshest Cargo ­ensures that even those that live far from farmers’ markets can still purchase Bay Area-grown fruits and vegetables.

In 2014, Market Match was used at more than 150 farmers’ markets, and more than 75% of CalFresh customers reported increasing their produce purchases because of the incentive program. Additionally, the program has increased farmers’ sales by more than 81%, and stimulated the economy by approximately $4.3 million. With this encouraging feedback, the Ecology Center, Fresh Approach, and SPUR continue their advocacy for affordable food policies, and expansion of programs that increase our community’s access to healthy foods at farmers’ markets and grocery stores.

To learn more, read the SPUR report, Healthy Food within Reach and visit the Market Match and Fresh Approach websites.

Categories: CNU blogs

Can You Make A Living As An Urban Farmer? Recap of a SPUR Forum

Can You Make A Living As An Urban Farmer? Recap of a SPUR ForumBy Ellery Stritzinger, SPUR InternAugust 30, 2016

Greens growing at AT&T Park in San Francisco in a garden managed by Farmscape.  Photo by Eli Zigas, courtesy of SPUR.

In recent years, urban agriculture has been championed as solution to some of cities’ most persistent issues – food insecurity, environmental sustainability, lack of accessible greenspace. On July 12, SPUR explored urban agriculture’s potential to provide economic development and jobs in a forum titled “Can You Make A Living As An Urban Farmer?” The question was addressed by three panelists -- women who run urban farming businesses and organizations locally – and their answers varied based upon their distinct business models.

Caitlyn Galloway, co-founder of Little City Gardens, a ¾ acre plot in the Mission Terrace neighborhood, has had consistent, though modest, profits since her business’ inception in 2007.  She sells produce to local markets and restaurants, and fresh flowers to residents. Galloway stressed the role that land tenure plays in the long-term viability and profitability of urban farms. “Urban agriculture is self-sustaining when there is land security and support,” a point she reiterated throughout the forum. When land is secure, infrastructure, such as irrigation systems, can be invested in and planting schedules can be organized months in advance. Galloway has been able to maintain steady business but she is operating on a temporary lease, and the future of the business is indefinite. 

Kelly Carlisle, founder and executive director of Acta Non Verba, a non-profit youth urban-farm project operating out of and benefitting East Oakland, was straightforward about the reality of a career in urban farming, “A commitment to being a farmer is a commitment to living a life in poverty.” Acta Non Verba, which runs a quarter acre urban farm, challenges local youth to engage with their communities and the natural environment, fostering programs that educate kids as well as empower them to dictate futures beyond their circumstances. The organization sells the produce that it grows and, in a unique model, profits are placed into special savings accounts for the youth participants. The overall funding for the organization comes from separate fundraising, and Carlisle made it clear that the sales of the produce would not be able to provide enough revenue to pay employee expenses. “By the USDA's farmer income standards,” she said. “I am not a farmer. Because all our produce profits go into our youth's individual development accounts, the youth are the farmers.”

Panelist Lara Hermanson of Farmscape, the largest urban farming venture in California, differentiated her challenges from Galloway and Carlisle. She is in the business of designing, installing, and maintaining urban farms. As an edible landscaper, she is selling services, not food. Her revenue is more consistent, independent of weather patterns or space limitations. Having installed over 600 urban farms, Farmscape has been able to employ 25 people full-time.

With installation costs of $20,000-80,000, Hermanson finds herself regularly emphasizing to clients that the “return on investment” for their projects can’t be quantified by the amount of produce a single garden plot produces. “Does the return include the amount of produce harvested? Or how often you use the green space we created?” In contrast, for Galloway and Carlisle, their return on investment, and their standard of living, is, in many ways, contingent on the amount of produce their plots produce, and quantified by what that harvest is sold for.

While urban farming has entered the conversational vocabulary of engaged city dwellers, making a secure and comfortable income selling produce alone remains somewhat out of reach. With the costs of running a business, owning land, living in San Francisco; the unpredictability of a seasonal harvest; and the price people are willing to pay for a head of cabbage, it’s very difficult to make a living selling what you grow.

Categories: CNU blogs

Going Veganish – 9 Questions for Kathy Freston

Blue zones - Tue, 2016-08-30 12:07

Kathy Freston embodies the ideal Blue Zones life. She lives in a walkable neighborhood, has her own “moai” (a group of lifelong friends) she calls TTGs (more on that below) and lives by an especially pure version of the Blue Zones Diet. She’s written four New York Times bestsellers and has famously convinced Oprah and her entire production company to go vegan for a month. Kathy’s newest offering, The Book of Veganish, out this week, is the latest in a growing body of literature chronicling the benefits of a plant-based diet. Kathy’s gentle approach shows readers how to “lean in” (hence “Veganish”) to a more plant-based diet. No fad diets, no guilt and no pain! The book is an excellent beginner’s tool kit detailing 70 terrific and very simple recipes, complete with colorful photos.

  1.     Tell us a little bit about you. When did you go “Veganish” and how has it changed your life?

I went Veganish about 13 years ago because I realized I wasn’t eating the healthiest – or most conscious – diet, and I needed to move away from eating animal protein. (My reasons were ethical, environmental, and health …) But because I pretty much only ate animal foods – chicken, eggs, cheese, etc. –  I was at a loss as to how to do it, so I decided that this would (and should) be a gradual, comfortable process. I wanted my new way of eating to come easily, and I wanted it to stick. Which meant NO PRESSURE. I leaned into the shift.  Veganish means that you eat mostly plant-based foods, but you don’t hold yourself or anyone else a hostage to perfection.

 

  1.    Can you tell us some more about the health benefits of going Veganish?

If you need to lose weight, it starts happening really quickly, because when you eat plant-based fare and avoid animal foods, you amp up your metabolism by 16 percent for three hours after a meal. Plant-based food has a high thermic effect, which means your body burns a lot of heat while digesting. Also, all the fiber you’re eating straightens out your cravings and hunger, because it fills you up and evens out your blood sugar levels by slowing down the release of glucose into your body. If you’re an athlete, you tend to recover faster and have more endurance because you’re eating really clean food chock full of vitamins and phytonutrients without the heavy fat that can slow you down.

Within only a few weeks of eating plant-based, not only does your weight drop, but your blood pressure and cholesterol also go down significantly, and with that, a lot of health risks also go away.

More than anything, though, your energy soars.  Veganish food is full of life and color and the all of that nutrition just jacks up your stamina.

 

  1.    For someone curious about trying to cut back or cut out meat, what do you advise?

“Curious” is the perfect word, actually! Make it a fun and interesting project: Try some new recipes and check out menu items that feature hearty, plant-based fare (don’t just eat salads and french fries!). Engage your social circle and host a potluck dinner, so that it’s a fun, communal adventure. My favorite thing to do is to follow people on Instagram so I get ideas of what to eat and how to make it. There’s a whole world of amazing food out there, and it’s so much more interesting than just the basics we grew up with. I regularly post meal photos, recipes and inspirational quotes about how to be Veganish, so feel free to follow me @kathyfreston :).

 

  1.    How do baby boomers differ from millennials in their attitudes towards diets?

Hugely. Only 1 percent of baby boomers call themselves vegetarian, while 4 percent of Gen Xers and 12 percent of millennials are committed vegetarians or vegans. See the trend?  But the big news is how many people – especially young ones – are interested in going that way: a 32 percent spike in Google searches along the lines of “what do vegans eat” in 2015 alone; market share for meat alternatives projected to reach $5.7 billion by 2020; and 48 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds agreeing that a meat-free diet is best.

So we’re not talking absolutes; we’re looking at a major trend away from animal foods. Which is so ironic that we, as a culture, are heading back toward the way people in the Blue Zones ate when they didn’t have access to our kind of modern food!

 

  1.     We’ve seen a slew of articles trumpeting, “Butter is back.” Is it? If not, what’s a better alternative.

I hope butter isn’t back, because there’s so much excellent research that favors good ol’ olive oil in terms of health and longevity. There’s nothing like it in salads or pastas or soups. I love coconut oil spread on toasted raisin bread, too. And if I really need that buttery taste, Earth Balance is an awesome non-dairy alternative.

 

  1.    How about dairy? We’ve been taught that milk builds muscles and strong bones. Is there a better milk for our bodies?

Cow’s milk is designed by nature to make a little calf put on a thousand pounds really quickly; it’s not ideal for humans who want to be svelte. It’s full of growth hormones (even when totally organic, and with nothing added artificially), which aren’t good for you. One of the main things you get from dairy is IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor, which fuels food cravings, mood swings, and inflammation in the body, which has been associated with serious health problems.

The great news is that there are so many amazing alternatives: cashew, rice, almond, soy, hemp, etc. And not just for milks, but for cheeses, ice creams and yogurts, too. One of my favorite things to make is cashew cream; you can use it as a base for creamy soups, desserts, pasta sauces or whatever else you fancy. It’s ridiculously easy: Soak a handful of cashews overnight, switch out the water for fresh in the morning, blend on high, and voila – cashew cream! (Adjust how much water you put in according to the thickness you want.)

 

  1.     Breakfasts are hard in America. It’s either sugary cereal or eggs.  What is a “Veganish” breakfast?

I have a few go-to meals: brown rice with chopped dates and almonds with warm almond milk; toasted brown bread with peanut butter; steel-cut oatmeal with berries and macadamia nuts; or a nice big smoothie with frozen fruits, veggies and coconut water!

 

  1.    Blue Zones is all about longevity. Can you talk about how a Veganish lifestyle can add years to life, or life to years?

When your diet is mostly plant-based – Veganish – you are far less likely to have heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, (certain types of) cancer, or to struggle with weight. The research is pretty clear on that. Those diseases and conditions rob you of the good years your body could have taken you through.

 

  1.    The world’s longest-lived women tend to choose a tightly knit circle of friends and support each other for decades. In Japan, they call this a moai. You and your friends have created an American version of this called TTG. Can you tell us what that is and offer any advice for how to form our own version?

When I was getting divorced, I lost about 90 percent of my social circle. (OK, I may be exaggerating, but that’s how it felt.) So my girlfriend – who I’d been friends with for 30 years – and I organized a dinner with a few other women who were either divorced or widowed. It’s not like we looked for people who were dealing with loss at all; it’s just that we related to each other and it seemed natural to get together. We laughed at the same stuff and we connected through our stories of frustration and sadness and triumphs.

We call ourselves TTGs because what we say at those dinners is, “Take it to the grave!” We hold each other’s secrets. This group of women was (and is) such a gift because I realized that I wasn’t alone, and that my friends cared about me. Truly cared. I didn’t have to be “on” with them, and we could all just relax and work through the issues of life over a glass (or two or three) of wine. It’s not like we hang out together all the time, but we gather – either all of us or a few of us – at least once a month, and to me that is one of the sweetest things of life.

My advice on how to start your own moai: Find a few people who you really relate to, for whatever reason – it could be that the common thread is sobriety or being expats or parents or artists. There doesn’t even have to be a uniting factor, per se, but rather a feeling of connection.

My test on who I resonate with is how energized I feel being around someone, how much I come alive and can be myself. Do I feel creative and smart and loving around them? Is there an interesting exchange of thoughts and opinions and trust? Obviously, if you’re tuning out and not really engaged in the conversation, it’s not your tribe. There’s no judgment, nowhere you “should” be; you just want to be around people that fan the flames of your personal growth and happiness.

 

 

Kathy shared her favorite recipe from the book with us and you can make it here.

 

The post Going Veganish – 9 Questions for Kathy Freston appeared first on Blue Zones.

Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

What's so great about the Purple Line, anyway?

Dan Reed - Tue, 2016-08-30 10:15
by Dan Reed

With a recent court decision from a group of opponents delaying the Purple Line once again, it's easy to forget how many people support it, from local environmental groups to Governor Hogan. Let's remember why they fight for this project, and why it will get built one day.


This will get built. Image from Montgomery County.

The Purple Line will be a 16-mile light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. It'll connect three Metro lines, all three MARC commuter rail lines, and Amtrak, as well as hundreds of local bus routes. It'll serve two of the region's biggest job centers, Bethesda and Silver Spring, as well as Maryland's flagship university. It'll give Montgomery and Prince George's counties a fast, reliable alternative to current bus service and Beltway traffic.

However, it'll do a lot more than that.

1) It'll make walking and bicycling a lot easier and safer. The Purple Line project includes rebuilding or extending trails across Montgomery and Prince George's counties, building on the area's growing bike network.

The Capital Crescent Trail, which ends two miles outside of Silver Spring, will get fully paved and extended to the Silver Spring Metro station, where it'll connect to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The trail will get a new bridge at Connecticut Avenue and new underpasses at Jones Bridge Road, and 16th Street, so trail users won't have to cross those busy streets.


Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring will get a new trail. Photo by the author.

Streets in other parts of the corridor will get rebuilt with new sidewalks and bike lanes. University Boulevard in Langley Park will get a road diet. Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring will get a new, extended Green Trail.

2) It will let more people live and work near transit more affordably. Metro has its problems, but people still value living in walkable, transit-served neighborhoods. As a result, communities with Metro stations can be very expensive. The Purple Line puts more neighborhoods and more homes near transit, as well as more opportunities to build new homes near transit, helping meet demand and fighting spikes in home prices.


How far you can get by transit from Riverdale today and after the Purple Line is built.

3) It will improve commutes far beyond Bethesda to New Carrollton. The Purple Line will dramatically improve transportation access for people who live or work near one of its 21 stations. But even those whose homes or jobs aren't near the Purple Line may travel through the corridor, getting a faster, more reliable trip.

Right now, a bus trip between Silver Spring and Bethesda can take 20 minutes at rush hour (though in reality it takes much longer due to traffic). On the Purple Line, that trip would take just nine minutes. That's a time savings for anyone passing through the Purple Line corridor, like if you were going from Riverdale (which will have a station) to Rock Spring Business Park in Bethesda (which won't).

4) It's finally bringing investment to some of our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Communities like Long Branch, Langley Park, and Riverdale have long awaited the kind of amenities more affluent communities take for granted. When Maryland and the federal government agreed to fund the Purple Line, people took notice. Long Branch businesses formed an association.

Riverdale residents and business owners are pushing for a more attractive station. A few blocks away, this ad for a new house being built lists exactly one feature: "located within steps of purple metro line's Beacon Heights Station (officially approved by state of Maryland for 5.6 billion)."

While the Purple Line can help meet the demand for transit-served housing, there are real concerns that home prices may still rise, resulting in gentrification and displacement. That's why residents, business owners, and the University of Maryland partnered on the Purple Line Community Compact, which creates a plan for ensuring that people can afford to stay.

5) We actually don't know everything the Purple Line will do. Transportation planners can estimate how many people will use a transit line, but we can't predict how it will affect people's decisions about where to live, work, shop, or do other things. That's the most exciting part.


Metro helped revitalize Silver Spring. The Purple Line can do this for more communities. Photo by the author.

Metro helped make 14th Street a nightlife destination. It turned Arlington into an economic powerhouse. It transformed Merrifield's warehouses into townhouses. Those changes weren't guaranteed, but as a region we took the risk and it paid off.

We're poised to do the same thing for a new generation of neighborhoods along the Purple Line.

While a recent lawsuit from a group of Chevy Chase residents will has halted the project, transportation officials seem hopeful that this will be a temporary delay. The facts remain that this is a strong project that has major benefits for Maryland.

That's why everyone from environmental groups to neighborhood groups to business groups support this project. That's why Governor Hogan agreed to build it, even if he did make some changes to save money.

And that's why, despite a small but vocal opposition, it will get built.

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Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

The Economic Value of Walkability: New Evidence

City Observatory - Tue, 2016-08-30 08:58

One of the hallmarks of great urban spaces is walkability–places with lots of destinations and points of interest in close proximity to one another, buzzing sidewalks, people to watch, interesting public spaces–all these are things that the experts and market surveys are telling us people want to have.

Walkable places. (Flickr: TMImages PDX)

Its all well and good to acknowledge walkability in the abstract, but to tough-minded economists (and to those with an interest in public policy) we really want to know, what’s it worth?  How much, in dollar and cents terms, do people value walkable neighborhoods?  Thanks to the researcher’s at RedFin, we have a new set of estimates of the economic value of walkability.

Redfin used an economic tool called “hedonic regression” to examine more than a million home sales in major markets around the country, and to tease out the separate contributions of a house’s lot size, age, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and neighborhood characteristics (like average income). In addition, the RedFin model included an examination of each property’s Walk Score.  Walk Score is an algorithm that estimates the walkability of every address in the United States on a scale of 0 to  100 based on its proximity to a number common destinations like schools, stores, coffee shops, parks and restaurants.

What they found is that increased walkability was associated with higher home values across the country. On average, they found that a one point increase in a house’s Walk Score was associated with a $3,000 increase in the house’s market value. But their findings have some importance nuances.

First, the value of walkability varies from city to city. Its much more valuable in larger, denser cities, on average than it is in smaller ones. A one point increase in Walk Score is worth nearly $4,000 in San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles, but only $100 to $200 in Orange County or Phoenix.

Second, the relationship between walkability and home value isn’t linear: a one point increase in the Walk Score for a home with a very low score doesn’t have nearly as much impact as an increase in Walk Score for a home with a high Walk Score.  This suggests that there is a kind of minimum threshold of walkability.  For homes with Walk Scores of less than 40, small changes in walkability don’t seem to have much effect on home values. In their book, Zillow TalkSpencer Raskoff and Stan Humphries reached a similar conclusion in their research by a somewhat different statistical route, finding that the big gains in home value were associated with changes toward the high end of the Walk Score scale.

For their benchmark comparison of different cities, RedFin computed how much a home’s value might be expected to increase if it went from a WalkScore of 60 (somewhat walkable) to a WalkScore of 80 (very walkable). The results are shown here.

Among the markets they studied, the average impact of raising a typical home’s Walk Score from 60 to 80 was to add more than $100,000 to its market value. In San Francisco, the gain is $188,000; in Phoenix, only a tenth that amount.

Redfin’s estimates parallel those reported by their real estate data rivals at Zillow. Raskoff and Humphries looked at a different set of cities, and examined the effect of a 15-point increase in Walk Score.  They found that this increased home values by an average of 12 percent, with actual increases ranging from 4 percent to 24 percent.

We think the new RedFin results have one important caveat. We know from a wide variety of research that proximity to the urban core tends to be positively associated with home values in most markets. And it turns out that there is some correlation between Walk Scores and centrality (older, closer-in and more dense neighborhoods tend, on average to have higher Walk Scores). RedFin’s model didn’t adjust its findings for distance to the central business district. What this means is that some of the effect that their model attributes to Walk Score may be capturing the value of proximity to the city center, rather than just walkability.  So as you read these results, you might want to think about them representing the combined effect of central, walkable neighborhoods.  (Our own estimates, which controlled for centrality, still showed a significant, positive impact for walkability on home values).

The RedFin study adds to a growing body of economic evidence that strongly supports the intuition of urbanists and the consumer research:  American’s attach a large and apparently growing value to the ability to live in walkable neighborhoods.  The high price that we now have to pay to get walkable places ought to be  a strong public policy signal that we should be looking for ways to build more such neighborhoods. Too often, as we’ve noted, our current public policies–like zoning–effectively make it illegal to build the kind of dense, interesting, mixed-use neighborhoods that offer the walkability that is in such high demand.

Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

The Cabin Dwellers

John Sanphillippo - Mon, 2016-08-29 17:22

I was graciously invited to explore the home of The Cabin Dweller’s Textbook folks in the mountains of southern California. I was curious about the nuts and bolts of the mechanical systems at the cabin, particularly after a conversation I had in Detroit with civil engineer Chuck Marohn. It boiled down to a simple question. What’s really required to live a comfortable healthy respectable middle class life? I asserted that it’s much less than most people think. And it’s spectacularly less than either the engineering profession or mainstream expectations tend to dictate – often by law.

I’ll start by noting that this home is incredibly charming. I stepped inside and immediately had two emotional responses. I felt secure and sheltered since the space is intimate and warm. But it was simultaneously open and bright with high ceilings and multiple views out to the surrounding forest. The entire building is the size of a typical two car garage. In most jurisdictions today it would be illegal to construct a home this small. Municipal regulations and HOAs are keen to filter out “the wrong element” who might attempt to move in at an undesirably low price point. Fortunately this place was built long before such rules became ubiquitous.

The house provides all the required elements with a minimum of fuss. The kitchen is an efficient U-shaped affair. Sink. Stove. Fridge. There’s a bit of extra pull-out countertop if need be. That’s it. Somehow this couple manages to have a full, rewarding, and complete life without stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. The loft above is reached by a folding ladder.

The bedroom is a bed, some built-in drawers, and a closet. Full stop. It’s wonderfully cozy and private. One of the benefits of a smaller home is that it can be constructed of better quality materials with a bit more craftsmanship. It’s easy to build a 4,000 square foot home if it’s made of synthetic dust that’s shot out of a spray hose by minimum wage day laborers. This cabin is built to a higher standard.

A small wood stove provides what little heat is required during the cool winter months. This is southern California not Manitoba. I asked how many cords of wood they use each year and they made a face. Cords? It’s actually much less than a cord. Firewood is abundant right outside their door since fallen trees are everywhere. The wood stove also does double duty for heating water and cooking when the power goes out. This house remains entirely livable without electricity. Do they miss cold beer and ice? Sure. Does life come to a complete halt? No.

Adding poo to perfectly clean drinkable water and then letting it fester in a tank in the back garden is a waste of precious water in an arid climate. Instead, this home has a dry composting biodynamic nutrient recovery facility  – otherwise known as an outhouse. Covering each deposit with a scoop of wood shavings absorbs the moisture in the waste, balances the nitrogen with carbon, and neutralizes orders. The waste decomposes and compresses over time and it’s estimated that it will be a decade before this outhouse will be full.

I asked the obvious question. Is it “momworthy?” Something is generally socially acceptable if your mother decides it’s kosher. In this case, once the initial hesitation was overcome, it passed that test with no trouble. Non-flush toilets are a cultural problem, not a plumbing or health or environmental problem. The authorities in this particular location insist on dry toilets by law for a long list of practical reasons.

Water is supplied to this cabin from a communal system that feeds several homes in the area. There’s a natural spring on the side of the mountain where a modest amount of water seeps out of the rocks. That water is captured in a pipe and is used to fill a 5,000 gallon tank. The tank is higher than the homes so gravity delivers the water without mechanical assistance. The homeowners have always been responsible for installing and maintaining the entire system themselves. They test the water periodically to monitor bacteria and impurities. (This is some of the cleanest water in the state.) If the spring goes dry, which has happened on occasion, people need to use radically less water until the spring revives. When the creek goes bone dry that’s a sign that it’s time to economize.

When some aspect of the water system needs to be fixed the homeowners are obliged to get together in a room and decide how to handle the situation. Can they fix this themselves with talent on hand? What are the various options? There’s a certain institutional memory in this cluster of homes in the woods where the older people explain to the newcomers how things were handled thirty or forty years ago. The funds need to be pulled from accumulated association dues rather than a nebulous government agency with seemingly endless resources. There’s no, “I pay my taxes and I demand water from the city.” That tends to focus everyone’s attention.

There’s a similar process for managing the private roads. These gravel paths don’t comply with the AASHTO standard with two twelve foot wide lanes, curbs, retaining walls, guard rails, and storm water management infrastructure. There are about nineteen million people living ten minutes away who routinely demand such improvements from local government as if such things were their God-given right. And miraculously many governments provide these things in spite of the obscene expense. But when the people who demand things are also the same exact people who have to pay for those items out-of-pocket some very different decisions are made.

We’ve built a continent sized nation where everyone expects a certain gold plated standard of infrastructure. We want pure water to come out of the tap. We want our waste to instantly disappear without a trace. We want the lights to go on and off without fail. We want the roads to be smoothly paved at all times. The solutions put forth by professionals and administrators are ever more complex and expensive, while the willingness of the taxpayers to foot the bill is permanently in retreat. At a certain point something’s going to have to give whether we like it or not. It’s not unreasonable to think about simplification where and when it’s appropriate.


Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Does Urban Planning Require Passion?

Planetizen blogs - Mon, 2016-08-29 14:00
Making better places is a core value for many planners, but don’t let a lack of passion stand between you and a strong career in planning.
Categories: CNU blogs

Village Green: Happy Cycling & Transit Holidays! (fun photos)

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: As We Lose Shopping Malls, Are Losing Something Sacred?

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: For Cities to Be An Environmental Solution, We Need to Address Public Safety

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: Major Industry Report Says Sprawl "Lacks Staying Power"

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: Where Is the Green Community on Revitalization?

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: To Keep Smart City Housing Affordable, Build More of It

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: Jamaica's Rose Town Pursue's Healing Through Rebuilding

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: What the City Can Teach the Country About Sustainability

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: Revitalizing Cincinnati's Historic Over-the-Rhine (Part 3 - exciting progress portends a national model)

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: Revitalizing Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine (Part 2 - the neighborhood's assets)

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Village Green: Sidewalks Are Good for Us

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

Strong central cities may help in weathering the recession

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism

It's time to adjust to the metropolitan reality

Benfield - Mon, 2016-08-29 13:20
F. Kaid Benfield http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/f-kaid-benfield
Categories: CNU blogs, New Urbanism
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